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Heath, A. (2015). Mind Your Mind, Episode 1: The Unconscious. PEP Video Grants, 1(1):3.

(2015). PEP Video Grants, 1(1):3

Mind Your Mind, Episode 1: The Unconscious

Author and Director
A. Chris Heath, M.D.

The unconscious is a source of passion and depth. But it is silly and funny. And it gets us into all kinds of trouble. In Mind Your Mind episode 1, The Unconscious, Dr Heath takes us on an adventure of dreams, slips of the tongue, patriotism, and the dangers of retail therapy. Our unconscious comes out in the way we act; pay attention and be entertained!

DR. HEATH: Hi, I'm Dr. Heath. I'm a psychoanalyst. Welcome to session one of psychology 101. Today's session is about the unconscious.

Everybody's got one. No need to be embarrassed about it. In fact, to get to know our unconscious strivings can be a very helpful thing. But how do we even know we have an unconscious? You can't see it, or for the most part measure it, so we look for what we call derivatives of the unconscious. Two simple examples are slips of the tongue and dream content.

Now, you may think that slips of the tongue are simply accidents. Oh, I was thinking about something else. We'll talk about denial in another session. Now, for today, let's have a slip of the tongue so we can talk about it.

SPEAKER 1: Hi Dr. Geek. I mean, Dr. Heath. Listen, I had a question about this video that we're working on. It was about the wording concerning the slips of the tongue. I think you should focus on something more pertinent, like cognitive distortions.

DR. HEATH: Here, my colleague clearly calls me Dr. Geek. I can't know what it means. The meaning is for him to discover. And I don't care that he called me a geek. He's a friend of mine, and he's working with me on these videos. But if here were to spend some time thinking about it, or talking about it, it quickly emerge about his mixed feelings about these videos. Maybe he sees me as a geek, and maybe he doesn't like seeing me as a geek. Thus, the conflict and thus, the slip, the emergence of the unconscious material.

Icebergs. Seems random, but stick with me. When you see an iceberg, you only see a little bit of the ice sticking up out of the water. This is the problem for boats. They can crash on the part underwater without even seeing it coming.

Same way with the mind. Most of what goes on in the mind is unconscious-- under the surface. So for my colleague, the tip of the iceberg, the conscious part, would be the word "geek," the slip of the tongue. But under the surface, what caused the slip to come out? It would be unconscious meanings, like my colleague's fear that he'll be revealed as a geek himself if he associates with me, or his anger at me for roping him into doing this video.

But he's conflicted. In general, he likes me, and sees these videos as a good thing. So his mind submerges those thoughts and feelings. For the most part.

Mm. Dream content is another way the unconscious manifests up. For instance, if this is a dream, how'd I end up beside a judge, having tea? One lump, please.

There are all kinds of investments that my unconscious has in all these symbols around me. For instance, why didn't I have Sofia Vergara in my dream instead of a judge?

SPEAKER 2: I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America--

DR. HEATH: There are much more complex ways that unconscious stuff emerges. It becomes ingrained in the personality, so it colors who the person is and how they see things. A positive aspect of unconscious derivatives is in patriotism. I get goosebumps sometimes when I hear the national--

SPEAKER 2: --with liberty and justice for all.

DR. HEATH: But there's something more to it. What is that more to it?

It has to do with the awe I had as a child, looking at my parents and learning values from them. It also has to do with my connection with other people in my community. But I don't think consciously about those things when I hear the national anthem. It stays mostly submerged.

So patriotism is a good example of how the unconscious enhances our experience of life. But what about when the unconscious gets in our way? Let's see an example.

My love of cars. It's so deep, it wells up from my unconscious. There's nothing wrong with enjoying things if you can afford them. But people are often driven into large amounts of debt just to get stuff to prove they have worth. Are the fancy cars and houses, and denial of the debt, compensations for feeling bad about yourself?

What are other ways the unconscious affects us? One way is in relationships. People have particular ways they see themselves and others in relationships. It ends up creating a theme. And this theme reflects unconscious content. For instance, what if I often feel judged?

This is no different than dream content. If we understand our unconscious motivations, we can start freeing ourselves from these very patterns.

The amazing thing is that these factors happen in everybody all the time. The unconscious is the last frontier, and it's hidden in plain sight.

SIGMUND FREUD: That's a great idea. I'm going to tweak that.

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Article Citation

Heath, A. (2015). Mind Your Mind, Episode 1: The Unconscious. PEP Video Grants, 1(1):3

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