Understanding the Unconscious

The unconscious is where most of the work of the mind gets done; it's the repository of automatic skills (such as riding a bike), the source of intuition and dreams, the engine of much information processing. Fleeting perceptions register in the unconscious mind long before we may be aware of them.

The unconscious mind is not some black hole of unacceptable impulses waiting to trip you up, but it can be the source of hidden beliefs, fears, and attitudes that interfere with everyday life. Most forms of psychotherapy aim to bring into conscious awareness many of these hidden hindrances, so that we can examine them and choose how to deal with them.

Recent Posts on Unconscious

Personality Challenges, Perfectionism, and Self-Compassion

By Dan Mager MSW on August 31, 2015 in Some Assembly Required
Having compassion for oneself means that we can honor our humanness by accepting ourselves—even during those times when we inevitably come up against our limitations and fall short of our ideals.

The Psychology of Self-Deception

By Neel Burton M.D. on August 28, 2015 in Hide and Seek
A short, sharp look into some of the most important ego defenses.

Why Do You Gamble?

By Mark D. Griffiths Ph.D. on August 26, 2015 in In Excess
All surveys of gambling have shown that there are a broad range motivational factors that are central to gambling, and that attitudes towards gambling are positively related to availability and cultural acceptability. But what does the psychological research say about why people gamble?

Trump My Putin

By Laurie Essig Ph.D. on August 26, 2015 in Social Studies
What if political leaders can be understood by their hair? What if hair represents the collective unconscious of all of us? The hair of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin might tell us a lot about who they really are and who we are- whether we love them or hate them- since in some way they represent what Carl Jung called archetypes.

Why Insight Is Not Necessary For Lasting Therapeutic Change

By Clifford N Lazarus Ph.D. on August 20, 2015 in Think Well
More than 50 years of scientific evidence has proven the importance of therapy emphasizing the "hear and now" rather than focusing on the "there and then." Still, many therapist adhere to the old school approaches of analytic and dynamic psychotherapy in the belief that insight is necessary for real and lasting change. This post explains why insight is unnecessary.

Why Does Overthinking Sabotage the Creative Process?

By Christopher Bergland on August 19, 2015 in The Athlete's Way
Neuroscientists have identified why overthinking can undermine the creative process.

Who (or What) Chooses Healthy Thoughts?

By John A. Johnson Ph.D. on August 18, 2015 in Cui Bono
We know that we can improve our emotional state by looking at our situation differently. This is called cognitive reappraisal or reframing. Cognitive reappraisal seems to be a matter of conscious choice, but some research indicates that the conscious self is a reflection of unconscious brain activity rather than an intentional agent that makes choices.

Unconscious Memories Hide In the Brain but Can Be Retrieved

By Christopher Bergland on August 17, 2015 in The Athlete's Way
Researchers at Northwestern University have identify a unique brain mechanism used to store and retrieve unconscious memories.

Can You Lose Your Eyesight for Psychological Reasons?

What is referred to as 'medically unexplained visual loss' or non-organic visual loss (NOVL), is reported to occur in 1 to 5% of patients attending ophthalmology clinics. In many cases it continues without improvement for an extended period.

Race in America: The Invisible Hand of the Implicit Mind

By Jay Richards Ph.D. on August 12, 2015 in The Violent Mind
A fascinating dialogue between two psychologists about the fascinating work that Anthony Greenwald is doing to uncover "the hidden biases of good people."

Wherein I Discover My Inner Playground

By Bernard L. De Koven on August 12, 2015 in On Having Fun
Discovering your inner playground.

Living Closer to the Bone (Part 5)

By Michael Jawer on August 11, 2015 in Feeling Too Much
Strange but true occurrences suggest that what family members (including our pets) feel for one another bonds us in unusual ways. Such experiences could only be chalked up to sheer one-in-a-million chance were it not for their conjunction with deep emotion.

The Amygdala Is NOT the Brain's Fear Center

The amygdala is not a "fear" center out of which effuses the feeling of being afraid. "Fear" is a cognitively assembled conscious experience that is based on threat detection, arousal, attention, perception, memory, and other neural processes.

Ontological Questions

By Mario D Garrett PhD on August 05, 2015 in iAge
Why is Dasein--being in the present-- so important for Heidegger? Being a contrary, why not live in "they-selves" if the "our-selves" is so painful? If I was designing a new way of existing, would I elect to be aware of "being" and why?

How Does Your Cerebellum Counteract "Paralysis by Analysis"?

By Christopher Bergland on August 04, 2015 in The Athlete's Way
Neuroscientists from McGill University have discovered that the cerebellum learns to expect the unexpected and can help counteract "paralysis by analysis" in both life and sport.

Creative Concerns

At first glance, the notion that creativity perturbs us is oxymoronic. We live in an age in which we are encouraged to prize all things ingenious. However, novelty also brings risk and uncertainty.

New Empirical Research on Dream Recall and Content

These new articles in the journal Dreaming show the importance of taking age, culture, and external threats into account when trying to understand the nature and functions of dreams in people’s lives.

The Archeology of Misbehavior

Archeology is the study of human activity in the past. The archeology of misbehavior is studying current behavior to uncover hidden sources. The “ruins” of misdeeds are built upon personality architecture and cultural landscapes.

Are You a Giver or a Taker?

Think you are a Giver? There's something to watch out for that could turn you into a Taker.

Severe Migraine: Finding Answers in the Mind, Not in Pills

There are 45 million Americans with migraine and about 10% of those have frequent and severe headaches that are unresponsive to medications and other treatments. Most doctors would describe migraine as a genetic disorder, however this blog presents a different view. A patient with severe migraines is presented and her cure lay in her willingness to reappraise her life.

The Meaning of the APA's Dealing With the Torture Scandal

After years of deception, and opposing strong and clear dissent from within its very ranks, the APA finds itself in a particularly awkward position. What does a professional organization which has lost its moral compass do when the news breaks? What does its reaction to the current controversy tell us about the APA’s organizational character?

Culturally Induced Blindness

Can you answer this simple riddle or do you suffer from cultural blindness?

How the Brain Can Hear Voices That Don't Exist

By Guest Bloggers on July 17, 2015 in The Guest Room
Schizophrenic individuals who experience auditory hallucinations seem to hear voices emanating from within. Neuroscientists are investigating how and why this happens.

Sentence Completion: A Way to Measure Motivation?

By Adrian Furnham Ph.D. on July 14, 2015 in A Sideways View
There are many different forms of projective techniques, which are attempts to assess a person's unconscious wishes and desires

There Are Monkeys Everywhere

We who are sighted can be the blindest of all. We can confuse what we see with what is really there, but what we see has to be taught to our eyes/minds. Actually there are monkeys all around us. You just have to learn to see them I will tell you how.

Hypocritical Capitalism

By Ken Eisold Ph.D. on July 11, 2015 in Hidden Motives
When capitalism takes its own picture, it inevitably smooth’s over the blemishes,

Why Vulnerability Takes Courage

Being vulnerable can be terrifying, but when we find the courage to step out on stage, we have the opportunity to reveal our deepest secret, which is often ourselves.

The Psychology of Repression

By Adrian Furnham Ph.D. on July 02, 2015 in A Sideways View
Repression is a well known Freudian concept, written about by both Sigmund and daughter Anna. The central question is how and why this process occurs and whether it is essentially healthy or unhealthy?

Can Subliminal Messages Create Feelings of Love and Lust?

Can a sexy picture in the background or a well-chosen romantic word, trigger automatic feelings of love and desire? Could the right situation or association make you seem more attractive, sexy, or alluring to a potential lover? See what the research has to say here...

The Avatar Theory of Consciousness

By William R. Klemm Ph.D. on June 27, 2015 in Memory Medic
Evolution made us smart enough to be effective killers and hopefully wise enough to be more humane.