We’re Half Blind Until We Work With The Unconscious.
When rationality and data can’t fully make sense of the world it’s time to check in with what we can’t see.
There’s an odd inversion that happens when you start to see the world through the lens of the unconscious.
Unexplainable phenomena, the election of certain presidents, suddenly make some sense. People take on the hues of angels, saviors, and devils. All depending on how the unconscious hangs its projections and myths upon them.
Conversations take on new light.
We can see where a person’s conscious mind discusses what it knows and glimpse where the unconscious keeps them blind.
For instance, if you’re having a debate on the internet (and I’m sorry if you are) you may realize that no matter how much data you present the other person doesn’t often change their mind.
Even more frustrating, they challenge the point you care about least and ignore the ones you find most important.
The problem here is that our brains sort information in a biased manner. Yes, some rhetoricians are simply being jerks and ignoring good information.
But a lot of people are falling into the traps of their cognitive bias. It’s simply what the brain does, it selects information its familiar with. It tries to then add this to its already established worldview.
It builds its understanding of the world bit by bit. Neuron linked to neuron.
No one likes their building blocks knocked down. The brain, always conserving resources doesn’t like to rewire a host of neurons.
When information threatens its viewpoint and identity, the brain often responds by withdrawing from the frontal lobe (the rational part of the mind) and instead runs with the amygdala.
This means the brain is seeing information as a threat to its reality. It responds with all the physiological effects of the fight/flight reflex.
Making it rather hard to separate fact from fiction.
The unconscious can help explain world events.
Today we can see this on the screen after an MRI. A hundred years ago Jung saw this in his client’s dreams and neurosis.
He became fascinated with the unconscious.
Jung saw the unconscious and its unseen daemons change the globe around him from the great to the small.
One hundred years later, we are seeing another rise in nationalism, nazism, and the projection of our inner demons onto the world.
“Brass bands, flags, banners, parades, and monster demonstrations are no different in principle from ecclesiastical processions, cannonades, and fireworks to scare off demons. Only, the suggestive parade of State power engenders a collective feeling of security which, unlike religious demonstrations, gives the individual no protection against his inner demonism.”
– Jung. The Undiscovered Self
In a time of polarization, with nationalism, and hate groups on the rise, now is the perfect time to begin to open the door to the unconscious.
It is after all the only way to truly master our inner daemons so that they no longer threaten the world outside.
“If the projected conflict is to be healed, it must return into the psyche of the individual, where it had its unconscious beginnings. . . . Is this perhaps the meaning of Christ’s teaching, that each must bear his own cross? For if you have to endure yourself, how will you be able to rend others also?”
– Jung. Mysterium Coniunctionis
The truth of the matter is, the unconscious isn’t an easy door to open.
It’s more of a collection of personalities than a place. Relationships that need our care and attention.
Relationships with personalities that are hard to understand. Personalities, that like all people have plenty of their own mysteries.
Jung often related the unconscious to serpents and fish, or mythological beings hard to catch.
It was the unconscious that projected an image of a “hero” onto Hitler in depression era Germany. Blue eyes saw a king and a father, a man who could bring order to the chaos they were suffering.
A man that could make Germany great again.
This same trick of mind can cause havoc in our regular day to day lives.
For instance, I was writing an article on the power of symbolism when I accidentally typed this beauty:
“Jung wanted to wake us up to the world inside, but it isn’t all a tinkle of the eyes and a wave of a wang, it’s powerful work.”
– Trickster Josh
An innocent Freudian slip, until we look at the symbolism.
Urine is linked to things necessary but typically hidden, while the phallus is often a symbol of the libido and the psyche’s energy.
All fun and games to the unconscious. A simple warning about the hidden power of the unconscious. Not the best for writers trying to avoid the waving about of wangs though.
Work with the unconscious is a powerful, tedious process.
The side effects and dangers can run from national delusions to random acts of trick or treat.
However, I have seen this work do absolute miracles.
I myself have been able to eliminate lifelong depression that medication simply couldn’t touch. Even my manic states are kept to a minimum, once a year now for a couple days rather than entire months or seasons.
I’ve seen clients increase their creativity. Others suddenly heal from health issues that had been plaguing them for years.
People get over their anxieties, their panic attacks, heal marriages. . . decide their marriage is actually terrible and start a better life.
“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
― C.G. Jung
The point of Jung’s work is that until we begin to see the way the unconscious affects our vision, our lives will be filled with blind spots.
It’s not mysticism, it’s supported by studies of cognitive bias and the ways that the brain processes information.
Whether we choose to see the unconscious, it’s certainly affecting us. From the smallest Freudian slip to national politics and rumors of war.
How do you work with the unconscious?
Start with observation.
The easiest way is to start a journal.
Ask yourself, “what seems odd about my behavior?”
- What caused you to choose what you did in that split second decision?
- What made you change your mind on those choices you had been thinking over for hours?
- Where does your mind stick and your thoughts spin around?
- What does your mind avoid and never touch?
Working with the unconscious can take on many forms.
- Dream Journaling
- Active Imagination.
For the most part, I find people stumble onto the methods that work for them.
The unconscious knows how to best speak to you.
Some part of it seeks your attention. It’s why it’ll play trickster or mad mover of public turmoil and chaos.
It’s trying to wake you up. To get you to ask why?
That’s when you shine some light on the world inside.
The main trick is to open the door. Start the conversation and try out different tools to see what works.
(If you’d like to brainstorm methods reach out in the comments. I love talking about things like this.)