The unconscious has been explored by Freud and many other psychoanalysts. What this 'thing' is, is largely unknown - simply because we cannot hold down the unconscious and look at it. After all it is that which is beyond conscious scrutiny. Yes there are loads of theories on the goings on in the unconscious but there are no hard facts. This is simply because the unconscious is not readily open to empirical scrutiny. (I'm not talking about 'the subconscious' - and I'll not explain that further.)
But the unconscious is observable by others when it is not at all visible to the individual's own scrutiny. This is a fact stemming from the reality that we often are unable to see ourselves as others do.
I often see people reacting or not reacting to something said or done. It is the consistency of the reaction or lack of it that says something. So the unconscious can be touched - likened to putting a long stick into a pond - the bottom of the river cannot be seen but it can be felt. Just as the stick transmits the resistance from the floor of the river to the one holding the stick, that is how the unconscious can be touched.
So too with the mind, it is the resistance to new ideas, new thinking, changes in general that tells of the unconscious. Of course, this is not to say that people do not consciously resist certain things. However, when resistance to change is seen for no logical reason or no discernable reason, that is your base of the river. The floor of the river determines to some degree the flow of water at the top.
What people say they will do often does not match what they actually do - we all know that. But I often ask myself "Why say you'd do something - commit to it - and then not do what is required?" Laziness? Sure - but that's too easy an explanation. What is more important is what produces the so-called 'laziness' - and the contour of the river's floor might determine the resistance to flow on the surface.
The unconscious is also like a wild stallion - difficult to tame. The stallion is easily spooked by events, instinctual drives, raw emotions - it knows little about logic and is not good at reasoning. Our conscious existence - meaning our self-aware worldly existence - is the product of a 6 mm skin of brain - which is far more highly developed than in so-called lower animals. Keep in mind that before we became conscious, our remote ancestors got by on 'the unconscious'. So the unconscious has become skilled at survival, and the things that challenge survival over thousands and thousands of years.
But hold on, it is a new world - a very fast world, with much larger and complex issues to manage. The unconscious often fails us in this new world. It's not geared up to crunching numbers, balancing complex values and other abstract ideas. The wild stallion was good for getting us from A to B, but in today's world it struggles to cope with the demands we might place on it. It is burdened to get to Z via umpteen other subroutes or combinations of routes.
And now we are caught in a world where logic and reason is meant to prevail, but we're all left riding wild stallions that are lost, scared and hard to control. How will humanity survive this amazing and mounting tension? I'm thinking about it - but I sense danger ahead for the human race.