“Your brain works just like a computer, so make sure you’re the only one programming it.”
The Minds Journal
When we work on a computer program, we see it and control its activities. However, many other programs and processes are running in the background that we don’t see. Because of them, the program we’re working on “is buggy”.
The situation is identical with our psyche, which acts as one powerful computer in which thousands of programs work simultaneously, and we can only comprehend a few of them with our consciousness.
Most of our thoughts, emotions, and decisions arise under the influence of unconscious content that influences us in the background.
In which part of the psyche are all these “unconscious bias programs”?
They’re located in one of the following levels of our unconscious psyche:
1. Personal unconscious, containing all those things we were once aware of but have forgotten or suppressed because we don’t like them.
2. Familial unconscious where the lives of our ancestors are contained.
3. The collective unconscious, containing the experience of humanity common to all people.
The deeper the level that affects us, the stronger its influence is, and the harder it is for us to become aware of it. Therefore, we can most easily become aware of something that affects us from the personal unconscious and the most difficult from the collective unconscious.
The Personal and Collective Unconscious: What does that look like in life?
Let’s look at the example of a person we will call Mrs. D., a woman in her 60s.
From early childhood, she had a talent for painting that she never fulfilled because she grew up in a patriarchal and conservative family that didn’t appreciate art. Moreover, artists were considered “odds, lunatics, and people living on the margins of society.”
Under her family’s influence, she first attached value judgments to painting: “odds, lunatics, marginals, should be avoided”, and then she pushed her gift for painting into the unconscious.
She chose to study medicine. She became a respected medical doctor.
Nevertheless, she didn’t get lose her painting talent. It just lay dormant. It no longer manifested itself directly as a desire to paint (since her conscious attitude wouldn’t allow it due to her negative opinion about painters). It went into the unconscious.
If, on a conscious level, she thought about starting to paint, even as an amateur, very soon after the initial enthusiasm for the idea, regret and shame would follow.
Obsessive thoughts would come to her convincing her that painting is bad, of it being a skill of society’s renegades, and that most painters are mentally disturbed, finally leading to thoughts that she too could go crazy if she indulged in it.
And then she would run away from that idea in panic.
Since this familial unconscious reaction of hers couldn’t be realized directly, it was manifested indirectly. That’s how the unconscious content usually comes to consciousness in order to bypass our control.
In her case, she had frequent dreams about painters, about herself painting (mostly secretly in the attic so that no one would see her as if she were doing something bad), and about her parents chasing her with a paintbrush and paint in order to repaint her all over.
These dreams were accompanied by strong emotions that ranged from happiness and enjoyment to feelings of guilt and fear that someone would discover her. She also had panicking fear that a drop of paint might accidentally fall on her white doctor’s uniform because, in her dream, she thought the paint couldn’t be washed off.
In addition to dreams, she had frequent headaches and felt apathy, she would withdraw socially, which all led to depression and her seeking psychotherapy.
What does Mrs. D’s example tell us?
It tells us that she has two conflicting aspirations that are fighting within her.
One in the form of an innate gift for painting, and the other in the form of acquired negative value judgments of artwork. On an unconscious level, those two aspects lead to an internal war that manifests as nightmares, lethargy, chronic fatigue, frequent body aches, social withdrawal, and depression.
In her case, she was convinced that she made the decision about her profession independently, that she loved what she did, and that negative attitudes about painting were her own.
However, it was only in psychotherapy, through analysis of dreams and conditions under which she grew up, that she realized that her views of her medical career and painting were her parents’ views and not her own. Thus, it wasn’t her conscious action, but rather an unconscious psychological response.
Only by becoming aware of this mechanism was she able to resolve this internal conflict of hers and get rid of all the negative symptoms (from nightmares to depression) that were manifestations of the unconscious mechanism.
The unconscious as fate
We have the habit of calling the influence of the unconscious and the decisions we make under such influence as fate. In this way, we want to reduce our responsibility for life decisions we’re unsatisfied with.
It’s shirking responsibility. We should do the opposite.
Carl Jung, therefore tells us:
“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life, and you will call it fate.”
So, let’s take destiny into our own hands!