Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The relational unconscious

Disclaimer: I have always had my little bag of trade secrets as a psychotherapist. Those things that I have developed over time and used many times in my life as a therapist. Like hypnotic suggestion in the therapeutic process. I don’t know if they work as the theory explains them but they are not going to hurt so when relevant I employ them. I am quite protective of them but sometimes I do let one or two out and KYLady has asked for another one. Well it kind of addresses the point she makes

Hello KYLady,
When someone is asleep their Adult and Parent are gone as is the conscious part of the Child ego state. All that is left is for the unconscious part of the Child to roam free as it chooses. When the person is awake this part of the personality battles with the conscious Adult ego state for control of the personality. For instance you may get the person who is consciously telling their sister how much they love her whilst at the same time unconsciously shaking their head so as to say ‘no’.

When asleep the unconscious Child roams free and can talk uninhibited from the restrictions of the conscious mind. However the unconscious does not talk English or Russian but it talks in unconscious language which we have named dreams. It uses dreams to speak about it thoughts, feelings and its wants, fears and anger and so forth.

Cat women

The key for the therapist is to learn this new language. Learn the language of the client’s unconscious. The more I get to know a client the more able I am to do an interpretation of the symbols of the dreams. Stated other wise, the better I am at translating the client’s unconscious dream language into english.

If one can do this it is a most advantageous task from a therapeutic point of view. It is a significant therapeutic gain achieved with the client.

The unconscious has tended to be the ‘poor cousin’ of the personality. It is constantly told off by the conscious for thinking things that are considered bad or inappropriate and stopped from doing what it wants. It is continually being suppressed. No one even tries to relate to it or even give it much empathy.

Most therapists do not try to relate to it. One way I endeavour to relate to it is with dream interpretation. What I am doing with dream interpretation is in essence active listening. I am trying to understand the language of the unconscious, what it is trying to say and relate that back to the client like one does in active listening.

Amy W

Client recites dream

I respond, “What I think I hear you (the unconscious) saying is.....”

The gaol is not to interpret the dream but to let the unconscious aspect of the client’s personality know that I am beginning to understand it. More importantly I am showing that I want to understand it. I am expressing empathy to the unconscious and most importantly I am establishing a kind of relational contact first hand with the unconscious.

I can not stress enough the importance of establishing relational contact directly with the client’s unconscious. If this can be done then that must be considered a major therapeutic break through.


As I respond like shown above the conscious mind of the client is hearing me talk and of course the unconscious is also right there listening on as well. It sees and hears me seeking to relate to it first hand. If this theory is correct then that is a most fertile therapeutic endeavour.



  1. Thank you for sharing your insights. Interpreting dreams must make for some very interesting work! I read that marketers try to access the unconscious minds of consumers with some of their strategies – I wonder how many other professions (besides yours) try to leverage the unconscious. It seems that my best ideas are invented when I’m asleep. I can struggle with a problem all day and make no progress, then the next morning the solution is crystal clear. Too bad I haven’t figured out how to tap into that while I’m awake.

  2. Yes KYLady,

    I think it is true that marketters would seek to access the u8nconscious of the population. However not an easy thing to do and the bottom line is people don't like to be exploited or even feel like they are being expolited or manipulated. So as soon as the unconscious feels like that, such manipulation is not going to work.

    realistically i cant see it ever happening in a serious way even though many have tried and I am sure many in the future will still try


  3. Interesting comments about dream interpretation Tony. I have stopped remembering dreams, but had one last week that included T, her ex-husband and deceased father. I told T about it this week and my interpretation including my desire to KNOW more about her. Thinking about it after the fact, I could easily substitute myself, my recently deceased mother and my own spouse.

    The unconscious is an amazing piece of work.

    Hope you are well. I've been lying low for a good bit. But doing OK.


  4. Yes OLJ it is quite amazing.

    Your dream may indeed be related to your own situation. Although it could a a wish fulfillment dream and represent your desire to KNOW as you say.

    Thanks for your comment