Psychotherapy Services in South West London

The Unconscious and creative thinking

Although Freud was certainly right in contrasting rational, directed thinking with daydreaming, he did not admit the possibility that unconscious processes and fantasy also play an important part in the type of creative thinking which is concerned with reality rather that with wish fulfilment. Freud drew too sharp distinction between rational and irrational. He linked together play, fantasy, and the dream as being unrealistic, childish forms of mental activity which were essentially escapist and governed by the unconscious, while supporting that thinking was a rational activity which was mainly controlled by the ego. These are the two principles of mental functioning which he named primary process and secondary process. Freud believed primary process to be directed by the pleasure principle, while secondary process was controlled by the reality principle. Freud fails to give and explanation for the way in which solutions to problems may suddenly appear without conscious deliberation. Freud regarded the unconscious as chaotic, a boiling cauldron of primitive desires and impulses, he did not postulate any kind of ordering process taking place lusciously. Yet we know that there must be some kind of problem solving and pattern making process which goes on the mind automatically and which is certainly not directly conscious. Preparation is the stage in which a problem is investigated in all direction as thoroughly as possible. This investigation is conscious controlled and under the direction of the subject’s will. Incubation is a stage which the problem is laid aside, often for a considerable period. We do not know exactly what takes place during this stage, but we may assume that some kind of scanning, sorting process is going on rather like what modern theory supposes is taking place in dream. Whether the problem under consideration is aesthetic or scientific, incubation seems to be an inescapable part of the creative process. Inspiration , incubation and illumination are all dependent upon mental processes which are not under the control of the will and which are far removed form Freud’s notion of secondary process thinking controlled by the reality principle. But this doesn’t mean that such processes are escapist, childish, or unrealistic. Most people know what is to be tormented with anxiety about some problem or choice to which there appears to be no clear cut answer. Often, after a night’s rest, the solution appears obvious. Sleeping on it clearly give time for some unconscious sorting process to take place which could be called short term incubation. These phenomena’s are dependent upon unconscious process which we do not fully understand and which therefore appear mysterious, as incomprehensible and delusions and or hallucinations.

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