Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Freedom and the chains of the unconscious

I heard someone quote the first line of Jean-Jacques Rousseau's book, 'The Social Contract,' the other day. While Rousseau was  discussing people in relation to their society, it seems to resonate in other ways too. The line is,
Man was born free, and he is everywhere in chains.
 I started thinking about this in terms of individuals, how we are in ourselves. We can often feel weighed down, unable to do the things we'd like to do. Something seems to prevent us. What are these chains?

Stepping stones across the waterIn psychodynamic therapy we look at how the past affects us in the present, interfering with our ability to get on with our lives. We can feel that in some way we are sabotaging ourselves....yet again! We can feel that we are unable to be the best we could be, to realise our potential. In this way we can feel that we are in chains.

From this psychodynamic perspective, I would say that at least some of this goes on at an unconscious level. We may be aware that 'something' is sabotaging us, but we can't work out what it is. Even loosening these chains then, let alone getting rid of them, can seem a daunting task.

I guess though the first step is to recognise that the chains do exist. We have to have some understanding of what we're up against. Perhaps we can notice them indirectly. The things we 'forget' to do. The things we say by 'accident'. The feeling that things are much more difficult than we might expect them to be. These might be signs of the unconscious at work.

Psychodynamic counselling and therapy can help us explore and untangle our past; and perhaps shed some light on our unconscious at work. If we can do this, then we can increase our understanding of ourselves.

As long as we don't see the chains, we can't change anything. We can feel stuck, compelled to act as we do. Whereas if we have more understanding of ourselves, then we can make freer choices as to how we live our lives. We can perhaps at least loosen the chains.

Lin Travis Counselling Services