Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Unconscious

Much has been written about the influence of the unconscious in our daily lives - Freud, etc. On first reading one would disregard the unconscious as nonsense; but as one reads further, one almost immediately falls into the temptation of trying to read more into the subject, in hopes of understanding and controlling one's own unconscious forces (or subconscious, if you prefer) to one's own will.

But the unconscious is, after all, unconscious. Any attempts at short circuiting this energy will inevitably fail. There are no 10-simple-rules to improve our lives that will actually work, because the unconscious does not follow our conscious rule.

What if instead of trying to rule over the unconscious, one puts more effort at controlling one's conscious mind. This is what any religious person will tell us to do. The important word here is tell. They can only preach to do this - limit our desires, etc. - even if this will also inevitably fail. Aren't desires also the stuff of the unconscious? Although one can be aware (that is, conscious) of his desire for wealth, fame, etc; one is blissfully ignorant and powerless towards the origin of his desires - that is because they are unconscious.

This is why the divine experience of religious awareness can quickly turn into destructive religious fundamentalism. The fuzzy feeling of cleansing one's own sins (of conscious desires) will come back in the form of other unconscious urges, that may very well be destructive. This fact is obvious even to the religious people themselves, but for them this only happens in other religions. The reason for their blissful ignorance of their own possibility of destructive practices should be obvious now - the unconscious (origin of desires) is unconscious.

There is still great virtue in restraining our desires, urges and appetite. Impatience brings folly, restraint prevents it. However, there must not be an impatience for restraint - as this is where destructive believes and practices come from. For example, it may be enough to keep ourselves away (that is, restrain) from the urge to steal from others. Impatience for restraint will instead impose strict rules such as, "all thieves must be sent to the gallows".  

In biology, there is a theory of homeostasis. It is a system of checks and balances involving many different biochemical structures and substances, only to keep a biological system in equilibrium. Pathology tips this balance one way or another, and result in diseases. Medicine seeks to restore the balance. Reflecting on our own experience as a biological system, it makes sense to maintain the equilibrium to stay in health. The yearn for better lives - more wealth, fame, etc. - should be seen as a natural urge. We must not stay away, or, give in completely to these desires. Rather, we should seek a moderation of the two (a balance of give and take) - seeking wealth and fame, in ways that may also benefit others - only to keep the equilibrium and reach an everlasting peace of our existence. 

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Medical practitioner. Amateur philosopher, pianist and composer.