Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The difference between awareness and consciousness

Article by Dr Arthur Janov http://arthurjanov.com/

The leitmotif of every intellectual therapy is that awareness helps us make progress. I’ll grant that awareness helps; but being conscious cures. Unless we are able to achieve consciousness in psychotherapy, the most we can do is tread water, having the illusion of progress without its essence.

When it comes to measuring progress in psychotherapy, it matters whether one measures the whole system or only aspects of brain function. Awareness fits the latter. It has a specific seat in the brain— Awareness and consciousness are two different animals. “Aware” and feelings lie on different levels. Awareness is what we often use to hide the unconscious; a defense. Awareness without feeling is the enemy of consciousness. What we are after is the awareness of consciousness and the consciousness of awareness. Not the awareness of awareness. When the patient is uncomfortable during a session, therapists typically take the position that “More insights is what we need. She is not aware enough.” But it is not the content of those insights that helps; it is the fact of the insight—a belief system that aids the defense mechanisms to do their job. Yet, what lies on low levels of brain function is immune to any idea. We can be anxious and aware but not anxious and conscious.

Psychotherapy has been in the business of awareness for too long. Since the days of Freud, we have apotheosized insights. We are so used to appealing to the almighty frontal cortex, the structure that has made us the advanced human beings that we are, that we forgot our precious ancestors, their instincts and feelings. We may emphasize how our neocortex is so different from other animal forms while we disregard our mutually shared feeling apparatus. We need a therapy of consciousness, not awareness. If we believe that we have an id stewing inside of us, there is no proper treatment because the cause is an apparition—a phantom that doesn’t exist. Or worse, it is a genetic force that is immutable and therefore cannot be treated. In any case, we are the losers.

There is no powerlessness like being unconscious; running around in a quandary about what to do about this or that, about sexual problems, high blood pressure, depression, and temper outbursts. It all seems like such a mystery. The aware person or he who seeks awareness has to be told everything. He listens, obeys—and suffers. Awareness doesn’t make us sensitive, empathic, or loving. It makes us aware of why we can’t be. It’s like being aware of a virus. It’s good to know what the problem is but nothing changes. The best awareness can do is create ideas that negate need and pain. Read on


trisha said...

thanks a lot noreen. its a very beautiful, helpful post.

to live a real life we need both- awareness and consciousness.

Noreen Barron said...

I thought it was a lovely piece too Trisha, have a lovely weekend xx