The Unconscious

Just as with the physical dimension of the person-in-the-world, where an infinitely complex series of material events are involved in the production of each moment, there are patterns of mental functioning which are not available to reason. Each action, thought or feeling is the product of a complex network of meanings which involves the totality of the person and stretches back beyond her birth and out into her family, community and the world in its entirety. An action affects the other who in turn is changed by that interaction and who then goes on to affect others. Just as all particles in the universe exert some influence on all others, persons reverberate to each other’s actions. The person is clearly unaware of the myriad of events that have come to play in even the most trivial of experiences.

Included in the unconscious are elements that we actively do not wish to acknowledge. In the service of self-preservation, at early stages of emotional development, dangerous and unacceptable ideas, impulses, and feelings were dealt with in such a way as to prevent them from becoming conscious. Remaining unconscious, these childish wishes and fears are unable to mature; they remain untouched by experience and continue to seek their infantile aims. According to the Psychoanalytic topographic model, therapy permits growth by rendering the unconscious, conscious.

One’s perceptions and actions are determined by factors that are not immediately evident to one’s rational mind. There is an unconscious aspect to the mind. At this moment one may have a series of opinions regarding this statement. What one thinks of the idea of the unconscious and other concepts does not exist as a static reality but rather emerges as a series of associations. One realizes how one feels about a subject by contemplation. One comes to know one’s thoughts, attitudes, and reactions toward given phenomena by allowing oneself the opportunity to ponder them. The reality of oneself is revealed as one (acts/thinks/?) in the world.

Matter and Mind: An Old Joke

Someone tells a joke; their breath passes through their vocal cords and mouth and emerges as a set of vibrations in the surrounding air. These vibrations, in turn, produce a series of changes in the tympanic membrane of the listener. The pattern is transformed, within the middle and inner ear, into one of neuronal communication through cellular membrane and synaptic changes. In this case, light is elited from the monitor as a pettern of spectral frequencies, seen as colours and shapes. In both cases the sensory messages are further processed within the various midbrain, limbic, and cortical areas of the brain. The effect is, in turn, felt throughout the body as blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory, and muscular changes ensue. This happens because the joke has a meaning; it is funny and the person laughs . . . or groans.

Without an understanding of what “funny” means the activity we observe makes no sense. This very looking for sense or meaning to behaviour, itself reflects our being psychological beings. We organize events in terms of their meaning or significance. Even if one observes that all seems purposeless (especially in this case which touches upon the spiritual, existential reality of the person), the reality of the person as a being that structures experience into systems of meanings is clearly evident.