Mothering the Unconscious
We have unconscious feelings that need to be felt as much as a baby needs the attention of its parents. But, just like babies, unconscious feelings cannot speak. Both babies and unconscious feelings exist at the pre-verbal level. The problem is that despite their inability to speak they still have needs which require the cooperation of other people to be satisfied. It is not enough for a baby to give itself attention; it needs other people to give it attention. It is not enough for our unconscious feelings to exist; their existence needs to be consciously acknowledged by us.
So how does a baby solve this problem? He experiments with non-verbal communication. A baby sat in a high chair wants to get down. He starts waving his arms up and down. It is clear in the baby’s mind that the ‘down’ part of his arm movement is the important part of the gesture. But how is the mother to know this? The mother thinks, “He’s pretending to be an aeroplane! How adorable!” and laughs along with the baby’s eccentric play. This frustrates and embarrasses the baby; he wants to get down, communicates this to his mother and then she LAUGHS at him!? So he starts waving his arms up and down more vigorously, now with a thunderous frown. The mother, slightly confused, thinks, “Why is he grumpy? Perhaps he is hungry.” and places some baby food in front of him. This enrages the baby, who JUST WANTS TO GET DOWN from his high chair; overwhelmed, he starts crying, still waving his arms up and down furiously. Now his mother is stressed and feels incompetent and doesn’t know what to do. The situation escalates around the same theme of the baby’s frustration and anger, and the mother’s stress and feelings of incompetence. There a lot of crying and shouting.
Unconscious feelings have the same problem as the baby. They need to be felt, by you, but they exist at a level so primordial that exactly HOW to feel them cannot come to you as a verbal instruction, as a thought. They cannot communicate with you verbally but they exist in your unconscious, which is the powerhouse of your actions, so they can easily pull the strings behind the scenes to manifest certain situations into your life, situations which might allude to their existence so you can finally notice them. Babies make gestures and noises; unconscious feelings draw situations into your life to communicate with you.
If there is unconscious anger in you, perhaps you find yourself attracting into your life people who are passive, who you find yourself shouting at unexpectedly while knowing they will never challenge your outbursts. On the flipside, perhaps you find yourself attracting angry and aggressive people who regularly put you down and make you feel worthless. Beneath the worthlessness they instil in you is an intense but repressed anger. Do you constantly sell yourself short, or overcompensate with extreme conscientiousness and ambition, in your occupational and academic work due to an underlying anxiety around failure? This anxiety may be pointing towards a sense of inadequacy stemming from unconscious feelings of shame, and under- or over-performing may serve as a defence against feeling these feelings, a way of keeping them unconscious, repressed. These are just two examples. The point is the particular feelings underpinning the repetitive difficulties and problems in life are good signposts to what is unconscious in you that needs to be felt, especially when the signposts are related to your most intimate relationships. Do all your relationships, flings and even close friendships end the same way?
So you might find yourself in similar situations, in similar environments, repeating the same problems, with the same relationship dynamics, the same reactions and feelings, time and time again; the emotional and reactive patterns stay the same, only the specific people and locations change. Carl Jung said, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” Until the mother decodes her baby’s gestures she is going to perceive his frustration and anger, and her own stress and feelings of incompetence, as fate. Until we become conscious of our unconscious feelings, until we figure out how to listen to them, we will encounter them in the situations and people we attract into our lives. Pay close attention to the repetitive situations in your life. They might have a message for you! Also, don’t just put baby food in front of them when they start shouting. I mean that shit is disgusting can you really be surprised if the baby starts crying even more when you do that?