What Is Freud’s Unconscious Theory and How Is It Applied in the Art Work of Dada/ Surrealist Artists?

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What is Freud’s unconscious theory and how is it applied in the art work of Dada/ surrealist artists?

Sigmund Freud was a Jewish Austrian neurologist who founded the discipline of psychoanalysis. Freud went on to develop theories about the unconscious mind. The concept of the unconscious theory was central to Freud’s ideas of the human mind. He first introduced his ideas around the unconscious theory when trying to explain what happens to ideas that are repressed but remain in the mind.

In Freud’s original outline of the main principles to the theory, he believed the mind was made up of 3 systems – the unconscious, preconscious, and the conscious. The unconscious part of the mind is made up of hidden desires, impulses or wishes of which Freud believed were mostly sexual and sometimes destructive in nature. This part of the mind is seen as being repressed. It is the place where we put all the things that the outside world doesn’t allow us to look at as they are formed from sexual desires and urges that are not fit for the society we live in. A lot of our past history and childhood memories also remain here. Supressed material in the unconscious, such as these memories, are blocked deep in our psyche and therefore cannot be accessed directly. The preconscious refers to the information in a persons mind just below consciousness. It contains all the ideas and memories capable of becoming conscious and can be recalled relatively easily when needed. It operates in a more controlled, disciplined manner than the unconscious and it takes the demands of reality and everyday life into account as well as being able to tolerate delays of satisfaction. The conscious mind is aware of its thoughts and actions. This part of the mind is where all conscious though processes occur. It is the source of conscious thinking, ideas and understanding and is concerned with logical reality and civilized behavior. Freud believed that consciousness was only a small part of mental life.

Freud soon found that the original version of the division of the mind into the unconscious, preconscious and conscious could not fully explain his idea of what was going on so in 1923 he came up with a new model of the mind, which attempted to explain the main motives and drives behind it. It involved dividing the way we think into three parts; the Id, Ego, and the Super Ego. The Id is the primitive, unconscious part of the mind that we are born with. It is a dark, inaccessible area taken over by selfish, sexual and sometimes aggressive urges. It is completely unsocialised from the outside world and it demands satisfaction without delay. It does not care for consequences, reason, or the wellbeing of others. The Id is suppressed and modified as the person grows older in order to fit in with society. The Ego is the part of the mind that reacts to external reality and is found in the preconscious location of the mind. The Ego is where consciousness comes from, although not all of how it works is carried out consciously. It is rational, involved in decision making, and helps us make sense of things. Anxiety is the human signal of a weak Ego as because it comes from the Ego being under constant pressure from the Id to get it’s selfish urges satisfied. The Ego acts as a defence function by doing its best to suppress the Id’s urges and drives. Freud said “The Ego stands for reason and good sense while the Id stands for untamed passions.” The Super Ego is a large part of the unconscious mind. It can be described as being introjected parental authority. It is what we know as our ‘conscience’ – the part of ourselves that tells us what is right and wrong, judges our behavior and also carries out self observation. It represents having taken into our mind the standards and expectations of our parents and our society. The Super Ego monitors behavior to fit in with society it gets us to act in a way that is only acceptable to society and not to the individual person. It is...
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