How to Access Your Unconscious Mind
Who We Think We Are
We know who we are in our conditioned "primary personality." In fact most of us think we are our primary personality. It can feel difficult to sense into something deeper within. It is often challenging to access a deeper sense of self. As a therapist, accessing the unconscious mind in myself and others is an area of deep love and fascination for me.
Most of us tend to think the same thoughts over and over again. When fresh spontaneous thoughts and feelings come, we can know we are listening to the deeper aspects of our being.
It is challenging to explain how to access this place of "newness." When I was accessing my deeper self through a daily journal practice that I call Inner Body Focusing, I turned to the teachings of psychologist Eugene Gendlin for the map inward to the unconscious levels of the mind.
Below I share how to take the journey to the edge of the unknown parts of your bodymind, informed and inspired by the book Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapy by Eugene Gendlin.
Sensing Into What You Do Not Yet Know
Step 1: The Directly Sensed "Source"
When something emerges from our unconscious, we may not be able to immediately sense its source. We can have inward senses and can experience qualities of things that cannot be immediately spoken or conceptualized. Sometimes we have a poignant dream or a surprising image might pop into our mind. We might have strong emotions well up, and not know where they are coming from.
With practice, we can learn how to sense into the "border zone" between the conscious and the unconscious. If we cry unexpectedly, for example, we can sense into the body for the "crying place" and pay attention to that place for a period of time – inviting it to share more of itself.
We are designed to emotionally heal, but emotional healing requires a deep level of attention to what we do not yet know about ourselves. This inner body sense is so much richer than words, and we can learn how to regularly sense into it.
Step 2: The Initial Lack of Clarity
The direct sense of the implicit source of our emerging growth direction is always unclear at first. This sensing differs from experiencing a known emotion. We know what it feels like to feel angry, sad or joyful. These familiar emotions are clear cut and easily explainable.
When we feel vague discomfort, we likely cannot immediately name this unique quality within. The edge of this discomfort is felt but unclear. This vague discomfort is the edge between the known and the unknown.
This lack of clarity is often filled with talking. We often try to explain our discomfort. Yet, when we talk too soon, the subtle bodily edge of the unconscious can be lost. Silence is often required at this stage. And, we often get anxious about inner silence.
Our regular personality structure resists what feels unknown, spontaneous and unstructured. Our ego structure tries to keep us controlled and safe. However, we can get comfortable with "living on the edge" of what we do not yet know. We can learn to stop our regular thoughts and enter inside to sense into the unclear edge of our unconscious as it emerges each day – trusting that a healing process wants to emerge.
Step 3: It Occurs in a Bodily Way
A direct sense of the border zone between the conscious and unconscious occurs bodily, as a physical, somatic sensation. It is usually sensed somewhere in the middle of the body, yet most of us cannot sense our bodies from the inside without practice.
Many people sense intense emotions as "all around" or in their head. This is because our body is often uninvolved in our daily functional lives. We live mostly from our head, trying to figure out everything logically. Yet our unconscious first forms a unique bodily sense, and this sense is unclear at first.
Paying deep attention to this process process of the unknown emerging toward the known involves turning away from familiar thoughts and emotions and attending to the body in a deeply meditative way.
Each day, a layer of the unconscious comes up for healing and integration. When we do not pay attention to this emerging layer, we can become emotionally accumulated and overwhelmed.
An unclear body sense at the border zone of the unconscious is not quite yet a usual bodily sensation. It is not quite yet an emotion. It is is not quite yet a thought. It does not quite yet have definable content. We can have a very distinct feeling that has not yet opened to reveal what it contains. This is called a bodily felt sense.
Usually a bodily felt sense must first be invited to come forward through deep inner attention. It is not already there. A felt sense is something new that is emerging from the subconscious or deeper unconscious parts of our being.
Step 4: The Felt Sense is a Whole
A felt sense is experienced as part of an intricate whole. One can sense that a felt sense includes many intricacies and strands of information. It is a whole complexity, a multiplicity contained within a rich single sense.
With the emergence of a single bodily sense comes a sense of relief, as if the body is grateful to express its way of being whole. This subtle emerging felt sense becomes the object of attention to which you can attend.
Step 5: Change Steps Arise From the Felt Sense
When we attend to a body felt sense for a period of time, it reveals information in the form of inner pictures, words, phrases and colours.
(See Inner Body Focusing – A Daily Journal Process for more information.)
Usually a growth step is revealed after a period of inner body focusing on the edge of the unconscious. When a step comes from a felt sense, it transforms the whole constellation of our inner being. A felt sense might offer a big dramatic step or a very small one, but it always asks for a change that will create more wholeness.
Step 6: A Step Will Bring One Closer to Being Oneself
Each felt sense indicates a way to become more intimate with all parts of ourselves and reveals a way to move forward. When we sense into the next forward step we need to make, we feel different – more whole. When we tune into our emerging bodily felt sense each day, we become more deeply ourselves.
Step 7: Steps are in the Direction of Growth
A step that emerges from our unconscious edge has its own surprising growth direction that we cannot control through planning or goal setting. This developmental growth step becomes clearer when we offer deep attention and open up to what wants to emerge.
Most of us have many parts inside that have remained silent and inert for many years. With deep attention, something stirs inside that has long been immobilized. When we pay deep attention to what is emerging from our growth edge, our life energy can flow in a fresh new way.
Step 8: Steps Can Be Explained Only Retroactively
We never know how we will feel called to grow. Even the best laid plans for our life can turn on a dime when we sense into our emerging growth edge. We can wait for each non-planned growth step to become concrete through the process of deep, daily inner attention. And, if we choose to sense into our growth edge everyday, we will unfold into greater wholeness, healing and harmony in ways we could have never planned.
Sensing into the Unconscious – A Summary
- A felt sense forms at the border zone between the conscious and unconscious mind.
- The felt sense is at first unclear – although unique and unmistakably present.
- The felt sense is experienced bodily.
- The felt sense is experienced as a whole.
- The felt sense moves through steps. It shifts, opens and reveals – step by step.
- A step brings one closer to the self that is inherently whole.
- The process step that emerges has its own unexpected growth direction.
- Explanations of the step that emerged can be understood only retroactively.
Sensing Within – A Daily Process
- Sit quietly with a journal on your lap.
- Sense for any discomfort in your body. Focus your attention on this discomfort for 10-15 minutes.
- Write down any images, phrases, words or feelings that arise. They do not need to make sense.
- Say to your discomfort, "What would you like me to know?
- Often a discomfort will simply want acceptance in the beginning. It might say something to you. It might make a request.
- Allow whatever intuitive answer come, and follow through with action.