The first problem with the unconscious is that it is . . . well, unconscious. That is, by definition the unconscious represents all that is true, but unknown, about ourselves. So how in the world can we talk about something unknown? One solution to the problem is to deny its existence or to not talk about it.
It’s similar to the time at the beginning of modern medical science when doctors refused to believe that bacteria caused infections. Not being able to see with their own eyes any evidence of “germs,” these men derisively dismissed the whole concept of bacterial infection.
To a perfectly logical and rational mind, therefore, the unconscious is just a lot of nonsense. Persons of this persuasion can often be found telling others to “stop crying—just pull yourself up by your own bootstraps and get on with life.”
WALKING to my office, I hear a voice behind me on the sidewalk. “Excuse me,” he says. I turn and look at him. “Do you have the time?” he asks. “No,” I reply. “Time has me.”
My answer reveals that I am a psychologist—and not only that, but a psychologist who understands his job.
The truth is, just as time is not something we can ever possess, even though we try to fool ourselves by “wearing” it on our wrists like jewelry, the unconscious, too, is something we cannot possess or control.
Still, we try to control the unconscious by numbing it with ceaseless activity, entertainment, sex, and drugs and by pushing it aside with political power, financial wealth, and social status. Nevertheless, the unconscious will find its way to leak out in anxiety, insomnia, embarrassing slips of the tongue, accidents, or self-sabotage, or to erupt in physical or mental illness.
So long as you insist on believing that you are in control of your life, your unconscious will be in control of you.