Week 8 (5 – 9 Dec): Levels of Consciousness

This is one of my favorite units, but unfortunately it is (a) not a major unit and (b) we don’t have a lot of time to devote to it. When I worked as a therapist, I focused a lot on altered states of consciousness and how they could be used to help people change their lives. I often talked about making your unconscious your ally. In general, our conscious selves are our logical selves and our unconscious selves are our creative selves. Most of us don’t make very good use of our unconsciousness.

Because our conscious minds work serially we can only consider one thing at a time. This lends itself well to logic and reasoning. But, it can trap us into very linear thinking and block us from considering a full set of options. Also, it makes it easy for us to ignore our emotional responses or at least keep them unconscious or out of our awareness.

To help us develop an awareness of our unconscious thoughts and desires, we should pay attention to our dreams and more spontaneous thoughts. We have to cultivate the ability of capturing the thoughts that occur to us without thinking about them. This is what Freud meant by free association: don’t think, just state the first thing that comes to mind. It helps to quiet your conscious mind, which takes discipline since our consciousness does not like being quiet.

The unconscious is not perfect or magic, but it has access to a greater variety of information and ideas. If we allow ourselves to become aware of that information and those ideas, we may be able to find solutions and options that we hadn’t considered before.

Ideas for comments & blog posts:

  1. What do you think about consciousness versus unconsciousness as ways of solving problems and coping with the world in general? Are you aware of your unconscious self? Can you sense a difference between the two? If so, can you describe it? Leave a comment or blog about it.
  2. Blog about any experiences you’ve had meditating or doing yoga or other consciousness altering events. Or, tell us about your attempts to become more aware of your unconscious self: what did you do? how well did it work out?