The Unconscious

icebergThis journey is an inner journey, even though we language it as an outer journey across a bridge into unknown territory, the Unconscious. So, you ask, why are we concerned about the Unconscious? Why are we concerned about something we’re not conscious of? That’s precisely why we’re interested in it. Even though we’re unconscious of it, it has a major determining factor in how we feel about ourselves, how we act, and how we live our lives. And we can learn to gradually have access to it.  Developing the ability to ‘read’ these unconscious forces, as well as, to become aware of how they operate in our psyche enables us to see and understand how this amazing information so profoundly affects our ability to know ourselves and to have peace of mind.

The Iceberg

An image that helps us understand the Psyche is the iceberg. The tip of the iceberg symbolizes the surface mind/the ego/what we’re more or less conscious of on a day to day basis, and the base of the iceberg symbolizes the Unconscious. It is said that the tip of the iceberg, constitutes about 5% of the Psyche. The remaining 95%, the base of the iceberg, contains what we aren’t conscious of, probably can’t be conscious of, and what we can potentially become conscious of. This includes the personal unconscious, the collective unconscious, the personal shadow, and the Transcendent or the sacred. The Unconscious basically drives the iceberg and the psyche. The conscious mind is, more or less, along for the ride.

The Ego and the Tip of the Iceberg

During the first part of life we’re primarily concerned with developing life skills and working with the 5% of the mind, learning to get grounded into life, take care of ourselves, find our way around on earth, and live our lives. This is rightly the time of development of our ego.

As the ego develops, we’re basically concerned with survival, being good enough, and being lovable, so, therefore, have difficulty taking in any  critical or negative  information about ourselves. One of the tasks of childhood is to begin developing a strong enough ego so we can navigate successfully in the world and learn to succeed. Through successful experiences we develop the belief and have the experiences that we ‘can do it’, and through this we become ‘attached’ to the idea that we’re good enough, smart enough, lovable enough to enable us to be successful. While this belief is very helpful, some people who’ve had extreme difficulties develop a determination to overcome, no matter what. And they achieve amazing things. However, many other people with difficulties, just give up. The fear that we have, i,e., our ego has, that we aren’t good enough and possibly won’t be successful, and hopefully better than everyone else causes us to focus on and exaggerate our strengths. And at the same time, we unconsciously are in touch with the unconscious forces that quickly suppress ( a conscious action) or repress (an unconscious action) any feedback from life that suggests that we ‘aren’t at the head of the pack’, so to speak.  These ‘ego defense mechanisms’ operate unconsciously, and stuff any potentially negative material about ourselves into the Unconscious (metaphorically, the base of the iceberg), hiding it from our view, leaving us with a thinly held view of our supremacy. These defenses operate to keep any potentially difficult material out of sight. So, what happens is that unconsciously we protect ourselves from taking in the critical, or potentially negative material that might be lurking, and we quickly steer away from it. Consciously, as well as unconsciously, we stay clear of it with the help of these defenses.

When we’re young, we don’t have the ability to hold these more complex and difficult situations of life, because we’ve often been disciplined and punished when we’ve ‘been bad’. To protect ourselves, we’ve learned to protect our fragile, developing egos or sense of self.  Throughout life, we engage in a protective dance to hopefully deflect any feedback from the world that even suggests there is something wrong with us. We’ve unconsciously developed protective blinders to hide those parts of self that can be mean, selfish, angry, unkind, lying, demanding, controlling, lazy, not too bright or successful. We feel far too vulnerable to admit to any wrong doing, so we often blame others for our own mistakes. We can appreciate our successful side, but our inadequacies frighten us and cause us to try to hide them. Our defensiveness is our protector when we feel too vulnerable and exposed.  And the defensiveness makes it impossible to see this less developed and negative side of ourselves. We create a barrier wall behind which to hide. The defensiveness actually becomes an obstacle to our growth.  In order to know ourselves deeply, we must be able to see ourselves as we are. Typically, we have a variety of childhood woundings that we must come to terms with and engage a certain amount of what is called healing before we can contemplates any of this deeper work.  This does not mean that the woundings go away:  it means that we can stabilize ourselves in our body and in our mind, stay present in the moment, and be able to open to see ourselves and the woundings from various points of view without going totally into defense.

The Defensiveness

The ego does its best to keep its energy focused on the positive, even in adulthood. Anything the ego views as potentially negative is cast out, so that ‘it doesn’t exist any longer in its thinking.’ Hopefully, ‘out of sight, out of mind.’  We can see how vulnerable the ego is by how it utilizes many ‘sly and sneaky ways’ of ‘whitewashing’ any deficiencies or potential deficiencies. Anything the ego doesn’t know how to handle, it ‘magically disappears it’ by repressing it or layering it over with various defensive mechanisms. But, it is still there, festering deep within, nagging us with its doubts and fears of inadequacy. Our childhood woundings, as well as adult woundings, must be brought to light and seen from another perspective than the ego’s self critical judgmental perspective before we can begin to go deeper into the unlayering of the Unconscious.Seeing through the eyes of The Heart Center develops the possibility that we can then work with these woundings from a depth psycholoogical point of view and see how they actually serve our development. Read more: The Heart Center.

When we discuss the Multi Dimensionality of the psyche, you’ll see how these protective processes can create ‘interesting’ dilemmas for us. The way these processes act and react and double back on each other creates what you might call big knots in our psyche that then have to be sorted out as we engage in this deeper work.

But for most people for most of their lives, attending to what is handle-able and ‘makes us look good’ is the less difficult and frightening way to live. Dealing with the tip of the iceberg is enough self knowledge. If this is your calling, then that is good and fine, it’s not time to go deeper, even though things may not be really smooth and comfortable as they are, in fact things may be down right rocky.  There is a timing to this process. Certain other levels of work need to be done first.  Sometimes, it seems we don’t really make the choice to answer the call and begin to go deeper.  Sometimes things have to fall apart, have to get out attention because life isn’t working. Because what we find is that the more stuff we stuff, the more difficult things get. You might say things just sit there and fester and create ‘psychic inflammation’ in the Unconscious, and in one’s life. Read More:The Multi Dimensionality of the Psyche.

However, eventually, if we experience the Call, and answer it, then our work begins. It’s a life long work done from the perspective of the Heart Center. As we gain the knowledge and experience to’ heal’ from these difficult situations, we find we’ve gained resources that aid us in life, even from the most trying times. Read More: The Heart Center.

The Ego and the Base of the Iceberg

When this difficult personal material can’t be dealt with by our ego and we repress or suppress it to get it out of the way, it doesn’t go away.  At some point, our inner conflict and inconsistent behavior become apparent. We notice that things aren’t right with our lives, even if we can’t admit it. The stress we’re under shows in our physical and psychological health, relationships, family, and work. We aren’t happy and successful. We may have behavioral or legal difficulties, or find ourselves dependent on various substances to continue to stuff our pain and anger. We may feel forsaken by God, our family, by life.

Even though this stuffed material is mostly unconscious to us, it’s alive and well, hidden away in corners of the iceberg, creating this kind of psychological inflammation causing distress, depression, and anxiety. We, or our ego, are too scared to know what’s down there because it might threaten our experience of safety and superiority. Our secret would be out.  Everyone would know. We think we can keep it hidden. We must.

However, the problems stemming from ignoring it continue to mount. Fear or panic may arise. There’s really no place to hide. We don’t know what’s going on, but something isn’t working right.  It never occurs to us that the protective mechanisms for the young ego at some point begin to cause problems. We may suspect that the source of the difficulties might lie within ourselves, but denial still seems easier than dealing with it, whatever ‘it’ is.  The use of defenses creates defensiveness, and more defensiveness.  And, what is stuffed becomes unknown and disowned and is called the personal shadow. It never occurs to us that we could open up the doors of the Unconscious and see what’s there. Out of fear and dread, we hold on to the denial as long as we can, keeping the doors locked tightly, never realizing the personal cost of denial. More about the Shadow later.

If you’re called to grow and ‘go deeper’, you have a sense there’s something more. You realize you can’t continue to ignore the full contents of your psyche, can’t continue to stuff your feelings, and/or act them out inappropriately. The price you’re paying for the refusal to get conscious grows.

The call to seek within, to gain self knowledge, to ‘go deeper’ into the your deepest self, stirs. You want to know yourself and make life easier. You begin to get sick and tired of half-way living. You realize ‘you’ are the only thing that you can change. Being more transparent to yourself begins to seem like a good thing. You feel your desire for change. Something you can’t really explain begins to get your attention. The way begins to open.

Exploring the Iceberg, the Unconscious From the Heart Center

In order to effectively explore the realms of the Unconscious, you must develop the ability to shift states of consciousness. The ego doesn’t have the resources to handle the complexities of the deep inner life or deal with everything that’s been stuffed for all its life. It hasn’t known how to deal with it in the past, and still doesn’t know.

This shift is the shift to the Heart Center, Unconditional Love, and development an inner non-judgmental observer and witness state that provides resources that aren’t threatened by the fear of not being good enough or lovable. When we learn to love ourselves, we realize that those fears existed because we didn’t know it was possible, or okay, to love ourselves, and we certainly didn’t know how to do it. We have a new vantage point from which to do the work. Read More, So What Do I Do Now?.

Opening to the resources of the Heart Center, we can comfortably explore the depths of our Multi-Dimensional psyche, including the opposites, our shadow aspects, our projections and transferences, and all other inner aspects that arise, to find the bigger picture of who we are.  We see that in getting to know these depths, we feel more radiantly alive.  We experience the Mystery seeking to be experienced by each of us, seeking to unfold in its own way for each of us, in each of us, as each of us.    Read more: Heart Center.

Seekers Answer the Call

Seekers seek to know first hand as much as possible about these realms so they can find out who and what they are and why they are here. They realize they’ve narrowed their vision and ideas of what’s possible, and disowned and discounted their passions  and talents because of family, cultural, and societal pressures. Seekers want to know ‘the why’s and wherefore’s’ and what makes them tick.

They ask the unanswerable question: ‘What is this Mystery’?
Seekers are okay asking and waiting for the answer.
They’re okay with surprises.
The deeper realms of the psyche call them.
Seekers learn to expect the unexpected because it will show up.

Over time, as we do the work, we begin to see how things work. We learn how to accept and understand what we find. We reclaim what we hid away and stuffed. We learn to release the ego’s fears and preferences, and open to the Soul’s calling. We open to all our aspects. We appreciate the opportunity to live more fully.

This Heart Centered Depth Work creates a container that holds us as we develop our own personal container that will then hold us as we expand our experience of who and what we are, and then continue our expansion. If we’re in a group oriented in this way, the group itself becomes a container because of the way it’s structured. We appreciate containers and experience how they shift and change as needed. We learn how to become skilled explorers of the deep down inner caves, as well as mountain tops, and various hideaways. Read More, The Multi Dimensionality of the Psyche.

For those called to this exploration, it’s a most wonderful, though oft times challenging, experience of crossing unknown bridges into unknown territories.You learn to sit with the questions; you hold paradox and opposites; you notice the difference between response and reaction and how these inform you. You learn the power and necessity of embodying Unconditional Love as your primary light in this deeper inner world. Things begin to make sense. You recognize you’ve engaged a journey with the Transcendent that will take you through the rest of your life. You’re content knowing you’re becoming more successful with the tip of your iceberg and amazingly more comfortable with the 95% base of the iceberg. Read more: The Heart Center.

You realize, with gratitude to yourself and the process, that you have the tools to continue deepening your access to the Mystery throughout your lifetime. You have your own growing connection to inner wisdom. Your ego is quite content being subordinate to The Self. Abundant resources begin to appear. You begin to find out who you are. Your life really begins to take shape.  It’s a great feeling of ‘Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.’

To those who are called, ‘Come on in. The Water’s Fine.’

I’m reminded of a statement attributed to Jesus.
He said, ‘I am come that you might have Life, and have it more abundantly.’

Having a more abundant Life sums up the intent of this work.

Thoughts for Reflection

And what does abundant Life mean to you?

Is that what you are looking for?

Are you willing to do the work? …to do your work?

Read more: So What Do I Do Now?

If this work interests you, read about my services, HERE, including the free get acquainted phone call.

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