The Subconscious & The Unconscious
The word “subconscious” was popularized by psychologist Sigmund Freud, but even he noted that the word is used in confusingly differently ways:
If someone talks of subconsciousness, I cannot tell whether he means… to indicate something lying in the mind beneath consciousness or… to indicate another consciousness, a subterranean one, as it were. He is probably not clear about any of it. The only trustworthy antithesis is between conscious and unconscious… The becoming conscious of a mental process is a complicated affair.– Sigmund Freud
- While there may be variance in how these words are used, here we use the words “subconscious” and “unconscious” interchangeably. This is consistent with this dictionary where the two words are noted as synonyms.
- “Unconscious” when used as an adjective means comatose or inert. As a noun, it usually refers to the part of the mind that is inaccessible to the conscious mind but that affects behavior and emotions.
- Core beliefs live in the subconscious, just outside of our conscious awareness.
- There is a far-reaching body of work devoted to studying and defining the subconscious.
Psychoanalysis & Dreams
- Self-study is the cornerstone of unlocking and opening the mind to the unconscious and limiting beliefs. Psychoanalysis has the related objective to unearth the unconscious mind and bring its messages into the realm of awareness.
- Considered the father of psychology, Sigmund Freud developed an organizational model of the mind consisting of Id (Instincts), Ego (perceived reality), and Superego (morality) which conceptualize mental functions into symbolic concepts.
- He attested that because we live in a civilized society based on our collective beliefs, we all think we must hold back some of our impulses and desires for the greater good of society.
- He began to study dreams as a way to understand aspects of personality and belief. He believed nothing happens by chance but is motivated by the unconscious. (source)
- He taught that the unconscious expresses itself in symbols and images and that this material comes to the surface of consciousness in disguise in order to be released, usually in dreams.
The Shadow & Creativity
For Jung… the theory of the‘‘shadow’’ was a metaphorical means of conveying the prominent role played by the unconscious.– Stephen A. Diamond, Ph.D.
- The shadow is another name for the unconscious. It includes everything that is not conscious, be it positive or negative, i.e., anything obscure or unenlightened.
- The facet of a person’s personality which has been rejected over time is within the shadow. In this model, whatever we deny ourselves becomes a part of our shadow because we are denied that expression in life.
- The shadow may appear in dreams or visions and is developed in the individual mind in addition to the inherited collective consciousness, or conscious of society, and may draw symbols from it.
- In psychotherapy terms, that which is hidden in the shadow and continually repressed may become the source of projection and personality disorders.
The shadow is a primordial part of our human inheritance, which, try as we might, can never be eluded. The pervasive Freudian defense mechanism known as projection is how most people deny their shadow, unconsciously casting it onto others so as to avoid confronting it in oneself… The shadow is most destructive, insidious and dangerous when habitually repressed and projected… Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic story of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde can be taken as a cautionary tale par excellence: dissociation of the shadow results in a perilously lopsided development of the conscious personality and renders us susceptible to destructive possession by the disowned shadow.–Stephen A. Diamond, Ph.D.
Creativity & The Unconscious Mind
Surrealism is not a style. It is the cry of a mind turning back on itself.– Antonin Artaud
- The shadow is known also as the well from which all creativity springs.
- By making ourselves aware of our shadow and attempting to assimilate it into the conscious mind, we gain access to its natural life-giving possibilities.
- Based on Freud’s therapeutic techniques, Andre Breton attempted to heal soldiers from trauma and ended up creating an art movement based on his findings.
- The surrealist art movement reflected the belief that all artistic truth is drawn from the unconscious mind. The art world, as a result, has been forever changed.
Uncovering Limiting Beliefs: Introduction
- The first step in dismantling negative inner programming is to become aware of it. (In the allegory of the cave, this is turning to see the fire light.)
- Like a fish asked to find water, we can be overwhelmed or confused when trying to tease apart our beliefs from what we’ve always known to be “true” or “the way I am” or “how things are.”
- While this can be a difficult and frightening process, it can lead us to a place of empowerment. Once we identify detrimental core beliefs, it’s possible to change them.
- Common limiting beliefs include: I don’t have time. I’ll never have enough money. I don’t deserve love. I don’t have what it takes. Other people are luckier than me.
- Once you have identified your limiting beliefs, write them down, and describe their development and your opinions about them. Example: Money is the root of all evil because rich people are mean and pious people are those without money. I came to believe this from my grandmother’s stories and behaviors.
- Following are some techniques that can help to uncover limiting beliefs.
- See also: The Allegory of the Cave
Identify Key Types of Thoughts
- Identify repetitive thoughts such as: I am not lovable. I’ll never have enough time. The only way to get things done is to do them myself. Life is always easier for so and so.
- Identify polarity thinking—anytime you see things in extremes.
- Can you identify the voice behind the thoughts? Who is it that is judging you? A parent? A partner? A teacher? Someone else who holds meaning for you? Might your internal monologue be connected to your prior or current relationship with this person?
- Investigate further for underlying beliefs.
Notice Gut Feelings
Like an inner compass of deep knowing, our innate cellular intelligence informs us constantly. It is a hunch that something is off in a relationship or a sense of rightness about a project that makes no sense logically yet makes our heart sing. It might be a direction we somehow know we need to take, or it might be someone we instinctively know we should avoid at all costs– Suzanne Scurlock-Durana
- The body has an inner attunement dial that is with us at all moments, but we may not have yet learned to understand its language.
- The task is to learn to recognize gut feelings through mindfulness and other practices that help us to notice feelings and bodily sensation.
Pay Attention to Resistance
Psychologically speaking, resistance and resolution are at opposite poles.– Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.D.
- To move beyond something requires facing “what is” and taking action to make it change.
- Resistance, on the other hand, refers to ways that we may be avoiding an experience rather than resolving it. The resistance may manifest as complaining or as strong feelings of resentment or protest, for example. It may result in turning to distractions, addictions or compulsions.
- It usually includes avoidance of the disturbing aspects of the situation and it doesn’t include a focus for moving beyond it.
- Paying attention to where we feel or exhibit resistance can be a clue to a stifled trauma or an emotion, and may indicate that an unconscious process is running our behavior.
What You Resist Persists
What you resist not only persists, but will grow in size.– Carl Jung
Don’t End Up Resisting Yourself
It’s wise to accept what is, if only to put yourself in the best possible position to change it—or to achieve the freedom to move past it, and on to something else… I’m in no way intimating that you adopt a defeatist attitude in the face of what you deem inequitable or unjust, just that your resistance doesn’t end up taking the form of resisting yourself… The pain you may have worked so hard to stifle—but which nonetheless has “prevailed” within you—will eventually make itself known physically, in the form of symptoms you can no longer avoid.– Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.D.
Sources & Resources
See here for a list of sources and resources for the entire Beliefs section.