Revealing Your Unconscious

Become whole by seeing how you’re not

In the vast world of self-development, you have many options to grow. But if you don’t address one thing, all of it is severely limited. You can organize, plan, affirm, strategize, habit-track, energetically release, reframe, inspire, re-language, let go, serve, and more. They all help, but ultimately won’t get you to where you want to go unless you address this one thing.

The “you” that’s doing it all.

What if the “you” that runs your life wasn’t actually the real you? What if all the things you’ve been doing to change yourself and/or your situation have carefully avoided the most important stuff?

In other words, exactly how is your unconscious running your life?

I offer this is the most important question we can ask. But I didn’t make it up.

In 1915, Sigmund Freud published “The Unconscious,” featuring his Iceberg Theory of the mind. He suggested that powerful unconscious emotions stemming from past experiences govern our behavior more than we consciously realize. He asserted that people use a range of defense mechanisms to avoid knowing their unconscious motives and feelings.

This theory not only launched the field of psychology, but radically jump-started the development of political propaganda, sophisticated sales, and modern marketing. The evolution of psychology has demonstrated that Freud, in fact, under-estimated the importance of the unconscious and over-simplified it to base instincts of sex and aggression, whereas it’s now appreciated to be far more sophisticated and varied.

The very best therapists have a secret they can’t tell you, but hope one day to lead you to: that your unconscious is mostly running your life. They can’t tell you this because it’s their job to help you see it for yourself; otherwise, it creates more resistance. It also tends to make people quit.

Fascinatingly and tragically, while Freud’s interest in exploring the unconscious founded psychology, the field mostly devolved into trying to control it before fully understanding it. Behaviorism dominated the field until the 1960s, which dismissed the healing of the unconscious in favor of controlling behavior via reconditioning (based on the work of Pavlov and his dogs). 

Behaviorism largely dead-ended with the realization that people are different from animals, and treating them as such hurts, so the pendulum swung to the other extreme and produced Humanistic Psychology. The approach invalidates feelings far less and meets people where they are, but lacks accountability, enabling people to ignore how their unconscious runs their lives if they don’t want to see it.

Just like the largely unappreciated esoteric teachings of Jesus, Muhammad, and the Buddha, the essence of Freud’s teachings were mostly lost and distorted in order to fit into the comfort zones of the masses. This is usually what happens, but especially with the concept of the unconscious. 

Like so many brilliant ideas in human history, this one is excruciatingly slow to catch on, not only because it’s relatively new, but exactly because Freud’s theory is correct: your unconscious doesn’t want the conscious “you” to know it exists. This is because the unconscious is a repository of emotions deemed too painful to feel at one point in your life and so repressed. The plan doesn’t work if the pain becomes conscious. The degree you disagree with this is the degree to which you prove the point. I hate to double bind you, but this is how it is.

Another way of saying this is that the degree to which you are unaware of how your unconscious is running your life is the degree to which it is. If this makes you bristle, you understand this well. That’s the fear your unconscious has of being found out. But does it also make you curious?

So much research has been performed on this issue, it is no longer a question…for curious professionals in related fields. The vast majority of the population, however, remains in denial, as entirely predicted by the model. The fascinating question is, “When, if ever, will the world wake up to this?”

In the meantime, most of the population attempts to improve their life using their conscious, while the unconscious largely runs the show. It’s like the kiddie rides at amusement parks with little cars bolted to fixed tracks that move. They have steering wheels that just spin and do nothing, letting the children enjoy the illusion of control. That’s child-level consciousness where about two thirds of our planet lives.

Teenage consciousness has more active free will and is most of the other third of the planet. It’s like a go-kart place I went to as a kid. You actually got to steer, accelerate, and brake, but the rails of the track were four feet on either side, and you had no real choice where to go. That was thrilling for those graduating from fake steering wheels and no pedals, but unsatisfying for a mid-teen who’s hungry for real driving.

Of course, you feel consciously in control of your life. That’s exactly what the unconscious needs you to experience in order to stay hidden. It’s bigger, more powerful, and more in control of your life than you are, so much so that you don’t believe it. It wouldn’t work otherwise.

Freud asked in 1915: “How do you make the unconscious, conscious?” This is perhaps the most important question facing humanity ever, but certainly today.

Real, deep, psychotherapeutic work explores this question. Taking pills that maximize good feelings and minimize the uncomfortable ones is not. That’s what’s become of psychiatry. 

Finding more productive coping mechanisms to repress the unconscious with less side effects is not. That’s what’s become of most psychology. 

Taking plant medicine to temporarily overwhelm the defenses to access unconscious material and connect it to only universal (rather than personal) love also has limits, and this is how shamanism is currently used to address the unconscious.

I could go on and on listing how every religion, philosophy, or spirituality created prior to Freud cannot and will not directly address the issue of the unconscious, the same way there were insufficient tools prior to that time for fixing cars…because there were no cars!

This new diagnosis of unconscious issues requires new tools and Freud knew this. Because the unconscious is bigger than the conscious, it cannot be worked on alone, the same way you cannot lift yourself up by your shoelaces. Remember, the unconscious wants to stay hidden and it has the majority vote.

For this reason, it doesn’t matter how many books, videos, and webpages you consume, your unconscious will largely remain so, guiding you through the predetermined go-kart track and telling you that you’re driving. Real work to make the unconscious conscious is uncomfortable like real physical exercise is, and if you don’t encounter resistance (which is like sweat), by definition, it isn’t happening.

Again, this is because who you think you are isn’t who you actually are, and the unconscious gets very uncomfortable when you shine a light on it. This is tricky because, just like with exercise, when it gets difficult that’s how you know it’s working. This is especially problematic these days because of the many comforts that technology affords us which we’ve come to expect.

The amazing byproduct of doing deep unconscious work is that you see others’ unconscious motives as easily as reading street signs. The only reason you don’t automatically see the unconscious material in others is the degree to which you don’t see your own. It’s like when you buy a car and notice your model everywhere, only far more sophisticated.

When you explore your own unconscious, for example, you realize this is where the concept of the devil came from. Thousands of years before psychology, this was the best explanation available. And millions if not billions still believe in the devil despite there being a far more compelling and productive explanation. The “devil” in us isn’t evil, it’s just afraid, but the concept is a classic projection by the unconscious to offset responsibility and stay hidden.

In this course, we’ll explore the question of “How do you make the unconscious, conscious?” in applied, practical, and experiential ways. We will workshop real material and issues in attending participants and use those discoveries to elicit universal principles and techniques for how to reveal your unconscious. Participants will complete the workshop with powerful insights about themselves and a general map for how their unconscious is running their life, why that is, and what they can do about it. 

Live participants obviously receive individual attention, but we will extrapolate discoveries into universal patterns so that people doing the recorded course benefit as well.

The live course begins September 7, 2023 and runs eleven consecutive weeks, ending November 23. Zoom sessions are one hour on Thursdays at 11:15 am Pacific Time. Purchase the course alone or become a dojo member and get access to all courses.

Josef Shapiro

Since I first trained as a business coach at EMyth in 2002, I’ve been a change agent for thousands of business leaders and managers. Coaching is a fast-growing industry, but it's also very young. I'm a perennial student and never satisfied with the pace of human change because I think we can do better. For me, it’s an unsolved mystery and the needless suffering inside workplaces around the world hangs in the balance. It affects us all. Learn more at

Course curriculum

  • 2

    1. Curiosity and the Unconscious

    • Curiosity and the Unconscious (9.7.23)

    • Curiosity and the Unconscious (9.7.23)

  • 3

    2. The Emotions Underneath the Feelings

    • The Emotions Underneath Feelings (9.14.23)

    • The Emotions Underneath Feelings (9.14.23)

  • 4

    3. Unpacking What We Unconsciously Draw To Ourselves

    • Unpacking What We Unconsciously Draw To Ourselves (9.21.23)

    • Unpacking What We Unconsciously Draw To Ourselves (9.21.23)

  • 5

    4. How To Mine Triggers For Gold

    • How To Mine Triggers For Gold (9.28.23)

    • How To Mine Triggers For Gold (9.28.23)

    • Assignment

  • 6

    5. Mind, Heart, and the Protector

    • Mind, Heart, and the Protector (10.5.23)

    • Audio: Mind, Heart, and the Protector (10.5.23)

    • Assignment

  • 7

    6. Allowing All Feelings

    • Allowing All Feelings (10.12.23)

    • Allowing All Feelings (10.12.23)

  • 8

    7. How Your Enemies Are Allies

    • How Your Enemies Are Allies (10.19.23)

    • How Your Enemies Are Allies (10.19.23)

  • 9

    8. Don't Medicate Universally, Investigate Personally

    • Don't Medicate Universally, Investigate Personally (10.26.23)

    • Don't Medicate Universally, Investigate Personally (10.26.23)

  • 10

    9. Value Systems, Connection, & The Unconscious

    • Value Systems, Connection, & The Unconscious (11.2.23)

    • Value Systems, Connection, & The Unconscious (11.2.23)

  • 11

    10. Why Adults Play Victim

    • Why Adults Play Victim (11.9.23)

    • Why Adults Play Victim (11.9.23)

  • 12

    11. The Responsibility To Reveal Your Unconscious

    • The Responsibility To Reveal Your Unconscious (11.16.23)

    • The Responsibility To Reveal Your Unconscious (11.16.23)

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