Awareness V. Consciousness
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.
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. Thus, when the patient is uncomfortable during a conventional, talk-therapy session, therapists typically take the position that, “More insight is what we need; the patient is not aware enough.” Yet, what lies on low levels of brain function is impervious to the realm of any ideas, where insights lie. That is why we can be anxious and aware, but not anxious and conscious. Consciousness is the end of anxiety.
Consciousness means connection to what is driving us – our disconnected feelings. Awareness means dealing with only the last evolutionary neuronal development: the pre-frontal cortex. It is the difference between separation on the top cerebral level versus the confluence of all three levels, which is consciousness. Once we are conscious, we have words to explain our feelings, but words do not eradicate them; they explain and elucidate. We are deeply wounded long before words make their appearance in our brains. Words are neither the problem nor the solution. They are the last evolutionary step in processing the feeling or sensation. They are the companions of feelings.
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.