What is the unconscious?

the unconscious -> noun, the part of the mind which is inaccessible to the conscious mind but which affects behaviour and emotions.

– Google

Some talk about “the unconscious” or “the subconscious” as a noun and refer to it as a thing or a certain area of our psyche. Often, it refers to whatever is going on in our psyche or bodymind we are either not immediately aware of or don’t have a story about based on previous explorations.

HOW IT’S USEFUL

The term may be useful in that it can give us an image of areas of ourselves and our psyche that’s not known to us, and we can set out to explore and discover new things. The idea of the unconscious can guide our exploration, and it can be a shorthand for communication. This works in a limited and practical sense and is not entirely wrong.

NOT THE WHOLE PICTURE

At the same time, it’s not completely accurate and it’s not the whole picture. When we look more closely, we may find it’s more fluid and a bit different.

First, there are two ways we can talk about things being conscious.

We can be aware of something in immediacy. I am aware of certain things in my sense fields – in sight, sound, smell, taste, sensations, and mental images and words. What’s in these fields always changes, and I am more or less consciously aware of the different things in my sense fields.

We can also be conscious of something in thoughts. We have a story about something and say we are conscious of it even if all we are conscious of may be the story and not what the story points to. For instance, I may have done an exploration of something in myself, come up with a story to make sense of it, remember the story, and not be aware of what it points to. In reality, what it refers to may just be a combination of a feeling, belief, and memory, and the story is just created to make sense of it.

Being aware of these stories can be helpful in a practical sense, and it can help us notice what it points to and bring that into awareness, but it is a story. It’s an interpretation. It doesn’t contain any final or absolute truth. And it’s not the same as being consciously aware of something in immediacy.

NUANCES

It’s important to differentiate between all of this.

It’s not wrong to talk about “the unconscious” as a thing. It can serve as a shorthand and guide our exploration.

We can talk about being conscious of certain dynamics and issues in ourselves, in the sense of being aware of our story about it. We may have explored it in the past, in different ways, and come up with a story about it. And here and now, we may be aware of that story and not what it refers to. It’s good to notice when we do this and be honest about it.

Ultimately, what’s conscious is really only what we are aware of in immediacy. I am aware of these sights, sounds, sensations, and mental images and words. And these change all the time.

HOW I RELATE TO THIS

The unconscious is a term I avoid since I don’t find it so useful.

I occasionally talk about being aware of something in terms of having explored it in the past and now having a story about it, although I like to make it clear that this is a memory and story.

And I sometimes talk about bringing attention to something in immediacy, or bring it into awareness.

Mainly, I try to be a bit more specific than what the general – and somewhat misleading – phrase “the unconscious” refers to.

DRAFT

the unconscious -> noun, the part of the mind which is inaccessible to the conscious mind but which affects behaviour and emotions.

– Google

Some talk about “the unconscious” or “the subconscious” as a noun and refer to it as a thing or a certain area of our psyche.

NOT WRONG

We can have an image of areas of ourselves and our psyche that’s not known to us, and we can set out to explore and discover new things. The idea of the unconscious can guide our exploration, and it can be a shorthand for communication. It works in a limited and practical sense and is not entirely wrong.

NOT THE WHOLE PICTURE

At the same time, it’s not a completely accurate picture, and it’s not the whole picture. When we look more closely, we may find it’s more fluid and a bit different.

First, what do we refer to when we say something is conscious or not? In this context, it’s often whatever is going on in our psyche and bodymind including beliefs, assumptions, qualities and characteristics, dynamics, emotional issues, biological predispositions, and so on.

Some of these can go in and out of awareness. We are sometimes aware of it and sometimes not.

And it’s all happening here and now. What I am aware of now is conscious to me, and what I am not aware of right now is not conscious. And what’s conscious changes.

Also, there is an important distinction between noticing and knowing about.

What I notice here is what’s happening in the sense fields – sight, sound, taste, smell, sensations, and mental images and words. I am more or less aware of the different things going on here and now.

If I know about something, including dynamics and patterns in myself, does that mean I am conscious of it? In a conventional sense, perhaps yes. And in terms of what I am directly noticing, perhaps not.

When we say we are aware of conscious of something in ourselves, we often refer to a story. We are conscious of a story telling us what’s going on. The story is, at most, a pointer for finding it here and now. It doesn’t mean we are conscious of what the story points to.

Also, stories are stories. It’s something thoughts come up with to make sense of the world. It can have some practical value, but it doesn’t contain any final or absolute truth.

NUANCES

It’s important to differentiate between all of this.

It’s not wrong to talk about “the unconscious” as a thing. It can serve as a shorthand and guide our exploration.

We can talk about being conscious of certain dynamics and issues in ourselves, in the sense of being aware of our story about it. We may have explored it in the past, in different ways, and come up with a story about it. And here and now, we may be aware of that story and not what it refers to. It’s good to notice when we do this and be honest about it.

Ultimately, what’s conscious is really only what we are aware of in immediacy. I am aware of these sights, sounds, sensations, and mental images and words. And these change all the time.

MY APPROACH

The unconscious is a term I avoid since I don’t find it so useful.

I occasionally talk about something being conscious or not in terms of having a story about it, if I talk about it in a very casual and conventional sense, although I like to make it clear that this is a memory and story.

And I sometimes talk about bringing attention to something in immediacy, or bring it into awareness.

Mainly, I try to be a bit more specific than what the general – and somewhat misleading – phrase “the unconscious” refers to.

….
….

First, we need to differentiate between two ways things can be conscious.

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