Meditation: Eavesdropping on the Unconscious Brain

“I am liberated when I let go of the wheel  and let someone else drive.”

What do I mean by that? One word. Three syllables. Simple.

SURRENDER

The act of surrender: to give up, and let go after a struggle. Synonyms of surrender include: Relent, Crumble, Back Down, Cave in.

But what exactly are we surrendering, and who are we surrendering it to?

Using Sigmund Freud’s three part model of the ego we learn how to surrender our ID, and EGO to our SUPER EGO.  We can let go of the need to get what we want, and instead, do the right thing. 

 This photo is a representation of Sigmund Freud's three part model of the ego. Notice the majority of the ego resides below the water, where the unconscious mind makes decisions.

This photo is a representation of Sigmund Freud's three part model of the ego. Notice the majority of the ego resides below the water, where the unconscious mind makes decisions.

 

The ID.

The ID is the part of the ego thats seeks out pleasure and is responsible for satisfying every wishful impulse that you have. 

“The id engages in primary process thinking, which is primitive, illogical, irrational, and fantasy oriented. This form of process thinking has no comprehension of objective reality, and is selfish and wishful in nature.”  McLeod, S. A. (2016)

Each and every one of us has one of these bad boys and they have the power to destroy. Since our ID is not grounded in reality, we must have something that can keep this beast in check.

That would be the EGO’s responsibility. 

Horse

Freud made the analogy of the ID being a horse while the ego is the rider. The ego is 'like a man on horseback, who has to hold in check the superior strength of the horse'.

The ego helps mediate between the ID and external reality. The Ego is there to help the ID get what it wants, but without suffering societal consequences. 

“However, The ego has no concept of right or wrong; something is good simply if it achieves its end of satisfying without causing harm to itself or to the id.” McLeod, S. A. (2016).

So our ID and our Ego will both do whatever it takes to get what the ID wants. For example, the ID of a man who is married says, “I want to make love to that woman.”

Ego says to the ID, “We have a wife though.”

ID replies, “Well then make love to this woman without getting caught.”

Ego calculates the chances of getting caught and decides they are very slim. Ego says to the ID, “Okay we are going to sneak over to her house and get the pleasure you want.” The husband cheats, and sure enough, he doesn’t get caught. The Ego found a way for the ID to get what it wanted without suffering societal consequences. All is good right?

WRONG: This is where the Super Ego comes in! Even though the ID and Ego got what they wanted, the Super Ego will not let this slide so easily.

Super Ego is the third and most evolved part of the ego.

The Super Ego's job is to persuade the Ego to do the right thing, according to learned societal values. The Super Ego is what also inflicts feelings of guilt as a form of punishment when the Ego let’s the ID get its way by doing the wrong thing. 

Just imagine yourself as the Ego. On one shoulder there is an angel which is your Super Ego, and on your other shoulder is a devil which represents your ID. The angel and the devil both fight to get you to do what they think is best. The problem is, this conversation between your angel and devil is usually happening in the unconscious mind. Essentially, our unconscious mind can make decisions before we are even consciously aware.

 Photo Credit: http://hulseyaplit.weebly.com/

Photo Credit: http://hulseyaplit.weebly.com/

The key to surrendering our ID and Ego over to the Super Ego is having an awareness around our unconscious.

Meditation can increase our awareness of what is happening in our unconscious brains, according to a study conducted by a team at the University of Sussex in Brighton, UK.

Meditation is an incredible tool that gives us power to surrender to our Super Ego.

Through meditation we are increasing our awareness, bringing the conversations that were once happening in our unconscious mind to our conscious mind. Once we have this awareness we can practice surrendering to the Super Ego and do the right thing..

But how do you meditate? Simple!

1. Set a timer on your phone for five minutes

2. Sit quietly on the floor or in a chair, and focus on your breath.

3. As thoughts pop up in your mind, simply observe them. You may get carried away by your thoughts but THAT IS OKAY!

4. When you remember you are meditating, kindly bring your attention back to your breath.

This practice of noticing your thoughts and gently bringing your attention, over and over again, back to the present moment helps you to understand that you are not your thoughts. You can choose to act on your thoughts or just notice them, and return back to the present moment. 

Meditation cultivates neuroplasticity or changes in the brain that occur based on experiences such as our mental habits and behaviors (Serpa & Wolf 2015). Neuroplasticity only happens when a behavior is repeated, that is why I encourage you to start a daily, or almost daily meditation practice. Just because you are aware of the concept of meditation, doesn't mean changes in the brain will occur. Only when you consistently practice meditation, will you increase your awareness.

If the married man used in the previous example had a meditation practice, perhaps he would’ve had a stronger sense of awareness around his tendencies to act on his thoughts of wanting to cheat and let them crumble under the Super Ego's persuasion to stay faithful. 

Would you like to create some space between you and your thoughts? Start a daily meditation practice using the technique described above, or downloading the app Insight Timer to access guided meditations.