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  • The Unconscious as a Source of Change in Your Life

    The unconscious mind is deeply connected to the whole issue of change in your life. This may not be immediately obvious, but it is nonetheless true. Psychological change is very often related to factors that we first of all experience on the unconscious level. Viktor Frankl was certainly correct when he observed that

    When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves.

    Yet, the capacity and motivation to really change ourselves, in any deep or meaningful way, is often connected to what is occurring in the depths of the unconscious mind.

    Photo by Suzanne D. Williams

    What do I mean by this? It may seem very counter-intuitive. We most often think of deep change in our lives as resulting from moments of clear conscious decision. Yet, it’s worth closely examining how the process of change in our lives really comes about.

    The unconscious part of our personality is a continually active factor, and it influences our lives in a range of different ways. As we come to understand the deep and profound influence of the unconscious, our respect for the role of the as yet undiscovered parts of ourselves will only increase.

    Tremors from Our Depths

    The unconscious is inextricably involved with those situations in our life where change is afoot. If there are external circumstances that require change, the unconscious will react to them in some way. On the other hand, the unconscious itself may initiate a process of change. 

    Often, when the unconscious is involved, we experience strong feelings or emotions in situations that we cannot account for, or explain. If we experience strong emotions or strong feelings of anxiety or depression, and we’re not sure why they’re occurring, or where they’re coming from, there’s a very good chance that something in our unconscious is getting triggered or disturbed. 

    We may also find signs or traces of the unconscious pressing for change in our dreams. Often this comes in the form of some unconscious content that is pressing to come into consciousness.  If this involves some sort of awareness or insight to which our conscious self, or ego, is resistant in some way, it may be that we encounter images of conflict, battle or struggle in our dream imagery. Or, if there is a powerful emotion that needs to be acknowledged, we may find dreams full of images of floods or deluges, as if to show us that our conscious mind is “swamped” by feelings that have their origin deep in the unconscious mind.

    Photo by Magda Ehlers

    What if We Just Ignore the Unconscious?

    Let’s suppose for the moment that you accept that the unconscious does try to influence the conscious mind and to bring about change. Well, what happens if we simply decide that we’d rather not be bothered with messages or nudges from the unconscious, and that we’d sooner just “keep on keeping on”, as we usually do?  

    Well, below are two quotations from C.G. Jung that highlight for us the probable consequences of taking this type of attitude toward the unconscious:

     Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.

    The general rule is that the more negative the conscious attitude is, and the more it resists, devalues, and is afraid, the more repulsive, aggressive, and frightening is the face which the dissociated content assumes.

    There are two key points here. The first is, that, if we choose to ignore and disregard the unconscious, it will effectively run our lives from behind the scenes. Our unacknowledged, unconscious motivations will still come out, and we will experience them as “just the way life is”. A clear example of this would be the individual who is on their twentieth job in fifteen years, who keeps wondering why they keep ending up in rotten jobs, without ever noticing the ways in which they sabotage themselves. 

    What is more, Jung’s second quote points to the reality that, if the conscious mind is unwilling to accept the reality of the unconscious, the unconscious mind will just keep intensifying in its manifestations until it gets acknowledged. For instance, those fearsome nightmares may just keep getting worse until we can really look at what is underlying them.

    In short, when we are encountering the unconscious as a source of change in our lives, it’s essential that we confront it. We urgently need to take into account what it is trying to make us aware of.

    Change in Your Life, and the Wisdom of the Unconscious

    Whenever we are in situations that involve profound change in our lives, we can be sure that the unconscious mind is involved. It is often the case that the unconscious mind, and the deepest self is aware of the change we need in our lives long before our conscious mind is aware of what we need to grow and develop.  

    Is there change in your life that is seeking to emerge? What might the unconscious mind be striving to bring to your attention? Exploring the ways in which the unconscious are appearing in your life with a supportive Jungian depth psychotherapist can often be of great benefit as you strive to discern the direction forward in your life.

    I wish you every good thing on your personal journey,

    Brian Collinson 

    Registered Psychotherapist and 

    Certified Jungian Analyst (IAAP) 

    Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional

    © Brian Collinson, 2023