Size and Contents of the Unconscious

Excerpt from Chapter 8 - Thinking

If I asked people to consider the size of their unconscious minds and demanded they select from (pea-sized, melon-sized or Montana-sized), most would pick one of the first two given choices. Historically, it was thought that the unconscious was just a small part of us with a few repressed memories and traumas, perhaps pea-sized. In recent years, with the increased study of dreams, images, consciousness and more acceptance of such things as ESP (about half the USA population now believes in ESP), the role of the unconscious is now often believed to rival that of the conscious mind. While there is no so-called scientific proof for my belief, it seems clear to me that my unconscious is so much more powerful and knowing than my conscious mind that I would pick Montana-sized rather than the other two choices. If my unconscious is as big as Montana, then think of its vast potential! This allows for the possibility that my entire self (including whatever one might consider as a Higher Power a la 12-Step Programs) is completely in charge of my life. Given the huge quantities of "unexplained" information, it does seem like a true belief as well as a happier belief. Such a Montana-sized unconscious would obviously intermingle with your Montana-sized self. Such intermingling of unconscious fields is similar to what was postulated by one of psychology's pioneers, Jung, with his ideas about the collective unconscious.

Perhaps more important than your thoughts about the size of your unconscious are your thoughts about its contents. Historically, it has been popular to hypothesize a dark, evil, dangerous unconscious that needed strict controls to avoid disaster. What a damaging belief to have about oneself! It is not a happy life being unable to trust one's unknown parts of and having to distrust impulses and dreams (the fountainheads of much that is grand and wonderful about us). Yes, there may be some traumatic memories contained in the unconscious, but to my thinking, they are small price to pay for creativity, play, joy, spontaneity, self-trust and happiness.

Trusting and exploring impulses are two recommendations I have for all clients. I do not recommend acting upon all of them. But, they are always important to look at, to examine and to trust as being valid on some level. If the consequences of following that impulse are acceptable, then acting on the impulse is also recommended.

So - how do you deal with an unacceptable impulse, say to murder someone? I repeat: the impulse is valid. You probably have a lot of hate for that person. Can you change that hate without denying it? Do you need to pretend that person is in front of you and express your hatred to them in fantasy? Should the hatred be directed at someone else? We have all received training to distrust our impulses. Such training keeps us stuck in many areas of our lives.

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© 2008 by Thayer White
Finding Your Soul in the Spirituality Maze


This Chapter
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Excerpt from Be Your Own Therapist: "Because our emotional happiness is so interconnected with bodily health, ease and comfort, few of us will experience emotional happiness and contentment if we neglect our bodies."