The Power of the Unconscious
Have you ever felt threatened by a situation that in reality was not threatening at all, as if you were reacting to a different place and time? Or ever caught yourself reacting absurdly to a present moment because it somehow reminded you of a past experience? Or felt furious at someone for no reason whatsoever, probably because those feelings were really about somebody else?
If you have, then you understand the power of the unconscious. Those inner forces outside our conscious awareness that in so many ways control and dictate our thoughts, feelings, and actions.
There’s a part of our unconscious that can serve us well. We can refer to it as our wisdom. It is all that knowledge we naturally possess that can be a wonderful tool to navigate life.
However, it is the negative programming in our unconscious what we need to watch out for. The destructive patterns harbored in our mind that do us more harm than good. That is the unconscious I’m referring to.
I personally like to call them ghosts. Because they’re invisible. But dangerous. They are always with us. Wherever we go, they go. So if we’re not mindful of them, they can haunt us without us even knowing.
- What is the unconscious?
Sigmund Freud’s great discovery. A reservoir of feelings, thoughts, urges, and memories outside our conscious awareness that underlie our behavior. Like water underneath an iceberg (the tip of the iceberg being the only part we’re actually aware of).
- Where does it come from?
Our past. It has its roots in early life experiences. As perceived and interpreted by us. So our unconscious is not necessarily an objective truth. But it’s the world as we saw it once. And therefore as we see it now. And because perception is reality, we grow believing it’s the truth and nothing but the truth. So we act accordingly.
- Where is it found?
The unconscious hides in the depths of our mind. A place deep enough that it’s almost impossible to find. But so powerful that it irrigates our whole mind. Like poisonous roots feeding an otherwise healthy tree. Contaminating our view of the world that surrounds us.
- Can we exterminate it?
Unfortunately no. I took on the ghost buster challenge for quite some years and can tell you for a fact that you can’t weed it out like you would poison ivy. Declaring war on it is like declaring war on yourself. Because the unconscious, like it or not, is part of our history, and therefore part of who we are.
- Can we bury it alive?
We can’t do that either. Whatever we bury, comes forth later in worse ways. Similar to a Pandora box. Everything we repress is contained for a while only. But eventually, it all comes out. And when it does, it explodes like a merciless ticking bomb. Creating extensive damage.
- How do we take the power away from our unconscious?
1. Acknowledge it: The first step is to make the unconscious conscious. To realize that it’s there.
When you feel you’re reacting irrationally but with much force, it’s probably your unconscious at play. You’ll know it because your reaction will be strong, impulsive, and unreasonable.
When you feel that force taking over you, catch yourself. Preferably before you act on it. But if not, at least after. Acknowledge its existence and the powerful effect it has over you.
2. Bring it to surface: You can’t manage your unconscious until you understand it. You need to know its ins and outs to take its power away.
Reflect on those unconscious impulses once you become aware of them. Try to understand where they come from. Dig deep to find their origins. Uncover as many layers of your psyche as necessary to get to the bottom of them.
You need to get to know your darkness well enough to be able to find your way out of it.
3. Accept it: We can only change to the extent we accept ourselves. Our full selves.
So accept your unconscious as part of who you are. Where you come from. What you’ve been through. Accept it as part of your history and your wounds. All of which make you, you.
Don’t declare a war on it. But don’t declare a truce either. Just accept it as it is.
4. Work with it: Once you accept your unconscious, you can learn to work with it. Not against it. And definitely not for it. But WITH it.
You’ll start to realize it will always be there. Like a little voice in the back of your mind. But you won’t mind it. You’ll just learn to ignore it. Because you’ll know better. And by ignoring it you’ll start taking its power away.
The more you disregard it the easier it’ll be to make decisions that are aligned with your present reality. Not your past. Decisions that are conscious choices of who you want to become.
5. Be forever mindful: As comfortable as you may start to feel with your unconscious, never underestimate it.
Your unconscious will always be your Achilles heel. Your deadly weakness in spite of your overall strength. Never drop your guard.
Remember, wherever you go, it will go. So always be on the lookout.
As Carl Jung once said, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” Don’t let it fool you.
Beltran, J. (2014). The Power of the Unconscious. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 21, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/thrive/2014/08/the-power-of-the-unconscious/