Monday, July 26, 2010

July "I Believe" Challenge - Day 24: Role of the Unconscious

Again behind, continually perpetually behind in this challenge of blogging daily for a month.  But the topics from here to the end of Dani's challenge hold too much weight to combine them into one post to catch up.  They resonate too strongly to skip or give a single line.... so behind I will stay.

Today's topic - the role of the unconscious - seems at once too big and too personal to adequately cover in a blog post.  Over the past three years, I've spent a lot of time poking around in my own unconscious and learning about the role the unconscious plays in human behavior.  In my field of study, the experts split, maybe not exactly down the middle.  Some of them give a significant place to the unconscious and some of them deny its existence or denigrate its importance, preferring to focus on conscious thoughts and observable behavior.  But for me, leaving out the unconscious - where old memories and traumas are stored, where instinct and inherited patterns live, where myth and art and poetry are rooted - leaves out far too much.  Merely trying to adjust thoughts and behaviors without taking the unconscious into consideration is like trying to work a puzzle with the pieces turned upside down.

While I certainly cannot claim expert status - here are some of the things I have learned and believe about the unconscious:

1.  The unconscious is real.  It contains the imprint of things that have happened to us from our conception to our present, whether we think we remember them or not.

2.  The unconscious is more than personal.  It contains an element of myth and instinct and family or tribal histories that impact us in ways we don't always understand.  Jung called this piece the "collective unconscious" and it binds us all together in a universal dance.

3.  We can work to make the unconscious conscious.  Dreams and fantasies, thoughts and feelings that catch us off guard, art and poetry and creativity all unlock pieces of our unconscious.  We can learn to be more aware, to access these pieces more readily.  And if we do, we can learn more about who we are and why we do what we do and how to honor our true self.

4.  Our reactions are often driven by unconscious factors.  When we love or hate someone at first sight - we are saying more about ourselves than about that person.  Our unconscious uses the trick of projection and the other person acts like a blank movie screen.  What we see that irks us or makes us envious is a clue to a piece of ourselves we haven't wanted to take a look at.

5.  We repeat patterns of behavior we'd like to change because of our unconscious.  Repetitive patterns of behavior that happen even when we tell ourselves we won't ever do that again, point to a wound never healed, a hole, a complex.  Uncovering these things, bringing them to light, and healing them requires hard work.  But when we do, we can choose how to act instead of reacting - and patterns of behavior can change.

6.  We unlock our creativity when we dive into the unconscious.  Art, poetry, writing - all our creative endeavors - are seated in the unconscious.  By engaging in the arts, we tap into the unconscious, and letting the unconscious bubble up and giving it the respect it's due unlocks creativity potential within us that we didn't realize existed.

7.  The more we can make the unconscious conscious, the more whole we become.  Paying attention to our inner selves, exploring our dreams, being curious about our reactions - even the negative ones - takes us deeper into our true self and helps us integrate pieces of ourselves that were wounded or left behind, making us into more of who we were really designed to be.

I have a friend that talks about "r"eality vs. "R"eality.  reality with a little r is all the stuff that happens externally around us.  Enough to focus on for a lifetime, no doubt.  But Reality with a big R encompasses both the external and the internal.  Taking the time to see what's going on inside pays huge dividends in discovering what drives us, what fills us, what sustains us, and what gifts we have to offer the world - things we miss if we spend all our time on "r"eality.  Make friends with your unconscious and see what treasures wait to be found.


  1. This is such a clear "presentation" of the nature of the unconscious -- Thank you for articulating these ideas about this powerful part of ourselves. The richness, depth and complexity of the unconscious -- the unexplored terrain of the inner landscape -- and the wonder and mystery of that which we do not yet know are so thrilling and awe-inspiring to me that I stand in silence and reverence before it all. I am so grateful for the people who have taught me about the world of the unconscious and so grateful for those, like you, who speak the language of it. Here's to all that we don't yet know and to the dangerous, laborious, thrilling, rewarding, hard journey inward.

  2. Ah yes, all this sounds very familiar and very applicable. I'm with Jeanie on this one. You delineated it out so clearly. That's what I've been working toward--making my unconscious conscious. It's hard work!!

  3. It's hard for many reasons to make the unconscious conscious -- because, by definition, the unconscious is...well, unconscious!!!! :) When it chooses to push something up into our conscious minds, we are sometimes terrified...but we are given the opportunity to be liberated....and empowered. It's amazing how it all works......I love the work of it.

  4. So much is contained in this post. I have nothing profound to add....just knowing that unconscious programming impacts so many areas of our lives. Becoming aware of that programming is a significant challenge and accomplishment.