Unconscious does not exist? An ode to skeptics

Unconscious does not exist

This article is dedicated to all those who claim that unconscious does not exist.

“Many people doubt the existence of the unconscious,” Jung argued in the last century. I have the feeling that this attitude of skepticism towards the unconscious has become stronger today: I often hear this objection when I hold my OniroTarology courses or seminars, introducing the topic of dream interpretation.

And things got even worse: I hear phrases like “I don’t want to give energy to those things” (it is very trendy to say “giving energy”, at least in Italy or “dare energia”), “I don’t care to waste time with my dreams”, “I live only in the here and now “,” I always try to be present with myself “, etc. There are today many “post-new age” doctrines that preach a constant presence “with oneself”, trying to tame the hated biological machine, considering its spontaneous manifestations useless or even harmful. Just like “I want to enlighten myself so as not to feel pain and suffering anymore!”

The illusion of eternal presence

Man today lives more and more in the illusion of having total control of his life, of acting with consciousness and being able to ignore the unconscious and its manifestations. Consciousness has supremacy, the unconscious has no weight, it is useless.

So I have equipped myself with some arguments to confute this belief by drawing a circle like a 24 hour clock and addressing Mister “unconscious-does not exist”. Here is the hypothetical dialogue between us.

Unconscious does not exist?

Me: “Mister, do you ever sleep?”

Mister: “What a foolish question! I regularly sleep about 8 hours every night!”

Me: “So you are not conscious in these 8 hours.”

Mister: “Uhm … no. I don’t think so.” (I begin to blacken with a pen a slice corresponding to 8 hours on the clock plus another hour to represent the stage preceeding sleep, when the mind wanders freely producing “hypnagogic” images)

Me: “Do you ever dream?” (The right question should be “do you ever remember your dreams?” But let’s proceed)

Mister: “Yes, sometimes I have horrible nightmares!”

Me: “But these things are negligible, they are not useful to your conscious life, right?”

Mister: “Exactly! And I don’t want to give energy to these things! But what’s the point?”

Me: “Please, don’t get angry. I notice that you got a frown and a vein is throbbing on your forehead. It was you who consciously decided: “face, frown!” and “vein on the forehead, throb!”

Mister: “You are kidding me!” (I blacken another hour from the clock, estimating the time during the day when Mister gets pissed, gets anxious about bills or becomes furious with a driver along the road … and all this, you know, happens unintentionally!)

Me: “I noticed that at the beginning of the seminar you looked absent-minded, like you were thinking about something else …”

Mister: “Yes, I admit, I was brooding about an argument I had this morning with my colleague …” (Marker penis! We estimate another 2 hours of brooding during the day, or all those times when we are doing something but in reality we think of something else, like when we eat or drive)

Me: “Do you ever get drunk or use drugs …”

Mister: “Do not you dare!”

Unconsciuos exists and it’s stronger than consciousness!

Ok, I think you got the point: at the end of this discussion the clock would be half blackened, representing that big slice of the day (and therefore of our life) where we are not, at various levels, fully conscious. To be optimistic, we control only 50% of our life, and this is the field of consciousness. The other 50% is governed by the unconscious, whether the consciousness likes it or not!

So unconscious, not only does exist, but we can say with great confidence that the unconscious was born well before consciousness. We are born unconscious and we die unconscious.

Want a proof? Let’s take children: what level of consciousness do they have? And primitive men? How about animals or bugs? Or the first single-cell organisms? Of course, I’m not saying that they do not have a form of consciousness. However it is not a developed consciousness like that which an adult could have (but here too there can be numerous exceptions!).

The relationship with the unconscious and the Tarot Force

Put it this way: unconscious is nature, it is a ferocious beast that demands our attention and that will take control of our life when ignored. It could become a devouring beast.

The Strenght Tarot card teaches us how to relate to this “beast”: becoming aware of it, looking into its eyes, touching it, fearing it, having respect for it. A bit like you do with the sea when you learn to swim (and it is no coincidence that the sea is also a symbol for collective unconscious).

Unconscious does not exist? The Strenght Tarot card
The Strenght and the Unconscious

The lion can be tamed, we could exploit that powerful leonine energy, but it will always be faithful to its lion nature. It’s foolish to pretend that it does not exist or ignore its manifestations: imagine what would happen if the woman of the Strenght gave her back to the lion? What if she refused to feed him? I told about this motif in relation to the wonderful movie “Life of Pi” in this article.

The Fool says: “the unconscious does not exist!”

It is the Fool of the Tarot who ignores the beast that follows him (and this is what makes him fool!). That beast will get bigger and fiercer by being ignored: it will assume increasingly aggressive shapes just to be recognized by the Fool, and it will do it for his good, to complete him.

Il Matto dei Tarocchi: inconscio non esiste
The Fool ignoring the unconscious

Enlightenment (or rather the search for the jungian Self) cannot be achieved by ignoring the unconscious, but rather integrating it into consciousness. The first step is to recognize the existence of the unconscious, its dignity and its overwhelming power.

In conclusion, I’d like to quote an enlightening aphorism by Carl Gustav Jung: “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life, and you will call it fate.”

In other words, be sure that if you don’t want to “give energy to those things”, it will be “those things” that absorb energy from you, even if you don’t realize it.

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