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Unconscious Inhibition: Brain evidence favoring a psychoanalytic understanding

Objective experimental evidence is accruing in support of fundamental psychoanalytic propositions: (1) Evidence from our own lab and from others shows that unconscious mental processes exist and are instantiated in the brain. (2) Evidence provides support for the proposition that at least some unconscious processes are subject to unconscious inhibition. These effects occur at a deeply unconscious level and are mediated by individual differences; defense, then, is a higher level psychological instance of inhibition. (3) Steps have been taken toward establishing the existence of unconscious motivation: there is sleep-dream evidence for the operation of disguise in REM dreams; in a clinical study on social phobia, time-frequency feature results were gathered which suggest that conflict between unconscious motives must be instantiated in the brain. (4) In a study on spider phobia, a greater fear of spiders is associated with unconscious inhibition of attention to spiders and of spider detection. Alpha synchronization appears to be associated with these inhibitory responses and might be a brain marker for primary process thinking.