Our unconscious is probably involved when:
- Everything looks fine on the surface but something is still bothering you.
- You just can’t make a decision.
- You freeze and stop moving forward for no apparent reason.
- You’ve tried and tried to make something happen and it just doesn’t.
- Things aren’t so bad, but you feel bored and restless.
- You’ve forgotten why you do the work that you do.
It can also play a role in specific business processes:
- You are struggling to figure out your niche or unique purpose.
- Your “elevator pitch” feels scattered and unclear.
- Your creative process is stuck.
In these situations there is a disconnect between your conscious self and all the unconscious parts of yourself. There are things going on beneath the surface that are powerful, in charge, and not getting communicated to the conscious mind.
In our rational, left-brain world, we like to think we are in charge. We make goals, we get things done. Our lives are explicable.
And much of the time they are. Not a whole lot of thought needs to go into buying groceries or taking out the trash.
But when you are running a business, only a portion of what you do is that level of routine. There is a lot to your business that ties into deep issues of motivation, purpose, self-worth, boundaries, and your deepest dreams of contribution and connection.
The process I’m going to describe isn’t just a way to solve problems. It’s a way to align yourself with your deepest truth. It’s a way to stay in touch with the vital, creative part of yourself that is at the core of your being.
Your unconscious has a lot to say. And you need a way to listen.
Our unconscious thinks in pictures, not words. If you want to access the deeper motivations and concerns of your unconscious mind, you have to venture in to territory of metaphor and imagery.
The second ingredient is permission to follow your intuition. Our unconscious is not linear and focused. It’s more like water–you turn on the spigot and let it flow. You don’t know where the river will take you till you get there. The process is the point. You have to be willing to jump in the water, not knowing what it will be like and where you will end up. You have to operate on faith that you will discover something if you start, and then let go of the outcome.
The last necessity is time. There are always more urgent, ‘purposeful’, and easier thing to do than write or make art. Not that it’s hard exactly, to listen. But it takes a clear space in your mind and life to happen. It’s not going to happen on its own–you have to consciously choose to create a regular practice of setting aside time to communicate with yourself. And because it can be a non-linear, unpredictable process, it needs to be time you do not begrudge if “nothing happens”. It’s time you give yourself, not time you expect to get something.
Now that we have the ground rules, let’s talk about techniques.
- intuitive painting
- intuitive writing
- intuitive collage
- intuitive <insert your favorite medium here>
The distinction between “painting” and “intuitive painting” is important. If you sit down to paint a picture of a flower, you’ll end up with a flower. If you sit down to paint, and let your color choices and paintbrush be guided by your unconscious, you won’t know what you’ll end up with. That’s the point.
The same is true of writing. If you sit down to write a story, or an article, you may produce those. But sitting down to just give yourself an opportunity to speak through words being put on the page is different. Many people have never written that way. I encourage you to try it. Just start writing, and give yourself the ingredients above: time you don’t begrudge yourself, permission to open the gate and see what comes through without being goal-oriented. Don’t edit and don’t critique. You aren’t writing for anyone else; just for yourself.
Collage may be the most accessible medium for many people. All you need are some magazines, paper, scissors, and a gluestick.
An integrated exercise: collage + writing
I’ve developed a printable exercise that will lead you through an intuitive collage process, with a writing portion afterwords.
Here are some tips to keep in mind:
You may get messages about your life rather than your business. That’s OK. They are probably connected. If you work with the information you get from your first collages, you may find that it leads to insights on the business issue you are struggling with. Or, maybe your unconscious is digging in its heels in your business because of something you are neglecting in your life. If you have a habit of ignoring self-care in favor of productivity, or subject yourself to a great deal of stress worrying about the future, your unconscious may want you to lighten up and have some fun before it has an opinion on what you should do about your next year’s goals.
Your attitude toward the process is as important or more important than any materials or techniques you use. If you come in with frustration about not knowing the answer, you’ll end up with frustration about not knowing the answer. You need to start with acceptance of right where you are, and curiosity about what is underneath. Think of your unconscious as a child who wants to play. If you’re angry at it or expect performance from it, it’s not going to feel freedom to play. But if you sit down and have fun with it, that sense of creative excitement and energy will come out through this process.
With that, here is the exercise:
Here are some example of finished collages and the writing they inspired.
Note: the exercise calls to write from the perspective of the card, as each collage represents an aspect of yourself.