The Tip of the Iceberg

Photo by Tatiana on

I look at my reflection in the mirror this morning and notice my throat splotching red. But I teach school, and school’s out for summer. I shouldn’t have one iota of stress. I stop for a moment to consider my thoughts. You know those thoughts, the ones you can’t shake?

Present thought—the iceberg. You know, the whole picture—the tip of the iceberg you see above the surface and the huge mass you see below. It’s like how you know a person based on what you see, but you can’t see past the surface, or maybe you can see just below the surface but not too much deeper without asking some heavy questions. When I started Googling images to illustrate this fuzzy point in my head, I stumbled onto Freud’s iceberg theory, and he said exactly what was on my mind. Weird, right? My brain forgets so much these days. I know the theory. I just didn’t remember that Freud fathered it. Anywho, I studied a bit and hope someone else might find the information helpful.

According to Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalytic theory, the mind can be divided into three separate parts with varying purposes:

  1. The conscious part includes what we can sense in the moment—thoughts, memories, feelings, and wishes.
  2. The preconscious part consists of memories we can pull into our conscious on cue for a specific purpose. For example, you walk into a restaurant to have lunch with a friend, peruse the menu, and say, “What do you like here?” Looking at the menu will prompt your friend to remember.
  3. The unconscious part comprises the bulk of our minds—unpleasant or unacceptable thoughts, memories, habits, urges, reactions, and feelings outside the realm of our conscious awareness, such as anxiety and shame, conflict and broken hearts.
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Freud compared the levels of the mind to an iceberg. Above the surface, you see the tip of the iceberg representing the conscious. Below the water, observable at surface level is the preconscious. The massive part of the iceberg extending too deep to be visible represents the unconscious. According to Freud, the unconscious mind affects our behavior and experiences without our awareness or understanding. We all have a storehouse of memories and emotions that we push down deep to forget. explains it all very well and dedicates a whole page to psychotherapy. It has been shown that continued self-examination leads to emotional growth over time, and I’m all for growth of any kind.

So as my throat splotches red and I contemplate why people (including myself) do what they do and say what they say and make the same mistakes over and over, the answer according to Freud is pretty simple after all.

35 thoughts on “The Tip of the Iceberg

      1. Oh, I understand. I worry also about my husband’s health and everything. This summer though is definitely better than last. I wish you well. I wish you and your family an enjoyable summer.


      2. Sometimes it helps having projects to complete: this summer I am working on finishing up a fiction book. I write so many pages each day and I am keeping my unscripted jar from New Years about the good things happening with a few of the not so good. It helps me with perspective.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Sometimes, even when we know the why behind certain thoughts and behaviors, it’s hard, if not impossible, to change. But at least in the knowing, we can minimize our response.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. The knowing is key. I’m not ashamed to say that therapy has revealed a thing or two to me and about me. There’s such a stigma about seeking that sort of help, but a person has to want the help. It’s not easy.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Crystal, this is a very good recap of Freud’s concept of the iceberg. The way you defined the preconscious made me realize i do this A LOT! Today, i had to introduce myself at work. When i was asked how long i had been working, i had to look at the bottom right hand corner of my computer screen to find the time in order to recollect how long i had actually been working. I knew in my mind it was 2 years, so why did i have to look at the clock? So weird. Anyhoo, i can definitely resonate with this. I love psychology talks! Try and enjoy your summer Crystal. You deserve this.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Interestingly (because of my course schedule for next year), I’ve been more stressed this summer than during the school year for sure. AND IT’S SO ANNOYING. So then I get annoyed that I’m stressed and that’s surely contributing to my stress and then I get annoyed at myself all over again. Sigh. One day at a time.

    Liked by 5 people

  4. Very interesting! Always loved psychology and I remember Freud from High school and loved the way you presented the information
    There’s one sentence I keep remembering it was in French and it means « when unconscious become conscious, there’s no problem anymore »
    Can’t remember who said it but we have complexes and problems when we don’t know what’s the problem, all buried in the unconscious and when we know, then we can solve the problem . I always remember this and I believe our life is a constant battle so the unconscious become conscious and we become more stable and happier (the way I see it of course)
    Thank you for sharing 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. May we all dig deep, solve our own problems, and stop our own battles. You know how sometimes you start writing without knowing what point you want to make? You just helped me make my point. Thank you, Huguette!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Crystal, thanks for sharing the “tip of the iceberg.” In my previous life as a teacher, our guidance counselor built a display of this concept in one of the school’s hallways. It makes each of us think more about the hidden stress some of our students face.

    Best wishes for another school year! I retired with 40 years of service in 2018. However, I still feel a bit of the adrenaline rush that comes with arrival of another school year.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m loving your reads, too, YBP! The thing about the lower part of the iceberg—it is what it is, but we can consciously choose more positive to combat what is already deep inside. That’s why I keep coming back to your site. We can all use an extra bit of positive.

      Liked by 1 person

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