Foundations > Taking The Unconscious Into Account

The problem we typically face, where the individual under scrutiny is ourself, is that of recognising irrational aspects of our psyche that are leading us into behaviour not in our overall best interest. The successful entrepreneur is felled by a massive heart attack brought on by persistent overwork, despite the fact that he could long since have retired on the proceeds of the money he has already made – such is a common enough case in point. The woman whose drunken father beat her as a child, and who falls in love with a ‘wonderful’ man who turns out to be no better, is another commonplace.

To claim that our reason alone dominates our lives is manifestly false. Hitler’s decision to invade Russia was folly. In fact, it has all the hallmarks of the unconscious – apparently, he fatally chose the course of action which was certain to undermine him. I mention the latter case because we would be naïve to believe that in the public domain – in business for example – human beings suddenly become capable of rational behaviour, even if they are not so in their private lives. The tycoon who overreaches himself and comes crashing down from a great height is rather a commonplace than a rarity. The same man who, at one point in his life, is capable of exercising exceptional judgement can also, in different circumstances, entirely lose that ability. He develops an inflated idea of his qualities, and suddenly his touch has deserted him, so that the habit of authority which will brook no challenge to his view of things leads him helter-skelter to ruin and disgrace, though he has around him able lieutenants who could have saved him.

When we attempt to understand human behaviour, we must acknowledge that we do not simply make a well reasoned-out plan and proceed to carry it out. We do not do so as single, private individuals, and we do not do so in concerted action in the public arena, for example in politics or business or even, quite often, science. (As I write, yet another story has just erupted of a world-renowned scientist cooking the experimental books. This is not rational behaviour!) It therefore stands to reason that, to understand either the actual, or the possible future circumstances of a business or other public enterprise, we would be well advised not simply to gather statistical information such as an accountant or stock market analyst might provide, but also psychological information. This latter must include a view of the unconscious forces at play in a situation, not merely a revealing of analyses, trends, plans and so forth.
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