Law in Contemporary Society
Hello everybody. I hope your final exams and preparations are going well. Throughout the semester, Eben emphasized the importance of self-reflection: thinking about if law school is really the right choice, etc. Although thinking about what you want to do and what you want to be may sound like a simple thought-process, I frankly had/have some difficulties in my journey to self-discovery.

What I had the most difficulties with was trying to distinguish my conscious will/choice from my unconscious beliefs/needs. We talked in class about how most of our judgments and choices are not a product of our rational thinking but a product of complex system of unconscious and conscious processing/justifications.

I think I was under the impression that when I am making a choice about my career path, I wanted to exercise my "rationality" which was based on my conscious choice rather than my unconscious thoughts that I was not in charge of. What fueled my thought between this consciousness-unconsciousness dichotomy was our discussion about the sewage system. We do not make conscious, rational choices in maintaining the sewage system, but mechanically sustain the system based on its preexisting establishments. I thought my decision making process could be analogized to that sewage system. I thought until now, I had been mechanically making decisions about what to do with my life, what actions to take without really thinking through the rationality behind the choices. Beginning from this thought, I had a misconception that I need to adhere only to my rational judgment rather than being guided by my unconscious. While reading some psycho-dynamic theories (more particularly by Jung) I think I have reached another stage in my thought process.

Contrary to my earlier beliefs that true reflection comes from being true to your "conscious" decisions, I think these convictions were totally false. I may change my mind again but I think true "reflection" comes from understanding that sometimes your thoughts are a product of your unconscious. You don't necessarily have to dismiss certain actions simply because you feel like they are guided by your unconscious. Rather, self-reflection comes from understanding why you make certain decisions accounting for both conscious and unconscious reasons. In this way, your understanding of your judgments and decisions become more holistic. I think from better understanding of how you make your decisions, you become one step closer to who you are.

I just wanted to share my thought process with you and possibly get responses on your road to self-reflection.

-- MinKyungLee - 04 May 2012

I would be very intrigued to know what methods you have found to peer into your own subconscious through basic personal self-reflection. I have long operated under the belief that a person isn't able to use her conscious mind to directly communicate with her own subconscious. Granted something like administration of a Rorschach Test or hypnosis might allow certain types of subconscious impressions or thoughts to be revealed, but I didn't think that one could simply think deeply and pierce the curtains of one's own mind. I hope this doesn't come off as challenging or doubtful. I am merely curious what type of self-reflection you're talking about and have been using. I wonder if there has been some confounding of the meaning of "subconscious" and "irrational." A conscious thought may be either rational or irrational without requiring any perception of the subconscious. (I operated under the assumption that you were using subconscious to mean the same thing that many Freudian psychoanalysts would call unconscious)

Kieran, You raised several important points.

First, I do agree that conscious thought may be either rational or irrational. I think I associated the word "rational" with conscious to illustrate my mistaken belief that only conscious thinking can lead to rationality. (I initially thought that conscious can be divided into rational and irrational and unconscious all irrational, thus the path to rationality lies in getting rid of unconscious and all the irrational thoughts in conscious.) But you are absolutely correct in saying that a conscious thought may be either rational or irrational without requiring any perception of unconscious.

Although I am not an expert in psycho-analysis, I think there is a way to get in touch with your unconscious mind. I do agree with you that it is a very difficult process and I am not sure if one can ever fully comprehend one's own unconscious mind, but I think there are other ways than the Rorschach Test or hypnosis. First, I have developed an interest in the linkage between dream and the manifestation of unconscious mind (thus, influence from Carl Jung.) If I have really vivid dreams that I can remember and that seems more than just a recap of what happened during the day, I write it down and try to think if I can find some theories that can explain why I have those dreams. For example, I had recurring nightmares about being somewhere where there are a lot of wild animals. I learned that this kind of dream about wild, uncontrollable animals is a manifestation for the need to introduce more id into my conscious decisions.

Another way to get closer to unconscious mind, I think, is just keep asking yourself a lot of questions. Just asking "why" helps in uncovering certain things that you have never realized before. For example, if you feel angry (or generally emotional) about certain issue more than other people, just ask "why does this affect me?" I think I discovered a lot of unrealized "shadows" in my unconscious that I tried to suppress by asking why I was feeling certain way about certain things (especially when the emotion was more of a negative one.)

These two methods are the ones that I am trying to use but I am sure there are other methods of psychoanalysis that are not as technical as the two methods that you indicated.

(p.s. thank you for correcting the terminology error. What I meant by subconscious was unconscious in Freud's three levels of conscious theory.)

-- MinKyungLee - 04 May 2012

I'm not sure what you mean by "sub-conscious." Are you referring to the inner desires of what you actually want--free from societal structure, external and internal expectations, and fear? It seems like this sort of self-reflection can be accessed in the conscious mind. If you're referring to the part of the mind of which we're not fully aware, how do you know if you're truly being guided by your sub-conscious versus some other external stimulus?

For me self-reflection is driven by mindfulness. Taking a step back to gauge my physical, emotional, and mental reactions to my daily experiences, short term and long term goals, and anxieties is something that helps me figure out where I'm going. As I sit prepping for exams, it's helpful for me to take a step back and say, "My mind says I'm stressed right now, but what does that actually feel like? Where does stress corporeally hurt and why?"

In terms of more ambitious questions that expand beyond the scope of the present, I use a diary where I confess a lot of these ideas amongst the other mundane issues that fly through my head. Every once in a while, I enjoy taking a step back and reading through it and asking: (1) what are you really scared of? (2) what do you want and why? (3) what do the people most important to me say I should want and why? (4) what do my friends and colleagues want, and how much of what I want is influenced by them?

I think the answer to these questions may not be as hidden deep down as one might think.

-- AjGarcia - 04 May 2012

Aj, I meant the latter of your proposed definitions when I initially used the word subconscious. I do agree with you that self-reflection is driven by mindfulness. The exercise of pscyhoanalysis (or broadly, the exercise of trying to discover your unconscious)is actually trying to bring your thoughts/feelings from unconscious to conscious state of mind (thus, being more mindful.) I think as you rightly pointed out, there are many ways to become mindful and I think the selection of method itself reveals one's personality. For instance, some people would prefer to seek deeper understanding of their actions in a more neuroscience-like way by trying to identify which external/neuro stimuli is being triggered and I feel that is an equally reasonable option exercise to reach a higher level of mindfulness. (I guess this sentence conclusively shows that I know nothing about natural science in general, but you get the point..)

Your method of writing a diary and asking those profound questions about how you feel and what you really think sounds very effective as well. I do not mean to push my idea too hard but I just find it interesting that some psychoanalysts identify writing a diary as one of the methods to pierce into unconscious state of mind.(Again, psychodynamic/psychoanalytic theory is about bringing unconscious to conscious mindfulness. I am not sure if you have experienced the same thing, but sometimes when you start writing and continue to do so, you start to write about things that you never realized before and your thought gets processed during the writing process. Although this is not really the level of 'unconscious' and I think this example is more about your 'subconscious' state of mind being processed to conscious, I think the same method can be used to reach a deeper state.)

You may be right that the answers to really important questions are not as hidden deep as one might think. And I,too, believe that with a more holistic understanding of one's choices by using whichever method that one finds helpful, one can find the answers more easily than one might think.


Webs Webs

r6 - 22 Jan 2013 - 20:05:03 - IanSullivan
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