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  • Writer's pictureSwannie Robert

What is the Unconscious?

"In instinct is the only truth, the only certainty that humanity can ever grasp in this illusory life where three-quarters of our ills come from thought".

- Anatole France



Last week I shared with you a post in which I talked about gratitude and why it is important to make conscious what is unconscious in order to become fully creative of our life.


But I forgot to explain one fundamental thing: the Unconscious.


So to make up for this oversight, let's go back a bit and dive into the history of our Unconscious, our History.


Ready to go?

Here we go.


Personal Unconscious and Collective Unconscious

So, what is the Unconscious?

And what role does it play in our evolution, in our fulfillment?


Historically, what we call consciousness has been written about for 23 centuries, whereas we have been talking about the unconscious for... 200 years.

The term was created by Hartmann in 1869, but it was Gottfried Liebniz (German humanist researcher and philosopher) who was the first to speak of what he called "Automaton" (1686).


The Unconscious is part of us.

It is that "hidden us".

To use the image used by Patricia D'Angeli (psychotherapist, specialist in Advanced Symbolic Therapy), it is like the huge reservoir of memories of our life.

A sort of big box in which we find all the experiences we have lived, every thought, every sentence we have heard, and above all every thing in existence that we have perceived or understood (rightly or wrongly), as well as all our beliefs since the beginning of our life.


But that is not all.


All the good or bad sensations (and the memories associated with these sensations) that our body has experienced, be it blows, injuries, caresses, etc., are also stocked in our Unconscious.

And to complicate things a little more, there is a Personal Unconscious AND what is called the Collective Unconscious.


The Collective Unconscious is all our family memories, which are not related to our own life, but which are passed on from generation to generation.

This is called transgenerational memories.

That is to say, everything we carry within us from our family history (and it can go back a long way), but which does not really belong to us as an individual.

Not forgetting, the biggest fish: the memories of the whole history of Humanity.


Wow... so yes, it's a very, very big package that we carry inside each of us.

And all of this, all of this stock of information, memories and souvenirs is reused on a daily basis as the foundation of our thoughts, emotions and actions without us knowing it because it is hidden, obviously.

In other words, pretty scary.


So how do we access our unconscious mind, and why is it necessary in any healing process?



How does the Unconscious work?

Let us now look together at how our Unconscious Mind works.


We have seen that the Unconscious Mind is the place of all the memories of our life and more.

These memories are classified by the Unconscious Mind into large categories, like large boxes or souvenir blocks, which become a reference throughout our lives for each individual.

For example, all the information related to the Feminine (and from our experiences) will be classified in the "Feminine" block.

This can be a colour (the colour of the dress our mother wore on holiday), a smell (the perfume of a loved woman), a sensation, or information referring to the Feminine in the collective unconscious such as make-up, shoes with heels, etc, etc (and not to mention other symbols or archetypes, but we'll come back to that later).

It will be the same for all the other major categories such as the Masculine, the Inner Child, the Wise Man or the Critic, to name but a few.


Now all these conserved memories that soak our brain are a whole made up of simple, ancient, primitive and powerful parts and of more elaborate, more recent parts. They act autonomously and come from different parts of our brain (reptilian, limbic, neocortex).


So it would be a bit long here to detail the different functions of the different parts of our brain and their role in the Unconscious (even if it is very interesting).

What you have to remember is that this unconscious memory is much larger than our conscious memory.

And because we don't know / are not aware of its different parts and their methods of action, our unconscious memory will be the cause of all our internal conflicts and other existential problems...


However, becoming aware of our Unconscious and entering into communication with it is the key to no longer letting its various parts play the "dictator" and thus direct our lives without our knowledge.



The Unconscious, my best mate

So if we sum up, the Unconscious is like a big reservoir of information to which we do not have access because it is hidden, and which is ruining our lives?


So yes... but no.

Because the good news is that we can have access to it.

And that with a little practice, patience and courage, but also a lot of kindness, it can become our best ally for our personal development.


To do this, we need to get to know it a little, learn to talk to it, but above all be ready to meet it, in all its forms.

For let us not forget that the Unconscious is a part of us.

A hidden part which can also be dark, ugly, cold and which has often suffered enormously.

A part that is sometimes difficult to approach because it is wounded.


So how do we approach it? How can we get in touch with it so that it can deliver its messages to us?


For those who are not used to talking to their Unconscious, there are now a whole range of techniques and therapeutic approaches that allow access to it.

Among them meditation of course, but also visualization or Humanistic Hypnosis, a technique I practice as a therapist, and that I will present to you soon in another post.


In the meantime, here are a couple of things to know if you want to try to establish a connection with your Unconscious.


One of the first things to know is that the Unconscious is 6 years old mentally (and yeah).

In terms of its evolution it has stopped developing but it is still learning.


So if you try to talk to it with pretty metaphorical phrases, forget it. He won't understand you.

He has a simple way of functioning, like an animal or a young child.

He has his own logic, non-rational, non-linear.

He is acausal and literal, which means that he takes everything literally!

So be direct with him, but not brutal.


It does not understand negation either (no grammatical function).

He prioritises above all the survival of the body and goes for pleasure then ease.


However, it is always present and can be observed in us as well as in others through non-verbal language, the language of the body: a nervous movement, a deep breath, a blushing skin tone, a racing heart...


His language is that of emotions, spaces and forms: primary and archaic.

But also that of dreams...


It participates in or influences every moment of life, day and night, even the pronunciation of a simple sentence.


It is reactive (it reacts before the conscious mind), and it maintains our impression of reality by encoding time and space, but it itself lives outside of space and time.


It is hyper-creative and has a "horror of emptiness": if you ask it for something it doesn't have, it makes it (magical, no?).


Last but not least, he needs you to understand him.

That you love him.

For he is also your protector, the great Wise One who holds the keys to your healing, your fulfilment and your creativity.


And if you are willing to welcome him and work with him, to listen to him and trust him, to overcome your fear of the unknown, then he will always be there to support you, to help you shed light where it is dark and move in the direction you want to go with a little less burden.


It will become your best buddy.

And that's, for the rest of your life.

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