In this essay we will discuss about the functions of human mind.
Meaning of Human Mind:
Human Mind is the sum-total of various mental processes such as observing, knowing, thinking, reasoning, feeling, wishing, imagining, remembering, judging and others. It is not a separate object which has or possesses these mental processes. Mind is these mental processes. If we take away these mental processes. No mind is left, just as no chair is left if we take away its back, seat, arms and legs. Therefore, mind is another name for those mental processes and activities put together.
Our Human mind grows just as our body grows. It becomes more complex with advancing years. In other words, our mental processes become richer and more complicated day by day. For example, there is a difference between thinking and reasoning of an adult and those of a child of three years.
The human mind is not only the sum-total of all conscious mental processes, as it was believed earlier; it includes preconscious and unconscious processes, as well. It must be noted, however, that mind is one and is a unity. There are three levels at which it functions. At one level, we are aware of our mental processes; this is the ‘conscious’.
At another level, we are not conscious of our mental processes; this gives us the “unconscious’, still at another level, we are not aware of our mental processes at a certain time, but we were aware of them before, and can, again, be aware of them if we try. This is our preconscious.
The unconscious processes constitute the unconscious or the unconscious mind. It is the processes of which we are incapable of becoming conscious unless special methods of psycho-analysis are used. These processes lie buried deep down in the hidden recesses of our mind, very much below the level of consciousness.
It was Freud and his earliest followers Jung and Adler who strongly advocated the existence of the unconscious which could be understood and known through psycho-analysis – a method of unearthing and analysing the unconscious. Due to the discovery of the unconscious, our knowledge of the human mind is very much extended.
These thinkers have told us that the unconscious includes all forgotten past experiences, our repressed wishes and desires, our fears and phobias for which we do not know the reason, or our eccentric likes and dislikes. Many of these unconscious mental processes appear in and cause our dreams, slips of pen or tongue. They cause abnormal behaviour in the form of neuroses and psychoses.
It must be noted that there are no pigeon-holes or compartments in our mind which store the pre-conscious or unconscious processes separately. The preconscious and unconscious are a part of the same mind to which the conscious processes belong. The former are simply those mental processes which we have forgotten, either temporarily or more or less permanently. Their connections with our conscious process are broken for the time being.
These are as follows:
(i) Freud refers to the unconscious, the preconscious and the conscious as the topographical aspects of the mind or self or psyche. For him, the unconscious is of paramount importance. It is the true psychic reality. The conscious is only a fraction when compared with the vast unconscious. In it are stored and found millions of infantile wishes, unsatisfied desires, cravings and urges, many of which are legacies from childhood.
Freud proves the existence of the unconscious by referring to many phenomena such as our experiences that we cannot recall, the phenomenon of somnambulism, post-hypnotic suggestion, dreams, morbid forgetfulness and slips of pen and tongue.
(ii) The second tenet of this system is the dynamic aspects of mind the – Id, the Ego and the Super ego. Freud believed that all behaviour is the resultant of the dynamic conflicts between the forces of the Id, the Ego and the Superego at the conscious, and unconscious levels of mind.
The Id is the primitive undifferentiated basis of the whole human mind. It is completely dominated by the pleasure principle. It has no idea of time or reality. Its strivings are originally impulsive and uncontrolled out they are controlled by society and the reality principle in the course of development.
The Ego represents the self or the conscious intelligence. It is the integrating part of the personality. It is an adjuster between the wishes of the Id on the one hand and the demands of external reality on the other. It has to face the three sets of forces e.g., external reality, the instinctive pressure from the Id and inhibition or control from the Superego.
The Superego is the chief force that makes for the socialisation of the individual. It is primarily sociologically and culturally conditioned. It corresponds to the idea of conscience. It represents the social and moral ideal which society sets up for our behaviour.
Within it reside the forces of repression and censorship, self-observation and self-criticism. Mitchell says, ‘By means of identification with the parents or one of the parents and Ego-ideal is set up within the Ego, and as a Superego, adopts and critical and condemnatory attitude of the parents towards the libidinal impulses.
(iii) The third tenet of psychoanalysis is that of conflict, repression and complexes. As said above, according to Freud, all behaviour is the resultant of the dynamic conflicts between the forces of the Id, the Ego and the Super-ego. The Id impulses which are largely sexual and aggressive in nature want to be satisfied, but these come in conflict with the Ego and the Super-ego. In other words, there is a clash between the primitive impulses and social and moral taboos, prohibitions and obstructions.
Our conflicts may be conscious or unconscious. When we are aware of the conflict and sources causing it, the conflict is at the conscious level. But there are times, when we are not aware of the real motives causing conflict. We experience feelings of strain, stress and anxiety but why? We cannot easily tell. The motivations of the conflict are unconscious. We are not aware of them. This is the endopsychic or unconscious conflict.
This is how it happens. The conflict even at the conscious level, is a painful affair which creates tension in the human mind. It should end as soon as possible. It can be ended by following the Id impulses and by ignoring the claims of the Ego and the Super-ego or the external world. It can be ended by consciously denying the impulses or urges completely and following the demands of the Ego or Super-ego.
Another method of ending the conflicts is by throwing those impulses into allied channels sanctioned by society and thus obtaining for them a vicarious satisfaction. For example , many women who do not marry, satisfy a fundamental wish by becoming nurses or by directing their own energies to the care and welfare of children. But most people follow neither of these courses, it is very difficult to endure the ideas of defeat which result from the denial or our Id, desires.
Again, the Id impulses cannot be satisfied in the face of social opposition. Even throwing them into other social sanctioned channels is not an easy task. We need suitable potentialities, education, guidance and environment for that. Normally, the conflict is resolved or ended, in an average individual, by an actual forcing down of these wishes into the unconscious.
This unconscious forgetfulness of the Id impulses or throwing down of these impulses into the unconscious is called repression. Thus, “what is unpleasant abnoxious, embarrassing or offensive is vanished from consciousness”. With repression, the conflict shifts from the conscious into the unconscious.
These repressed wishes or desires remain active in the unconscious regions of our mind. They slowly gather strength by making alliance with other allied repressed experiences, thus forming an active group. This group of repressed desires working with a common end, i.e. to come back to the level of consciousness, is called a complex. As soon as complexes are formed, they give rise to a conflict in the unconscious, known as the endosychic conflict.
These complexes are just like exiles whose presence back in the conscious is not tolerated. But they do strive to regain consciousness. The forces of the Ego and Super-ego would not permit this. If they come back to the conscious, they would again create conflict and tension.
The mental force that keeps the repressed undesirable wishes confined to the unconscious is technically known as the censor. The censor is not an outside agency implanted in us, but is a part of our own personality. It represents the moral and social aspects of the Ego and Super-ego.
But the censor is not uniformly vigilant at all times, its activities are considerably weakened during sleep as also during such moments that the repressed wishes seek to regain consciousness. At times, they may come in mask or in disguise and thus elude the vigilance of the censor. Such disguise may take the form of dreams, slips of pen and tongue, forgetfulness, mannerism of speech and others.
Sometimes, they may manifest themselves in mental mechanisms such as transference, projection identification, rationalization and others. The complexes may also cause neurotic disturbances or psychotic disorders of various types.
(iv) The fourth principle of psychoanalysis is Freud’s theory of instinct and libido. According to him, there are two decidedly inmates psychological urges or instincts. These urges may be called ‘Eros’ of life or love instinct and Thanatos or the death instincts or aggression. They work through the existing structure of a person’s being in his environment and determine what he is and what he does.
They are modified by the life experience of the individual, particularly those of the earliest years of life. These instincts are not opposed and mutually independent forces. They fuse and intermix. The intermixture of the two instincts leads to the Freudian principle of ambivalence loving and hating the same person.
Libido is the energy that works throughout the whole psychic system the energy of the life instinct. It is the source of sexual love, self-love, parental affection, friendship and of love for humanity in general. It causes the infantile sex-life; when the libido flows outward, it causes object-love; when it flows inward, it causes self-love or narcissism.
(v) The fifth tenet of the psycho-analytical theory is the principle of psycho- sexual genesis or infantile sexuality. Sexual life, according to Freud, does not start at puberty. Its first manifestations may be clearly seen after birth. Sexuality embraces many activities which have no connection with genitals. The fundamental functions of sexuality is to obtain pleasure from zones of the body. During the infancy and childhood period, this sexuality has three phases (a) oral, (b) anal-sadistic and (c) phallic.
At first the child derives libidiual satisfaction from the mouth; at three or four this pleasure is given by anal movement. After this we have the phallic phase when the child evinces interest in his genitalia. It is in this phase when the development of the Oedipus Complex takes place. The libido is directed towards an external love object of the opposite sex.
The latency period (5 to 12 years) is essentially one of psychic consolidation and synthesis. The psyche has a respite from infantile urges and the Super-ego develops. The pubertal period extends from 12 years onwards. There is a revival of sexuality and its passes through auto-erotic and homosexual phases before it is allowed its normal outlet in heterosexual behaviour.