Although common therapeutic approaches focus on a combination of helping clients to work through their past experiences and teaching them present-oriented coping skills and resilience, there is a long-standing fascination by the connection of the subconscious world and ones’ true higher self. The subconscious was first studied by Sigmund Freud, founder of the psychoanalytic movement. Freud proposed that one’s conscious awareness exists in moment-to-moment experiences and that one’s subconscious contains significant memories, identity, fears, insecurities, and one’s genuine wants and needs in life. Carl Jung was another major contributor to the study of the subconscious and proposed that complete “self-realization” can be attained by exploring, understanding, gaining awareness, and accepting all emotions and memories within the subconscious.
The formation of your subconscious world begins in early childhood as a collection of experiences which gradually create your sense of a unique identity, in terms of your thought and behavioral patterns. As early as infancy, your subconscious world is influenced heavily by how others treat you, by the life experiences which have created both pride and insecurity, and by the hopes and goals which you have for your present and for your future. Your subconscious world unifies your present experiences, your perceptions about past experiences, and the desires for your future self. Your subconscious can be a positive force which guides your conscious thoughts and choices, but you must first delve into the obstacles which may exist within your subconscious. The integration of your subconscious and conscious experiences paves the path to living as your true higher self. Your true higher self can help you to adapt to life’s various conflicts and stressors.
Your subconscious is gradually formed over time, and different traits emerge through unique personal experiences during certain life stages, such as infancy, childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Your late childhood and adolescent years are the most pivotal stages in the development of your subconscious, because your social roles, moral beliefs, and personal goals largely determine how your identity adult developmental processes will be perceived and managed.
Why is your Subconscious Important?
Your subconscious your identity or “real you” which is always beneath the surface of your daily interactions and activities. Gaining awareness of how your subconscious world influences your conscious world requires stepping into the unknown while continuing to move forward, embracing all emotions and thoughts which arise. Your subconscious world is where you can transform your fears into your strengths, but only after a gradual introspective process. By learning how to consciously coexist with your subconscious, you are gathering the valuable strength to create joy and hope, as opposed to living with sadness and fear. However, you must be open to viewing your painful past experiences as part of human existence and as a catalyst for change and growth.
One of the most impactful aspects of your subconscious world is that it leads to your resilience and gaining awareness throughout life. Resilience is represented by having an inner strength and a consistent core which enables you to stand firm when you confront painful memories and conflictual situations. The beginning point of developing resilience is the acceptance of circumstances and people as they are and the focus on thoughts, actons, and emotions which ARE in your control. Societal pressures and expectations may cause you to push away your subconscious world, but this avoidance only has a “snowball effect” of increased pain and fear and blocks the development of resilience. However, you will find that your subconscious world holds valuable information about YOU which can lead to a permanent feeling of raw courage and flexibility to incorporate into your personality. This raw courage can enable you to overcome difficulties and to view all life experiences as opportunities for emotional growth, self-acceptance, and control over your actions in significant relationships and in pursuing your goals.
How Can You Explore & Befriend Your Subconscious?
The Holistic-Dynamic approach to be a very effective technique for exploring your subconscious and developing resilience, because it helps you to define and to explore the key aspects of your identity and life history, which is what “holistic” means. It then helps you to understand how past experiences influence your current functioning patterns and how you can change these patterns, which is what “dynamic” means. These past experiences include your family relationships, your peer relationships, and your romantic relationships. The “holistic” aspect of this approach helps you to increase your awareness of your current career goals, your relationship goals, your primary values, your mood states, your coping skills, your positive and negative behavioral patterns, and your predominant thoughts which guide various behaviors.
Another effective approach for exploring your subconscious world is Narrative Exposure Therapy (NET), which can help you to gain awareness of and to work through the long sequence of repeated exposures to traumatic events and to childhood stressors within your family, peer, and other social relationships. Most importantly, Narrative Exposure Therapy focuses on the separation of negative external circumstances from the identity of your internal sense of self.
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is a currently popular approach which can increase your moment-to-moment awareness of thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Through mindfulness, you can gradually learn how to “be in the moment” and to separate the past from the present. Mindfulness also creates appreciation of what you DO have and a sense of control over any disturbing circumstances.
Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) helps you learn to accept negative emotions and situations and then to develop healthy patterns. You are guided through a process of accepting your emotions and the related circumstances, rather than trying to escape them, experiencing guilt about them, or avoiding them altogether. This therapeutic approach teaches you how to utilize your psychological flexibility, which is the ability to be very present and in the moment in your life.
In conclusion, the subconscious world is that it is always present beneath the surface of your daily experiences and is available for exploration, acceptance, and gaining awareness. Therapy is not required for “befriending” your subconscious, but it may help when dealing with such issues as grief, identity, trauma, and self-defeating behavioral patterns. You can develop and practice daily conscious efforts, such as writing your thoughts and feelings in a journal, engaging in meaningful conversations with significant people in your life, and staying cognitively focused on moment-to-moment opportunities for learning about yourself. Random events will continue to occur, and the negative ones are susceptible to going into and possibly getting “stuck” in your subconscious. By looking back at your strengths in previous times of distress, you can learn how to use these strengths toward empowerment when confronting any present or future difficult life situation.
Written by New Age Psychiatry’s Compassionate Therapist: Rebecca Wang-Harris PhD
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