Abstract The study of unconscious processes leads to the hypothesis of the limit of consciousness, which involves two main kinds of psychic activity. The first represents psychic contents which are subliminal for their low energy, the second subliminal contents which are inaccessible to consciousness because they are dissociated in the subliminal region. Dissociation is a concept introduced by Pierre Janet for splitting consciousness due to traumatic events or during hypnosis. It takes a more general form in Hilgard's neo-dissociation theory of hypnotic phenomena and also in Jung's theory of the collective unconscious. Further generalization links it to the modern findings of explicit and implicit perception, leading to a shift in dissociation from hypothesis to clinical, experimental and theoretical reality. Studies in hypnosis also point to the existence of an integrative psychic entity, that comprises the conscious ‘I’. Hilgard called this the hidden observer, and his findings represent empirical confirmation of Jung's term for the Self as mirror ‘I’, which leads to many important consequences for self-discovery and the meaning of life.