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Kris, E. (1950). On Preconscious Mental Processes. Psychoanal Q., 19:540-560.

(1950). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 19:540-560

On Preconscious Mental Processes

Ernst Kris, Ph.D.


In recent psychoanalytic writings preconscious mental processes are rarely mentioned, even when fundamentals are discussed (Alexander, 1948). In publications further removed from psychoanalytic experience, the psychoanalytic connotations of the term 'preconscious' are entirely lost. This would not be remarkable or invite comment were it not that, in the area of ego psychology, certain aspects of preconscious mental activity have been studied with greater care and by a larger number of investigators than ever before in the history of psychoanalysis: to quote Freud's last formulation on the subject, '… the inside of the ego which comprises above all the intellectual processes has the quality of being preconscious' (1939p. 42).

The reciprocal relationship between the development of ego psychology and therapeutic technique has not only led to an increased concern with the 'psychic surface' and many details of behavior, but also to specific advice as to the handling of the relationship of preconscious to unconscious material in therapy, advice that is sometimes too rigidly formulated, and yet eminently important. Briefly stated, this advice is to wait until what you wish to interpret is close to consciousness, until it is preconscious (Freud, 1939).

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