The mind is one of the most fascinating and powerful aspects of ourselves. It's stronger than any supercomputer we've ever made and can store practically an infinite amount of information.
How we access all that stored information stems from the levels of the mind. There are three in total, but in this article the focus will be on the relationship between our consciousness and our subconscious. By discovering what goes on in our heads, we can best achieve our goals by tapping into the different minds.
In Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytic theory of personality, the conscious mind consists of everything within our consciousness. This is the aspect of our mental processing that we can think and talk about rationally.
Consciousness includes such things as the sensations, perceptions, memories, feelings, and fantasies within our current consciousness. Closely related to the conscious mind is the subconscious, which includes the things we don't think about at the moment but can easily pull into conscious awareness.
The iceberg metaphor
To best expose the differences, it first helps to understand the different levels of the mind. For that we turn to Sigmund Freud, the man who founded the concept.
In his theory he used the analogy of the iceberg and that the idea that the mind could form three parts of this iceberg. Freud often used the metaphor of an iceberg to describe the three main aspects of the human personality.
The tip of the iceberg extending above the water represents consciousness. As you can see with an iceberg, the conscious mind is just the “tip of the iceberg”. The conscious mind is the ice above the water. This is only a small part of the iceberg as most of the ice is underwater. Everything underwater is divided into two more parts. The preconscious is everything below the waterline, while the subconscious is far below.
This analogy may not make much sense at first glance, but if you look at Freud's conclusions about what each mind does, some truth can be found.
- The conscious mind is where all our thoughts, feelings, hopes and memories are stored. This is the part we use to think and talk. Coming back to the iceberg analogy, you can say that these are all things that take little effort to see.
- The preconscious mind is anything that is not at the forefront of our minds, but that we can bring to the surface with a little effort.
- The latter is the subconscious mind, which stores feelings, urges, and memories beyond our conscious mind. These are usually things that we suppress, such as pain, fear, or conflict. These events direct our general behavior, motives and decisions.
Things that the conscious mind wants to keep hidden from consciousness are suppressed in the unconscious mind. Although we are not aware of these feelings, thoughts, urges and emotions, Freud believed that the unconscious mind could still have an influence on our behavior.
Things present in our subconscious mind are available to the conscious mind only in disguised form. For example, the contents of the unconscious can enter the consciousness in the form of dreams. Freud believed that by analyzing the content of their dreams, people could discover the unconscious influences on their conscious actions.
The Differences Between Consciousness vs Subconsciousness
The conscious mind includes all the things you are currently aware of and thinking about. It is somewhat similar to short-term memory and is limited in terms of capacity. Your awareness of yourself and the world around you is part of your awareness.
The subconscious brain includes things that we may not be aware of at the moment, but that we can pull into our consciousness if necessary.
You may not be thinking about how to solve a math problem right now, but you can access the information and make it aware when confronted with it. The unconscious mind is a part of the mind that corresponds to ordinary memory. These memories are not conscious, but we can bring them back to consciousness at any time.
While the conscious is important, Freud believed that they were much less vital than the subconscious. The unconscious brain can process as many as 11.2 million bits and consciousness only 60 bits. This means that about 5% what we do is conscious and 95% unconscious. The unconscious determines our actions for 95% and is the filter through which we perceive reality.
Consciousness and subconscious mind are separate, but they can work together
As previously described, the conscious mind and the subconscious mind are on different levels and store different pieces of information. However, there are other differences.
differences in beliefs
This refers to the fact that both the conscious mind and the subconscious mind have different beliefs.
As with animals, many of our decision-making factors lie beneath the surface. An animal doesn't "decide" to fly or hunt, sleep or fight the way we make many of our own choices about what to do — it simply follows instructions coming from the subconscious parts of its brain.
These same kinds of instructions come to us from the same parts of our brains, sometimes for good evolutionary reasons and sometimes to our detriment. Our subconscious fears and desires direct our motivations and actions through emotions such as love, fear and inspiration.
While some subconscious parts of our brain are dangerously animalistic, others are smarter and faster than our conscious mind. Our greatest moments of inspiration often come from our subconscious. We experience these creative breakthroughs when we are relaxed and not trying to access the part of the brain they are in, which is generally the neocortex. When you say, "I was just thinking about something," you noticed that your subconscious was telling your conscious mind something. With training it is possible to open this communication flow.
That means if you change your mind, you don't automatically change the subconscious program. Consciousness learns differently than the subconscious mind.
Your conscious mind, right behind your forehead, somewhere in the pre-frontal cortex, represents you as a unique individual. I think it's safe to say it's mostly your thoughts.
So while our minds have different perspectives, there is the potential for them to work together.
For example, consider putting off a task to get a "light bulb" idea. That idea didn't come from anywhere specifically, but rather from your subconscious.
Active vs Passive
The last difference is how involved each part of our mind is, and the best way to explain it is through an example that we can all identify with.
Do you sometimes feel like you can't fall asleep because your mind wanders?
Part of the reason for this is due to the subconscious mind. When you fall asleep, your conscious mind rests, but your subconscious is not.
In fact, the subconscious never falls asleep. It works all day, every day to control your body, to breathe and to maintain organ function and cell growth.
Our subconscious is the reason we dream and why we can only remember vivid details of that dream.
In this way, the subconscious mind is passive. It continues to work, but often without us knowing it. We can of course deepen that connection.
How to improve consciousness and subconscious mind
Now that you have a better understanding of what each mind does, the next step is to improve the connection between the conscious and subconscious mind. There are a number of ways you can improve this connection, and most of them stem from habits your conscious mind can create to strengthen the subconscious mind over time.
Think of our internal environment
While we must take care of our own global environment, our internal environment is also important. Chances are, most people have not considered the environment of their subconscious mind.
This is important because, again, our subconscious is always active and absorbing everything. Beliefs don't come out of nowhere. Our beliefs grow based on the information we see, the conclusions we draw, and the way we compare it to the rest of our reality. We do this constantly.
The catch of this is that our everyday environment has a surge of emotions. The most prominent is negativity and struggle.
It's depressing when we consume it, but it affects our behavior over time. For this reason, it is important to use the information provided wisely.
Don't listen to the news unless you have to. Don't spend time with people who put you down or are toxic. Focus more on positive information through different media.
Remember that our subconscious mind is the mind behind us dreaming. If it can do that, then it makes sense that the subconscious likes pictures.
The best way to send images from our conscious to the subconscious is through visualization.
The idea is to spend a small amount of time – about 15 minutes a day – portraying positive scenes of you and your life experiences.
You can visualize anything you want like vacations, fulfilling relationships, sports and more.
The idea is to do this consistently, and over time these images will begin to replace any negative thoughts about those aspects. Any fears, doubts or worries will slowly wash away.
For greater effect, also visualize strong positive emotions. For example, if you dread a workout in a gym, visualize the workout. Visualize how you feel at the end of the workout and how it feels when you reach your health goal.
The third method of making improvements is affirmations. This technique is similar to visualization, but here you focus on words and thoughts. As discussed above, all information and thoughts are absorbed into our subconscious mind.
If we regularly instill positive words, our melody will change over time.
With affirmations, there are some rules that must be followed for it to work effectively:
Use the present tense
Do you want to have more self-confidence? Tell yourself, "I'm confident." Even if you don't trust it, you can fool your subconscious because it can't predict the future. It only knows this moment. Also, stick to positive statements only.
Associate your words with feelings
Even though the statement made may be incorrect at the moment, a great motivator is reminding us how we will feel with this new reality. If you want better health, start arousing emotions that make you feel healthy.
Repeat the process
Not only should you do this daily, but repeating them throughout the day also helps. Include the positive affirmations in your daily meditation routine.
The connection between the two minds is powerful, and making small lifestyle changes can affect your attitude and life over time. That much is clear when you look at how our conscious mind versus subconscious mind functions.
Remember that our conscious mind is the active one and will get things done. It's our front line. All the while, our subconscious is constantly looking around, absorbing everything it can, and formulating our reality. Feed these two well, and you can change your life for the better.