From the outside, people’s minds seem like pretty straightforward places. What we hear people saying suggests a certain logic, order and coherence. But inside the mind, it’s a VERY different matter. Here, things are infinitely more complex, fractured, multilayered, and confusing Amidst the shadowy tangled darkness, one could imagine a single brightly lit zone like a spotlight in a cave. The area that normally goes by the term “consciousness”. This is where we do our rational thinking. Where ideas are clarified, where plans are put on a systematic footing, where we order and clean up our thoughts but the key thing about the way we work is that unless we take very special measures, most of what is inside the mind will remain far outside the spotlight of consciousness in what we can call the “unconscious zones”. These unconscious zones contain recesses and grottos filled with unknown disavowed thoughts and feelings feelings you HAD, without properly experiencing emotions we FELT without properly registering Here, we find our record of pretty much everything we’ve ever seen Where we been to, who we’ve met, and how we felt. Most of the time, the images are dormant and submerged, then occasionally, at what can feel like random points, an image will suddenly come back to us as clear as day suddenly, we’ll see Uncle Ernie or the pier in Britain or the train taking us up the Matterhorn When we were nine A lot of what lies in the unconscious are worries, things were frightened might happen at which we push out of consciousness We keep them at bay but the effort creates a hum and static of background anxiety In the unconscious, the (there are) desires that can’t find a place in our more ordered, sensible, day-to-day lives there are ideas we haven’t had time to sort out and angry, hurt feelings we haven’t digested a sadness we haven’t dared to feel When we speak of getting to know ourselves, of increasing self-knowledge, really what we mean is the task of getting more active with the spotlight of consciousness moving it around more regularly in our minds more systematically shining its beams into unfamiliar corners so that we’re less surprised and frightened by some of what we have in our minds our founding belief is that the more of the mind we can light up with consciousness, the more peaceful, coherent and focused we can be. this is what it means to lead an examined life to try to become less of a stranger to oneself by illuminating our minds with a spotlight of consciousness.