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Burston, D. (1986). The Cognitive and Dynamic Unconscious:—A Critical and Historical Perspective. Contemp. Psychoanal., 22:133-157.

(1986). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 22:133-157

The Cognitive and Dynamic Unconscious:—A Critical and Historical Perspective

Daniel Burston, Ph.D.

EVER SINCE FREUD'S EPOCH making discoveries in the treatment of mental illness, which included the method of "free association", and an understanding of the Oedipus Complex, considerable attention has been paid to unconscious processes by psychologists. The interest which Freud sparked, however, has given rise to some widely shared misconceptions. Contrary to popular mythology, Freud did not discover the unconscious. Indeed, before the unconscious became a respectable topic for clinical investigation, it had been a matter for some considerable speculation by Leibniz and Kant, who approached it as a branch of epistemology, or what came to be known as Erkentnisstheorie.

Fortunately, the last few decades have witnessed the growth of a new literature intended to rectify this popular misconception. L. L. Whyte's The Unconscious Before Freud and Ellenberger's The Discovery of the Unconscious are merely two of the better known installments available to the general public. This being so, any attempt to canvass some of the same ground once more must furnish some plausible raison d'etre, or at least some basis in contemporary debate as its point of departure. Unfortunately, contemporary approaches to the relationship between the dynamic and cognitive unconscious are often oblivious to the historical background, notwithstanding the last few decades having witnessed a growing collaboration between cognitive theory and psychoanalysis, illustrated, for example, by the work of Rapaport, Peterfreund, Pribram and Gill, etc. (Pribram & Gill, 1976).

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