When we use a computer program, we can see and control what it does. But, there are many other programs and processes running in the background that we don’t notice. If some of these are harmful, the program we’re using starts to malfunction.
Similarly, our brains also operate with many unseen processes that can affect our behavior and thoughts.
So, imagine your psyche as a powerful computer in which thousands of programs work simultaneously, and you can only comprehend a few of them with your consciousness.
Your brain works just like a computer, so make sure you’re the only one programming it.
The Minds Journal
In Which Part of the Psyche Are All These “Unconscious Bias Programs”?
They function much like hidden computer code, residing in various levels of our unconscious psyche:
1. The personal unconscious: It contains all those things we were once aware of but have forgotten or suppressed because we don’t like them. Imagine this as your mental “recycle bin.”
2. The family unconscious: Ancestral experiences are passed down, sometimes subtly shaping our worldview. This resembles inheriting software with unknown quirks.
3. The collective unconscious: Humanity’s shared instincts and archetypes live here. This parallels a computer’s core operating system, the foundation upon which our unique “user experiences” are built.
The deeper the level that affects us, the stronger its influence is, and the harder it is for us to become aware of it. So, it’s easiest to become aware of personal unconscious biases. Influences from the collective unconscious, however, require greater effort.
The Personal and Family 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.”
Internalizing her family’s views, she labeled painting with terms like: “odds, lunatics, marginals, should be avoided.” In response, she actively suppressed her own artistic talent.
She chose to study medicine. She became a respected medical doctor.
Think of Mrs. D’s story in terms of a poorly optimized computer. Imagine her innate artistic talent was like a powerful yet untested software program. Early negative input – those familial opinions of artists – became code overriding its function. “Artist equals bad” corrupted this powerful program’s output.
Her career in medicine could be seen as a default alternative software – safe, socially acceptable, yet not utilizing her unique, original abilities. Just as computers must sometimes have old code scrubbed for optimal performance, Mrs. D’s personal growth may entail uncovering her suppressed “artist” program.
Challenging the damaging early scripts about creativity is another crucial step toward reaching her full potential. This demonstrates the similarities between humans and computers in how outdated “programming” hinders optimal function.
Internal Conflict: Why Creative Passions Spark Fear
Nevertheless, she didn’t get lose her painting talent. It just lay dormant. And 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 she considered painting, even casually, initial excitement quickly gave way to regret and shame. These negative emotions reveal deeply ingrained beliefs blocking her creative exploration.
Obsessive thoughts flooded her mind, painting creativity as dangerous and those who practiced it as social outcasts. These beliefs spiraled into fears that she, too, would become mentally unstable if she pursued her artistic desires. And that her painting skills are terrible.
And then she would run away from that idea in panic.
While dormant, Mrs. D’s talent remains as potent code, waiting for the right commands. But, her current system is infected with a sort of self-preservation “virus.” This was “installed” as a youth, with warnings of “madness” and instability associated with creative acts. Her initial artistic desire resembles a user attempting to activate a forbidden program.
Instead of joy, the system runs protective routines – shame, fear, and panic – designed to discourage any action deviating from established “safety guidelines.”
Imagine those obsessive thoughts as pop-up warning screens designed to maintain the status quo. In this way, the similarities between humans and computers extend to inner “defense mechanisms” inhibiting actions perceived as threatening, even when beneficial.
Forbidden Code: Why Your System Sends Warning Signals
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 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. Panic seized her at the thought of a paint drop staining her white doctor’s uniform; in her dream, the stain was unwashable.
In addition to dreams, she had frequent headaches and felt apathy, she would withdraw socially, which all led to depression and her seeking psychotherapy.
The similarities between humans and computers become striking when exploring Mrs. D.’s unconscious activity.
Just as a computer program might express errors in unexpected, indirect ways, her suppressed creativity manifests in her dreams and physical symptoms. Think of this as a form of internal troubleshooting – her system can’t process the creative “error” directly, so it creates these symbolic warnings to the conscious mind.
Her vivid dreams of painting in secret and of the “unwashable” paint on her uniform highlight the conflict between societal “programming” and personal expression.
An unresolved computer glitch drains resources and hinders performance. Similarly, headaches, depression, and apathy can sabotage your well-being until you confront the root cause.
System Overload: When Passion Fights Fear
Mrs. D. had two conflicting aspirations that were 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.
She believed her career choice was independent, her love for her work genuine, and her negative attitudes about painting self-generated.
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.
Similarities Between Humans and Computers: What Does Mrs. D’s Story Tell Us?
It demonstrates the profound similarities between humans and computers regarding self-preservation and decision-making. Just as a computer prioritizes functionality over running potentially problematic programs, the unconscious shields us from perceived danger, even if that “danger” proves beneficial.
Her innate artistic talent and ingrained judgments created a form of internal “error code.” These conflicting drives led to debilitating symptoms mirroring a malfunctioning system.
Much like a computer requires virus isolation to regain stability, Mrs. D. needed to address the root of her emotional conflict to achieve well-being. This process had two parts: first, uncovering the source of the conflict, and then actively “rewiring” her negative responses.
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.
However, this merely shirks our responsibility. Instead, 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!
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