Self Actualization: Living Consciously.
Understanding Denial and Projection.
Perhaps the most important factor for our happiness is what I call living consciously, which means becoming consciously aware of our motivations, fears, beliefs and desires. When we are not consciously aware of such things, we are pushed about through life, reacting and choosing as though driven by some force beyond our control, resulting in regret, defensiveness, poor choices and hurt to those we love. There is a sense of mistrust in our own judgment and integrity because there is in fact not an integrated functioning of the mind. Self actualization is the drive toward this integration as part of the fulfillment of our human potential.
There are two major psychological functions that are inherent in not living consciously. The first is denial,
which ironically comes about as a defense mechanism for the mind intended to make us feel better. In other words, we suppress feelings and thoughts because they are uncomfortable to feel and pretending they aren't there seems to make us feel better.
I say 'pretending' because the process of denying the existence of a conflict producing thought or feeling actually requires the recognition of it first. We have to know what we're denying before we can effectively deny it, which is one of the most remarkable abilities of the human mind; self deception. Our conscious experience is that we are not inadequate in some particular way, and yet we may forcefully resist any implication that we are, or quickly move to cover up any evidence that we are. In other words, we react and choose as though we believe we are inadequate, because unconsciously we do believe that, while consciously believing there's no problem.
The other function inherent to not living consciously is projection,
which is internally linked to denial. That which we don't wish to acknowledge within ourselves, and which actually is known in order to know we don't want to acknowledge it, is obviously very much a part of our psychic makeup, and as such often intrudes in various ways into our conscious awareness. That is, it's as though whatever is being pushed away seems to often be trying to express itself as part of our natural expression, in the form of related thoughts, feelings and images.
However, since we're intent on not acknowledging these thoughts and feelings within ourselves, we tend to conclude that they must be coming from someone else, and this is projection. Whatever particular inadequacy we believe to be true about ourselves then appears to be present in the other, and we inevitably judge the other for posessing that quality. Obviously, this leads to unnecessary conflict.
The process by which we can manage to consciously ignore what we don't want to see is an evolutionary function of mind that helps us to assign certain mundane tasks as kind of background programs so that we don't have to clutter the conscious mind with the execution of physical tasks that don't require our full conscious attention, such as walking, talking, bike riding and the like. If it were necessary to be consciously aware of all the intricate, coordinated muscle movements required for walking across the room, the task would be slow, tedious and all consuming of our attention, so this function is needed and allows for a high level of functionality.
However, the psychological structure of the mind has co-opted this function in service to itself, which somewhat eases the psychological burden with the result of decreased functionality instead of an increase. Ironically, that which is intended to increase our happiness by pushing away negative thoughts and feelings actually decreases happiness by adding conflict and an ungrounded anxiety which is always present to some degree.
How we might work toward reversing this process and begin living consciously will be the subject of future articles.
Return from Living Conciously to Self Actualization
More Self Actualization articles:
Living Consciously. How we form our experience.
The Split Mind
When does feeling become suffering?
Breaking Habits by Healing the Split Mind
Is Struggle the Effect or Cause of Suffering?
Happiness is an Idea
Serial Problem Solver
The Delusion of Burt the Bunny
Realization Vs Thinking
Realization is Self Evident
Seeing Through illusions
The Habit Game
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