In his book, The Social Animal: A Story of How Success Happens, David Brooks, explores the unconscious mind. Brooks relates his theory in a more accessible way using the fictional characters of two people who led wonderfully fulfilling lives (p.5). The reason for their success is, Brook explains, “They possessed what economists call noncognitive skills, which is the catchall category for hidden qualities that can’t be easily counted or measured, but which in real life lead to happiness and fulfillment ”(p.8). I do think as humans we might find happiness from doing things we love. But I do not believe noncognitive skills would bring real happiness and fulfillment to people’s lives. True happiness is found in knowing that I am loved and cherished by God.
Another interesting note Brooks makes is how researchers described success as “having to do with IQ, wealth, prestige, and worldly accomplishments.” But, “the role of the inner mind—the unconscious realm of emotions, intuitions, biases, longings, genetic predispositions, character traits, and social norms. This is the realm where character is formed and street smarts grow” (p.6). Thus, Brooks wants us to think about the unconscious mind. Because most of our decisions, Brooks argues, are influenced by the underlying unconscious emotional states, which in return are impacted by the social environments we live in. From my own experience, I realize that my exposure to American culture and education system impacted me positively in so many ways. Even more, traveling to two countries around the world in our doctorial LGP program has given me a broader perspective about others’ cultures. This all is to highlight how we are constantly influencing one another in one way or another.
A further fascinating thought comes from Brooks’ discussion on “the empire of emotion” in the unconscious inner realm of mind as he describes:
“If the study of the conscious mind highlights the importance of reason and analysis, study of the unconscious mind highlights the importance of passions and perception. If the outer mind highlights the power of the individual, the inner mind highlights the power of relationships and the invisible bonds between people. If the outer mind hungers for status, money, and applause, the inner mind hungers for harmony and connection—those moments when self-consciousness fades away and a person is lost in a challenge, a cause, the love of another or the love of God ” (p.8).
It is interesting to see the roles of interdependence between outer mind and inner minds. Both parts of our minds—the conscious and the unconscious interaction are important for humans to fully flourish. Whether we agree with Brooks’ analysis or not, as human beings we are created with the desire to connect, and have a meaningful relationship with others. We are created for love and fellowship. We need to take time to play, as Brooks says, “Laughter exists for a reason, and it probably existed before humans developed language” (p.70). One of my favorite parts of Sunday worship at my church is our coffee and fellowship time at the end of the service. I truly look forward to greeting my friends and everyone. For that reason, I resonate with Brooks’ explanation of our “inner extrovert.” He says, “Your unconscious, that inner extrovert, wants you to reach outward and connect. It wants you to achieve communion with work, friend, family, nation, and cause. Your unconscious wants to entangle you in the thick web of relations that are the essence of human flourishing. It longs and pushes for love”(p.17). It is fascinating to learn how our “inner extrovert” is designed to help us develop a sense of balance in our lives. Knowing the pivotal roles of our unconscious realm in our minds could inspire us to make efforts consciously to find ways to engage in what we love and care for. Again, my point is, while I thank God for the ways he created our minds, I do not believe people can find long lasting fulfillment just by learning how to find balance in life. As a follower of Christ I search for my fulfillment in God, the source of all lives. Success in my opinion is doing what I can do to the best and leave the outcomes to God.