“Work in the invisible world, at least as hard as you do in the visible.”Rumi, The Soul of Rumi: A New Collection of Ecstatic Poems
The unconscious mind is the moon of our lives–our dreams, our innermost desires, beliefs we have of ourselves and the world, fears we harbor, memories we shove away. Speaking on matters of the unconscious, and bringing them into the light makes the average person squirm, plug their ears and say “LA LA LA LAAAAA I DO NOT HEEAAR YOU”. Psychoanalysts experience clients who lash out, run away to never return, or blindfold themselves to pretend they do not see, but the individuals on earth who get us to do this deep diving are always going to be called upon because of the value and power there is in facing our shadows.
The tumultuous and ecstatic interactions that periodically occur in our lives, the risks we take, and the ones we do not take, and all of the choices we make are driven by this layer just below our consciousness. No matter how much we think we are in control, it is our unconscious that drives our lives, like the engine below the hood of the car–we can take the wheel, operate the radio, step on the brakes and drive north, but it is the engine that determines how far we will go, and going too long without popping the hood is going to mean that eventually we have to pull over. Holding our unconscious in our awareness means understanding the duality we possess, which can be a mighty tool to have available if we allow it to show its fangs, flex its prowess, and be expressed in the light of day.
While the world of psychological science has not come to a concrete consensus as to what constitutes as the subconscious, subliminal and unconscious, it is generaly agreed that our motivations, beliefs, dreams, creative and intuitive natures all stem from the world of our unconscious, and it is also generally agreed that there are many underlying facets to our unconscious which we are unaware of (Bargh & Morsella, 2008). It is these elements that are unseen which influence many of our decisions, then also our indecisions. These unseen factors are so powerful in their ability to dictate our lives, that people across cultures and the span of time have sought psychologists, therapists, shamans, religious leaders and every kind of healer available and worthy to them to help uncover, unlock and free them of their binds.
Identifying Where Integration is Needed
Although it is easy for me to type these words, staying aware of and accepting the ugly and uncomfortable truths for what they are is not a blissful skip up the street. Working with the unconscious mind often means disposing of lifelong beliefs we have adopted that add security to our lives. It could mean defying the norms that keep us accepted and involved in our social groups. Bringing what we repress into the light could threaten the frameworks we have established as a means for safety and comfort. The consequences of bringing these shadows into the forefront of our awareness could disrupt the comfort of relationships, careers, and every aspect of our environment. People go years, and sometimes lifetimes avoiding the pain and discomfort that comes with confronting fears, recognizing desires, honoring The Knowing that is dormant, yet very much alive. But the liberation and wonder awaiting the other side of this dirty work is what transports us into living out the innermost truths that beckon to us in our dreams, speak to us in the words between words, remind us of a universe stashed away–a universe so much closer to us than we think. Integration of the unconscious is the transportation from our “shoulds” and “should nots”, to living in alignment with the euphoria that comes with surrendering to something we feel, and allowing all logical voices to squabble until they jump on board to enjoy the ecstacy of letting go.
Integration is a relinquishing and disposal of parts of ourselves we cling to for comfort and safety. And letting these anchors go feels like death–death of what you clung onto as part of your identity, and all of the despair and adjusting that comes with dying. People check off boxes and keep up with their routines every day while the unconscious is unseen, yet more awake than we would like to admit. A man who has the best of the best of everything according to his standards, yet is constantly dreaming of soil and storm, a pang of hollow he cannot rationalize. A person who spends years harboring memories of abuse and unjustice in the name of surviving wakes up in a cold sweat, unable to escape the visiting aftermath of trauma. An artist disguised as a cashier at the grocery store is saying for the third year in a row that they’re going to move away and go to the school in the city of their dreams soon. And these are generic examples–it can be as subtle as the sighs in your sleep wondering if someone longs for you in the same way you long for them, the symbol of their affection representing a part of you wanting to be unhinged. It’s the dream you had of your bare feet on wet grass, sensing a divine tranquility in the presence of those who embody more than they explain. It’s the unshakeable sensation of something trying to be said, laying in the undercoat of what is said. It’s the way you crave a song, a movie or any work of art that provokes and allows those unspoken and un-lived tremors to have an outlet.
Identifying where integration is needed means peering into the vast, the murky, the alluring, the forbidden and the tumultuous places that call to you. There is no step-by-step or one size fits all procedure to rid you of all impeding structures that keep you from feeling the calibration of the unconscious and conscious. Willing yourself to ask for answers, to look and let yourself see, to listen and really take the time to hear, and then allowing yourself to be open to what presents itself, is where the unfolding can truly begin.
What Does Integration Look Like?
If we were to dive head-first into every whim of our unconscious and act upon all of the primitive notions that underly the waking light of our every-day endeavors, some would say the world would be in chaos. Integration is not being driven by a wrecklessness that knocks over the pillars of truth we value which promote harmony in the world. Integration is not running over the livelihood or peace within another. That being said, while the decision to do what is liberating for your spirit may cause another discomfort, it does not mean your choice is wrong. But until we give our unconscious an outlet of expression, it will find its way into our environments, and express itself through the people and situations in our lives.
“Healing old wounds” does not mean the memories vanish, the pain is forgotten, or that patterns set in motion because of hurts do not need to be looked at and cradled. The resurfacing of energy dynamics which are typically eerily similar to our first scars in life, is more prominent and recurring when we do not take the time to integrate. It is when we shove the memories of our parent’s cold shoulders, or the time we lashed out at a stranger into a corner of the cupboard in our minds. It is when we refuse to question and take responsibility for the impulses we have–to trivialize and denigrate another, to immediately take defense when feeling critisized, to stop a project when it is close to being complete, that we fail to take our shadows and hold them against the light and ask them where they originated. The choice to keep your eyes wide open and stare all of yourself in the face–not just the acceptable and the radiant bits, but the shame, the fear, the meanness too–is where the keys to breathing in an open sky lay waiting. The ripple effects of going against what we know to be true, or denying the yearnings we feel in our system, return and present themselves in our waking and conscious lives. The longer you shove, gloss over, turn a cheek and make excuses for what presents itself time and time again, the longer you are keeping yourself from your own calibration–calibration of your innermost truths and the words and actions you emit in the light of day.
The coalescence of masks we keep in boxes, with the masks we exhibit does not look the same for everyone and there is not a simple answer as to how to maneuver through reality with all that we harbor. It takes repetition, asking for help, utilizing the tools you have and adopting new ones. It requires offering the entirety of your human experience to sit face-up on an alter under the sun–the stench and the dust and the puss transpicuous. It could mean taking risks that leave you without. It could mean developing a habit each morning and night where you have a conversation with yourself. It could mean writing a letter you send, or burn, or bottle, or turn into a song. And if you were hoping for this to lead you to a step 1, 2 and 3, or a tincture, or a course, or a name drop of a book, a religion, a guru, then you might feel disappointed. Not only is there no “right” way to integrate, it also does not end. We are always in the midst of duality and are made out of both the light and the dark. Our consciousness of ourselves, the world, the universe, of the past and of the future holds very little weight over the vast mystery of our unconscious. What we see in our waking day and what humanity has the ability to categorize, define and explain does not hold a candle to the wisdom of the invisible. We only have the here and now, what is within and what is in front of us. We have the choice in every moment to listen, or dismiss, feel our way through, or depend on the safety nets that keep us from unfolding.
Bargh, J. A., & Morsella, E. (2008). The Unconscious Mind. Perspectives on psychological science : a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, 3(1), 73–79. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1745-6916.2008.00064.x