Implicit Reality

Seeing the Ground You’re Standing On

By Ron Kurtz

Psychoanalysis is making the unconscious conscious. —Carl Jung (1)

Implicit memory [sometimes called, procedural memory, sometimes, emotional memory] involves parts of the brain that do not require conscious processing during encoding or retrieval. When implicit memory is retrieved, the neural net profiles that are reactivated involve circuits in the brain that are a fundamental part of our everyday experience of life: behaviors, emotions, and images. These implicit elements form part of the foundation for our subjective sense of ourselves: We act, feel, and imagine without recognition of the influence of past experience on our present reality. —Daniel Siegel (2)

I’ve noticed that the big moments in therapy are those in which the client realizes that he has a significant belief about himself and his world that he didn’t know he had. That belief and the memories that support it were implicit, not available to consciousness. They are an unchallenged reality. I’ve called such beliefs core beliefs and I’ve said that they are so deep, they are never questioned. They are simply acted upon. They make up the world we assume, without knowing we’re assuming it. They are the frame of reference we once adopted and in which we are now immersed. At best we have only the faintest inkling that we had anything to do with creating them.

It’s the work of deep psychotherapy to make those implicit realities conscious, to find ways to access implicit memories and core beliefs. Those memories are strongly influential and emotionally charged. Not accessible in the same way explicit memories are, they are difficult to realize and harder yet to challenge. That’s the “who you are” that Hakomi is all about. It’s the reality, the virtual reality,3 we’re all immersed in.

Clients, in the most important moments of their therapeutic work, discover that who they are and the world they’re living in is open to change. So, we help people bring pieces of this implicit reality into consciousness. Once implicit realities are conscious, they’re no longer implicit. They can be challenged and changed. This reality, which seems the very ground we’re is standing on, turns out to be only a platform, not the true, good earth. Such discoveries can sometimes leave one spinning. But, work that deep has great potential for healing.

So, we can ask of our clients, “What is their implicit reality?” “What worlds are they living in and who are they in those worlds?”


  1. Well known quote from the great psychoanalyst.
  2. From The Developing Mind, pg. 29.
  3. See i of the vortex, from Neuron to Self by Rudolpho Llinas

With permission, excerpts from writings of Ron Kurtz
© 2007 Ron Kurtz Trainings, Inc.