This is the first in a three-part series on Unconscious Mental Processes.
Our inner worlds are active all the time, even when we are asleep. We process the world continuously… and have reactions we don’t know about. Neuroscientists estimate that ninety-five per cent of what we do and experience goes on without our awareness. This is an astounding and humbling fact, but critical to know. If we don’t know how much we are missing, we won't think to look for what is hiding in plain sight.
We now have enough information about human nature to make a tentative map of our inner world. Acquiring knowledge about this map, and understanding its nature, is very useful.
Emotions are signals, sent without awareness, from our inner world. Feelings are our mental experience of these signals. Thinking about our emotions and feelings reveals critical information about aspects of ourselves that operate beneath the surface – almost guaranteed to bring personal rewards. People feel better, live longer, and achieve more of their goals when they understand themselves. They have better, richer lives, and enjoy more of life. It is much easier to navigate life’s difficulties when you understand the vessel with which you are maneuvering – by that I mean yourself. Understanding more aspects of yourself makes it easier to avoid obstacles and to manage those pitfalls that are inevitable. All of this can be understood by paying more attention to your emotions, and reflecting on them patiently without judgment.
The map of human nature and method for self-reflection that I am going to share with you throughout this column has been developed over centuries. Over the past twenty years it has been refined thanks to exciting new research and techniques for neuro-imaging.
Follow the trail of emotional clues, discover their deeper meanings, and learn as much as you can about the one person you can never get away from – yourself.
1) It is critical to have good information and having patience. Thinking about emotions dispassionately, with the detachment and open mind of a detective, lets us learn more about ourselves. This approach can help you uncover new aspects of yourself -- aspects that are operating beneath the surface whether you like it or not!
2) Expressing feelings and emotions under safe circumstances helps us feel more calm, vital, and enhances creativity.
3) This approach to investigating one’s inner world can be done while showering, driving, or taking a walk. Anytime you are alone and free to think, you can ponder your own emotions. It can help to talk to people whom you love and trust. Their input offers new information that we cannot see due to blind-spots. Obtaining multiple perspectives is always useful when pursuing truths – that’s why detectives track down as many witnesses as they can.
Ignorance may be bliss in the short run, but it is dangerous in the long run.