The Unconscious

Although Freud has been discredited as a scientist and found guilty of intellectual dishonesty, I have found some of his ideas interesting, and have applied them to my own situation in an attempt to articulate more about myself. Freud himself thought that he had only made a start, and that in time his original ideas would be expounded upon or further developed.

What stands out to me above all is his individualistic approach to therapy. The unconscious of each patient has its own language which represents associations personal to the patient. When it comes to dream analysis or speculation regarding 'Freudian slips' on various levels, this language is very much in play, and learning to decode it might give us increased insight into ourselves or the human psyche.

An important goal of psychoanalysis is to try to make the patient conscious of his or her unconscious, the idea being that such awareness is the first step toward changing an unhealthy adaptation to circumstances. In popular culture, this idea is often simplified to the extent that as soon as the patient becomes conscious of a repressed tragedy or manages to verbalize it, he or she is 'cured'.

According to Freud, the patient is unconscious not only of his resistance, but also of his motives for resistance.

If our conscious motives are different to our unconscious ones, who exactly are we, and to what extent can we control anything? Is it mainly luck when our unconscious motives somehow coincide with our conscious ones, such that we are 'successful' in life, content or happy?

...I am marked like a road map from head to toe with my repressions. You can travel the length and breadth of my body over super-highways of shame and inhibition and fear...

Philip Roth, Portnoy's Complaint

Consciously, I didn't accept the idea of shame related to one's own body, and yet, throughout my life the majority of my actions and feelings have seemed to suggest that I am very much ashamed of my body.

Am I so irrational that I cannot accept the reality of my personal appearance, to the extent that I've spent most of my life hiding from the brutal truth that I am not attractive enough to 'deserve' love? I have spent years fighting my natural inclinations with regards to food. It's one thing if it damages my self-esteem to think that I am not rational enough or my will is not strong enough to solve the problem, it's another to keep wasting years stuck in the same old behaviours without making a conscious decision to accept myself.

It's difficult to accept that I might have unconscious motives that differ greatly from my conscious ones, and that I'd go to great lengths to disguise these motives from myself, when I see myself as a person who would rather know the truth, or have access to as much information as possible. It goes against my self-concept to think that there are things I don't want to face, when my conscious idea is that it is better to know so that you don't stay stuck, so that you have a chance to move forward, that if there is a chance to create personal meaning in life it is most likely to be possible for me if based on as complete information as possible, rather than illusions.

I believe that I have wished for death every day now for more than 20 years. I believe that suicide is a valid option, and I believe that it is the best option for me personally. Or at least those are the things I think I believe. Why aren't I dead? Am I disguising from myself a homicidal rage and that I actually would prefer my parents be dead? Am I punishing myself because I feel guilt that my mother died and I didn't ever have to face her disappointment in discovering that I was pregnant at 16? Do I seek out people I can reenact all the unresolved conflicts with? Are all my relationships built on a seething cauldron of hostility thinly disguised by a mask of civility and social correctness? Could these feelings really be part of who I am, against all conscious, rational assessments to the contrary? Could these primitive drives be controlling my life against my will? If I become aware of them, can I change anything?

...How unconsciously many habitual actions are performed, indeed not rarely in direct opposition to our conscious will! Yet they may be modified by the will or reason. Habits easily become associated with other habits, and with certain periods of time and states of the body. When once acquired, they often remain constant throughout life...

Charles Darwin On the Origin of Species

I think 'modified' is the key word in the paragraph above. Drives may be too powerful to completely change, especially after years of seeking to satisfy them in particular ways that are linked with other drives and behaviours. When does it become too late?

There isn't at present any way (that I know of) to measure the strength of any particular drive, or the degree of effort any individual makes to either combat it or assimilate it in as positive or healthy a way possible. Some people's innate desires may coincide more than other people's with their circumstances, abilities and possibilities in life.















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