The human mind is believed to comprise of:
The Conscious Mind
The Preconscious Mind / Sub-Conscious Mind
The Unconscious Mind
It is Sigmund Freud who used the metaphor of an iceberg to describe the human mind.
The conscious mind according to Freud is that portion of the human mind, which can be mapped to the part of the iceberg, which is visible above the waterline.
It is the conscious mind that does mental processing and enables us to feel, talk, and think rationally. The conscious mind performs the tasks of analysing, calculating and decision making.
When we decide to put out our hand to pick up a glass of water from a table, or when we put out our foot to start running, it is our conscious mind which directs these voluntary actions.
Since childhood we form many beliefs based on our family values, culture, society, economic status, and religion. These beliefs run our lives. They are like the main rule-sets, which govern our lives. When any new information is presented, our conscious mind matches this piece of information with the beliefs already lodged in our unconscious mind. If the piece of information is a perfect match with the beliefs already present, then, the information is allowed in. Else, it is outright rejected by the conscious mind. So, if since childhood you have the belief that you are extremely intelligent, and give your best and always perform outstandingly well, if someone later in life calls you a fool your conscious mind will outright reject that information. If since childhood, however, you have a belief stored in your sub-conscious mind, which says you are inferior, then, even if you perform par excellence and your work is widely appreciated, you will not believe that you have done a good job, because the belief you hold states you are not good enough.
This is true for all kinds of beliefs – personal, religious, economic etc.
The conscious mind can also be compared to the input device of a computer. It is like the keyboard, the mouse, or the light pen. The information can come in from either external or internal sources and immediately we become aware of it just as the information appears on the computer screen / monitor.
It is the conscious mind, which acts like a bridge between our inner world and the external world.
Constant exchange of information goes on between the external and the internal world through the conscious mind in the form of words (verbal and written), images, thoughts, and actions. Our conscious mind has the ability to focus on specific tasks, goals, and objectives, which the subconscious mind and the unconscious mind do not have. Also, it is the conscious mind, which can visualize and imagine, which is highly necessary for any kind of mental therapy. It is visualization and imagination, which is largely used both in sports hypnosis by the athletes, and also in regular hypnotherapy, as well as in fields such as NLP. And, it is visualization that produces astonishing results.
The conscious mind, therefore, is the tool, which actually starts the process of transformation and healing in life.
The preconscious mind, according to Freud, is represented by that part of the iceberg, which is under water but is still visible to the eyes. This part of the human mind stores our recent memories. Freud never agreed to the usage of the term ‘Sub-conscious Mind’. The term ‘sub-conscious’ was coined by the French psychologist Pierre Janet.
Freud, infact, clearly mentions,“If someone talks of sub-consciousness, I cannot tell whether he means the term topographically – to indicate something lying in the mind beneath consciousness – or qualitatively – to indicate another consciousness, a subterranean one, as it were. He is probably not clear about any of it. The only trustworthy antithesis is between conscious and unconscious.”
Since the term ‘sub-conscious mind’ is now popularly used in a lot of self-help literature, as well as the New Age literature, we will be using the term here.
There is a slight confusion though, as people tend to use the term sub-conscious mind to mean the unconscious mind, which is incorrect.
Sub-conscious mind is more like the Preconscious mind as described by Freud. Therefore, we will be using these two terms interchangeably.
Our sub-conscious mind, stores information of which we may not be consciously aware, however, we can retrieve the information when needed. A common example is that of a phone number or the name of a person you recently met. You may not be aware of your phone number at all times, however, now that the phrase ‘phone number’ has been mentioned, you instantly recollect your phone number from your unconscious mind. It is like the RAM of a computer. Our everyday behavioural traits, thoughts, reactions, feelings, and sensations, both pleasurable and painful are stored here, along with major life experiences /memories, which can be easily recollected.
They are stored just below the surface of the conscious mind and, as such, are easily accessible.
However, these are memories, which are not very detailed and did not have too huge an impact on our lives.
Often, the highly negative traumatic memories, and their details, which had a huge impact on our emotions and lives are suppressed from our consciousness and are stored in the unconscious mind.
Stored in the preconscious / sub-conscious mind, as mentioned above, are also our belief systems based on our family values, culture, society, economic status, and religion. These are the filters through which we perceive the world. These beliefs are the coloured glasses, if you will, through which we look at the world, and which in turn, colours our world for us.
Any information that comes into our mind from the outside world is first filtered by these belief-systems lying in the sub-conscious mind.
Were it not for the preconscious / sub-conscious mind, we would be overwhelmed with information, which would be very confusing for us and would leave us impaired from functioning efficiently in daily life. Thanks to the sub-conscious mind, all the unnecessary information is filtered out, which makes us aware of what information is essential in the present moment to complete the tasks at hand.
The preconscious / sub-conscious mind, in a way, is also a gatekeeper, much like the conscious mind. It is a gatekeeper who vigilantly keeps track of what information can be transferred from the unconscious mind to the conscious mind.
The preconscious / sub-conscious mind, a powerhouse in itself, though, requires the co-operation of the conscious mind to create healthy changes within it.
So, if one consciously practices changing any thought pattern, or behavioural pattern, in life, that is what the preconscious / sub-conscious mind gradually accepts as the truth.
The unconscious mind, according to Freud, is that part of the iceberg, which is completely submerged under the waterline and is not visible to the eye.
It is the storehouse where all the memories, experiences, minutest associations, reactions, and sensations are stored in great detail since birth. It is like the hard disk of a computer. This is the library, the pre-conscious mind, very often refers to, for extracting information. The experiences and memories stored in the unconscious mind are the source, from which all the habits, beliefs, and behavioural traits are formed. The unconscious mind thus is the source of all our patterns in life, experiential, and behavioural. It is also the source of creativity. (Please see Carl Jung’s Collective Unconscious, Archetypes, and Shadows-The Seat of Creativity.)
Memories of major traumas, which we do not like to recollect, or would like to completely forget, are usually stored in the unconscious mind. It can be safely said that what we do not most like to be reminded of, and what we find unacceptable which are related to pain, conflict, and angst are stored in the recesses of the unconscious mind.
Anything that we do not deem as very important and we do not wish to remember is usually stowed away in the unconscious mind. The memories here cannot be easily recalled, except, by tools such as hypnosis, or through a trigger in the form of a particular experience or situation. Pleasurable memories with all the minutest details too are stored in the unconscious mind.
If we seek to change a core belief in our life or to change any area of our life completely, we need to start by establishing a contact with the unconscious mind, and reprogramming the belief systems therein.
There is a difference between Freud’s concept of the Unconscious Mind and Carl Jung’s concept of the Unconscious Mind.
Freud believed that the Unconscious Mind is the repository of primal, socially unacceptable urges and desires of human beings, and traumatic events, which one would rather forget.
Few people realize that the unconscious mind is the seat of creativity. This is the seat of inspiration most of the artists and writers tap into, to create their works of art. (Please see Carl Jung’s Collective Unconscious, Archetypes, and Shadows-The Seat of Creativity.)
Both the sub-conscious mind and the unconscious mind also love the language of symbols.
Very often our dreams, which seem to be stitched together by disconnected scenes, are nothing but symbols used by our unconscious mind to convey a message to us. Infact, we also have something called dream therapy, which is a method of gleaning the meaning from images and elements of dreams in order to get an insight into a client’s psyche. Apart from Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung too, used this method extensively on his patients with remarkable results showing up. There was a difference though, between Carl Jung’s dream interpretations and those of Freud’s. For Freud the dreams were symbolic messages from the unconscious, which were sexual, animalistic and instinctual in nature, whereas, for Jung the symbols in dreams were more of a spiritual nature.
Coming back to the language of symbols, the easiest way, therefore, to change any belief systems in our unconscious mind, is by using visualization and imagination with the help of the conscious mind. For in visualizing we are speaking the language of symbols and imagery, which, both the sub-conscious mind and the unconscious mind love.
Regular visualization practice sends these images deep into the unconscious mind and the reprogramming of the unconscious mind takes place. In hypnotherapy, this process gets accelerated as hypnotherapy connects the conscious mind of the individual directly to the unconscious mind, in a single session and so the results appear swiftly. However, even without hypnotherapy if regular visualization practice is done with emotional intensity, the results appear pretty fast.
With hypnotherapy though, when a person is put in touch with the unconscious mind he sees the root of his problem. He realizes that very often the root of the problem he seeks to address lies in a flawed perspective, which in turn has its roots in childhood. The moment the perspective changes, understanding dawns, and the solution clearly appears. Then the map of the unconscious mind begins to change. As the map changes so does our internal representation of the world. This is when thought patterns change and behavioural transformations happen.
With the change in the internal representation of our world, the way we perceive the world changes, and soon, following suit, the external world around us starts to transform rapidly.
Please see the following related topics:
Among your many faces, in the cover of darkness, that you hide, Buried somewhere beneath them is your Light…. Although its been many years now, I haven’t forgotten her shining face, and sparkling eyes as she spoke to a crowd of around a hundred and fifty odd people.
Deafening noise. That’s what I experienced when I first set out to practice silence. There was nowhere I could escape to. The din was in my head. Practicing silence in life, initially, can indeed get maddeningly noisy. It tears apart and rips all that you are not, to shreds; it tosses you around in the darkness, mocks at who you think you are by showing you all the stories you have told yourself, about yourself.
Cutting the Ties that Bind – A Phyllis Krystal Method
This is a group session held at Breakthrough every month, that teaches how to break free from the invisible chains that bind us, block us and keep us from being who we really are.
Dates for the next session to be shortly announced.