Have you ever been driving somewhere, and when you reached your destination you couldn’t remember huge portions of your trip? Worse yet, have you ever been driving in a familiar town to a destination that you don’t normally travel, and you automatically take an habitual turn rather than the turn you really need? What’s going on in either of these examples? Who’s driving, when our mind is preoccupied with something else?
Thanks to Sigmund Freud, we tend to attribute these things that we do when we’re not fully aware to our unconscious mind. What is the unconscious mind? Pretty much everything that’s not conscious, or part of our waking awareness. This could include sleep and dreams. It could also include archetypal energy, and maybe even our idea of God, or something larger than ourselves – what Carl Jung called the collective unconscious. We often think of the unconscious as full of all of the negative or discarded parts of ourselves, but the unconscious can also contain some of the gold of the personality, that perhaps wasn’t valued by our parents or our culture. Often when people are abused, neglected, or just plain misunderstood, some of the brightest, strongest parts of them go into hiding.
Some people turn to depth psychology in search of mental and emotional wholeness and health. The idea is that if you can bring conscious awareness to your unconscious behaviors, then perhaps you can begin to reclaim the lost parts of yourself.
When are you conscious? When are you unconscious? Are you happy with the proportion of each in your life, or are you interested in bringing more consciousness to your behaviors and relationships?
Art journal spread What is this hunger? What is this ache?, January 2006. Wax crayon on paper.