November 10, 2009 | 4 Comments

Category: 10-Unconscious, Unconscious

I grew up in a household with literally no religion.  My father was agnostic, my mom sort of Jewish.  She’s since been Unitarian and Catholic.  Almost 20 years ago I was dating a woman who had been raised Catholic, who was converting to Judaism, while my mother was converting from Judaism to Catholicism.  How Jewish was I raised?  Just now I had to go to Google to figure out how to spell “Judaism.”  I had the “a” and “i” reversed.

Nevertheless, I was raised according to one of the most basic tenets of Western society, that the unconscious maintains an agenda separate from that of the conscious mind, one that often conflicts with conscious goals and aspirations.  I was raised a Freudian.  High percentages of my father’s income went toward my parents’ and their children’s psychoanalysis and psychotherapy.  We did not go to temple.  We went to therapists.

I am almost 57.  In high school, I was in therapy with a Rogerian for 2.5 years.  In Florida, I was the client of an eclectic psychoanalyst for six years.  He studied with many of the New Age luminaries at Esalon in California.  Chicago has connected me with another eclectic practitioner for almost 24 years.  That makes 32 years of my life that I’ve been in psychotherapy.  I’ve already passed in and out of those years where everything in the world seemed to unfold according to psychodynamic processes.  Nevertheless, I have been deeply affected by having spent so many years seeking a satisfying and productive relationship with my unconscious.

In a sense, the religion I was raised with has not changed.  I still revere the unconscious as central to experiencing access to hidden resources.  Some things have changed.  My relationship with my unconscious has evolved.

When I was younger, I was encouraged to think of the unconscious as that which maintains the barrier between me and those things which would seem to enhance my life.  I was acutely aware of a split between what I craved and my ability to achieve that desire.  I was critical of myself, particularly that part of myself that seemed compelled to withhold from me what I wanted.

That split has flipped.  Over the years, a slow realization has spread across the hours of my days.  That realization is that my unconscious withholds nothing from me.  My unconscious accompanies me every moment of my life.  My unconscious is me.  That which makes it difficult to achieve my goals has nothing to do with my unconscious.

It is my conscious mind that confuses and distracts me.  How I choose to direct my consciousness is what affects my life.

In other words, there is now an emphasis on being present and trusting the outcomes of my words and behaviors.  Feeling accompanied, I suspect less what I cannot intuit.  I can choose to trust.  The challenge becomes being in my body, in the present, experiencing the unique moment I might be part of.

Barriers feel not to be anything related to my “unconscious,” but something related to my consciously choosing to not offer attention to what is happening.  I often choose to concentrate on some other time, on some other place or on imagination.  My conscious mind has become the location of that which creates barriers between me and what I seek to achieve.

Enhancing the paradox is my changing definition of the unconscious.  Its boundaries have become less familiar.  As my heart slowly heals and I can trust people in my life and I can trust my experience, the separateness of things feels less relevant than how things are connected.  It has become difficult to characterize my unconscious as a feature of my own separate body and identity.  My unconscious feels to be part of something larger than my self.

Raised in a nonreligious home, encouraged to feel that the unconscious is in control, committing 32 years of my life to psychotherapy, I’ve somehow come back around to something that some might associate with religion.  This doesn’t feel to me to be about god.  It’s an experience, not a mythology or a world view.  My experience suggests to me that we are all connected.  But it’s not religion.  It’s just the experience that I feel accompanied by that which is me, yet it is far greater than what I am consciously aware of.

I feel humbled.

Identifying with that which we call the unconscious, embracing that unknown, offers a strange benefit.  It becomes less clear what we really are, while discovering what really is.


This entry was posted on Tuesday, November 10th, 2009 at 9:11 am and is filed under 10-Unconscious, Unconscious. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
4 Comments so far

  1. Margaret on November 26, 2009 11:54 am

    Wow. I had to copy this to my own computer so I can easily return to it at need. I love the concept that my unconscious is always present (of course it is) and it is my conscious mind that sets up barriers. That’s so simple, and so profound. I feel there’s something beyond what I can perceive, but struggle with the religious world views I am exposed to. This idea is both less grandiose and more universal than much of what I come across.

  2. Andrew on November 26, 2009 12:14 pm

    Thank you, Margaret. This is one of my favorite pieces.

  3. Elena on February 8, 2010 11:24 am

    Dear Andrew, I think this piece would fit perfectly as an introduction for newbies to the Jungian concept of unconscious. I just recently started to read about analytical psychology, after a series of lessons on sovereignty in Political Philosophy class. Years ago I described myself as an atheist; later on I became interested on philosophy of the mind and neurology; but the only time I felt more than that small degree of certainty, based on the fuzzy logic I had come across so far (and that seems so separate from the factual world it is almost a religion), was when I read Jung. I believe it is just the starting of a long process, but the feeling I experienced is well depicted here; finally an understandable (and, in my opinion, difficult to deny) explanation of a spirituality that we more than often are umprepared to accept, in a world where everything has to be mathematical to be real.

  4. Andrew on February 10, 2010 10:09 pm

    It’s difficult to explain to folks the experience of feeling part of larger than yourself, in a context usually described as one’s relationship with the unconscious, with it not actually being “spiritual” in the context of the usual definition of spiritual. Thank you for support for my attempt. It’s a tough issue.

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