In treating the neurotic it is necessary to furnish him with some kind of plan. The nature of this plan differs considerably in different schools of teaching. Some practical psychologists frequently dismiss certain problems, which appear in the course of their work, with the remark that they belong to eschatology and do not in any way concern them. Now, in seeking to put the neurotic on his feet, so that he may lead an effective life, how far is it possible to do this without any reference to ultimate things ? I take it that any kind of philosophy must of necessity be concerned with ultimate things—that is, with eschatology. In that case those psychologists who do not consider that their theories have anything to do with eschatology, and who treat patients in the light of their theories, presumably do not furnish any kind of philosophy for their patients to draw upon. This appears to be a remarkable thing, for I do not see how any neurotic patient can live successfully unless he has a theory of life, either spiritual or philosophical or both, upon which to act.
If a man has a moral conflict which treatment reveals to him clearly, at least two courses are possible. He may side wholly with one or with the other of the contending ideals. But how can he disentangle his interest from one and put it wholly on the other ? Only by a very slow process can this be done. It can be done by gradually allowing a view of life to permeate the man's mind in which one side of the conflict appears eminently reasonable and the other side dwindles and fades from sight. He will thus either be degraded or refined according to the side he adopts. You cannot say that he solves his conflict by this method. Potentially speaking, it still exists. There has been no attempt to make a synthesis of the two opposing ideals. If you have two friends who quarrel and you go away with one, you do not do away with the quarrel. You only do away with the quarrel when you bring the two friends together and reconcile them.
If we have to treat a neurotic with a conflict, our aim should be the reconciliation of the two ideals, and not the magnification of one at the expense of the other. If a man has a conflict between the celibate ideal and the unrestrained sexual ideal, we do not want to give him a view of life in which he can see nothing but sexuality. Nor do we wish to magnify the celibate ideal until he entirely fails to see that sexuality has a place in life. We must aim at synthesis; the middle, controlled path is the practical ideal. But how is this to be done ? Are we to impose our fantasies on his fantasies ?
If we endeavour to solve the conflict for the patient by thrusting our own particular view of the world down his throat, then we are doing him a moral injury. That kind of interference will find no place in the future, for our view may be very helpful and necessary to us and wholly injurious to the patient. The patient must solve his conflict for himself. The conflict must become fully conscious, and therefore he must get in touch with his unconscious. It is here that help can be given to him. When he is in touch with his unconscious, his task of synthesis begins. In this task eschato-logical questions will continually arise, and these must be regarded, not as if they were absurd and unscientific matters, but as factors of supreme importance in the future development of the patient. For as the patient slowly adjusts the life of experience and the life of the unconscious, so will that philosophy of personal responsibility gradually emerge which will give him his fullest and best expression. No man who is fully and rightly expressing himself is ever neurotic. How then are we not all neurotics, seeing that none of us attain this ideal ? The secret seems to lie in the meaning that we give to the idea of right expression. We must escape from the fixed views that seek to organise humanity as if its individual members were all capable of expressing themselves according to a set plan. This view produces results that are satisfactory for the moment, but because it necessarily shuts off into the unconscious so much that should find expression it produces eventually those appalling and dismal cataclysms of which the present war is an example.
I do not think it possible for any one to study neurotic patients from the standpoint of the unconscious without gaining the idea of special tasks. There appears to be a particular line along which fullest expression is most easily experienced in every individual. Along this line the point of excess is not soon reached ; on the contrary, it would appear that there is a backing from the unconscious. Right expression, therefore, must be something that is connected closely with this line, and it might be possible to regard the average neurotic as one who had failed to discover his special line. There is also another consideration, and that is the quality of sensitiveness. The sensitive person has many more problems than the non-sensitive person, and his adjustments are more exhausting. A person who lives in close contact with the unconscious may acquire a very high degree of sensitiveness. The balance between the conscious and the unconscious varies in different people, and where a sensitive under adverse conditions might develop a neurosis, a non-sensitive might scarcely feel anything beyond temporary anxiety.
Any system that enforces suppression or encourages avoidance at once begins to thrust into the unconscious psychic energy that should escape by a gradual process. Accumulations in the unconscious are evidently dangerous. As I have already said, they cause cataclysms in human history. All that should have found expression gradually, comes forth in some sudden violent eruption. This is exactly comparable to the catastrophes that occur in the individual when he is struck down by a neurosis. Not until he has brought out from his unconscious all that has accumulated there, and not until he has synthetized it with his conscious life, will he be cured. I have endeavoured to show that what comes from the unconscious is not necessarily always the murderous, or the incestuous, or the lascivious. Civilization demands that these things should remain unexpressed. The majority of people simply repress them. They endeavour to behave as if these were names for abstract ideas, and so in time these things emerge from the unconscious like giants. But when the conscious life is full of animality, when the aims and motives of people are material, another kind of symbol forms in the unconscious and gradually works out into expression in reality. You then get a sudden revival in the spiritual life of the nation. The sudden personal conversions of which history contains so many examples illustrate the breaking through of forces of this kind from the unconscious.
It has been remarked that a good test of any theory is to ask whether it lessens a man's sense of personal responsibility in the conduct of life, and that if it does then it is a bad theory. In the eleventh chapter it was suggested that many people might condemn the idea, that dreams contain any kind of information that is hidden from the conscious powers of the mind, on the grounds that it cast doubt on the supremacy of reason and judgment. Of a man who watches his dreams and makes use of the material they contain it might very well be asked whether his life is going to be guided by dreams. The question might be put thus: Do you seriously mean to live your life according to what you imagine that you find in those fleeting and shadowy visions which traverse your mind in sleep ?
If the answer was that such was the intention, then there would be very good cause for ridicule. But when a man says that he takes his dreams into consideration, particularly in periods of doubt and indecision, it does not mean that he casts aside reason and judgment as valueless. He may modify his conduct owing to certain dreams that he experiences, just as he may modify his conduct in accordance with suggestions thrown out by his friends. The suggestions of friends will be founded on personal experience, and they will have as their aim the comfort of the man. But that which is to be gained from the dream will not necessarily follow the same direction. It does not always suggest the line of least resistance or what is expedient. It tends to open up channels of weakness. Its aim is to give the individual fuller expression. This does not mean that it emphasizes egotistical expression. A loud-voiced, conceited man, after he is humiliated and softened by tragic experience, will be a finer person, in that he will express much more than he did formerly. No one must expect to five in contact with the unconscious without being constantly humiliated.
The capacity for non-realization which people possess is universal. We all have it. We all see faults in other people. But how are we to see them in ourselves ? By thinking over our conduct we can only progress a little way. What is most deeply rooted and confirmed in our natures is hidden from us because we are it. Like the sun itself, it has no shadow whereby we can recognize its magnitude. But in the dream we will find the shadow. The idea, then, that the consideration of dreams is likely to be a bad procedure because it will lessen the sense of conscious responsibility does not hold good. On the contrary, if the procedure is properly understood, it will widen the conception of responsibility, for tasks will become apparent which were formerly unrecognized. But the proper understanding of the procedure is only acquired after patient study. A beginner, examining his own dreams, will be in danger of interpreting them wholly according to his complexes. He will be unable to detach himself from his own ideas of himself. It is naturally difficult for the scrupulously honest man to understand how the thief exists in his unconscious. The extremely pious man finds it impossible to account for the lurid language he uses when partially under an anaesthetic. In the same way the dream in its true significance may appear at first sight as something incredible. But realization always comes with difficulty. We have only to look at history in the past, and to-day in the making, to see that humanity has to pay an enormous price for every expansion of consciousness.