In the busy headquarters of our mind, what role does the subconscious play? Sufiya Tazeen explores….
Whatever we plant in our subconscious mind and nourish with repetition and emotion will one day become a reality.” — Earl Nightingale
In the intricate tapestry of the human mind, a dance of ideas, emotions, and desires orchestrates our every move and decision. Yet, beneath the surface, hidden from casual perception, there exists a realm of unseen forces – a clandestine powerhouse that often eludes acknowledgement.
This concealed dynamo is the silent architect known as our subconscious mind. A vigilant spectator, tirelessly absorbs information, shaping our thoughts, and guides our actions with an imperceptible hand. Responsible for ingrained behaviours, reflexes, and the mysterious whispers of intuition, the subconscious mind operates in a realm beyond conscious awareness.
Have you ever found yourself reacting instinctively to a situation, your conscious mind seemingly bypassed? It is the quiet influence of the subconscious mind at play. Unveiling and understanding this concealed force grants us the key to transcending self-imposed limitations and making enlightened choices. In gaining insight and mastery over this unseen force, we open the door to a realm where self-discovery and empowered decision-making intertwine.
Origins of the Subconscious Mind
The term ‘subconscious’ has an uncertain historical origin, lacking a clear documented record of its inception. However, in 1889, Pierre Janet utilised its French equivalent, ‘subconscient,’ to elucidate the mental state existing beneath our conscious awareness. This marked an early attempt to conceptualise the elusive aspects of the mind that operate beyond immediate consciousness.
Swami Vivekananda, in 1896, expanded on this idea by categorising the human mind into three distinct planes: ‘subconscious,’ ‘conscious,’ and ‘superconscious.’ The ‘superconscious’ realm, according to Vivekananda, represents a heightened introspective state with the remarkable ability to exert control over emotional desires.
Renowned psychologist Sigmund Freud introduced the three-level mind model, exploring different depths of information processing. According to his approach, our mind can be divided into these levels:
Conscious: All our conscious thoughts and actions, like appreciating the scent of a red tulip.
Subconscious: Automatic behaviours and reactions we’re aware of when we think about them. For instance, driving becomes automatic, but we can recall the details when reflecting on it.
Unconscious: The unconscious shapes our past experiences and memories, often remaining elusive despite our best attempts to remember. This includes significant milestones like our first spoken word or the feeling of walking independently.
What is The Subconscious Mind?
Even though our conscious mind can’t always reach our subconscious, a lot of our mind’s work happens there. Sometimes, we get hints of it through intuition, memories that pop up suddenly, or even in our dreams. Have you ever been stuck on a problem, and then the solution just comes to you when you’re not actively thinking about it? That’s the subconscious at work. It’s like the backstage of our conscious mind, where things are prepared, evaluated, and processed before they come into our awareness. We can think of it as our backstage or subconscious mind.
Think of your mind as a busy headquarters with different departments (or parts of the brain) managing various tasks. While you consciously focus on one thing at a time, other departments are still active in the background. For instance, you might be enjoying a movie, and in the background, your brain is quietly working on solving the worries you faced earlier. The “aha” moment when a solution pops into your mind happens because your subconscious, the backstage worker, has been quietly processing things. This backstage work doesn’t stop, even when you’re asleep, and sometimes it communicates with your conscious mind through dreams. So, your subconscious is like the hidden engine running behind the scenes, managing different tasks and occasionally bringing them into the spotlight of your awareness.
This hidden engine of the mind, our subconscious, orchestrates a complex symphony of activities, each instrument playing its unique role in the grand production of our thoughts and actions. It’s fascinating how, even when we’re immersed in simple pleasures like watching a movie, the subconscious is diligently at work, addressing unresolved concerns or crafting creative solutions. It’s as if the mind’s backstage crew is tireless, ceaselessly refining and preparing for the next act. During sleep, this tireless effort persists, and dreams become the avenue through which the subconscious communicates with our conscious self, offering glimpses of its ongoing endeavours. In essence, our consciousness is the stage where the spotlight shines, while the subconscious, like a skilled director, ensures the seamless flow and coherence of the entire mental performance.
Scientific Detection of the Subconscious Mind.
Exploring the intricate relationship between conscious and unconscious activities stands as one of the captivating inquiries challenging contemporary psychologists and neuroscientists. While directly observing various layers of the mind remains unfeasible, a substantial body of research has substantiated the impact of the unconscious, evident through phenomena like ‘priming’ and ‘subliminal messaging’. Although Freud introduced the concept of an unconscious mind influencing behaviour through clinical observations rather than scientific data, subsequent research has substantiated his core assertion. “Recent years have witnessed a substantial body of experimental research across various literatures, affirming the fundamental premise of psychoanalysis—that a significant portion of mental life operates unconsciously, including the cognitive, affective, and motivational processes” (Weston, 1999).
In his book The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor delves into an extensive body of research, exploring the profound impact of positive and negative priming.
Jell-o at Lunch’ involved 4-year-olds in learning tasks, such as assembling blocks. Those prompted with positive thoughts beforehand outperformed the neutral group (who were not promoted anything) completing tasks faster and with fewer errors.
In the case of ‘Give the Doc a Lollipop’, doctors provided with a box of candy for later (not allowed to eat it) demonstrated better diagnostic skills and creativity in determining a patient’s hypothetical condition compared to those without candy.
In a remarkable study, ‘Poison Ivy’, Japanese researchers blindfolded students and falsely claimed that their arms were rubbed with poison ivy. A little while later, all 13 participants showed the classic symptoms of poison ivy: redness, itching and boils even though their hands were rubbed with a harmless plant. On the other hand, they were told that their arms would be rubbed with a harmless plant when in fact it was rubbed with the actual poison ivy. And even though all the participants were highly allergic to the poison ivy, only two participants developed the symptoms.
Other studies have also shown the effect of language on memory loss. In one study, participants were asked to rate the sincerity of the characters they read. On their way to the laboratory, they were both hit by a laboratory assistant. He asked them to hold him a cup of coffee. People who were given a cup of cold coffee after the test felt that the person was cold, incoherent and selfish. Those who held the hot coffee cup rated the person as generous, enterprising, happy and positive. (Williams & Bargh, 2008)
Another study found that a bucket of water sprinkled with a citrus scent led to better cleanup after participants ate messy cookies. Those who smelled the clean water cleaned up three times more crumbs than those without the scent. (Holland et al., 2005)
The presence of the subconscious mind is also evident in what is commonly referred to as the placebo effect. A placebo refers to an inert pill, medication, or procedure prescribed more for the psychological benefit of the patient rather than any actual physiological impact. Individuals administered sugar pills (or other medical interventions lacking therapeutic benefits) but were informed they were receiving potent medicine and often experienced recovery or improved well-being. Numerous studies have consistently demonstrated that individuals, when given a placebo without awareness of its inert nature, frequently exhibit a reduction in symptoms. This phenomenon has been observed in the treatment of various conditions, including migraine headaches, cancer-related fatigue, depression, pain, sleep disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, Parkinson’s symptoms, and menopause (Legg, 2017; Saling, 2020).
According to Dr Herbert Benson of Harvard University, placebos yield beneficial results for up to 90 percent of diseases. Clinical studies indicate the effectiveness of placebos for approximately 60 percent of subjects with conditions such as pain, depression, and ulcers. In a specific study, patients were told that warts, painted with dye, would disappear, and indeed, the warts vanished despite the dye lacking medicinal properties. Placebos can also alleviate asthma symptoms and induce the release of natural opioids in response to placebos purported to contain pain relievers. These are tangible, demonstrable physiological changes in the body initiated by the brain (Hunter, 2019).
Techniques to harness the potentials of the subconscious
Harnessing the potentials of the subconscious mind involves intentional practices and mindset shifts. Here are some ways to tap into the power of your subconscious:
Positive Affirmations: Use positive statements to reinforce desired beliefs and attitudes. Repeated affirmations can influence the subconscious and shape a more positive self-perception.
Visualisation: Create vivid mental images of your goals and aspirations. Visualising success can program the subconscious mind to work towards achieving those outcomes.
Mindfulness and Meditation: Practice mindfulness to cultivate awareness of your thoughts and emotions. Meditation can help quiet the conscious mind, allowing the subconscious to surface and be positively influenced.
Journaling: Write down your goals, dreams, and reflections regularly. Journaling helps bring subconscious thoughts to the surface, making them more accessible for analysis and positive reinforcement.
Creative Activities: Engage in creative pursuits such as art, music, or writing. These activities can tap into the subconscious mind, fostering self-expression and insights.
Goal Setting: Clearly define your goals and break them down into actionable steps. This provides a roadmap for the subconscious to work towards, aligning your actions with your aspirations.
Gratitude Practices: Cultivate a habit of expressing gratitude. This positive focus can reshape your subconscious perspective, fostering a mindset of abundance and appreciation.
crucial to delve into the profound implications of the hidden engine of the mind—the subconscious. Beyond its role in shaping our day-to-day experiences, the subconscious mind emerges as an indispensable component of our mental landscape, holding the potential to unlock a more enriched and authentic life.
The subconscious mind operates as a silent orchestrator, influencing not only our reactions and behaviours but also serving as a reservoir of untapped capabilities. Recognising this latent potential within ourselves becomes an invitation to embark on a transformative journey of self-discovery. In embracing the mysteries that lie beneath conscious awareness, we gain access to a wellspring of insights and abilities that can profoundly shape the course of our existence.
This recognition is more than a mere acknowledgement; it is an act of empowerment. Understanding the workings of the subconscious mind allows us to navigate the intricate interplay of thoughts, emotions, and desires with a heightened sense of self-awareness. It becomes a key that unlocks doors to untapped creativity, resilience, and a deeper understanding of the forces that drive us.
As we embrace the capabilities embedded within the subconscious mind, the journey unfolds as a path toward empowerment. It involves tapping into our latent strengths, overcoming self-imposed limitations, and harnessing the reservoir of potential that resides within our psyche. This journey is not just about unravelling the mysteries; it’s about actively shaping our narrative and crafting a life that aligns with our authentic selves.
1. Title: “What is the Subconscious Mind?”
2. Title: “Consciousness and its relation with the subconscious mind: The mystery probed”
Author: Krishanu Kumar Das
3. Pierson, Judith. (2022). The Power of the Subconscious Mind.