Guest Post by Richard McCure
It seems incredible that the subconscious mind was first postulated by Sigmund Freud. If you are elderly it is likely that your grandparents imagined that the entire content of their mind was accessible to conscious contemplation. Freud’s discovery opened the way for a flowering of scientific investigation into the nature of the occult workings of the human brain.
Now my knowledge of psychology is very much undergraduate level, and mid 20th century at that, so I would be more than happy to be corrected on any mistakes in this essay.
My interest is in what we might call the hierarchy of subconscious instincts, and how they might arise.
It is well known that new born babies carry into the world a knowledge of certain dangers. A well known example is fear of heights. This is an obviously useful phobia which is helpful for surviving the world outside the womb. To overcome fear of heights later in life is challenging.
Then there’s the instincts acquired at an early age, and within a definite time-window. An example of this was called “imprinting”. Imprinting involved among other things the recognition of the faces of family as well as the development of sexual preferences.
All this subconscious structure is in place to allow us to navigate the material world without having to learn by trial and error, “the hard way”. As such it is pivotal to our survival, and for this reason would not be given up lightly. We hang on to these precepts tenaciously even though we are only aware of them via emotional responses, rather than in the form of conscious thought.
This explains the phenomenon of “confirmation bias” where we ignore information that is counter to our (subconscious) world view. To do otherwise is to risk destabilising our grip on reality. This may well apply to the condition called post traumatic stress disorder,
Dogs provide a good example of the way this process works. Dogs seem to be either terrified of thunder or completely indifferent to it, and it seems to depend on whether or not they have experienced a thunder storm during puppyhood. If they have experienced thunder during that critical period it becomes part of their internal model of the world, and is accepted as “normal”. If on the other hand they first experience it in later life it produces absolute terror as does any other dramatic alien phenomenon encountered. Primitive humans deal with unfamiliar phenomena by invoking supernatural beings.
I think this mechanism could be useful in explaining some other seemingly irrational aspects of human behaviour.
Imagine a child born into a radical Islamist household. At a very early age a subconscious model of the world would form in which an omnipresent Allah holds dominion. This picture would be re-enforced through to adulthood. There would be no shortage of media stories about evil acts perpetrated by Infidels, all consistent with the call to kill non-believers. Living in, say, a non-English speaking suburb of Sydney, surrounded by a community with similar views, there would be little opportunity to develop a counter narrative. For de-radicalisation to work it would be necessary to erase this subconscious world view, probably impossible without erasing the identity of the individual concerned (whatever that might mean).
Let’s have a look at climate hysteria in this context. The pedagogues driving this would be left leaning, meaning that they have an ingrained belief that Capitalism is innately oppressive and that socialism offers a more moral system of government. In a move that is so clever it is difficult to believe that it has not been carefully planned, fossil fuels are targeted as the horsemen of the apocalypse.
Never mind that not just capitalism but civilisation itself is threatened.