There are two forms of memory, explicit and implicit. Explicit memory is declarative in nature. In other words, when asked what you did today, you’re able to declare (speak) about it. Implicit memory on the other hand is memory and knowledge that is difficult to be spoken of. When we are asked how we walk, we all know how to do it, but it’s not something we could easily explain.
We can explicitly declare we love ourselves, but implicitly our behavior can say otherwise. We can consciously love ourselves, but unconsciously hate ourselves. Even in ancient times, before we had a conceptual understanding of this, we could hear it echoed in the words of the Christian apostle Paul as he said, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7:15, ESV)
I believe it’s important to recognize that when our outside (conscious / explicit) doesn’t match our inside (unconscious / implicit) there is likely defense mechanisms and the persona (in essence the mask of conformity) at work. These are typically “white lies” that allow us to operate as if things were fine (giving the appearance of healthy living – correctness) or so that we are accepted by others (likability).
The problem with deception is it’s damaging. It creates neurosis (a mismatch of inner and outer being) and can be the beginning of many forms of mental illness. The closer we are to the truth (reality), the better off we are. We become more resilient to stress during change because we are able to adapt not to an illusion, but to the reality (truth) of the situation. A key component of this is acceptance (not to be confused with approval).
“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” – Carl Rogers, On Becoming a Person
“…we cannot change, we cannot move away from what we are, until we thoroughly accept what we are. Then change seems to come about almost unnoticed.” – Carl Rogers, On Becoming a Person
It’s in accepting the reality of the situation, accepting the reality of ourselves that we can finally understand what actions are necessary to change our situation. Recognizing where we are doesn’t mean we approve of our toxic behaviors, but allows us to see our lives as they actually are. So long as we continue to ignore the issues at hand, numbing ourselves to the pain either through ignoring it or some other external means, we will suffer continuously and find true lasting change either difficult or altogether impossible.
I’ll leave us with this profound quote from Abraham Maslow’s book, Toward a Psychology of Being, “By protecting himself against the hell within himself, he also cuts himself off from the heaven within.”