By Dario Nardi
What is consciousness? We know how it feels to gain or lose it, such as when we wake in the morning. We can be half-conscious, too, or have impaired consciousness from alcohol or drugs, or act mindlessly, such as while driving to a familiar place or acting out a childhood behavior. In short, consciousness isn’t one thing. Nor is it settled by science. C. G. Jung in Psychological Types makes some assumptions, and he said much more elsewhere. Yet this everyday experience remains a mystery with many gradations and facets.
Why bother with consciousness? Why not stick with observable traits or mental processes? Consider that 99.99% of you—your computer, your house, your family and pets, and everything else—is empty space. Yes 99.99%! Atoms are mostly empty space. And when we dissect atoms down to the quantum and chromatic levels, even that miniscule fraction is vibrating energy. The material world is barely an outline, if it’s anything. Yet here we are, self-aware motes of energy in a great symphony, blobs of consciousness interacting, with inscrutable origins and purpose. If this is so, then maybe we ought get to know this consciousness stuff and work with it.
In neuroscience, consciousness—and the unconscious—is back in vogue. A century ago, Jung conducted the first word-association experiments to empirically establish that unconscious biases influence us. After him, academic psychology largely skirted the topic. Fortunately, with today’s tools like brain imaging and body-mind studies, consciousness is on the up-and-up. The whole nervous system is under study. We are even discovering new nerve routes throughout the body! Generally, scientists believe that most of the interesting stuff occurs off-stage in the unconscious. Moreover, the unconscious looks like it’s really multiple phenomena.
In The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga, Jung draws upon ancient terms from the culture of India to illustrate how we might think of the ebbs and flows of consciousness. He says, “We begin in the head; we identify with our eyes and our consciousness: quite detached and objective, we survey the world. That is ājñā.” We may also use our imagination to interpret what we see. And as a practical matter, as he says, since we “cannot linger forever in the pure spheres of detached observation, we must bring our thoughts into reality.”
So, “we voice them and so trust them to the air. When we clothe our knowledge in words, we are in the region of vishuddha, or the throat center. But as soon as we say something that is especially difficult, or that causes us positive or negative feelings, we have a throbbing of the heart, and then the anāhata center begins to be activated. And still another step further, when for example a dispute with someone starts up, when we have become irritable and angry and get beside ourselves, then we are in manipūra.” If this dispute is highly impactful, it may even stick with us deep down in our gut, in what Jung described for svādhishthāna.
Jung’s example reminds us that consciousness is systemic—we experience it relative to others, our activities, and our environment as well as within ourselves. The people with “hang with” matter. Our daily job shifts us too. Our dreams are relevant. Notably, as research studies now suggest, the complexity and loudness of our modern, urban, e-wired world keeps us worked up in a stress state.
For example, many teens quickly grow anxious and show symptoms of drug-withdrawal when parted from their ‘Precious’, their smart phones. While some stress is useful, prolonged and intense stress—in a highly diverse, information-rich society that highlights conflicts—actually narrows and limits our consciousness. Fortunately, Jung’s example reminds us that we can ground, heighten or shift our consciousness, perhaps as part of Type development.
At this April’s Conference, I will share more about consciousness, ancient mind-body traditions, and modern neuroscience discoveries. You will hear Type-specific activities from my new book, Jung on Yoga. Jung’s framework remains a powerful lens, language, and lever to sort ourselves. Perhaps most exciting is our capacity for freer consciousness through our opposite, unconscious, and undifferentiated Type preferences. I hope to see you there.
DARIO NARDI (INTJ), a Keynote speaker at the 2018 BAPT conference
About the Author
Dario Nardi, Ph.D, heads Radiance House, a media publisher that delivers human resource materials, workshops, and certification in the neuroscience of personality. He is also a Senior Lecturer at the University of California at Los Angeles, where he taught for 14 years and was honoured with two teaching awards while co-founding the Human Complex Systems degree program. Dario was Myers-Briggs certified in 1994. He is author or co-author of 15 books and 2 apps for the Apple iPhone/iPad including “Personality Types”. After 11 years of hands-on brain research, Dario continues to break new ground with a brain-savvy understanding of personality. www.RadianceHouse.com. Email: email@example.com.