Conscious Thoughts as Virtual Organismic Phenomena and Unconscious Memories of Abuse
Conscious thoughts are the only organismic dynamics that are clearly mental. Some even think that thoughts and perceptions are necessarily conscious. It is evident that an organism can manage information in complex ways that are not conscious. However, the idea that the mind can think and perceive without using conscious dynamics is an intellectual stance that cannot be demonstrated in a convincing and robust way. It is easy to show that the brain manages non-conscious information that can influence conscious representations, but it is more difficult to demonstrate that there exist nonconscious psychological processes. For example, in artificial intelligence, there exists endless discussion on whether the data management of a computer can be considered a form of thinking.34 Between conscious representations and neural data management, there is an immense realm of phenomena that is difficult to situate. Since Kant, it is assumed that the organization of conscious perceptions and representations is mostly nonconscious.
As an ensemble of fuzzy virtual phenomena, conscious dynamics are incapable of appreciating in an explicit way the contours of the dimension of which it is a part, the insertion of the psychological dimension in the organism, and especially the pertinence of what is perceived. Everything happens as if conscious thinking assumes that what is perceived is relatively close to what happens. The elusive and ephemeral substance of thoughts has fascinated wise men in every culture (Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists, Sufis, Descartes, etc.). Conscious dynamics were thus considered useful illusions until the theory of evolution showed how they could have acquired at least a form of relevance. At the same time, conscious thoughts evidently play a crucial function in the development of the human species. This function is not an illusion, even if it is difficult to grasp. That is why it is more suitable to talk of necessary illusions than of rightâ or wrongâ ideas.
In talking about psychotherapy, we shall see that it is more useful to help a consciousness define the limits of what is going on than to affirm that a thought corresponds to a reality. This is particularly obvious when a person talks to us about a dream or presents a drawing that we interpret to be a representation of an unconscious memory. For instance, some psychotherapists have interpreted certain representations as the proof that there is an unconscious memory of childhood abuse that was perpetrated by the parents. By such an assertion, these psychotherapists have sometimes brought about an investigation that showed that it was in fact the case; but in affirming that this interpretation was true,â other psychotherapists have created a destructive doubt for everyone concerned when the abusive behaviors did not happen or could not be proven. It is important, here as elsewhere, to distinguish clearly between what is a thought and what is a fact. The relationship between a thought and some acts can only be established after an investigation that clearly defines the mental and behavioral dimension.