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Oberndorf, C.P. (1941). Co-Conscious Mentation. Psychoanal Q., 10:44-65.

(1941). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 10:44-65

Co-Conscious Mentation

C. P. Oberndorf


Pathological co-conscious thinking is an obsessional symptom involving thinking itself, and falls into the general categories of splitting of personality, feelings of unreality and depersonalization. In the cases observed it was associated with an unusual libidinization of thinking. A concept is proposed which regards thinking as current flow occurring in vertical and horizontal planes and in straight, circular or spiral directions. Co-conscious thinking takes place as a vertical splitting of the flow of thought current in the same lateral plane.

Double conscience and double consciousness are closely related—they may even be identical. Their development is dependent on the need for the protection of the biological ego against the dominance of a superego unsuited to ego needs.

In some cases studied evidence was brought out suggesting that both co-conscious mentation and depersonalization function in the nature of a defense activity against anxiety. This anxiety is latent and perhaps chronic but when co-conscious mentation is active, the anxiety may diminish temporarily. Co-conscious mentation is a mild form of schism not far removed from unreality phenomena and even from loss of consciousness such as may be induced by pharmacological and psychic shock. The diminution of active anxiety in cases of depersonalization suggests that this splitting process acts as a protection against anxiety and invites further investigation in connection with the phenomena of pharmacologically induced unconsciousness.

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