© Bill Farrell for Auckland Therapy Blog, 11 May 2018
A lot of our experience, particularly emotional experience, happens outside of consciousness. Sigmund Freud’s ideas on this will probably be familiar to most people, if only via ‘Freudian slips’, where mistakes, such as ‘slips of the tongue (or pen)’ or other mis-performances can be understood to have meaning.
Many people will recognise that dreams, too, are important as a way of accessing mental life that is not otherwise consciously available. Although many contemporary therapists and therapies ignore the unconscious, it is important, and an understanding of it can be extremely valuable in therapy, and indeed in life in general.
Often what leads people to look for help is dissatisfaction with what or whom they have consciously chosen, in their relationships, work, study, leisure or direction in life. Part of the pain of this dissatisfaction can be due to the misfit between the expected outcome of their rational decisions and actions and the actual outcomes. For example "I thought hard about what I wanted and set out to achieve or obtain it, so why aren’t I happy?".
Often experience remains unconscious because we cannot bear to encounter it directly. This can result from beliefs which themselves are not fully visible to us because they are so much part of the fabric of the societies in which we live, and hence are taken for granted. For example "Parents only want the best for their children, so if I don’t feel that they do, then there must be something wrong with me. I’m an adult and should be able to sort things out for myself, so I shouldn’t need help, and I’m weak if I do".
There is a logic to the unconscious, so it can be ‘read’ and understood with the help of someone who understands this, but this is not the black/white and right/wrong logic of highly rational reasoning. If the writing in this piece resonates with you, it may help to find a therapist who can assist you to come to know your true self better.