What lies beneath

What lies beneath

Stephen was (as usual) explaining a philosophical concept to me. Thank God for him, else I would be a total ignoramus.

The Hard Problem of Consciousness in The Philosophy of Mind is this. You can explain in molecular detail the chemical composition of Coca Cola, but you cannot explain what it is like to drink it. This is the problem ‘ we can’t explain what it is like to have an experience, whether it is listening to music, tasting chocolate mousse, riding in a train or being in love.

The only way to truly know is to have the experience.

The next day I was driving along listening to a song, which was very romantic.

The singer crooned:

And I can’t explain
But it’s something about the way you look tonight
Takes my breath away
It’s that feeling I get about you, deep inside
With a smile
You pull the deepest secrets from my heart
In all honesty
I’m speechless and I don’t know where to start

Well, having the the previous evening’s discussion on my mind, I thought that the singer is actually describing being in love quite clearly. Then I realised that it was Sir Elton John singing and I dread telling you what popped into my head next, but for the purposes of this blog, I feel it is really important. I thought, hey, but he is gay, how would he know?

Oh my G… Did I just think that?

I was so utterly shocked at myself!

And this is a great example of how the personal unconscious controls us.


Jung split the psyche into 3 levels, namely Consciousness which is everything you ‘know’, the Personal Unconscious and the Collective Unconscious (the collective of all human experience).

The Personal Unconscious lies beneath your consciousness and consists of your experiences, memories, etc. that you have ‘forgotten’. As well as deas, thoughts and desires that have never become conscious.

Forgotten, but not without considerable control over you.

All your beliefs and attitudes are based on what lies in here. But it is not called the Personal Unconscious for nothing, it is unconscious and hence you are not directly aware of them.

From my example about love, you can imagine how I got this idea into my head (sorry dad, but you are homophobic!). Of course, the actual events when this attitude was expressed in conversation around me (not at me because I was a little girl), has been long forgotten. But it stuck and as a child you automatically accept your parents and peers opinions as correct.

Now my parents have a gay couple as one of their best friends, but my dad still does not buy into the reality that they are a couple. He believes that they are just ‘friends’ sharing an apartment for the last 15 years.

My mother just rolls her eyes.

Just imagine for example, the things you were told directly from someone you held in regard and loved. You accepted it as the truth, not questioning it and it slipped into your personal unconscious where it still lies ‘ an unconscious rule book. And what about those childhood resolutions e.g., I will NEVER trust anyone again. Don’t you think that still has a profound impact on you?

Hence, all parents out there, watch what you say in front of your children or when they are around! We have a profound impact on our children and the way they view the world.


Now you are an adult. Do you think you are aware of all the things you were ‘taught’ as a child? Not only from your family, but your teachers, your peers, your town, your church, etc.

Do you think you are true to yourself and that you have changed all those archaic ideas from your upbringing?
Do you really believe that you are not carrying inauthentic ideals within your psyche?
Do you think that you do not carry those unconscious belief systems over to your children?

I think you can guess the answer to all that.

Just imagine all these years, I have carried around this unconscious attitude towards homosexuals and their relationships. Not really believing that they have found ‘love’ in their romantic relationships. So my attitude has been one of pity.

Consciously I believed myself to be non judgemental and totally inclusive and accepting. I am sure anyone who is gay has probably sensed my attitude and felt judged in some way. Because unfortunately, you can’t hide these deep rooted attitudes, they are tangible to others. Others can’t necessarily tell exactly what you think, but they sense that your attitude or behaviour is not authentic. You are usually the only one not aware of the vibes you put out there.


Well, the only way to change unconscious content is to become conscious of it. This usually happens as an adult. You leave your insulated little environment at home and enter the ‘real’ world and get confronted with situations which hopefully cause you to question your beliefs.

Or you have an ah-haa moment where you catch yourself thinking or saying things that are not what you believe.

But ultimately, unless you realise that you hold a specific attitude towards something, you are not going to be able to change it.

Once it is conscious, you can look at it and ask yourself:

‘ Do I really believe this?
‘ Is this approach right for me?
‘ What should I believe?
‘ What is the correct attitude towards this?

Only in consciousness can you change things.

A single event can awaken within us a stranger totally unknown to us. To live is to be slowly born.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery

If you haven’t already, read the post The essential guide to the secret life of Complexes. Complexes are a sure way of identifying unconscious content and that blog has a great how to section in it.

Until next time

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