Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Human beings and the underlying subconscious

This is an essay I wrote in Term 1 as part of the course - "Intelligently interacting with others" - Read it after a long time and felt, this deserved a space here...

The online Longman dictionary definition of the word says “subconscious feelings, desires etc are hidden in your mind and affect your behaviour, but you do not know that you have them”. A course in ‘Intelligently interacting with others’ encompassing Karma Yoga and ‘Group Processes’ right at the beginning of the term, all said and done, helped us understand the significance of the “subconscious” in our daily lives – how every act of ours is influenced by the subconscious without our knowing it and how in turn, every act plays a small part in moulding the “subconscious”.

The first part of the course was a series of challenges to conventional modern assumptions - beliefs that have got so ingrained at the subconscious level- that, to be able to challenge them, the effort taken should be commensurate enough to achieve a transformation at the subconscious level. Far removed from the world of introspection and contemplation, in the midst of constant flux, caught in the centre of a vortex having little control, we have been zombies, moving about in a preoccupied and dazed fashion, rarely pausing and thinking about what we are doing. From such a state to a state where we have been able to assimilate some of the tenets of Karma Yoga, it is a long journey indeed – a journey marked by several reflections, explorations and unanswered questions.

Materialism and individualism, marked by an enhanced perception of the self and in some cases, characterised by a scant disrespect of others, have pervaded the intellectual space of the modern World so much so that any mention of spirituality, collectivism and moderation is brushed aside as a weak attempt to digress and deviate from the immediate concerns. However, any attempt at self-discovery involves an earnest exploration of the subconscious. We started doing that when we examined selfishness, freedom, duty, love and work. At the outset, all these entities seem disparate but nothing can be more further from the truth as we learned.

Work for work’s sake, work without attachment to results and without any selfish motive in mind, do your duty through love and freedom, strive to do good and resist evil – can we in today’s world practise this? I am tempted to say “No”, but then, after serious thought, if happiness and contentment is needed out of life, instead of a perennial struggle marked by frustration, then, the answer is a big and resounding “Yes”. Shorn of all mumbo-jumbo, this list of 5 can be illuminating. Intimidating to merit attention at first, gradually, with practise, they would result in ‘peace of mind’ and harmony because they are in line with a pure conscience – an ideal at best.

The second part of the course on ‘Group Processes’ breached a wall in the “subconscious” – the wall between the individual and the collective space. With the help of scientific evidence, numerous experiments and theories, human behaviour in groups was examined. The joy of learning is enhanced when it can be achieved through association to something we already knew. Existing aside from the hard wired world of other sciences, here, nothing is set in stone. Therein lays the difficulty too. We are used to capturing rigid formulas and theories and storing them away in our minds, but in any dimension involving human behaviour and groups, there is no clearly demarcated line that anybody can tread on!

In unravelling several layers of the “subconscious”, I realised that many of my assumptions in life had no real basis at all. That

Minority groups can influence – When somebody like the lone jury member in ‘Eleven Angry Men’ can turn the tables around and convince the rest of the jury members to pore over the evidence in detail several times in succession, each of us can influence too!

Biology and systems have something to do with group theories – Any field of study or science is not an isolated entity. Rather every field draws from and gives to other fields, something of significance that can be omitted or ignored only at a huge loss

An individual’s self esteem draws a lot of its strength from the group the individual belongs to – If a person can get a higher sense of self-esteem, simply by helping other group members’ cope with their miseries and agonies, then unselfish work can yield high personal rewards.

Human beings at times seek out miserable company and don’t always get drawn to similar people -

Comparison can actually sometimes aid in personal development – When the word comparison has only less-than-good connotations, to realise that it can actually aid in a personal advancement is heartening.

Groups can actually acquire a mind of their own – Similar to human beings, groups can also acquire a mind of their own though this can prove to be both advantageous and disadvantageous depending on context.

Leadership is not all about Power – With leadership tied to politics in our heads, realising that it is actually “helping people see a different set of possibilities” was a revelation.

Cooperation can result in greater returns in the longer term than competition – In a few cases, though competition is cutthroat, both parties can be well off if both of them cooperate.

Our judgement of another person’s character can be as faulty as a conclusion drawn from a simple and unthoughful interpretation owing to our own prejudices and the person’s membership outside our own groups.

Physical spaces and seating can enhance productivity manifold – Just the manner of arrangement of physical spaces can enhance or bring down productivity.

Being part of likeminded groups can be a source of succour to many – Therapy and self group groups can offer hope and mutual learning respectively.

These are some of the many things that my “subconscious” was wired to dismiss without due consideration. But on reflection, this has been my takeaway. My subconscious has definitely got moulded and my actions henceforth will draw from a new set of altered assumptions and beliefs. That is a remarkable feat to accomplish in such a short time and I am proud as a consequence.

The course was something I would never ever forget!

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