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Subconscious Control

Chris Harrison

May 29, 2024

Your brain is made up of 86 billion neurons, each with the processing capacity of a laptop. If we have so much potential, why do we often perform as if we have so little?

The answer lies in our mind, which is what our brain does with its processing power. Psychologists describe the mind as an iceberg with three layers. At the top is the conscious mind. What you’re aware of right now.

Below lies the pre-conscious mind, accessible if you give attention - to recall your mobile number for example. Below that is the unconscious mind. Information here is deeply held and includes instinctive reactions created by past experiences or beliefs. We don't know the extent of what we hold in there, but it drives our daily behaviours.  

Imagine your mind was just one computer. Your conscious mind is what you can see on the screen. Your subconscious mind is everything behind the screen: memory, processor, hard drive. So how does this work?

The conscious mind is the smallest part of your mind and it has a few special abilities. It can be used to direct your focus and judge right from wrong; true from false. It can also imagine what is not real, an ability unique to humans.

The bigger part of your mind, your subconscious, is constantly at work. Its main objective is the survival of your physical body. It handles all your basic physical functions like breathing, heart rate and immune system. It uses emotions to get your attention. If you feel afraid, your subconscious has detected (rightly or wrongly) that your survival is at risk.  

The subconscious decides where and how your memories are stored. It may hide memories with strong negative emotions until it senses that you are ready to process them. Then it brings them up so you can deal with them.

Your unconscious mind cannot distinguish between what is real and what is imagined. But it makes associations and learns quickly. If you didn’t enjoy school, it lumps all your learning experiences into the “this is not going to be fun” category.  And signal you with sweaty-palmed anxiety whenever you have to learn something new. But, if you did well in sports, it will remember that “sports equals success” and make you feel positively energised at the prospect of physical activity.

Finally, the unconscious likes to serve and therefore takes your instructions literally. So, if you think your job is a pain in the neck, your subconscious will find a way to make your neck hurt!

How much does your subconscious mind impact the way you live your life?