How to Understand the Unconscious Mind

We’ve all heard or read about the power of the unconscious mind and all that you could attain if only you learned to master the unconscious mind. But do we really understand what the unconscious mind is all about? Is your unconscious the key to the change you have been seeking?

For most people seeking purpose and meaning in their lives, and even the ones who feel that they must change things around from the unconscious mind level, the unconscious always feels like the right place to start.

To help us understand all the hype around the unconscious mind and what you’d do to make things better or different, this article delves deep into integral parts and elements of the unconscious mind as a means to understanding human psychology.

Note, however, that at the end of this article, the most important thing addressed is how the unconscious mind could be used to create maps and guides for the seekers of the knowledge about the inner workings of the unconscious mind.

To get you started, you will be happy to know that the unconscious mind actually holds immense power over what you do every day. Areas of psychology like NLP have shown that engaging the unconscious mind could to lasting changes, as long as there is good communication between your conscious and the unconscious mind.

Before we take a deep dive into the unconscious mind, how it works, and how it creates all these changes we’ve read about and wish to experience, an overview of the nervous system.

The Nervous System

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Your nervous system is made of two primary elements, the CNS/ central nervous system that’s made of neural networks throughout the brain and the spinal cord, and then there is the peripheral nervous system/ PNS, which is made of the neural connections that exist out of the nervous system.

The CNS and the PNS work in tandem with the CNS communicating with the PNS and vice versa. What this means is that the sensations from the stimulus felt on the body is also felt in the brain.

As a result of the deep understanding of the functions of the CNS and the PNS, it is now largely accepted in the therapeutic and the medical circles that the mind and the body represent a highly linked system.

It, therefore, means that in as much as Descartes holds a significant role with regards to psychology, his perception that body and mental experiences are separate is untrue.

Today, mind-body duality plays a significant role in human psychology, and it’s the reason why the unconscious mind is believed to be the door that opens up a world of unlimited possibilities.

Conscious vs. Unconscious Mind

The Conscious Mind

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The conscious mind, unlike the unconscious mind, has very limited processing capabilities since the conscious mind is largely dominated by different logics of the natural language partitions that are represented in the linguistic description narrative.

The conscious mind is also regarded as the actual representation of an immediate mind map, the map that you have access to. The studies into the conscious mind further show that the conscious mind expresses itself through an internal running commentary that’s based on the events experienced at that time.

Therefore, your conscious mind refers to the part of your mind that you use when reading and processing words. It means that your ability to read this article is all because of the conscious part of your mind.

The Unconscious Mind

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While the conscious mind represents that part of your brain that maps out and perceives what happens in the mind and the surrounding, the unconscious mind represents everything else that exists in the body-mind system but isn’t currently conscious.

You could also think of the unconscious mind as part of the mind unknown to the conscious mind. This part of the mind holds a myriad of things, including your desires, what you perceive as socially unacceptable ideas, traumatic events/ memories, and emotions, as well as your wishes.

Though this part of the mind is not conscious, it is active, and it has a comprehensive knowledge of your entire system.

Unconscious vs. Subconscious

Note that the unconscious mind shouldn’t be confused with the subconscious mind, because the subconscious mind refers to the part of the conscious mind that isn’t in focal awareness currently.

The idea of the subconscious was coined by Pierre Janet to represent everything that the mind isn’t processing at the moment, even though that thing can be recalled.

The unconscious, on the other hand, was coined by Friedrich Schelling, and it represents all the primitive, repressed, or the instinctual thoughts that you’d not be capable of bringing right to the surface deliberately.

Your unconscious mind, therefore, features the mental processes that are unavailable to your introspection, including motivation, thought processes, affect, and memory. Lastly, the unconscious mind is different from the subconscious in that the former is a term used in psychoanalytical fields, but the latter isn’t.

The conscious mind is aware of everything happening in your system, thanks to its amazing capabilities, which trump the capabilities of the conscious mind. Research shows that the unconscious mind is capable of absorbing and processing millions of sensory input by use of the sensory/ nervous system in under a second.

So, even though you will not be aware of the different activities that take place in the unconscious mind, this system is always working.

Even though most of us are unaware of the activities of the unconscious mind, some people are acutely aware of some of the background actions. This difference has to do with how good one is at communicating with the unconscious mind.

The activities performed by the unconscious mind

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Well, the unconscious is, in most ways, the thing that keeps us alive, literally. Just think about it for a moment, how often do you forget to breathe, but stay alive and keep going through the days?

Do you ever stop to wonder how your body is able to run even on when you feel like you are running on fumes and haven’t practiced any self-care in forever?

We are often unaware of the roles of the unconscious mind; besides the influence of this part of the mind on your emotions and reactions, the unconscious is responsible for the regulation of all your biological and biochemical functions.

These functions include blood circulation and pumping of blood from the heart, cleansing of the lymph cells, immunity through its ability to counteract antibodies and other foreign bodies, digestion, and breathing, among all other functions.

As mentioned above, you never think about your heart beating or your lungs inflating and deflating, yet the heart keeps beating perfectly, and the lungs fill up with oxygen and expel carbon dioxide without any input or awareness on your end.

Past experiences are embedded in your unconscious mind. The reason why you will always remember your first kiss or the bully that made your life painfully unbearable is that those events were stored in your unconscious mind.

These past events and experiences will stay in your unconscious until you think of them, and then they are brought into your conscious mind’s view.

What this means is that if you have a phobia, you have an unconscious reconstruction of that past event that’s brought to the conscious mind when you talk about that event or when you come across a stimuli (sight, smell) that takes you right back to the past experience that created that phobia for you.

So, when you have a phobia, you might not know this, but your unconscious will activate your fight/flight responses to deal with the stimuli for the phobia.

How does the unconscious express itself?

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Simple. The unconscious will express itself through habits, sensations, and feelings. Therefore, it means that the emotions we feel, for example, sadness, happiness, anger, etc. represent the labels used by the conscious mind to represent unconscious processes that include the chemical reactions that take place in your nervous system.

Roles of the Unconscious Mind

While the unconscious mind is sometimes referred to as the shadow of the mind, it isn’t a blackhole flooded with unacceptable impulses created to trip you up. However, it’s a critical source of your hidden fears, attitudes, and disturbing beliefs that affect how you think and act.

The unconscious is, therefore, an important part of psychotherapy as it brings to the conscious mind/ awareness your hidden fears and beliefs, especially the ones acquired in childhood.

To harness the power of your unconscious, you’d have to communicate with it. Some of the communication options include the use of pain sensations.