Consciousness is a subject that undergoes much debate as to whether it is real or not.
As I read about it in psychology papers, there is debate about whether it is universally correlated to a physical “late” activation (occipital/parietal) or a subjective pre-conscious “early” experience (in the prefrontal cortex). Ironically in science, it seems that something which is agreed to be subjective, such as consciousness, still must have a known, physical location in the brain. Yet, clearly the brain is the most complex, neural center in our bodies that still has yet to be fully defined. So, for sake of argument and for the purposes of this article, I propose that consciousness is likely all of the above.
Consciousness is the quality or state of being aware especially of something within oneself.
Consciousness is a choice
I believe that in any moment, we have a choice whether to be aware, to not be fully aware, or to not be aware at all. We think we can fool ourselves and others about not giving away our actual state of awareness. However, the sense of its presence (or not) can be quite transparent.
Consequently, the level of awareness and consciousness dictates the quality of our learning, relationships and growth to either be limited or expanded based on our choice to be authentically aware. All thoughts, feelings, and surrounding activities in any moment can always mean something to us and they can have some type of insight to offer.
Like a funnel, the volume and quality of activities that we choose to receive and process into our consciousness will dictate the quality of our outcomes.
This is hard work. Being conscious of all activities and the intentions of ourselves and others, all at one time, is virtually impossible. However, the more conscious we are to it all, including the reality that it is not possible to see it all, the more curious, vulnerable and approachable we become to our possibilities. We will listen more, we will ask more questions, we will want to know more about people, we will want to love more and hate less, and we will be more forgiving.
Yet, without awareness and intentional consciousness, these opportunities for vulnerability and seeing possibilities elude us.
Courage requires taking action on what seems conscious
Assuming we choose to be aware and to be intentionally conscious, when something happens, we can choose to pay attention, absorb the meaning, ask questions, and engage in solutions. Or we can simply tune out and do none of the above -- regardless of how relevant or important the topic is to us or others around us. Assuming we choose to be conscious, the next choice is whether or not to take action. Taking action is the basis of courage.
The choice to respond and how we respond directly impacts our relationships, self-beliefs, and outcomes. Our actions also impact how others feel about themselves when they are around us, and how they may choose to feel about us or themselves moving forward. Taking action requires being vulnerable to the unknown outcomes that may follow.
I find that taking action, almost any action, leads to greater confidence and courage to try again regardless of the results. Action leads to positive self-worth and more positive outcomes.
Adversely, the vulnerability and fear created by choosing to be conscious can shut people down before they take action. The resulting lack of awareness and inaction negatively impacts peoples’ happiness and beliefs about themselves. Their confidence in others expires and ultimately the degree of success can be greatly minimized for what is always initially intended to be good, meaningful work.
I routinely find that when faced with something new, it is common for people go numb. They are largely not present or responsive. It is as if new opportunities to learn and grow are simply too much to take in. After all, it would mean changing something, being open and brave, and even being wildly uncomfortable.
Practically, how many people do you know who are currently in an unhappy relationship with a friend, family member, spouse, boss or coworker? How long has it been going on? Have they tried to engage and resolve the issues in the relationship? Do they feel they have tried? Rather than try something new or leave the relationship, have they incrementally tuned out and become more unconscious of the other person? Do you see the unconsciousness bringing on further resentment and frustration? Then, as the level of unconsciousness and inaction increases, does self-motivation, inner-confidence, and ultimately sense of worth and courage to achieve meaning decrease?
That is Intentional Unconsciousness in action. Over time, unconsciousness and inaction is an intentional method for avoidance. It is driven by fear and lack of courage to believe that something better actually exists.
We all have personally experienced this and seen this in others. It demonstrates how increased Intentional Unconsciousness leads to greater fear, lack of self-worth, low connection, and no courage.
Distraction is not an excuse for unconsciousness
In a time when the use of technology can seemingly perpetuate unconsciousness by stealing away from us opportunities to deeply think and to personally relate, we must take time to pause. We choose to consciously use technology, just as we choose whether or not to be physically and mentally available to connect with others. Technology is not the problem. Our desire to find distractions and avoid uncomfortable situations is the problem.
To appropriately position the use of technology in our lives, we must first realize the irreplaceable value that comes from being aware and conscious of 1) our internal thoughts and feelings, and 2) the external activities of people and circumstances around us.
Personal power, joy and connection come from being aware and conscious of our worth -- and believing that we provide value. You know the connection and joy that results from the actions of self-worth. It just feels right.
While there are age-old stories warning us about the dangers of unconsciousness, let’s not mistaken the use of technology to be any different than excessive use of food, alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, etc. as distractions that simply make it easier to numb and disconnect from the feelings of vulnerability and fear.
Putting an unconscious, blind eye to not experiencing love and joy -- or avoiding others’ behaviors for the convenience of not having to deal with an uncomfortable conversation -- or lacking the courage to take steps and follow your instincts to lead a fuller life and career – these are simply intentionally unconscious acts of fear and denial of self-worth and connection.
Nothing, including technology, is an excuse for being unconscious.
I define “Intentional Unconsciousness” as the choice to deny ourselves the awareness necessary to experience ourselves in joy. It is the act of denying ourselves the God-given right to be fulfilled, loved and open to the possibilities bestowed upon us. This choice denies us the opportunity to overcome the fear of unworthiness. It strips away the opportunity to achieve a greater sense of joy, love, success and fulfillment.
Intentional Unconsciousness is a part of the human condition and it keeps evolving with the times. It is nothing new. Perhaps in a newer world of technology, social media, and the awareness of greater cultural and societal divides, it is time to just get real and start realizing that the fallacies resulting in Intentional Unconsciousness have never been good. Perhaps today there is a greater risk of being exposed for such fallacies and they will likely be unfairly interpreted. Yet, as humans -- to whatever degrees -- we are all guilty of Intentional Unconsciousness. The question is to what extent is it limiting our individual potential and the potential of those around us?
As the benefits of technology and analytics give us more knowledge and the opportunity to be wise and to make better decisions, will we? As we have more studies and information at our fingertips about the meaning of life and how to achieve it, will we be more fulfilled?
Or will we manipulate the benefits of such knowledge and innovations to conveniently misconceive us and keep us intentionally unconscious and less courageous about acting on the differences that we can make in our short lives?
Our challenge to the members of our community, friends and associates is to realize the damage that Intentional Unconsciousness can cause… and stop it.
Ignorance is bliss. Choosing to be intentionally ignorant is in fact stupidity. It is hurtful to everyone impacted in its wake. It encourages fear, disconnection and invulnerability to human emotion.
As Brene Brown, Ted Talk speaker and author of Daring Greatly, has found in over 13,000 pieces of research, courage is not possible without vulnerability. I believe that vulnerability is not possible without the intent to be conscious, aware and connected to our feelings, thoughts, needs, and the people and the activities present around us.
Be brave, conscious and open to the vulnerability that awareness brings. Have courage to take action on the opportunities and growth that Intentional Consciousness will offer.
Further Insight by Brene Brown
(Overview from videos by Brene Brown, written by Shelley Moore)
Brene Brown, author of Daring Greatly, has found that the basis of invulnerability and disconnection is shame and fear. This shame and fear invokes invulnerability. With invulnerability comes disconnection and the following becomes true:
- Joy becomes foreboding
- Disappointment as a lifestyle
- Low-grade disconnection
- Perfection as a 200 lb. shield
- We pretend it doesn't matter
- Making the uncertain certain
- We numb – we are most addicted, medicated, obese, in-debt and busy adult cohort in U.S. history
Brene has found that the basis of shame is the fear of scarcity – the fear that we are not enough or extraordinary enough. She says that “ordinary” has become synonymous with a meaningless life. To perpetuate this, we unconsciously collect images of scarcity that remind us that we are not being enough.
When we numb vulnerability, fear, and the feeling of not being good enough -- we by default numb joy. Loving and caring about something or someone passionately is being vulnerable.
Here are her recommendations for practicing vulnerability and greater self-worth.
- Practice gratitude
- Apologize when you are wrong
- Honor ordinary
- Compete with the images from media and celebrate images that are ordinary in family, community, play and nature
- Allow the experiences of love and joy with your whole heart
- Let yourself be seen
- Believe you are worthy and enough