In Freud’s psychoanalytic theory of personality, the unconscious mind is a reservoir of feelings, thoughts, impulses, and memories that is outside our consciousness. Most of the contents of the unconscious are unacceptable or unpleasant, such as feelings of pain, anxiety, or conflict. According to Freud, the unconscious continues to influence our behavior and experience, even though we are unaware of these underlying influences.
The unconscious mind is often represented as an iceberg. Everything above water represents the conscious, while everything below water represents the unconscious.
Freud believed that many of our feelings, desires and emotions are repressed or kept out of consciousness. Why? Because, he suggested, they were simply threatening. Freud believed that, sometimes, these hidden desires were made known through dreams and lapses of language (the flawed acts or “ Freudian lapses ”).
Freud also believed that he could bring these unconscious feelings to consciousness through the use of a technique called free association .
He asked patients to relax and say what came to mind, without any consideration of how trivial, irrelevant or embarrassing it could be. In drawing these currents of thought, Freud believed that he could discover the contents of the unconscious mind , where repressed desires and painful childhood memories were.