about the unconscious

John Bragh in The Guardian:

BrainTo what extent are our conscious intentions and strategies in control of our choices and decisions, our feelings and actions? The 20th century provided three different answers to this basic existential question: Freud’s psychodynamic theory placed a hidden and self-destructive unconscious mind in charge; Skinner and the behaviourists put control instead with the outside stimulus environment. Finally, cognitive science threw out the behaviourists and reinstated the conscious mind at the helm. When I started out in the 70s, these three camps were arguing but with hardly any actual evidence, so I began to study these issues scientifically. Before You Know It is the culmination of more than three decades of such research, from labs around the world, on the variety of unconscious influences in everyday life. These 10 books were my signposts along the way.

From Mesmer to Freud: Magnetic Sleep and the Roots of Psychological Healing by Adam Crabtree (1993)
It all starts with Freud, right? Except it didn’t. Here, Crabtree details the 120 years of psychologically based treatments of physical ailments that occurred before Freud, starting with Mesmer’s “magnetic healing” and leading eventually to the “talking cure” of Freud and Pierre Janet. This historical context shows that Freud’s work was the culmination of such efforts, rather than their starting point. Even in the late 19th century, many people believed that mental illness was caused by evil demons. Freud turned this supernatural explanation into a natural one by locating this “demon” inside the patient’s body as a separate “unconscious mind”.

2. Beyond Freedom and Dignity by BF Skinner (1971)
The book that got me started in psychology, a bestseller when I was taking a high-school psychology class. Skinner’s last-gasp appeal to the general public, following the “cognitive revolution” in psychology of the 60s, arguing that we had no actual freedom of will, that our conscious thoughts were not causal at all. But we so wanted to believe otherwise that we persisted in the illusion. However, Skinner was not entirely wrong. Subsequent research (on humans) showed that events in the outside world can indeed affect us directly and unconsciously – but only through activating internal cognitive mechanisms that he had long insisted were irrelevant.

More here.