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Christian Counseling: Do You Believe In The Human Unconscious?

Most every driver has experienced the action of an altered state of mind. Many times over the decades of driving my car I have traveled a few blocks while so engaged in thought I didn't recall doing the driving.  I've asked myself: "How did I safely get through those last two lights without an accident? Who drove the car because it was not my conscious mind?" It's scary and feels a little like being out of control when it's critical to be consciously in control. The same unconscious part can take over when doing routine activities, such as mowing a lawn or washing dishes. Sometimes we attempt to complete a task and discover it's all ready done, and may vaguely remember doing it. Other times people tell us we said things that we swear we would or could never have said, but find we did. And, of course, there is the proverbial "slip of the tongue." The obvious answer to understanding how these things happen is that another part of us takes charge that speaks and finishes tasks. That part is the unconscious.

A parallel to the unconscious is the reality of a spiritual world. We cannot perceive that world through our five senses, which is unconscious to us, yet, as Christians, we know another entire world of spirits think, feel and act. The goal in insight-oriented counseling is to make conscious the unconscious. Similarly, our spiritual goal is to make visible the unseen world of spirituality or to bring heaven down to earth.

What is the unconscious? It is part of our mind and body that houses information. It is a bank where we deposit facts and memories that we do not want to remember because they are too fearful, shameful or guilty, for example. In that part of ourselves we cut off from consciousness wishes, impulses, fantasies, experiences and conflicted emotions, such as rage or overwhelming grief. We also have a preconscious (like a hard drive on a computer, we can search and bring up stored information, such as your cell phone number). There are moments where there is an attempted conscious interchange between consciousness and unconsciousness. When people receive thrillingly good news or catastrophically tragic news they are temporarily caught between the maneuvering conscious mind who momentarily accepts the news and in the next moment disbelieves it in an attempt to place it in the unconscious by denying its reality.

I do not believe that we were created with a divided mind; with separate conscious and unconscious parts. This was created by humans after the Fall when sin, fear, doubt, insecurity, etc. entered our awareness. It is a human adaptation to the evil in oneself and the world. It is a defense mechanism. It helps a young, powerless child cope with things like physical or sexual abuse. But the problem of the unconscious occurs later when it secretly and negatively influences the grown child's thoughts, feelings and behaviors and distorts present realities by blending the past with the present.

Does the Bible say anything about the human unconscious? Yes, indirectly it points to its existence. It reveals the idea that some of our thoughts, feelings and actions are separate from another part of us; that a gulf exists in us that keeps separate certain realities:

1. The heart is more deceitful than all else...who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)
2. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. (Romans 7:20)
3. Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults. (Psalm 19:12. Also see Leviticus 5:2. These verses refer to not only to sins one didn't know are wrong, but to ones he or she knows are wrong and didn't know he or she committed. It is possible this could refer to faults that we hide from ourselves.)
4.  Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom. (Psalm 51:6)
5. But let it be the hidden person of the heart... (1 Peter 3:4)
6. Then God said to him in a dream... (Genesis 20:6)

Do you believe the mind is divided and that we all  have an unconscious? If so, what do you know about how it influences your life today? What do you believe God wants you to do about your unconscious, especially in light of verses that express His desire, such as, "'For nothing is hidden that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light.'" (Luke 8:17) Do you desire truth in the inner most being?

2 comments (Add your own)

1. frankmancusophd wrote:
Thanks! I hope others follow your example and encouragement to answer an important question.

11/04/2011 @ 3:19 AM

2. Anonymous wrote:
The mind is truely an amazing thing. What do you believe God wants you to do about your unconscious, especially in light of verses that express His desire, such as, "'For nothing is hidden that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light.'" (Luke 8:17) This is such an excellent question for us all to ponder...

11/03/2011 @ 6:07 PM

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