This is the 2007 version. Click here for the 2017 chapter 13 table of contents.

Windows to the Unconscious

The phrase windows to the unconscious was coined by Freud to label a set of techniques for diagnosing hidden problems. Such techniques were necessary, Freud believed, because people resist bringing conflicts to consciousness. Resistance is the name Freud gave to the act of fighting against admission of an uncomfortable thought to consciousness. Freud wrote:

What are "windows to the unconscious"?

When we undertake to cure a patient, to free him from the symptoms of his malady, he confronts us with a vigorous, tenacious resistance that lasts during the whole time of the treatment. (Freud, 1925, p.93)

How could resistance be revealing

Freud believed resistance, although troublesome in therapy, was also useful as a diagnostic tool. It signaled that the therapist was getting close to a painful truth. As Freud put it, "If a child does not want to open his clenched fist, he is certainly hiding something he ought not to have."

The windows to the unconscious are supposed to be ways of getting clues or hints about problems that might be hidden in the unconscious due to resistance. The aim of such techniques was to locate repressed memories, those not normally accessible to the conscious mind.

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