One of the most fascinating things about evolution is how the development of an organ in each individual recapitulates the evolution of the organ over millions of years. For example, if one studies the development of the human heart from its early stages in the embryo to its adult form, one can follow the changes the organ has undergone during evolution. Truly fascinating.
I guess it’s probably the same with the unconscious. It was the main part of the primitive man’s mind and it slowly receded during the final steps of human evolution, leaving a wider space to the conscious rational ego. The same occurs in each individual. First, we are pure instinct. Then, little by little, we develop our rational ego until it is somehow separated, almost excised from the unconscious. In a way, the rational ego is like an alien invader that has come to sit on top of the unconscious. At this point, reason becomes the king of the mind or, rather, the dictator. Like all dictators, the rational ego is afraid of everything that is different, everything it does not understand. The unconscious is a prime example of both things. Logically, the ego tries to exterminate the enemy and, when the effort proves unsuccessful, it tries to lock it up. It’s a “threat” to the rule of reason, what else can it do…? A similar trend can be observed in the evolution of human society. The unconscious had a very strong presence in ancient cultures, but it slowly gave way to reason. Reason just took it all. It “killed” god and anything that seemed non-rational, it created new ideals, all rational of course, and it ruled the new paradise. By doing this, we became unrooted and lost part of our ancient identity, which we now so desperately search in the wrong places.
The unconscious is the residue of unconquered nature in us, just as it is also the matrix of our unborn future.Carl Jung, Psychological Types
The conscious mind may occupy the grand stage, but it doesn’t rule the unconscious, that’s just an illusion. It can rule instead of the unconscious, but not over it. The unconscious is autonomous. The rational ego can put it in the corner, in the trunk of the car, in the basement, but it cannot get rid of it. It feels like an annoying strawberry seed stuck between the ego’s teeth, except that it’s more like a watermelon. At night, when the rational ego is asleep, the unconscious can finally stretch its legs, talk and live a little. The ego may then choose to listen to it or to pretend it doesn’t exist.
The unconscious is not a demoniacal monster, but a natural entity which, as far as moral sense, aesthetic taste, and intellectual judgment go, is completely neutral. It only becomes dangerous when our conscious attitude to it is hopelessly wrong. To the degree that we repress it, its danger increases. But the moment the patient begins to assimilate contents that were previously unconscious, its danger diminishes.Carl Jung, Dreams
Over the last few months, I have had dreams about my unconscious, sent by itself (who else?). I now write down all my dreams in the morning and, by doing this, I can remember about two or three dreams per week. Then I spend some time trying to solve the riddle, which is quite a pastime. In one of these dreams, I was in a dark waiting room, where I was visited by three people consecutively. It had a bit of a Dicken’s flavour to it, but I haven’t been able to unlock the meaning of those visits, yet. A fourth visitor came, this time “upstairs” in open air (associated with my conscious mind). It came in the form of my late grandfather, who in the dream played the role of the old wise man. He was really upset with me because I had hurt my brother, with whom I had had a fight (which I didn’t IRL). And then, as a sort of insult, he blurted “Thomas”. This puzzled me, so I looked it up in the internet. Apparently, Thomas is a name of Aramaic origin that means “twin”. After a few weeks considering the meaning of this dream, I concluded that it referred to my unconscious, my “brother”, and that, apparently, I was hurting it somehow. Don’t ask me how I knew about the meaning of Thomas, I have no idea. Probably from school.
My life is a story of the self-realization of the unconscious. Everything in the unconscious seeks outward manifestation, and the personality too desires to evolve out of its unconscious conditions and to experience itself as a whole.Carl Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections
Yesterday, as I was exercising (this is when I have my best ideas), I was thinking about the unconscious and suddenly this idea of a conversation came to me. Like a dialogue. For the first time in my life I’m beginning to acknowledge my unconscious in its own right. I’m trying to connect with it as if I was trying to speak with someone I didn’t know. I’m trying to learn its language (symbols) so that I can communicate with it, so that I can understand what it says and maybe even answer back. I’m trying to hold a conversation with my unconscious. And when I do that, I no longer am in a position of power. I recognise it as a sort of flat mate I’m getting to know.
Like in the film Arrival, I have an extraterrestrial in my garden who is drawing funny circles and spots, trying to communicate with me. And I am trying to learn the language so that I can communicate with ET. Except of course, I am the extraterrestrial in his garden, not the other way round. He was there first, after all. I just kicked him into a corner by brute force. There is two of us in this body, in this mind, and we need to get along because we are inhabiting the same house. It (he) is different from me and I want to get to know him. What does he want, what does he think, what are his aims? Basically, getting to know each other. And by doing that I recognise its right to inhabit the same space I inhabit. After all, we are together.