For a while now I have been seeing posts on social media and in emails about writing with the aim of discovering ‘inner self’. As in love as I am with memoir, I feel the need to step back from revelations about how my childhood and adolescence have fashioned me. I know, of course, that each of us is shaped by events in our early years and beyond. That all behaviour can be explained by environmental causes rather than by internal forces became the dominant school of thought in the 50s. Behaviourism, humans arrive in this world as blank slates, is a logical theory.
Sigmund Freud, the famous psychoanalyst, put emphasis on the consequences of unconscious mind on behaviour. He believed that the human mind was composed of the id (instincts), the ego (reality), and the superego (morality). Disciples of psychoanalysis believe human behaviour to be deterministic, governed by unconscious forces and instinct, the individual possessing no free will.
This school of thought is also logical.
There is a tiny part of me that suspects too much delving into the how and why might lead me to perceiving past situations as problematic, something which previously might not have entered my head. Of course, I speak personally and not generally.
There are other schools of thought in psychology, none of which are mutually exclusive.
I like to think that ‘consciousness’ or the mind’s awareness of self and the surrounding world implies an awareness of motives and subsequent actions. However, I have a niggling idea that when we make decisions our responses are only moderately accurate as true reasons for choices in life lie deep within us!
Whichever side one leans towards, an understanding of the influence of memories, thoughts, desires may, or may not have, upon us is an amazing tool at the fingertips of creative people. Surrealist artists, examples are Picasso, Dali, Miró, sought to explore their unconscious minds.
They created art born of subconscious thought in their masterpieces. They bypassed logic and rationality. They shaped art full of contradictions.
I have never studied art but I am in awe of many artists and I like nothing more than visiting galleries to browse, contemplate, and become lost in their visions.
Even though we’re not aware on a daily basis of the existence of primitive instincts or needs, I suspect the impact may be significant on our lives, our achievements, and artistic creations.
For the writer the possibilities are infinite if freedom from the limitations of conscious thought can be achieved. Imagine paths in a storyline knowing no boundaries, endless decisions open to a protagonist.
Since William James described ‘the unbroken flow of perceptions, thoughts, and feelings in the waking mind’ in Principles of Psychology (1890) many writers took up the mantle, from Tolstoy to Virginia Woolf. Whilst descriptive writing portraying physical appearance and attributes with real time dialogue is still out there, often successfully crafted, the modernist narrative style remains. Authors from Salman Rushdie to present day writers continue to delve into the minds of their characters giving clarity to not only what they do but why they do it.
How exciting is that!
Picture credit: The surrealist screaming figure with inner child is by Rivka Korf from her Pinterest page here: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/573083121323171202/