Your Subconscious Mind: How It Works and How To Use It
Differences Between the Subconscious Mind and the Conscious Mind
Understanding your subconscious mind is essential in order to use it effectively. To begin with, you must be aware of the differences between the conscious mind, which you are familiar with, and the subconscious mind, which you are not familiar with. Below are the inherent differences in layman terms.
Most of you are familiar with the “Right-Brain, Left-Brain” Theory. Briefly, the left side of your brain (for most people) processes language capability, thinks linearly, and is logical, whereas the right side of your brain is intuitive and senses the whole, rather than parts.
Some experts believe this theory is an over-simplification. Much of the research leading to this theory, at least initially, was obtained from epileptic patients who had the left and right sides of their brains surgically disconnected for medical reasons. In normal people, there is considerable feedback between both sides and, in special cases, one side can acquire the capabilities of the other. We will not use this model in this course.
We will consider the “Triune Model” of the brain developed by Dr. Paul MacLean, Chief of the Laboratory of Brain Research and Behavior, National Institute of Mental Health. The Triune model is based on three stages of evolution, the “Reptilian,” “Mammalian,” and “Cortex.” Each stage represents a different type of mentality geared to the needs that prevailed at the time. Each is a separate computer with its own special intelligence, subjectivity, sense of time and space, and memory. For our purposes, it is convenient to combine the first two parts, which are by far the oldest parts (the reptilian and mammalian parts) and call it the subconscious mind.
The first stage of the brain evolved 250 million years ago and is called the “reptilian brain,” or the “brain stem.” It stopped changing 250 million years ago. Thus, the reptilian brain in man is essentially the same as in all reptiles. It is involuntary, impulsive, and compulsive; it contains programmed responses that are rigid. This part of the brain is paranoid for self-preservation. Paranoia is useful for keeping an eye out for enemies or, more to date, for cars when crossing the street. This part of the brain does not learn from experiences. It just tends to repeat its programmed behavior over and over.
The reptilian brain evolved for survival. It controls basic functions necessary for life, including heart rate, breathing, fighting, fleeing, feeding, and reproduction. It has no feelings.
The mammalian brain evolved about 50 million years ago. The mammalian brain in man is also essentially the same as in all mammals. This part of the brain contains feelings and emotions. It is playful and the source of maternal care. Mammals tend to their young; reptiles usually do not.
The mammalian part of the brain provides us with feelings of what is real, true, and important to us, but it is inarticulate in communicating these feelings to the conscious mind. Important features are that the subconscious mind (1) is the source of feelings and derives information in terms of feelings, and (2) derives its value system by experience, that is, experience with emotional impact.
The third stage of development is the “cortex.” It is the conscious part of the mind. According to Carl Jung, the famous psychiatrist, it is about 40,000 years old and is still evolving. Some contemporary researchers think it is older. An important feature of the conscious mind is that it does not begin to develop until about age three and is not fully developed until about 20 years of age. These ages vary between individuals.
This late development is one reason we have so many negative and counterproductive programs in our subconscious minds. When the emotional part of our brains was developing in the early years of our lives, we did not have a rational, mature conscious mind to filter out negative programs and select positive ones we will need as adults. To make matters worse, we are not now aware of most of these programs because they were developed at such an early age we have no conscious memory of them.
Because of these vast differences, “...the three brains are often dissociated and in conflict.”
Ken Keys stated it well: “Although our cerebral cortex has more processing capacity than any computer ever built, unfortunately the new brain isn’t wired into the old brain with the monitoring feedback, and control circuits that we need for optimal functioning. Thus the new brain, the conscious mind, will analyze problems and come up with rational solutions, often without the vaguest idea what is taking place in the old brain, the subconscious mind, which is governed by nonrational feeling...that is the crux of our problem. The poor communication between the old and new brains creates problems in everyday life. For example, the old brain can bypass the thinking brain’s control systems and act out intense emotions that have been bottled up in the unconscious for decades...often making mountains out of molehills. The new brain, operating in present time, realizes that the person has strength, competence, and self-worth, yet the unconscious continues to trigger ineffective, inappropriate responses to life’s challenges based on negative childhood programming.”
The subconscious mind makes up an estimated 92% of the total brain. The conscious mind comprises the remaining 8%. Thus, the conscious mind is puny compared to the subconscious mind.
The conscious mind sees with the eyes. It perceives outside experiences that are taken into our minds. It is your conscious mind that sees this printed page.
The subconscious mind, on the other hand, has no contact with the outside world. It is blind. The subconscious mind does not see any more than a computer sees. Consequently, the subconscious mind does not know the difference between real and imagined. This last statement is important and will be repeated again and again. It is not conjecture; psychologists have verified it in laboratory experiments.
The subconscious mind relies on sensory input. Thus, it responds to reality and imagination in the same way. For example, when you dream of a monster, your body responds the same as it would if the monster were real. The “fight or flight” mechanism jumps into action and pumps adrenalin into your blood stream. Your body responds by sweating, increased heart rate, etc. In reality, there is no monster and no real threat.
Most thoughts in the conscious mind are communicated by an inner or outer voice. Most, although not all, thinking uses a voice, and a voice uses words. The conscious mind communicates predominantly with words. That is one reason a large vocabulary is important. Words are the tools of thinking.
The subconscious mind has limited vocabulary and is not as articulate with words. Most people do not dream in words. The subconscious mind communicates predominantly with images and feelings. For example, you (your conscious mind) might say, “I am frightened, but I do not know why,” while your subconscious mind might produce a dream in which a monster chases you.
The conscious mind controls the voluntary functions. For example, I can consciously move my arm up or down. I can walk over here or there. These are conscious actions.
A critical factor is that the conscious mind can only do one thing at a time. It cannot do two things simultaneously. Someone may argue that they can read and watch TV at the same time. If you really become aware of what you are doing at an instant, you will see that you are either reading or watching TV. To do both requires that you quickly switch back and forth.
Recall the first time you tried to pat yourself on the top of your head and, at the same time, rub your stomach in a clockwise motion. You could not do it at first; not until you very quickly shifted one function to your subconscious mind. Then it became easy. Then when you were instructed to reverse the functions, that is, to rub the top of your head and pat your stomach, it again became difficult. It may have only taken seconds to learn one function and relegate it to your subconscious mind, in which case, doing both at the same time again became easy.
A recent article in the New York Times reported a scientific study that showed people cannot consciously drive and talk on their cell phone at the same time. In other words, you are doing one or the other consciously, but not both simultaneously. Using magnetic resonance images of brain activity, the scientists found the brain has a finite amount of space for tasks requiring attention. One scientist commented that when you really want to listen to someone on the phone, you close your eyes.
Another article in a newspaper reported a mother who was so rapt in a cell phone conversation she got off the bus without her four-month-old baby.
A simple experiment will prove that your conscious mind can only do one thing at a time. Pick up a light object such as a pen. Will yourself to drop it. Easy! To drop the pen you had to make a conscious decision when to drop it. Now hold the pen and continue saying to yourself, “I can drop it; I can drop it...” on and on. If you truly concentrate on the one thought, the thought that you can drop the pen, then you cannot make the decision when to drop the pen. If you cannot make the decision when to drop the pen, then you cannot drop it. You cannot continuously think, “I can drop the pen” and at the same time consciously think “Now, I will drop the pen.”
Think about when you learned to drive a car. Many of us learned in a car with a stick shift. The first lesson went like this. You turned the key on. The car lurched and the engine died because we forgot to put the gear in neutral. You started the car again but it died because you did not give the engine more gas. You were thinking of turning the key. You started the car again and gave it some gas. You shifted gears only to hear a clash. You had forgotten to push in the clutch. Now you pushed down on the clutch pedal and shifted into first gear. You let off on the clutch and the engine died. You did not think to give it more gas. Finally, the car started moving and your dad screamed, “Look out!” Oops, you were not steering; you were thinking of shifting gears.
Learning to drive is a good example of how difficult it is for the conscious mind to do many things at once. However, after you relegated one function after another to the subconscious mind, driving became easy—it no longer required conscious effort.
Hitting a golf ball is another example. When you are learning, there are too many things to think about during the swing. A beginner’s swing is awkward and often jerky. After you transfer each step to your subconscious mind, you do not have to think about your swing at all. In fact, thinking about your swing (a conscious mind activity) interferes with it.
The subconscious mind, in contrast, can do trillions of functions at the same time. We do not have to conscientiously think to breathe, perspire when we are hot, digest our food, fight foreign bodies, release insulin, and on and on. This subject is discussed again in the next lesson when we explore the subconscious mind as a computer.
Your subconscious mind constantly communicates with all of the cells in your body, and the cells, in turn, communicate with your subconscious mind. To learn more of this fascinating subject read Molecules of Emotion by Candice Pert, a pioneer in the new medical field of psychoneuroimmunology.
The conscious mind is logical. It has the ability to think, think abstractly, reason, criticize, analyze, judge, choose, select, discriminate, plan, invent and compose, use hindsight and foresight. It uses both deductive and inductive reasoning.
Your conscious mind, for the most part, filters the impact of input to the subconscious mind. Everything gets into the subconscious mind, but the conscious mind can influence the effect, or power, it has over the subconscious mind. As stated earlier, the conscious mind does not begin to develop until the age of three and it is not fully developed until about the age of 20. You did not have this filter during your critical, early formative years. Thus, you have a lot of garbage in your subconscious mind that is counterproductive to your health, peace of mind, and productivity.
The subconscious mind, conversely, is not logical; it is the feeling mind. It is the source of love, hatred, anguish, fear, jealousy, sadness, anger, joy, desire, etc. When you say, “I feel...” the source of the feeling is the subconscious mind. Think of an extreme example, such as rage. A person expressing deep rage exhibits strong emotion, superior strength, is highly illogical, and has poor (conscious) recollection of his or her carrying on afterward.
The subconscious mind reasons inductively, from the specific to the general. If you tell it you are clumsy, it will find a way for you to do something clumsy. Usually inductive rationale is not logical.
The conscious mind thinks of words objectively. Objectively the word “mother” means a female parent. The subconscious mind, on the other hand, is subjective and adds connotations to words. When you hear the word “mother,” all kinds of feelings are aroused. These feelings come from the subconscious mind.
Will, Power, and Willpower
The conscious mind has a sense of awareness. It knows persons, places, conditions, and things. The conscious mind knows that it knows. It contains knowledge that we are ourselves and we are here.
Ah! But the subconscious mind has the power! An article in Psychology Today, August 1974, stated that, “...we discovered the brain is a source of electrical energy; it can do electrical work.” Your brain produces about 25 watts of power. The subconscious mind transmits this energy as urges, emotions, impulses, nervous twitches, etc.
This energy in the subconscious mind is inexhaustible; your brain functions 24-hours-a-day, all of your life.
The wonderful thing about using the subconscious mind is that it is effortless. No conscious effort is required to use your subconscious mind. Conscious effort, no matter how well intended, only impedes the subconscious mind.
Doing something with the conscious mind requires effort. Remember how learning something for the first time took effort? For example, it took a while to learn to tie a shoestring. It is complicated the first time or two. Imagine if you had to write out all the steps clearly enough so that someone who had never seen a bow could tie one.
Once tying a bow became habit—in other words, the task was relegated to the subconscious mind—it became easy. So easy, you do not have to think about it when you are doing it. In fact, you probably do not even remember tying the laces in your shoes because you did it subconsciously.
A high-jumper interviewed on TV after he set a track record said, “I do not remember my record jump, but I knew when I started to jump that I would be successful.” He did not remember because he was jumping unconsciously. He let his subconscious mind take over. The subconscious mind can do all the operations without mental effort. Had he jumped using his conscious mind, it would have been an effort and he would not have done nearly as well.
The best book on this subject is The Inner Game of Tennis by Timothy Gallwey. Do not be turned off by the title if you are not a tennis player; just mentally cross out “tennis” as you read and insert any other word you want. Gallwey articulately describes how the conscious mind cannot do a task as difficult as hitting a tennis ball (or driving a car or hitting a golf ball) well. Whereas, the subconscious mind can do a difficult task, and do it effortlessly and perfectly when not interfered with by the conscious mind. That is the trick—keeping the conscious mind out of the way.
So, the conscious mind has the will and the subconscious mind has the power. When the conscious mind and subconscious mind are in harmony, you have willpower. You are “single-minded.”
But when the conscious mind and subconscious mind are in conflict, there is no willpower. You are “double-minded.” Your conscious mind cannot directly overpower your subconscious mind and “will” it to do something.
Emile Coué (1857–1926) was highly successful in Europe in curing a variety of ills. He believed in gabbling (talking quickly and indistinctly so the conscious mind would get bored and not pay attention) an affirmation until it sank into the subconscious mind and became completely accepted by it. You’ve probably heard one of his familiar affirmations, “Every day, better and better in every way.”
Coué said, “When will and imagination are in conflict, imagination always wins.” That is to say, when the conscious mind and the subconscious mind are in conflict, the subconscious mind always wins. The subconscious mind wins because it has the power (it has electrical and chemical power), and it is bigger.
When an overweight man wills himself to go on a diet, and if he does not change his subconscious desire for overeating, eventually his subconscious mind will win out. He will gain back any weight he lost. He may will himself not to eat that delicious dessert, but the urge from the subconscious mind will win. He will eat the dessert and he will eat it effortlessly.
Your task is to learn how the subconscious mind works and use it to your advantage. The subconscious mind has the power to dominate, but it is not as smart as your conscious mind. You are going to learn how to make it your personal genie, not your master.
The conscious mind has a limited memory and most of it is short-term. The subconscious mind, in stark contrast, has virtually infinite memory. You are probably thinking it does not seem that way to you. Well, it is true. You have enough memory for everything you have experienced in your life. It is your recall that is fallible.
When your conscious mind and your subconscious mind are in conflict, your subconscious mind wins, but only if you do not know how to control it. You are going to learn how to influence and control your subconscious mind so it does not control you. You are going to make it your genie! Your conscious mind is meant to be the master, and your subconscious mind is meant to be the genie.
The conscious mind can stimulate the subconscious mind into action, change habits, reverse negative thinking patterns, improve our physical and emotional health, and our conscious mind can even influence our involuntary functions.
A few decades ago, thinking in the Western world was that control of involuntary functions was impossible. The Western world now knows that controlling involuntary functions such as blood pressure, heart rate, and circulation in a given area of our bodies, is possible.
The following chart sums up the differences between conscious mind and subconscious mind:
Your mind can be lead into the alpha state by sitting in a comfortable chair and listening to a relaxation routine read by someone else, or recorded and played back. The routine usually takes about ten minutes.
You will want to go into the alpha state many times each day to give your genie instructions. It would not be practical to depend on someone else to read the routine, or to play a CD every time you wanted to go into alpha. You need to condition yourself to simply take a deep breath, count down from three to one, say to yourself the word “ALPHA,” and be in alpha. It is that quick and that simple—after you are conditioned. Conditioning exercises are given at the end of each lesson.
Alpha conditioning is easy. It just takes a little practice. Some people can condition themselves in a few sessions; others take a little longer. Closing your eyes and relaxing tends to induce alpha. Relaxation is often associated with heaviness and warmth. Once in alpha, you can condition yourself to return to this state quickly any time you want.
Self, Deep Relaxtion
The conditioning exercises presented in these lessons are similar to procedures called by different names. The most common is self-hypnosis. I would like to call it something else because the word “hypnosis” has negative connotations. Hypnosis is often associated with mind control or being make a fool of in front of an audience. That is unfortunate. First of all, nobody really knows what hypnotism is. Kreskin, a well-known “mentalist” (he refused to be called a hypnotist), offered $100,000 to anyone who could prove conclusively the existence of a “hypnotic trance.” Nobody ever claimed the money. Kreskin never puts anyone in a trance yet he is highly successful in planting suggestions in subconscious minds.
Ernest Rossi states in The Psychobiology of Mind-Body Healing, 1993: “Since the inception of hypnosis more than 200 years ago it has been impossible to find general agreement among professionals on just exactly what hypnosis is. No definition or empirical test has ever been devised to accurately assess whether or not a hypnotic state even exists!” Some experts claim there is no such thing as a hypnotic trance or hypnotic state.
So let’s not be concerned about what this method is called. “Self-Alphamation” (I just made up that word) would be a good descriptive word but no one would know what I was talking about. These exercises are simply ways of going into the alpha state so you can plant suggestions in your subconscious mind.
An added benefit when you practice deep relaxation is that you will sleep better. Better sleep has been shown to improve health, memory, and disposition. Many people who practice deep relaxation find they need less sleep.
There is nothing magic about the routine. The routine can be done in infinite ways. You can start, for example, by relaxing muscles from the feet to head or vise versa. Any procedure that gets you to relax is good. The aim is to relax so that your conscious mind loses interest, gives up control, and sinks into the background, and at the same time, to coax your subconscious mind to the surface. Once you are in alpha, you can then use your subconscious mind to relax your body even more than you ever could when in beta using your conscious mind.
You can have someone read the routine to you or you can record it and play it back. A CD containing this routine is also available.
Some self-help books describe tests to determine whether you are truly in an altered state. Do not test yourself. Do not doubt that you are in alpha. Should you fail the test for any reason, even just one time, this failure could destroy your confidence. Just act as if you know you are going to succeed and you will. Have the right attitude. Expect to relax and go into the alpha state. Be confident.
Just let go. Do not use any conscious mind activities, namely, critiquing the words, judging whether you are going into alpha, etc. Use subconscious mind activities, namely visualization, daydreaming, and staying in the present. Do not think about something that happened yesterday or even ten minutes ago. Do not think about something that may happen ten minutes from now. Keep your mind in the now.
Audio aids are available to assist your subconscious mind into alpha. The best, in my opinion, is simply a metronome sound at 10 cps (mid alpha) or 5 cps (mid theta). This method is used by Silva International, El Paso, TX, in courses taught worldwide. Some music and sound recordings are helpful, examples include selected Mozart works, and primal sounds produced by Jeffrey Thompson.
Important statements that will be given to you near the end of the routine are listed below. You should know what you are being conditioned to.
There is also a suggestion that any time you say or think the phrase “3...2...1...ALPHA,” you will return to the alpha state. After enough practice, you will not need to go through the ten-minute relaxation routine to go into alpha. You will simply say to yourself, “3...2...1...ALPHA” and you will be there.
Alphas State Routine—Progressive Relaxation
Look up at about an angle of 20 degrees and stare at a spot. Raising your eyes helps attain the alpha state. Now close your eyes and listen to my voice.
Right now, you desire to experience the feeling of deep relaxation...You desire to be more relaxed than you have ever been before. Deep relaxation is healthy...it allows your body to nourish and heal itself...deep relaxation allows your mind to refresh itself.
You are breathing deeply and slowly...ever so slowly.
Relaxation is easy...all you have to do is to just let go...just let go...just let your body go limp...let your muscles relax.
With deep relaxation comes the feeling of heaviness and warmth...friendly warmth...and calmness...and pleasantness. You are feeling heavier now. You are letting go...letting go.
Visualize a ball of warm, white light. Just seeing it gives you a warm, pleasant feeling. Visualize this ball of white light entering your body at your feet. As this light enters your body, your toes become heavier...Feel each toe in turn relax...sense a warmth penetrating into your feet. Now allow your feet to relax. Feel them pressing on the floor. Now this ball of light and this feeling of heaviness and warmth moves up across you ankles...and your calves…and your thighs. Your legs are now relaxed.
This peaceful ball of light and this wave of relaxation now moves into your hips. The heaviness feeling is pleasant...and feels gooood. Deep, deep healthful relaxation. Just let go...let go...let your body relax. Let you body and mind attain a healthy, natural state.
Now this ball of warm friendly light enters your torso, and you feel deep, penetrating relaxation creep up your back. Your back muscles are now relaxed...sooo relaxed. Feel them relax and become heavy. Feel your shoulders slump as they become heavier and heavier. Now, relax the muscles of your stomach and chest. And as you do, feel your torso increase in weight...pulling you down under the push of gravity. Your body is now completely relaxed. It feels wonderful...just let go...let go completely. All of your internal muscles are relaxed.
Now visualize this ball of warm heavy light flowing into your head and arms. Relax your neck muscles. Feel your neck become heavier and more relaxed. Maintain just enough muscle tone to keep your neck in a comfortable position. Feel this relaxation move down through your arms and into your fingers...all the way to your fingertips. Your arms are completely relaxed...your fingers are completely relaxed now. They are limp...Your fingers are limp and heavy.
Now you allow this feeling of relaxation to spread up through your jaw. Feel your jaw muscles relax. Feel your throat and tongue relax and all internal dialog quiets. And lastly, feel your scalp relax.
With each breath, you are more and more relaxed. With each breath, you feel better, more at ease and happier. Now visualize a pleasant scene...see yourself on the beach of a beautiful tropical island. Feel the warmth of the sun on your body. Feel the warmth of the sand on your bare feet. Feel the warm sand oozing between your toes as you press your feet into the soft, forgiving sand. See yourself sitting in a soft, luxurious lounge chair...you feel completely comfortable...completely at rest. Gaze out at the ocean. The water is calm and serene. There are gentle ocean swells that are in rhythm with your breathing...a slow, relaxing rhythm. As you breathe out, let go of tiny bits of tension that lingered in your body. Each time you exhale, a little more tension melts and flows out of your body. Each time you exhale...you are more and more relaxed.
Smell the fresh salt air...feel the soft touch of the warm tropical breeze. In the distance you hear sea gulls...you can see the sea gulls swooping up and down near the shoreline. You hear the whisper of the breeze passing through the fronds of the palm trees lining the beach. Watch the thin palm trees sway gently in the tropical breeze.
Scoop up a fistful of sand and let it fall back on the beach. See how effortlessly it falls and forms a pile. The pile of sand is with total absence of resistance...there is a complete lack of tension.
Your eyes feast on the vivid blues and greens of the warm, clear water in the shallows of the coral reefs. You are soooo relaxed...every muscle in your body is limp...every part of your body feels heavy and relaxed...You feel a nice warm glow throughout your body that is the result of perfect, unhindered circulation...brought about by perfect relaxation. Wallow in this feeling...relish this state of mind. Know it is a healthy state...and that your body is rejuvenating itself...energizing itself...healing itself...easily and effortlessly.
Each time you relax...each time you go to this state which is your sanctuary...relaxation is easier and easier. Each time you practice deep relaxation, you relax faster and to a deeper healthy mental state...each time the feelings are deeper and more enjoyable. Each time you practice deep relaxation you reach a place where you are poised, happy, and feel healthier.
Noises or other distractions only act as signals to relax you more. Every time you hear a noise, you go deeper into your sanctuary and become ever more relaxed. All tension is melted away. You are completely relaxed...serene...happy...content.
In any emergency, you are alert and active. Your subconscious mind instantly recognizes an emergency and immediately brings you to an alert state.
You are in a natural, healthy, alpha state of mind...open to healthy, positive suggestions. Your mind only accepts suggestions that are positive, for your highest good, and cause harm to no one else.
You return to this relaxed feeling...to your sanctuary every time you think of the word “ALPHA,” with the intention of returning to this serene state of body and mind. The word alpha in ordinary conversation is just another word and is unrelated to this effect. The word “ALPHA” is effective only when you have the intent to completely relax your body and mind as it is now and enter this natural state of mind.
Any time you wish to melt the tension from your body...any time and anywhere you wish to become more serene and calm, simply touch your thumb and forefinger together. Any time you want to be relaxed, touch your thumb and forefinger together. You associate this with the feeling of calmness...serenity...relaxation...happiness...poise...and just feeling good. Touching your thumb and forefinger together relaxes you. Any time and anywhere during the day you wish to relax...any time you wish to rid your body of tension, simply touch your thumb and forefinger together. Touching your fingers together is a signal that restores you to a state of complete poise.
Now feeling wonderful...feeling relaxed...feeling healthy and whole...feeling rejuvenated...feeling rested and happy, begin to return to full wakefulness. On the count of “3” you are in the awake state and your eyes are open. “1”...“2”...feeling rested and joyful, “3”...you are awake and alert!
Credit to Harry W. Carpenter from TheGenieWithin.com