What does 'The Internal Library' mean anyway?
An explanation of my cryptic business name
In a poetic sense, The Internal Library is....
That space from which dreams come in the night...
That space in which inspiration and creativity swirl together...
That space from which deep and powerful emotions well up...
That space from which your deepest instincts are called forth...
That space where we meet the source of true love, true change, and true peace.
It's that emergent space beneath your conscious mind where the evidence of the inexplicable majesty of all that is awaits your eager inquisitive exploration.
And this space is not only accessible to you, it is actively calling out to you right here, right now.
Heed the call.
Well, that was quite a mouthful! But what does that all really mean?
The (Your) Internal Library is everything that your unconscious mind does that brings you toward deeper integration and away from pointless cyclical suffering.
Despite what many psychologists, neuroscientists, and biologists might suggest, we really don't understand our minds all that well. We have certainly made remarkable progress in many domains with regard to understanding the mechanics of memory, thought, learning, and reflexive instincts, but they do ultimately remain mysterious at their cores.
Some of the most inexplicable aspects of our minds, like consciousness, dreaming, identity, or the seeming divide between our conscious and unconscious mind, are utterly perplexing. They are so perplexing that we barely seem to be able to get off the ground when discussing them scientifically. And yet these aspects of our minds are as central to our experience of being alive as anything else. Consciousness, for example, is the very substance of being alive (subjectively), and ought to be a primary point of study in psychology and neuroscience. Yet, the mechanism by which consciousness arises from our brains (and from nowhere else, as is commonly assumed) is nowhere near understood. The whole debate is stuck in the speculative philosophy realm, as it has been ever since consciousness was even noticed by our clever hominid forebearers. It's so intractable that the Philosopher David Chalmers has dubbed it "the hard problem of consciousness" (Chalmers 1995). And all signs point to it remaining quite hard.
What's worse (or better, if you're a little wacked out like me), many philosophers have lifted consciousness out of its cozy and singular spot in the human domain and have postulated it to exist in animals, plants, dynamic systems like the ocean or the Sun, and even as a base constituent of all matter and energy, as fundamental as gravity or electromagnetism, all the way down to the level of quarks and the quantum soup. This is called 'panpsychism', and more and more scientists and philosophers are quietly and begrudgingly accepting its plausibility. For more about this, read Annika Harris's phenomenal book Conscious.
Why is this relevant?
Consciousness is seemingly impenetrably mysterious and inexplicable (at least scientifically), and yet we navigate it personally all day every day. Its boundaries dictate every aspect of our lives. In light of this, people do not let current scientific limitations stop them from constructing pragmatic models of navigating consciousness. In fact, some argue that religion is our best attempt to navigate consciousness, not scientifically, but rather, practically, in a way that actually gets us results today. Whether or not you are religious, you are forced to contemplate and maneuver consciousness in some manner, and you need a model for that.
Much of the psychological helping professions are built on evolving models that are pre-scientific in origin, and (ideally) informed by science over time, reforming as more studies come out. 'The Internal Library' is my phrasing for the model that seems to make the most sense to me practically, and it will hopefully be cashed out scientifically as we learn more. The Internal Library is memory (both personal and collective), it's creativity, it's learning, it's healing, it's homeostatic equilibrium, and it's permeability between consciousness and unconsciousness. You "access" this library by learning to explore and respond intelligently to your own spontaneous thoughts, ideas, dreams, and reflexes in such a way that your wellbeing is enhanced rather than undermined.
What might this exploration look like?
A fantastically effective and yet simple strategy for accessing your Internal Library is journaling, specifically journaling without editing. By letting your thoughts and ideas free-associate, and by letting your consciousness stream onto the page, you will rather quickly accrue tons of data on what your mind is up to underneath the surface. You may surprise yourself by what comes out, and by what doesn't come out. What's more, you may come to useful understandings or insights that have eluded you for days, months, or even years about vitally important areas of your life, just by letting your mind run out experimental thinking on paper.
Where were these insights earlier? Clearly they came from your mind, and it's unlikely that they simply appeared at the exact moment that you happen to be writing. They seem to have been, in some sense, co-created by your conscious desire for insight combined with your unconscious stores of feelings, memories, emotions, and reflexes, resulting in a novel and important creation that has practical utility for your wellbeing. It's almost as if 'you' are better relegated to your conscious will doing the querying, and 'your' unconscious mind is a collection of cognitive artifacts that you can consistently access, but that aren't really 'yours' in the same way that your attention is yours. These cognitive artifacts are elusive, slippery, vague, coded, and sometimes barricaded (like trying to remember a name that you know that you know, but just can't find for some reason).
This Internal Library is available to you, but you must access it with a system. You can't simply command instant outputs from it like you can socks from a dresser drawer. It takes time, patience, curiosity, openness, strategy, finesse, and (I would recommend) reverence. It isn't really 'you' in the conventional sense. It's more like an encrypted search engine with an unpredictable schedule and a child-like attitude. It doesn't merely cooperate. It engages, it responds, it prompts, it counters, and it may even vanish without warning.
I have dedicated this life to learning to relate to and commune with this Internal Library in a way that will result in the maximum flourishing for myself, my loved ones, my community, and as many sentient beings as for whom I can account. Simultaneously, this Internal Library has made it quite clear to me that the best way to do such a thing is to make a lifestyle out of constantly practicing the modalities that get me there, as well as to teach them to as many souls as I can get to listen to me. And I stopped resisting that call long ago.
I do hope that this short essay answers the question "What does 'The Internal Library' mean anyway?" in a satisfying enough way that, at the very least, you feel less need for eyebrow furrowing, and perhaps even a little excited to dig deeper into the blog to see some of the tools that I recommend for interacting with The Internal Library healthily and effectively. There are many such tools, and some will gel with different personalities with different degrees of smoothness. Please peruse the other writings here at your leisure, give the exercises a try where they pop up, and, if you'd like to undertake a more formal dive into any of them, feel free to connect with me through the Contact page and we can set up your free first session (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Thanks for reading!