Medium 9781782204954

Your Secret Mind

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This book will help the reader get to know their unconscious mind through a series of exercises. Results will serve all curious readers well, especially psychotherapists, writers, artists, actors and others working in the world of creativity. It is important for all of us to achieve a deeper understanding of who we are, with the satisfaction that commonly comes with that. Readers will be able to set free their hidden selves to direct their lives in new and satisfying directions.Humans have a complex unconscious mind, containing vital information about who we are, who we were and where we are going. Sigmund Freud deserves the most credit for pointing systematically to channels of access. Today's neuroscience has tested these points of access and is suggesting new ones. This book introduces five well-established methods of gaining useful access to our unconscious mind.The authors have taught the theory, science, and practice discussed in this book for over fifteen years at Stanford University to people of all ages, backgrounds, and interests. Having witnessed the growth of their students, they are confident about the positive contributions these exercises make to psychotherapy, creative work, and the sheer enjoyment of new horizons in our lives.

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8 Chapters

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Chapter One - Why Pay Attention to the Unconscious? Famous Artists as Case Studies: Rene Magritte, Artemisia Gentileschi, Georgia O'keeffe, Egon Schiele, and Vincent Van Gogh

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During every moment of life, whether we are awake or asleep, our brains are orchestrating a symphony of mental, physical, and emotional processes, from our conscious thoughts of dinner plans, to the feeling of love for our children, to our rhythmic breaths. While we mostly feel in control of our thoughts, feelings, and bodies, the truth is that our brains are the true conductors of our lives, leaving us with a sense of unity as a person, but as we now know with a reasonable sense of certainty, operating completely outside of our conscious awareness 95 percent of the time. In order to comprehend and appreciate this veritable feat, we need to break down the kinds of processes we are speaking of. So it comes as no surprise that physiologic processes, such as breathing, fall into the category of unconscious mental activity. However, a vast array of emotional and cognitive activities also takes place without any conscious awareness, a fact that surprises most of us, unless of course we have studied this area of psychology or have been in a kind of therapy that takes these facts seriously. Many of these processes have significant effects on who we are and how we relate to the world. Choices, behaviors, desires, and perceptions of reality are all heavily influenced by these hidden mental activities. In effect, the unconscious mind has a great deal of influence on our conscious experience of reality.

 

Chapter Two - Neuroscience of the Mind

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Research in neuroscience has greatly contributed to our understanding of the mind and brain. We now know a great deal more than in Sigmund Freud's time, though in truth, many aspects of consciousness and the unconscious remain a mystery. Opinions on the neurological basis of consciousness vary widely, from Francis Crick and Christof Koch's theory that consciousness is localized to a specific, small part of the brain called the claustrum, to Gerald Edelman's proposal that consciousness is distributed across the entire brain and that all neurons participate. In fact, consciousness is still an area of active debate (see Carroll, 2016 and Strawson, 2016). The full story of how the mind neurologically functions and produces consciousness will likely not be understood for another fifty to 200 years. However, despite these current limitations in knowledge, the extremely complicated neurological story of the mind is beginning to unfold, providing exciting insight into how different cognitive and emotional processes are formed and controlled.

 

Chapter Three - The Role of Psychometrics in the Study of the Unconscious: What Are Your Personal Preferences in Resolving Stress, Conflict, and Ambiguity?: Screening Your Personality: The GHQ-30, FAY, WAI-84, Heart Rate Exercise, and REM-71

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Screening your personality: the GHQ-30, FAY, WAI-84, heart rate exercise, and REM-71

Neuroscience research has considerably advanced mental health knowledge, but it is only half of the story. We need to be able to apply the insights of neuroscience to the individual. “Amygdala controls” and “frontal lobe controls” need to be translated into concepts that are applicable to our own personal experience. One other important source of information comes into play here: clinical practice—what mental health professionals have observed in the course of studying actual human behavior. These insights have led to practices and tools that aid in understanding the unconscious and the barriers to bringing it into consciousness.

Many, but not all, psychologists and psychiatrists are professionally trained in how to access and evaluate the motivational unconscious. This skill of learning how to read people involves interpreting both verbal and nonverbal cues in a manner that penetrates below the surface level of the conscious mind. Much of how we perceive the world and how we behave is driven by emotion rather than logic. Reading people requires paying attention to the emotional undertones of speech, behavior, and facial expressions, rather than listening to what an individual may actually be saying. For example, has anyone ever told you that he is not angry with you, but his behavior, however subtle, suggests otherwise? His eye slits may narrow, his brow furrows, perhaps he is tapping his feet or clenching his fists.

 

Chapter Four - An Easy Start: Memes, Slips of the Tongue and Ear, and Parapraxes

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Memes

I now begin a series of chapters that discuss different exercises designed to help you access and understand your motivational unconscious. These exercises may not immediately flow quickly and freely for all; some personality traits may make this journey difficult. In the previous chapter I highlighted some of these traits, such as Repressive Defensiveness and, to some extent, Denial of Distress. To prepare for your own potential obstacles, take another look at your scores from the psychometrics we discussed previously. Stress, too, may increase your difficulty with these tasks. When we are very stressed it becomes difficult to contemplate complex issues; where there is crisis, there is no analysis.

Even if all your traits are in line with exploration, there is still a need for practice: For most there is a learning curve that requires reading a variety of examples in addition to practicing the exercises. For each task I will provide samples extracted from my own personal experience, famous cases, or my past students. I couple these practical exercises and examples with a discussion of the current theory and the supporting empirical evidence for each technique in order to show you how these exercises can aid in your own process of self-discovery.

 

Chapter Five - Creativity and the Unconscious: The Objective Correlative and the Presence/Hermeneutic Dialectic: How Art Preferences Can Reflect Your Unconscious Mind

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How art preferences can reflect your unconscious mind

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time,” stated Thomas Merton (1955). Or as Aristotle put it: “The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.” Most of us have experienced the feeling of losing ourselves in art. Some of us keep photographs of a beautiful sunset pinned up in our cubicles to calm ourselves amid a stressful workday; others listen to our favorite songs while driving home to buoy our mood after a rough day. Something about a piece, be it auditory or visual, resonates with us—we cannot use logic to explain why we are drawn to the piece, we just feel it. When it comes to art we are like sponges—we absorb a piece and transform its content into our own personal emotional experience.

Herein lies the power of art. When listening to a particularly gripping piece of music or contemplating a favorite painting, we stop thinking about what to make for dinner or about tomorrow's work presentation. Instead, these reality-oriented thoughts give way to an emotional experience that transports us. It is often this suspension of analytical cognitive activity and the wave of emotion that draw us to art.

 

Chapter Six - Expressive Writing and the Motivational Unconscious: Recreating and Reconstructing the Richness of Your Life

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“Language…is a means not only for representing experience…but also for transforming experience,” said Johann Gottfried Herder (1827). He is the originator of the thought that language is not only a way to communicate and describe, but a powerful tool to shape and transform. Telling stories is a way to bind together experiences, memories, and people. From nursery rhymes to literature, from movies to mythology, storytelling is everywhere; it is an almost universal property of languages across the globe and a skill that we develop as early as two to three years of age. One form of storytelling, expressive writing, does more than entertain the audience—it has been associated with a slew of positive effects for the writer, such as improved relationships, less negative affect and intrusive thoughts, more positive affect and working memory, and even an improvement in asthma symptoms. This has been shown largely through the extensive studies of James Pennebaker from the University of Texas at Austin.

 

Chapter Seven - The Royal Road to the Unconscious: Dream Analysis: When Do Dreams Tell You Something about Yourself?

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When do dreams tell you something about yourself?

As humanity has known for thousands of years, our demons often come to visit at night, while we are sleeping. Across cultures, throughout history, and despite all of our waking life differences, once we lay our heads to rest each night human beings are united by one common experience—dreaming. We all know what it is like to close our eyes and be flooded with fantastical stories and movie-like imagery. Our dream life can be rich and vast, but what does it all mean? Some, like the ancient Greeks, believe that dreams have a prophetic quality. Others have experienced moments of great insight when fast asleep, like Albert Einstein's Theory of Relativity or James Watson with the solution to the genetic puzzle. Many of us emerge each morning with a sense that there is a message hidden within our dreaming minds.

On average, each of us will spend one third of our lifetime asleep. And we are not alone in our need to slumber—all animals sleep. The question is, why? As Dr. Allan Rechtschaffen (1971) said, “If sleep does not serve an absolutely vital function, then it is the biggest mistake the evolutionary process ever made.” Despite how much time we spend nestled in bed, we do not yet conclusively know the function of sleep or dreaming.

 

Appendix

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This appendix contains the screens and scoring information discussed in Chapter Three. You may copy and use them for your own personal use. For more extensive use in a clinic or for research, please contact Dr. Steiner for permission via his website: www.hanssteiner.com.

In case you decide to have us help you interpret or maybe even publish your results, we have also included a consent form. This form only needs to be signed and returned to us if you would like help with your results. For more information, please contact Becky via her website: www.rebeccahall.net. If you work at another academic institution, you may have your own version of this consent form.

General Health Questionnaire 30 (GHQ30)

Please go to the following website to purchase a copy of the GHQ30: https://shop.acer.edu.au/ghq-30-item-questionnaire-ghq-30.

To score your completed GHQ, the two most symptomatic answers for each question score a “1” (the two right hand columns), and the two least symptomatic answers score a “0” (the two left hand columns). Add the scores for each question together for your total score. In this simple scoring pattern, any answer on the left side of the page gets a “0,” and any on the right side of the page gets a “1.” There are more detailed and complicated methods of scoring this scale that can be obtained by consulting the articles listed in the further reading section on Dr. Steiner's website (details given at the start of the References).

 

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