Lesson #5: Why It’s a Good Thing You’re Just Like an Iceberg

Lesson #5: Why It's a Good Thing You're Just Like an Iceberg you're just like an icebergIn case you haven't already heard, you're a multidimensional human being. You have an inner child, an ego, and the conscious self that's reading this right now. So you're complicated. You're like an iceberg. 90% of you is under water. That's your subconscious mind -- it plays a big role in your daily behavior. That part of you that's conscious? It's the 10% of the iceberg that's visible above water. It's only a tiny fraction of who you are.

You're complicated in a good way

Human consciousness is vastly complex. Scientists still haven't figured out what it really is. What we do know, though, is that this complexity allows for you to do many different things at once. You can drive safely while talking to your passenger -- because driving is an automated process. You don't have to focus on digesting your food after each meal -- it's also an automated process. You don't have to remember to breathe when you're sleeping -- because the primitive parts of your brain take care of that for you. Your brain and body take care of the basic biological functions that keep you alive. On top of that, your brain still has enough capacity for you to do creative things that aren't really essential to your survival -- like finger painting or writing poetry or watching the sunset. Another benefit of being complex and multidimensional, is you have unlimited potential to grow wiser and become more response able over time. You'll never fully know who you are, because you're constantly growing, adapting, and changing in each new moment of experience.

"Who you are" at any given point in time is complex. There are so many ways to describe it. That makes you unique and wonderful.

There's no end to your potential

Psychologist Abraham Maslow developed the concept of self actualization. It's when a person realizes their full potential. And it's only possible after their four baser needs have been met: physiological (i.e. food, water, a place to go to the bathroom), safety (i.e. a protected home), love and belonging (i.e. friends and family), and self-esteem (i.e. confidence). The concept of self actualization is a noble one. But it needs a little tweaking. It needs to be seen as a process rather than an end point; it needs to be reframed to self-actualizing. Because first of all, you can never fully realize your full potential. You have unlimited potential. That's why potential is such a cool concept. Secondly, when you realize your potential -- make your dreams reality -- there's still so much room to grow. And to learn how to do an even better job at making your dreams reality. And then, once you've succeeded, there's so much room to identify other dreams that you want to make real. Because again, you're a new person in each moment of experience. You're constantly growing and changing. You're complex. There's a universe within you!

The secret to happiness

Happiness is an inside job, as we've touched upon in lessons before. Yes, happiness has a lot to do with the quality of your relationships -- because you are human, and humans are social beings. But in order for your relationships to be loving and meaningful, you need to have a good relationship with yourself. You need to know who you are, what's lurking below the water's surface, what you want in your relationships, and where you end and where other people begin. That means, you need to be aware of the universe inside of you, like we covered last lesson. It's there, whether you acknowledge it or not. When you do acknowledge it, pay attention to what's going on, and learn how to better take care of yourself... happiness is the natural by-product.

The secret to happiness is that it's not some thing "out there" you need to obtain. It comes from inside of you. Your brain co-creates the experience. Happiness is what you feel when you take care of yourself. When you love yourself. And when you love others.

The power of your inner universe

"When an inner situation is not made conscious, it appears outside as fate." -- Carl Jung
Scientists have barely begun to understand the "inner situation" that Jung refers to, or the subconscious. Because first of all, it's very difficult. And secondly, it treads pretty close to answering some of Life's Big Questions. Scientists shy away from this ethical domain. If scientists really explored what the subconscious does and how insanely powerful it is, a lot of major institutions would go out of business, or need to be revamped. For instance, Big Pharma would need to change its game plan if people started taking care of their own mental health -- by uncovering subconscious wounds and mindfully healing them. Rather than pay for a pill to mask the symptoms. It's probably going to be a while until mainstream science delves into this subject in full force. But in spite of this reluctance, mainstream science is rapidly studying the subconscious in a roundabout way. And it's pretty exciting. The link to emotion Science is doing this through cognitive-affective research, or the study of cognition/thought and affect/emotion. In the past decades, we've been better equipped to probe the brain, where emotions are activated. We've also been less resistant to study emotions. Because with things like appraisal theory, we can see how emotions are driven by internal logic. Researchers no longer have to see emotions as messy things that squirm away when we try to put them under the microscope. Instead, emotions can be seen as the vital links to that 90% of the iceberg underneath the water's surface. In the next two lessons we'll talk more about cognitive-affective science, appraisal theory, how your emotions are logical, and how you can use them to make your subconscious -- conscious.
"Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life, and you will call it fate." -- Carl Jung

How to start getting in touch with the 90% of you that's underneath the surface

In the meantime, here's another exercise you can use to start getting in touch with your inner universe, or subconscious mind. It can help you with the exercises from Lesson #3. And it's really an expansion of exercise #1. So if you haven't tried out one of those exercises yet, why not try writing a stream-of-consciousness right now? Here's how to do it:
    1. Turn off your phone, disconnect from the internet, close your door, and devote at least 20 minutes to simply write.
    2. You can use a text editor or a sheet of paper. Typing is faster, allowing for your hands to keep up with your thoughts. But there's a special quality to handwriting, and sometimes it's easier to "speak your truth" through pen.
    3. Log your name, the date, and the time you begin.
    4. Write whatever comes to you, even if it's just: "I'm supposed to be writing whatever comes to me, but my mind right now is blank."
    5. Then keep writing -- and keep writing. Allow your mind to free associate and capture that in words. Don't censor anything. Even if you feel embarrassed or wrong for writing down certain things. This is to be kept private, so honor yourself by being honest.
    6. It's okay to use improper English, to write gibberish, or make up words as you go. This is your stream-of-consciousness, and you decide what words to use.
    7. Once you feel like you've reached a good stopping point (you need at least 20 minutes to get going), save your work if using the computer. Log out by entering the stopping time, and signing your name.
    8. Print the stream out on paper if you used the computer.
    9. You can look over it if you want to, but don't make any changes to it!
    10. Then, wait a few days and look over it again. Find out what you were trying to say. While looking for clues about what you were really saying. Clues can be spelling mistakes, specific uses of capitalization, how you name other people or things (in their favor, or at their expense), the adjectives you choose, when you contradict yourself, etc. etc. etc.
    11. Be creative, and have fun with it! Remember, this is all about learning more about your inner universe. It's not about having all the final answers, but being open to the possibility that there is so much more to you than meets the eye.
Feel free to share your experiences with the stream-of-consciousness in the comments! If you practice this exercise enough, you'll find that your inner universe is always just waiting to surface. It's just a matter of you tuning in. That 90% of you underwater wants to be heard. You just need your own permission. All the best, signed, Melissa P.S. Did you get here from a link from a friend? This is Lesson 5 of a 10-part free e-class that shows you how your life is your construct. Learn more about it and sign up here.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Willy June 21, 2010 at 4:50 pm


This is more of a question then a comment so am not sure if appropo to post on your blog but here goes… I wanted to know your thoughts on the value of 1) having a someone (either a trusted friend or professional therapist) besides oneself follow steps 9, 10 and 11) how about the idea of perhaps feeding data into A.I. program designed for the purpose of providing insights into one’s subconscious?

Fascinating stuff…


Melissa Karnaze June 21, 2010 at 5:09 pm

Hi Willy,

Great questions!

Any time you can refer to someone you trust and care about, who also trusts and cares about you, to gain more perspective about yourself and your life, I say — go for it! And you’re very lucky if you have someone you can turn to for partnership in these types of exercises.

Of course there are benefits to spending time alone with it first, and having a clear sense of boundaries so that you keep your own opinion in the end. But generally speaking, two heads are better than one. :)

In Lesson 9 we’ll go into more of the nuances of referring to different people for advice/perspective. Such as turning to a friend versus a professional and vice versa.

I think AI programs are great for helping to organize your thoughts! Do you know of any that could help with this type of exercise? I’m convinced that when it comes to really delving into your complex belief systems, many of which are subconscious — it really helps to have some powerful organizational framework, which AI programs are built for.

Sinei David November 11, 2010 at 10:58 pm

Once again,

Thank you.

My stream of consciousness was hilarious. I’m still chuckling.

Melissa Karnaze November 13, 2010 at 12:43 pm

Yes, streams of c can be very funny at times!

John April 26, 2012 at 2:54 am

Your work is of very high quality. Your ability to simplify shows you’ve been there. And you teach to learn. One important part of dealing with making the unconscious conscious for me, has been to accept the reality of timing. There’s a lot inside that is nowhere near to being able to “flow”. There are dams. And some can only flow if a lot of other “dots” connect first. This is because the subconscious is where the most important shame defences are. And shame is connected to our deepest spiritual and survival needs. I guess that goes back to your important concept of process.

Melissa Karnaze April 26, 2012 at 7:41 am

Hi John,

Timing is so very important when it comes to becoming more aware of your beliefs. People can become emotionally triggered — indicating it’s potentially “time” to learn from a situation about deep-seated beliefs — but it’s so easy to bypass following triggers so as to stop being “emotional,” etc.

And as you mention shame, it can easily remain hidden — not only because it’s about the self being “bad” (which is uncomfortable to openly temporarily feel), but also because we’re indirectly conditioned to believe that the act of feeling shame is also bad and useless.

Thanks for the kind words.

Ahndrea Howard November 30, 2012 at 10:22 am

Hi Melissa!

I just wanted to say that I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog and your newsletters! I too, began the study of psychology, but stopped short of getting my degree because it seemed to be such a disease based model. Also, the spiritual component was absent completely. And, I think that’s such a critical piece in any healing work.

However, you seem to have the unique gift of translating complex scientific psychological concepts into what I think of as spiritual truths. We’re both saying the same thing, just using different languages to express it. It’s quite obvious as a fellow scholar that you’ve done your research and are very well qualified to offer your take on these concepts.

I look forward to truly engaging with this site and hope you will have a chance to check out my site, http://www.andreaehoward.com as well. It’s still in its infancy, but I can see many parallels to the work we are both trying to do. For one, help people understand themselves more fluently. Please keep u the good work!

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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