On unlocking the unconscious

Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate. - Carl Jung

Jung’s insightful words reveal how our unexamined inner world can shape our reality.

The unconscious mind is a powerful force driving our emotions, decisions, and actions. Its unseen influence can significantly impact our lives, often in challenging ways we are unaware of.

But we don’t have to be enslaved to this hidden part of our minds. We can take simple, actionable steps to unlock the unconscious and increase our self-awareness.

Challenge #1: Unconscious fears and desires

Our fears and desires often operate from the shadows, steering our decisions like an annoying backseat driver. Most of the time we ignore them, but the secret lies in getting comfortable with them.

Exercise: Mindfulness meditation

Engaging in mindfulness is like tuning into a quieter radio frequency where fears and desires can emerge from the background noise, offering us a glimpse into our inner drivers. Developing a daily mindfulness practice has been invaluable for me, allowing me to recognize that I am not my thoughts.

Challenge #2: Unconscious biases

Cognitive biases act as mental shortcuts, allowing us to filter and process large amounts of information. But this filtering process can also mislead us, like looking through a pair of tinted glasses. For example, confirmation bias can make us overlook evidence contrary to our beliefs, affecting personal and collective judgments.

Exercise: Reflective journaling

The practice of journaling acts as a mirror, reflecting our biases in the stories we tell ourselves every day. Doing this several times a week has allowed me to notice recurring patterns that might be coloring my perceptions and worldview.

Challenge #3: Unconscious emotions

Understanding emotions, both our own and those of others, is foundational in nurturing meaningful relationships. Missing out on this cue is like trying to read a book with half the pages missing.

Exercise: Active listening

When you really tune into a conversation, you’re not just hearing words, you’re catching the unsaid emotions swimming underneath. This doesn’t come naturally to me and I’m hilariously bad at it. But I’m working on it, currently through a dialectic course.

Challenge #4: Unconscious values

When we’re not attentive and intentional, we create a rift between what we actually value and the borrowed values that drive our behaviors. This is a recipe for dissatisfaction.

Exercise: Values assessment

Living authentically starts with understanding your core values. It can be as simple as writing down your values and comparing them against your daily actions. This can be uncomfortable but also reveals which actions are not serving what you truly care about.

Challenge #5: Unconscious stress and suffering

Ignoring stress bubbling under the surface is like neglecting a leak in your roof. There’s only one outcome, and it’s not a good one.

Exercise: Psychotherapy

Engaging in therapy can help unearth buried stressors or traumas. Think of it as a guided exploration into the unconscious, offering healing and self-discovery without judgment. In certain cultures (read: mine), this practice is seen as taboo, but the good news is that it’s changing.

Exploring the unconscious can seem self-indulgent when the realities of life await us. But I think we have it backward.

I see these exercises as stepping stones towards making the unconscious conscious, enabling a deeper understanding and a more genuine connection with ourselves, the people we care about, and the world around us. Is there anything more important?