Our beliefs and our overall worldview, much like our psyche and personality, is constructed into a cognitive framework that we develop, consciously or unconsciously, on our own. Many of our beliefs are assumed and adopted without much awareness, perspective or intentional discernment when we are young and impressionable.
Schema provide a convenient and an economical psychic energy conservation mechanism, but when we are not aware that we are constructing a predetermined set of instructions for our thinking and behavior in the future, we lessen our ability to effectively intuit, learn, grow and synthesize new and discordant information from our future experiences.
The intent behind Jungian Analysis, unlike Freud’s, was not only to unearth and release ones’ limiting Schemata, but to help guide the individual towards a self-guided growth process that Jung termed “Individuation”. This is analogous to the ongoing process of updating the software on a computing device. With the proper guidance the student drives their own learning and assimilation processes, and in the process develops truly higher levels of self-confidence and levels of acumen in their life and field(s) of endeavor.
As we age, if we resist assimilating novel learning and new experiences (which is the norm as well as energy conserving in an indoctrinated society that is already taxed us in so many ways) we regress as memory loss is a necessary condition of aging. When we are born we are literally like learning sponges, and as a John Locke philosophized a “Blank Slate”, in the sense that we have lots of “grey matter” absent the “white matter” (myelin) that ultimately determines what we learn as it is laid down setting up circuits that become our memories, beliefs and Schema as a result of its insulating and impulse enhancing properties. To relearn in the future requires a concerted, deliberate and aware effort.
After we go through puberty our brain becomes fully myelinated (the circuitry is set), and learning takes on a different physiological mechanism. We learn through a re-myelination of new circuits, not the pristine initial myelination of our youth. We learn in two ways, both of which initiate new circuitry in favor of the old, via newly directed myelin wiring.
We learn both through discordant and painful experiences and through deliberate self-directed aware study. The first is a natural part of life, we all go through physical and psychically upsetting and painful experiences in our lives. Things don’t turn out as we might have hoped, how we planned or we get punched in the proverbial gut when we least expected it. How we ultimately respond to these events is what determines the direction of our lives going forward. As our brain circuitry is set when “shit happens”, our initial reaction isn’t always what we had hoped we would have been capable of, especially when our mind has been conditioned to be so virtuous by a culture that holds us to so high an externally focused bar. The real test is the lesson hidden beneath the challenging event, do we tease it out or do we protect ourselves from future pain like we have in the past.
Baruch Spinoza, the 17th century Dutch philosopher, foreshadowed psychologies concept of the interplay of the conscious and the unconscious when he described “active” and “passive” emotions. Spinoza said that though most people think that they have the ability to choose for themselves, they really have already determined their response automatically via their unknown, or passive emotions. Until a passive emotion can be replaced by an active emotion choice was really an illusion. He said to overcome any passive emotion, a more powerful active emotion must take its place, only when this process was an aware one could we choose anything in out lives. His impact was profound as Freud, Jung, Adler and neurobiology has proved him to be correct.
So to rewrite an existing, unknown or unconsciously assumed Schema, we must either experience a painful event in our lives and deliberately tease out the lesson attached to it, or in a proactively aware manner seek new lessons and assimilate them into our existing understanding.