Unconscious Acting-Out

Unconscious acting-out is when a person is repeatedly participating in activities where the stated goal is a false narrative for a hidden agenda. This term “acting-out” is not meant to be for shaming the person who is experiencing it but as a way to describe how the person is bringing a need from within to the outside under a guise.

The most important part of identifying acting-out is that it is very repetitive and it’s highly unsatisfying for the person doing it. Frustration is a key emotion which will help locate it’s source. It may start out as being fun but if the activity is truly unconscious acting-out you can hear increasing complaints.

For example, lets say Jim loves to dance and especially choreographed group dance. He spends a lot of time practicing the steps and moves so that he can contribute to a great performance. Jim also runs the organizing, scheduling, finances, and ordering supplies. Most of the troupe holds up their end of the commitments but a few don’t. When they do not, Jim gets huffy and puffy and delivers lectures to the offenders about timeliness and the importance of having enough money for their practice space. For two years Jim’s level of hostility has increased and the problem has not been resolved. Jim is getting miserable and thinks about quitting the troupe. It’s more trouble than it’s worth! *scoff*

Is that a good example of acting out? There are a few ways to find out. We could confront Jim and ask if it is reasonable to expect such a high level of integrity from the others. Another thing we could do is ask Jim to temporarily pass the leadership responsibility to someone else and see if his happiness increases. Yet another approach we can take is to ask Jim if he has seen any improvements since he has been lecturing and getting even more heated in his communication.

If the thought of confronting someone who is passionate or volatile invokes some anxiety within you that is probably a good thing. Confronting someone that is suspected of acting-out can be uncomfortable and requires courage to initiate. Some psychologists can do it. A good friend or mentor can lead another to discover their unconscious. The individual can introspect for it as well. However, the type of person who understands and is willing to lead someone to know themselves better is rare to find.

Where does acting-out come from? I believe it comes from childhood trauma. There is a block in the process of maturation where the victim of the trauma is temporarily unable to adapt or change. Doing so would unlock for them the original traumatic injury. To make it worse it reveals part or all of the activities and the time spent as a false act. How many people did they involve in their activity? Were people hurt and victimized as a result?

It should not be underestimated the lengths people will go to avoid the knowledge of their own acting-out.

Stefan Molyneux said in one of his podcasts that the psychological term “true self” can serve as a motivating force for a person to get into a situation as many times as necessary for them to learn the lesson it is trying to teach. I think that is a fine way to look at what is happening when someone is acting-out from their unconscious. When a person is not learning from emotional queues and ignoring logic the pattern is developed. You can listen to FDR 334, 335, and 2350 for more.

Another place to explore is how acting-out is used by people in power to scapegoat the less powerful. You can witness it particularly when the parents are immature themselves and lack the capacity to nurture maturity within their child. The child of immature parents can be shown a poor example many times and mimic it. The parents can then punish the child for poor behavior. Have you ever been held to a high standard by someone who has a low standard for their own behavior? If so, how did it feel? Frustrating? Irritating?

It’s a daily occurrence for many young people to be subjected to their parent’s and teacher’s lectures, particularly of a moral nature, and then also be subjected to the very same moral violations by those parents and teachers. A common example is when a child is caught stealing, lectured about how wrong that is, and also subject to theft by the parent via taking away time, privileges, phone, tablet, or computers. Another common example is when the child is caught in school for vandalizing a desk, lectured about respecting school property, and the property of the parents is stolen via taxation.

It is sometimes referred to as “crazy-making“ when someone will create no-win situations for another. Financial dependence and young age are a major factor to consider when identifying victims of crazy-makers. When a person in power over another applies unjust rules and expectations you can watch how they wait for their victim to fail and then chastise them for it. The fact that they setup their victim for failure does not factor into their lectures post-failure. Even though it’s done regularly to maintain hierarchical dominance over the victim, when confronted with evidence the crazy-maker will seem to have no awareness and not admit it.

Welcome to the default condition of humanity.

The key to breaking free of unconscious behavior is bringing awareness of one’s own actions. That can be done a few ways including journaling, therapy, empiricism, patience, and accurate feedback from those around us. If you want to be more aware of your own actions you can do that but if you try to make someone else aware for themselves it will likely fail. Trying to change yourself is infinitely easier than changing someone else but still very difficult either way. The acting-out behavior is going to shock, repulse, and humiliate the person that is discovering it about themselves.

Once someone does become aware of the nature of acting-out of unconscious needs it opens up a new world of interacting with people. It is the only way someone can really be loved. I don’t think an unconscious person, someone who is not aware, can truly be loved by others. What can be loved about someone who is on auto-pilot or operating with a sadistic personality?

When we change as individuals and as a community to achieve higher levels of awareness, the destructive patterns of acting-out can diminish and more deliberate ways of being can help us connect with each other. If we are not exercising our ability of awareness we are not embodying what makes us human at a fundamental level. Be among the first conscious humans. Be intentional. Know thyself.

Author Tony Crowe, Salt Lake City, UT
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