The Myth of Being Stuck in a Rut: Your Inner Work is Not Always Conscious

When the unconscious knows you are ready it will speak to you.

Rick Hanson

You are conscious every moment of your waking life, unless you’re in a coma or anesthetized. Because you’re aware of your analytical mind, it’s easy to think any psychological changes have to be achieved by conscious work. Thankfully, that is not always the case. On some level, especially with long standing issues, you unconsciously process material and evolve all the time—even in your dreams.

You know how you can stand a certain dynamic or situation 99 times, but the hundredth time puts you over the edge? You may not have consciously been aware of this build up, but it has been brewing under the surface. It reached a tipping point and suddenly you’re conscious of wanting a change. This explains how what appears to be a sudden or rash action is often born of years of unconscious processing. It’s not that you have been out of touch all that time, it’s that it hadn’t reached a critical point, yet; or, a point to which you were able to recognize it.

It can be very helpful to acknowledge this inner work as it allows you to know transformation is always happening, even when it looks as if you’re in limbo or stagnant. Just like the seed that sits underground all winter looking dormant, it’s harnessing all its energy to burst forth in the spring.

By definition, you are not aware of unconscious work, even though it’s occurring every moment of your life. That makes it easy to fall into the trap of thinking you’re not moving forward. Nothing could be further from the truth. You’re always evolving, even when you’re not consciously aware of the process.

If you are prone to self-downing, this lack of appreciation for unconscious processing can lead to more self criticism. Have a little faith in yourself. Understand that some of your most profound growth is going to happen from unconscious work as your experience and knowledge, including self knowledge, accrue and assimilate.

Have you ever had that eureka moment when you suddenly figured out something without consciously thinking about it? Your unconscious mind was working and chose to make the answer obvious at that exact moment.

Consider this deep, inner work as a compassionate companion ready to dole out kindness, patience and understanding in doses it thinks you can handle.

Along the same lines, your unconscious mind will not overwhelm you with more than you can handle. It only makes things consciously available when the time is right. Pushing that river doesn’t work. On the other hand, dream work, which allows entrée into previously unconscious material, can be a path to greater understanding of your desires, fears and motivations. All of which go into making better decisions based on who you are and what you want. (There’s a piece on dream journaling on this site.)

Grief is the poster child for this inner work. While much of it is processed consciously, spiritually, and physically, there is also a deeper acceptance steeping unconsciously. Pushing the river only frustrates you by encouraging unrealistic expectations that become a breeding ground for self-downing.

Trust you’re moving forward and constantly evolving. Allow yourself to grow at your own pace without forcing a specific time line or spiritual agenda. Taking these leaps of faith lead to greater self-appreciation, less perfectionism and more inner peace.

Copyright Nicole Urdang

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Nicole Urdang

Nicole S. Urdang, M.S., NCC, DHM is a Holistic Psychotherapist in Buffalo, NY. She holds a New York state license in mental health counseling and a doctorate in homeopathic medicine from the British Institute of Homeopathy.