Understanding the Conscious vs Subconscious Mind in 4 Steps

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conscious vs subconscious mind

Before Sigmund Freud and all the others that came after him, people’s idea of the mind was simple: perhaps Rene Descartes said it well enough with “I think, therefore, I am.” To put it simply, the mind consists of the conscious and the unconscious, and these two parts operate on different levels, although they complement each other regarding vital points. But the human mind is far from simple, and even now, in this day and age of fancy high-technology devices and machinery, there is much about it that continues to baffle scientists. So far, however, the following four “conscious vs subconscious mind” differences constitute the major part of what we know about the workings of our mind.

1. Rationality

In any “conscious vs subconscious mind” discussion, among the first topics that crop up is the matter of reasoning and rationality, and how starkly these two parts of our mind differ in processing things. The conscious mind, of course, is the rational one—it processes thoughts in an ordered manner. The subconscious mind, on the other hand, specializes in processing symbols vis-a-vis how these symbols relate with our daily life. For example, you walk into a room and see a familiar looking object with four legs topped with a flat surface. Your conscious mind, with its rational processing, recognizes this as a table, especially concerning aspects such as brand, make, and design. However, when you see another object whose design is so “wild” and outlandish, but still with four legs and a flat top, it is your subconscious mind that instantly decides this is still a table.

2. Procedure

The conscious mind specializes in figuring out how things are performed or in calculating in order to achieve a specific outcome. On the other hand, the subconscious mind does not think—it just does things instantly or readily, drawing upon habit or your skills. Our subconscious mind is at work when we resume and succeed in riding a bicycle even after a long time of not doing it. In topics concerning the conscious vs subconscious mind, it is this property of the subconscious that allows us to perform things more efficiently—it is at the heart of all professional training.

3. Understanding and appreciation

Whenever you understand something, it is your conscious mind that is at work. The subconscious, however, disregards the “how” and instead zeroes in on the first thing it knows to work, regardless of whether or not it is the best choice or the worst. The subconscious is like a beast with a huge appetite—that’s why feed it with good things, and it will have nothing bad to choose from.

4. Task selection

The subconscious mind will keep on doing things even if such things are clearly (to your conscious mind, at least) do not benefit you or even damage you. The conscious mind, on the other hand, will use (and even waste) time in order to figure out something for its own sake.

It is often said that the mind can be compared to an iceberg—the small tip above the water is the conscious mind, whereas the huge, unseen 90 percent part of the iceberg that is underwater represents the subconscious. Indeed, the subconscious is a very powerful part of our mind, and it is responsible for most things we are able to do every single day in order to survive or excel. However, the conscious mind can directly tap the subconscious mind’s power through regular meditation: it is the only effective means to “tame” the magnificent beast that is our subconscious. Whenever you want to accomplish something—start a positive habit or remove a negative one, ensure success in your endeavors, or change your own mood or improve your mental state—you should practice regular meditation in order to program your subconscious to do your bidding. Set aside a few minutes each day in a quiet spot in your house, commence deep, slow breathing, and mentally state your desire, addressing your subconscious. Performing this regularly enables the subconscious to “pick up the cue” and take things from there.


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