Monday 29 August 2011
Top Tip No. 9: Mapping the Unconscious
In our second look at the unconscious mind for insight workers we think about a human being, full of vulnerabilities – as well as potentials – and ask ourselves what role would make sense for an unconscious mind in such a creature?
Above all, you would want to preserve its life, its existence. This must be a primary process for without this life there can be no person. This simple fact shapes an unconscious mind that, whatever else it might come up with, must be conservative, attracted to reliable solutions, routes and routines. Thus the unconscious favours things it has ‘seen’ before, it favours the usual route to work, the brand of biscuits you’ve already tried, the people you know and the tried and tested idea. This explains how you can do familiar things like driving home without thinking.
It was under the influence of Jung (see here: Psychology on a Page 2: Jung) that our notion of the unconscious took a turn towards the mystical, ephemeral & unknowable, while at the same time the Behaviourists (see here: Psychology on a Page 4: Behaviourism) proposed an unconscious that was animalistic, instinctive and unknowable in a different way. I believe both of these ideas are inaccurate to a considerable degree (though contain ‘grains of truth’ that we will explore further) and have created a popular idea of the unconscious an unreachable, impenetrable place – when in reality it is in view at every moment.
My own view is that the unconscious is made up of symbols, all of which are represented in language (for language is after all the structure of thinking as well as of communication). Its building blocks are words and its structure is grammatical. As we shall see over the next posts, these words are not simply sounds, but each one is attached to an image, a set of associations – and the uncomfortable examples of these are repressed or hidden from the view of others and ourselves.
The results of the experiments described in the link below are unsurprising if you’re following these posts about how the unconscious mind operates.
The next time your great idea at work elicits silence or eye rolls, it might pay to think about this reaction. This research indicates that people don’t know what a creative idea looks like and that creativity, hailed as a positive change agent, actually makes people squirm. We found this out very early on in our co-creation work and from this generated an orientation approach that would help participants overcome their unconscious rejection of novelty. You must model and adapt such a process if you don’t want the ideas you are evaluating or generating to be automatically rejected!
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Qualitative work was founded on the idea of making contact with people in greater depth. This website contains ideas, tips and techniques on how to do that well. It also contains things that I feel passionately about which affect our daily lives!
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