Dorje Drolo (a Tibetan deity) portrays a wrathful form of Padmasambhava as a demon subduer. He rides upon a pregnant tigress that symbolizes the strength and knowledge that are latent in everybody. [Padmasambhava took this form] in order to subdue the demons that are troubling people.
At all stages in my training (including my current) I struggle with the ability to understand complex systems. Much like our universe, the mind is a complex system comprised of sub-complex systems. Below, is my attempt to demonstrate how our subconscious system along with our ego system respond to external data.
Working top to bottom, the interior of the triangle reads, conscious. The conscious, as I understand it, is the mechanism that we experience as aware, present, or mindful. On the left of conscious it reads Pleasure, opposite of Pain prevention. Pleasure and Pain prevention are drives that operate like a thrift store purchaser- "we'll take this..and you can keep that to yourself."
Pleasure, Conscious and Pain prevention are at the top to indicate that they are the front-line to organize and predict incoming/ongoing information (while streaming in our conscious) as pleasurable or painful.
*There is substantial variance among individuals in determining what's considered painful and pleasurable. For instance the child growing up with an abusive parent, may identify abuse as care/love, depending on how the parent justified the abuse; therefore abuse, associated with love/care, is a potential pleasure.
The Pre-conscious located in the middle of the triangle, just under conscious, which can be considered our dormant memory warehouse. In the pre-conscious memories are retrievable, but the process of retrieving a memory can be likened to asking a librarian to retrieve a periodical, the retrieval is dependent on the librarians mood/ the emotion associated with the memory. Memories that provide survival or pleasurable experiences are more likely to be retrieved than those of failure or loss. *I believe an algorithm can best explain and predict the functioning of the pre-conscious and I'll take a shot at presenting that in the next blog post.
With that said, the manic defense is a means to defend against lose/failure and re-establish pleasure. Manic defenses are experienced in conquer, control and contempt. We employ manic defenses impulsively to re-route lose, powerlessness or disappointment and re-establish pleasure. Think about the last time you weren't able to have something and how you reacted to that, chances are you devalued the thing you wanted, replaced it or diverted your attention to something you can control.
Anxiety serves a similar purpose as a manic defense, anxiety informs us of a potential threat. Therefore, anxiety prevents us from further discomfort/pain as it functions to identify existing threats that can potentially cause the person to feel discomfort or pain. In this sense, anxiety is a sophisticated and essential feeling that notifies us and provides us time to prepare or prevent further discomfort. To restore baseline, anxiety may cause us to behave impulsively not taking into account reality. For example, the last time we were late to a meeting and in traffic (late=feeling of discomfort + traffic=powerlessness) this may have led you to (impulsively) running a red light or (impulsively) taking a detour that led you to being lost. Instead of accepting the reality of your untimeliness.
*Shame and guilt are significant detergents in the development of the sense of self. Feelings of helplessness is a significant emotion driving us towards infusion/enmeshment with another.
My theory contends that feelings of isolation, depression, helplessness (isolation) and panic lie in the Subconscious. These unbearable feelings were initially experienced early on in life and we learned to survive/defend them through enmeshment/infusion with another OR omnipotence/narcissistic defenses. As babies or toddlers all we're equipped with is our relationships and emotions. This alone can cause a great deal of distress if we perceive our caregivers to be disconnected, self-centered or anything aside from dependable. As our life and well-being was dependent on our caregivers.
The last internal mechanism that interacts with our external world is the id, ego and superego. The id is our indulgences (whats experienced in the conscious as fantasies), and the superego functions as our morality/ code of ethics to co-exist (experiences as our internalized sheriff). The ego is then the mechanism that organizes the id and negotiates the desires of the id and superego.
So...what do I do with this information?
The goal is always to convert what's subconscious to conscious which yields choice and authority of ones life. In therapy the idea is to let go of defenses that served us in survival or pleasure, because it becomes clear, through suffering, that these very defenses are limited and left other parts of our system underdeveloped. My addition to that is the Integration piece I added at the very bottom of the chart. Integration is an exercise to develop ego-strength with consciousness. Integration is the (sum of) Σ all parts opposing defenses. For instance, instead of seeking pleasure to avoid depression, develop delayed gratification. If we can tolerate delayed gratification we can contemplate our reality, which likely includes being vulnerable or interdependent on another in lieu of seeking, indulgent pleasure through manic omnipotent means. The knowledge of Dorje Drolo tigress.
The same process applies for our pain prevention drive of tolerating discomfort to accept external data/reality and our responsibility in reality as uncomfortable as it may be. Chances are we felt anxious because the reality poses challenges and we're likely to experiences humility (> shame) as our limitations are revealed to us, and we can work through humility with will. The strength of Dorje Drolo tigress.
This blog is an introduction to the mechanics of the id,ego and superego as well as the conscious, pre-conscious and subconscious and how they interact with external data. In other words, this isn't intended to thoroughly explain the bilateral communication among both subsystems and how they're manifested through experiences, defenses and relationships. A therapeutic setting provides the frame to bring cohesion of this model for a more rich understanding.