The Strange World of Emotion

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Subconscious Structure

In the nineteenth century, consciousness was usually characterised by an arrangement of three factors: will power (or action), mind, and emotion (or feeling). However, the gradual realisation that the unconscious mind existed created a problem: the unconscious mind could not at that time be fitted into this scheme. Something new was required in theory.

Along came Freud, who produced a different triplet : ego, superego, and id. Now a person had both a conscious mind and an unconscious one.

Sub - Headings
Two Identities 
How a Psycho- analysis works
New Quest
Crisis of  Faith

[ The name given to what is ‘below’ the normal (or surface) consciousness varies: the unconscious, or the subconscious, or the preconscious, depending on a theorist's terminology].

However, Freud's formulation suffers from vagueness ; symbolism was used to fill the gaps. Freud's understanding of the mind was brilliant, but I needed to go much further than him into the manner in which the mind worked.

Nineteenth century thinkers focused mainly on consciousness.

Freud added his model of unconsciousness.

To these ideas I added my model of idealism.

The mind of a person is often frustrated by his /her own subconscious reality. This is the realm of determinism, of influences that the person cannot explain and often finds disturbing.

What does subconsciousness mean?  For a long time I could not decide what it is that is subconscious – is it the will or is it the mind ?  Was Schopenhauer correct in his view that the will is blind and unconscious (in the sense of being non-personal) ? [¹].  Or is it rather that the subconscious is a subconscious, deluded mind, a view that is compatible with the teachings of Mahayana Buddhism ?

Determinism means that a person is subject to subconscious motivation. 
In a situation that he finds distressful, the person is being motivated to act in a certain way by some strong impulse that he is not aware of : his motivation is subconscious and compulsive. [²]

Is subconscious motivation the way of consciously using the mind in response to subconscious will, or the way of consciously using the will in response to subconscious mind ?  What would be the difference?

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Two Identities

However, my analysis of infancy trauma and its long-term consequences eventually gave me an answer to the riddle of subconsciousness. [³]. From this analysis I constructed the view of a person as having two identities, these being the person's individual identity and social identity. [4]

The individual identity relates to factors of consciousness that are derived purely from his or her's own being, whilst the social identity relates to his or her's social conditioning and social learning. Both of a person's identities are structured into will /desire, mind, and feeling /emotion.

One identity is usually preferred at the expense of the other. The socially-orientated person is centred in their social identity and often represses their individual identity. Whereas for me my individual identity is usually dominant, and reflects my introverted states of mind (though my idealism enables me to switch to my social identity when necessary).

The two identities usually conflict. Social identity requires the person to lose his /her boundaries and become one of the group or the community ; consensus is needed. Whereas individual identity requires the person to remove confusion from his /her mind, thereby removing social dependency ; choice is desired.

A person’s life becomes the drama produced by the interaction between their two identities.

Therefore, whether the social identity is subconscious or whether it is the individual identity that is so, the person's subconsciousness is structured in exactly the same way as the surface (or normal) consciousness is. This means that the subconscious is structured into will/desire, mind, and feeling/emotion. 
The subconscious contains both a subconscious mind and a subconscious will. [5]

These ideas enable me to state how motivation is usually handled by the subconscious mind.

Subconscious motivation usually means the influence of the current subconscious mood and its associated ideas.

Depending on the issue at hand, either subconscious will or subconscious mind dominates. When subconscious will is operative, then the person has to learn to manage it.

The two identities often closely parallel each other in the conscious and the subconscious minds. In general, when one of the four main compound emotions (narcissism, jealousy, guilt and pride) is conscious then its binary is likely to be subconscious, with the binary modes matching as well. So if the love mode of narcissism is dominant in the conscious mind then the love mode of jealousy is likely to be dominant in the subconscious mind. If the vanity mode of narcissism is uppermost in the conscious mind then jealousy in self-pity mode is probably foremost in the subconscious mind. Similar polarities work for guilt and pride. [6]

These ideas on identity can be put another way. Take the extremes of personality, the introvert and the extrovert. For the introvert the surface consciousness is their individual identity and the subconsciousness is their social identity; vice versa for an extrovert. The subconscious mind of the introvert tries to move him /her in the direction of social responsibility, whereas the subconscious mind of the extrovert moves him /her in the direction of being more of an individual. These complementary stimuli create a distinctive effect.

The introvert's surface consciousness is the extrovert's subconsciousness.

The introvert's subconsciousness is the extrovert's surface consciousness.

This pattern of relationships is the reason that an introvert can form an harmonious partnership with an extrovert.

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How a Psycho-Analysis Works

Now I can explain how a psycho-analysis works. [7]. A problem is changed when a person has insight into its cause. Intuition links beliefs to desires through their common base in feeling. As subconscious beliefs are brought into consciousness the feeling that motivates them is released from compulsive association with them. Such beliefs now become optional instead of compulsive. Determinism fades.

Since the desires are no longer governed by compulsive beliefs the person experiences dis-orientation - this is due to the change in the way that he /she now uses the will. Subconscious compulsion indicates a defensive manoeuvre in a domain of the personality that is weak and fragile: compulsive behaviour shores up the will. When weakness is removed by insight, so it now becomes possible within that domain of the personality for the person to use the will in other ways. He /she re-orientates the will.

In actuality, a psycho-analysis affects the whole of the subconscious identity. A purely rational understanding of a problem does not affect feeling or will, and so has no affect in changing subconscious motivation. A rational understanding does not release the subconscious pain that is associated with the problem.

To change subconscious motivation means to connect both to the problem and to its associated pain. If the pain level is too great to face, then intense anxiety will be generated. In general, the pain threshold in a weak domain of the personality has a lower value than the threshold in a strong domain. Anxiety creates a barrier that effectively prevents the subconscious pain from emerging into consciousness. Anxiety will always shield the roots of a painful problem from any rational investigation. The only way round this effect is to rely on intuition. [8]

[ Anxiety is a shield only for problems created in the current life or incarnation; for karmic problems (that is, problems created in a previous lifetime), fear is the shield. Fear prevents past-life problems from being resolved. The difference between anxiety and fear is that anxiety equals fear plus vanity.]

Problems associated with the will cannot be changed unless the person is ready (or ‘willing’) to change. So if psycho-therapy is forced onto a person then little or no results can be expected: the coercion will generate mistrust and prevent the flow of intuition.

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A New Quest

A deep psycho-analysis moves the person from the level of feelings about a problem to the level of insight and rational understanding of it. At the level of feeling, confusion abounds, but the level of rational understanding leads to the attainment of clarity of mind. This process is replicated in the evolution of society.

When a new process, a new practice, a new quest is instituted in society or in the individual, it is begun at the level of feeling and emotion.

It reaches its culmination, perhaps even its perfection, when it achieves the level of insight and intellectual understanding.

This process can be taken to be a definition of human evolution. Then evolution becomes just a series of quests that either succeed each other or overlap each other. Each person can choose which domains of interest to focus on, such as the political, the ethical, the social, the religious, the sexual, etc. Therefore evolution has an endless permutation of possible practices.

The morality of an age determines what is good and what is evil. But these are value judgements from man and not from Nature. Ideas of morality and immorality produce the phenomenon of catharsis, not just at the level of the individual but also as a social event. [9]

For example, the French revolution was a time of social catharsis. As a phenomenon it represented vague feelings about freedom, equality, and brotherhood that had been slowly surfacing in the minds of some thinkers for many years. Since that revolution these ideas have gradually spread, and now dominate the Western consciousness. As the implications of these ideas are worked out so they are applied to more and more areas of life. The idea of brotherhood led to ideas of communality (or communism as understood at early nineteenth century, before Marx added his ideas to it), then to socialism, and now to present ideas of community.

Consider equality: in the past this idea centred on politics. Contemporary ideas of it are spreading within sexual and religious spheres. The understanding that there should be equality between parent and child is only just getting off the ground: children are getting more protection in law from parental abuse. As yet there is no widespread feeling that equality should apply to people suffering from mental disorders or even to animals. But this will come. One day the prejudices and bigotries that create suffering in afflicted people and in animals will fade, and perhaps even disappear.

Changing times means that ideas of equality, freedom, and community have to be continually re-thought to match the increasing degree of psychological awareness that is developing in the West. Eventually these ideas will reach the perfection of articulated thought that they are capable of, and will apply to every sphere of human activity. By such a time, society will be very different from what it is now.

Then it will be time for new ideas to begin their lives, again starting at the level of feeling. Perhaps they will require another revolution. Perhaps the ideas centred on New Age feelings will be this revolution.

However, revolutions create a particular problem. The new ideas that start a revolution represent the model of truth that is needed at that time. But truth is a scorpion, it carries a sting in its tail. Truth liberates both good and evil.

Morality is always intertwined with immorality. A new morality generates a new immorality. The problem with social catharsis is to learn what is good and should be kept, and what needs to be rejected. Hence catharsis, whether experienced by the individual or by society, needs to be controlled. Reactionaries like Edmund Burke (at the time of the French revolution) are needed in order to slow down the pace of change. If change is too fast then the country may break apart – witness the collapse of the USSR from 1989 onwards. Reactionaries suppress the evil, but also the good as well. Revolutionaries liberate the good, but also the evil.

Both catharsis and revolutions are directed by the ideas governing an Age. Social catharsis, like the individual event, has to end. The French revolution petered out into Bonapartism. The two Russian revolutions, in 1905 and in 1917, petered out too – the first one into a return to the status quo, and the second one into a Bolshevik coup d'etat.

The study of history in all its diversity is the training ground for psychology. History always has lessens to teach us, if we know what to look for.

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Crisis of Faith

During the 1000-year period of the Middle Ages in Europe there was a dearth of creative ideas or thinkers. What creativity existed was usually channelled into producing various formulations of philosophical and religious beliefs and the development of feudalism. In this period there was plenty of change but very little progress, very little evolution of society and of the individual. This time of evolutionary stasis supports the view that the evolution of society occurs only by the evolution of ideas within society. Personal evolution means that the person's ideas about themself are evolving. [10]

How should progress be measured?
Merely adding to the quantity of material possessions that a person has, or adding anything to their fame or status, does not necessarily indicate progress. Material possessions, fame, status, and other external gains do not automatically make a person good. In my view, progress means the improvement that is made to people's beliefs. People are the sum of their beliefs ; when beliefs change, people can change. But this is not enough. Change is not the same as evolution ; change may be backwards as well as forwards.

We need to bring in the factor of quality. Improvement in the quality of people's beliefs should lead to the improvement in the quality of life for everyone. Quality of life for everyone is probably the best indicator of progress. But there is a problem here, the problem of anxiety.

Quality of life for everyone means more than free-market Darwinism. The person's quality of life is measured by the quality of his /her beliefs, and the most fundamental beliefs usually develop from his /her patterns of relationship to other people. So relationships govern beliefs, which then govern the quality of life. But the quality of the person's relationships is often determined by the intensity of anxiety that is felt in the presence of people.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is the sense of uneasiness that is experienced in the individual's social and political relationships with other people, or in the relationship with one's own soul.

Using dynamic psychology to remove anxiety, or at least to lessen its intensity, will automatically improve the quality of relationships. Hence an understanding of psychology and the subconscious mind will enable society to progress rather than regress.

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Times of change always inaugurate the questioning of faith.
The modern person is familiar with the impact that reason has on naïve and shallow religious feelings. Idealists undergo a comparable dis-orientation during social abreaction. The tail-end stage of abreaction has the effect of dissolving a person's social ideals. Hence social idealists in a time of change nearly always lose their faith. [11]

There are two forms of a crisis of faith:-

a). The impact of reason.
This can make a follower of religion lose their faith. Reason cuts through religious ties that are sentimental or that are lacking in depth of feeling. The task for the person is to search for a deeper source of belief and conviction, a belief and conviction that is compatible with reason (such as the theory of reincarnation). [12]. The person has to graduate to the use of intellect as the way of directing religious emotion.

b). The impact of abreactive hate.
Abreactive hate is my name for the stages of resentment and bitterness that abreaction produces. These stages can make the social idealist lose their faith, their faith in fellow man and woman. Resentment and bitterness cut through romanticism : the politically- repressed underdog can no longer be viewed as a noble peasant or a noble proletarian. The task for the idealist is to search for a faith in themself, instead of a faith in other people. [13]

As a counter-reaction to task (a), a person may deride the intellect as being a barrier to finding faith and experiencing religious emotion. Faith is important. But to put the accent only on faith and emotion always denotes the beginning of higher development, never its culmination. The perfection of spirituality requires the maturation of the whole of consciousness, never solely that of the emotions alone.

To be more accurate, there are many stages to higher development. Each stage begins with an emotional response of enthusiasm and spontaneity, and ends in understanding, sobriety and self-control. Then the next stage produces a new emotional response and so carries on the spiritual journey.

The generation of abreactive hate is the reason that the forces of progress and change in nineteenth and twentieth century Europe have radically dis-orientated the Western person.

It is abreactive hate that precipitates the search for meaning
(in an idealist).

It was abreactive hate that fuelled the evolution of existentialism as the modern attempt to come to terms with the new realities.


The number in brackets at the end of each reference takes you back to the paragraph that featured it.  For the addresses of my websites, see the Links page.

[¹]. I examine some of the ideas of Schopenhauer in the section on Mind, on my website A Modern Thinker[1]

[²]. There is a section on determinism and motivation in the article Characteristics of a Psycho-analysis on my website The Subconscious Mind.
A more general outline of determinism is in the article Determinism on my websites Discover Your Mind and A Modern Thinker.
A different perspective on subconscious motivation is given in the article End States, sub-heading Will or Mind, on my website A Modern Thinker[2]

[³]. Infancy trauma is my name for psychological trauma that occurs in the first years of childhood. An article on Bonding focuses on some problems of a sensitive child and explains an unintentional source of infancy trauma.

In more detail, infancy trauma is explained in two articles on my website Patterns of Confusion. The first article, Vulnerability of the Ego, focuses on the origins of violence. And the second one, Guilt and Meaning - part 2, centres on why trauma occurs unintentionally.
A shortened version of the second article is Infancy Trauma, on my website The Subconscious Mind[3]

[4]. A more detailed analysis of the two identities is given in the article Two Identities, on my website The Subconscious Mind. [4]

[5]. Most of the time the model of consciousness that I use is a three-fold one : will, mind, and feeling. Will can transform into desire, and feeling can transform into emotion ; this transformation produces the three-fold model of desire, mind, and emotion. This model is explained in the first article on Emotion. For other models of consciousness, see glossary note on consciousness. [5]

[6]. My definitions, descriptions, and analysis of emotions are given in the three articles on Emotion. See home page. [6]

[7]. My main writings on psycho-analysis are on my website The Subconscious Mind[7]

[8]. Intuition is analysed in the articles Reason and Intuition and Loop of Intuition, on my website A Modern Thinker[8]

[9]. My analysis of catharsis and the process of abreaction is given in the five articles on Abreaction. See home page. [9]

[10]. There is an article on Personal Evolution on my website A Modern Thinker[10]

[11]. See the article on Faith. [11]

[12]. There are articles on reincarnation on my website Patterns of Spirituality[12]

[13]. Resentment and bitterness are the subject of the fourth article on Abreaction : Resentment and Bitterness. [13]

Home List of  Articles Links Top of Page

The articles in this section are :

Confusion - snags and pitfalls of the idealist ; beginning a new quest.

Antithetical Thoughts - voices and unpleasant thoughts.

Alienation - effects of living in a society which is spiritually poor ; stupor.

Justification - from old identities to new ones ; causality & motivation.

Character Transformation - from instability to stability to flexibility.

Reversal of Values - disjunctive states of mind ; ideal mother image.

Rites of Passage - escaping nihilism by using emotional rituals.

The copyright is mine, and the articles are free to use. They can be reproduced anywhere, so long as the source is acknowledged.

Copyright © 2002 Ian Heath
All Rights Reserved

Ian Heath
London, UK

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