The Power of Integrating the Unconscious

“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 laaa–I do not heeaaar yoou”. 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.

“…going too long without popping the hood is going to mean that eventually we have to pull over”

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 generally 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.

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…”

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.

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?

Integration is not being driven by a recklessness 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.

“…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.”

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 criticism, 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.

Sources

Bargh, J. A., & Morsella, E. (2008). The Unconscious Mind. Perspectives on psychological science : a journal of the Association for Psychological Science3(1), 73–79. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1745-6916.2008.00064.x

The Science Behind Tarot

The Tarot of The Old Path Deck, by Sylvia Gainsford,
a member of The Fellowship of Isis, with the assistance of a coven of 8 witches
[Image Description: The Sun card from The Tarot of The Old Path deck laid face-up on the grass next to a citrine crystal]

All things occult are trending, and tarot has continuously been taking flight, with fresh gusts of wind propelling its utilization from all corners of the earth. Regardless of one’s religion, spiritual practices, or cultural background, tarot is a psychical tool gaining more and more utilization with every passing year. Industry trends in the US report an annual increase of 2.6% growth in the year 2021 alone, with no signs of slowing down any time soon.

Tarot is used for guidance, like an extra set of eyes giving insight into a situation, connection, conflict, exchange, relationship–any and every setting in our inner and outer worlds can be reflected upon. Within a single deck there is the totality and complexity of the human experience, and our specific place in the cosmos. As more people are benefitting from and taking delight in the addition of tarot to their spiritual practices and routines, let us take a moment to peak into its emergence, and first, its birth.

The Scattered-Seedling Start of Tarot

Tarot has its origins in what we know as the standard sold-at-the-corner-store deck of 52 four-suited playing cards. With time it became a divination tool, much like the way figurines, birds, stones, words on pages, dreams and sounds have been used for prophetic insight and spiritual symbolism across cultures and religions throughout the span of human history. Card games evolved into fate and destiny games, similar to MASH, the who-will-you-marry game played at recess, (where you end up divorced with a Cadillac, a tree-house for shelter, and 23 children).

Despite it’s start as a playful pastime, tarot gradually became fused with more characters, ancient symbols, and religious ideograms specific to the time and place of each deck’s creation. Tarot took shape and was added to by way of whatever existing beliefs, materials and symbols were swimming in the air.

Multiple Independent Discovery is the phenomenon of multiple individuals on earth, completely independent of one another, discovering and/or inventing the same thing, at the same time. This concept is parallel to and much like the origins of tarot. Robert M. Place, in his book, The Tarot: History, Symbolism, and Divination, eloquently unravels the path of its genesis, and seamlessly reveals that its dawning is not from one particular time or place, but rather an entity in and of itself, being birthed in waves across continents.

Wealthy noblemen, and high members of societies across Italy and France, commissioned artists to create elaborate decks made just for them, based on specific roles and people they live under, amongst, and above. All classes in society used 52 cards of 4 suits and a 5th suit created by their own means, or created for them, but in decades to follow the Renaissance there were tides of lent and periods of scrutiny by the ruling class where many decks were destroyed. The particular deck that was produced and dispersed the most was the Tarot of Marseilles, by French manufacturer Grimaud, which is still the number one, as well as original producer of this deck today.

Today there is an endless array of choice and preference available for us, catering to our precise interests, aesthetic likings, beliefs and cultures. From Gummy Bear Tarot, to Cat Tarot, then all the way to Neoconservative Tarot, really nobody is being left out of the practice of tarot.

Tarot as Therapy–Why It Works

As human beings we have been applying meaning to the world around us, creating stories and symbols to make sense of and connect ourselves to existence, for a very long time. Navigating matters of the heart and spirit–what is right, what is harmful, whether to stay, go, say yes, sit still–has always been on the human experience agenda, and there are endless schools of thought to help steer us into places of emotional, mental and spiritual fulfillment. Tarot is just one of an infinite amount of instruments we have at our fingertips.

Sharing and listening to stories is the way we create meaning in the world, and differentiate between what feels right, and what we are doubtful of. Stories in the world tell us about ourselves, mirroring to us what we are more of, and showing us where we possess all that what we think we do not. Every character we have ever read or heard of, whether fiction or non-fiction, comes with clues as to who we are. In this way, the archetypes and images reflected back to us in tarot reveal where that particular energy lies in ourselves, allowing us to participate, or step away from that force. The same way our favorite childhood stories tell of heroes, and racing rabbits, and generous fairies–all in the name of planting morals in our hearts, oftentimes tarot calls us to rise to our truths, and step up in ways we have been downplaying our abilities. Then other times we draw cards telling us to be humble, to remember a higher purpose, to call upon help.

Then there is the mystical aspect, the mysteriousness of why it is, that in the entire deck of 78 cards, we draw the same 1-3 cards in rotation, sometimes those particular cards even falling out into your lap face-up. While many are understandable skeptical of the validity of tarot, we can liken its positive effects to many researched-based theories. Psychoanalyst Carl Jung explains that archetypes that come up in our dreams and waking world as a collective, circulate and pop up in our culture, from art to politics to world-wide movements, likes and dislikes. Projective tests, used in both the clinical and forensic world today, use images to bring out the unconscious emotions, desires and fears of individuals. Since they are not able to spend time thinking of what to say with their conscious mind, this is the most effective way for the assessor to extract truth from the querent. In this way, tarot reveals to us that which is hard to look at, often times opening the floor for us to confront that which we bury.

I believe that whether we have a tarot deck, a book of poems we received as a gift in the 8th grade, a collection of rocks, a playlist on shuffle, or we get out in a canoe and paddle into the horizon every morning, the world is teeming with tools available for us to listen to, observe and connect to our inner worlds. We are able to navigate by way of spirit, or you can call it intuition, or your inner compass, or whatever you want really, because no matter what the tool, language, activity, the truths that sweep over our lives will continuously reveal themselves to us, no matter how hard we try to shove them into a corner. That being said, as the truth-seekers we are, we might as well enjoy ourselves as we bloom and unfurl from these shadows! I recently received my first deck, as shown above, from my sister and have been using it for 2 months as means of reflection and guidance, and it has been extremely enriching as I embark on new ventures of every kind imaginable. I cannot think of a better time than now for me to have received one of the most delightful tools to draw inspiration and insight from, and I hope you enjoyed reading about some of the wonder I am diving into!

Thank you for reading if you made it this far, and remember to subscribe if you feel it!

Educating with Mindfulness in Hawai’i

I no longer say “Micronesian” when referring to any group in anyway; I list Chuukese, Marshallese, Kosraean, Yapese, Pohnpeian, Palauan, Woleaian, and there are probably more I’m missing. These are different languages, customs, traditions, and even dialects within the languages that sometimes don’t understand one another. As educators in Hawai’i we need to be more mindful and aware of the way we talk to, refer to, and handle decisions which affect students from these islands. We have to be careful we are not putting them al into the same “box”. We have to be careful about how we are making them feel about themselves. These kids are hurting for various reasons, from being separated from family members, being homesick and feeling suddenly deprived of all familiarity, then being mistaken for an identity they don’t understand. Some say they’d rather be referred to and thought of as “Polynesian” than openly share they are anything “Micronesian”. We have to take the time to learn about their thoughts. There are students who were raised here and speak English perfectly fine, yet they’re assumed to speak no English and are not called upon in class, or even challenged to rise to the occasion. I have had students tell me that upon arriving to their schools, their counselors immediately placed them into ESL classes without talking to them to find out if that was even needed. Students have shared that counselors question whether they passed classes in previous schools, and gave lower levels of math and science based on assumptions. Most students just let these kinds of things slide, eager to get by and not bring any attention to themselves. We have to take time to connect and get to know people we are handling and working amongst, despite the deadlines and procedures that surround us. The connection is what we are here for. When some first arrive, they are the kind of pure spirit that smiles and dances upon impulse, without shame or hesitation. They often love fishing, dancing and singing, and if you tell them to sit and work on something, it won’t be long before they’re looking out the window into the beautiful trees and at the birds. When they learn how to study for something, or understand a math concept for the first time, you’d be surprised at how they take that new understanding and run with it, excelling farther than you imagined. The structure of school does not allow them to show you everything they’ve got. Let’s change the way we lift them up and help them in a world they’re unfamiliar, (yet sometimes very familiar) with. Let’s let them be themselves and let them be proud of where they’re from. Let’s say their names right and over-applaud every small and big thing they accomplish. Let’s let them teach us. Let’s be real with them. Let’s simply love them and allow their innate desire to learn, express and excel simply be, without testing them with empty standards within a system which have no sincere meaning.

The above text was written after a particularly challenging week, and with a heavy heart about the way my students viewed themselves, and how many are being treated in and out of school. The following are links to articles with more information and depth into the issues they are facing in Hawaii.

This first link is from an article written in 2014 on Marshallese activist and poet, Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, expressing views of being from these many islands of Micronesia, and growing up in Hawaii. 

Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner

The second link is one I shared with my students, because I feel she is an excellent role model and example. It is her WordPress site, which includes her reciting her poem for environmental justice at the United Nations Climate Summit.

Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner at UN Climate Change Summit

The third link is an article written by Civil Beat on the history, and complexity of their situations for leaving their homes and coming to Hawaii. 

Civil Beat on Civil Rights of Micronesian Immigration in Hawaii

This fourth and final link is revealing just how open the public seems to be about their disapproval and racist remarks, to where at one point it was openly shared on the radio. I still hear comments and jokes made like this today, sometimes in the fun way we joke about ourselves here in Hawaii, but sometimes with intentions of being vicious, whether conscious or subconscious… It just needs to stop. 

Racism in HI