The human mind can be considered to have two main parts, the Conscious part and the Unconscious, or Subconscious, part. (This is a simplification for practical purposes, but it will do as a working model)
The Conscious Mind is what you would probably refer to as “You”.
This is the part that makes “conscious” decisions. It’s the part that analyses situations, makes informed choices, initiates the process of learning and generally seems to run the show. In fact if you didn’t stop and think about it you’d be forgiven for thinking that’s the only part there was!
But actually it’s only the tip of the iceberg. In fact you can get an idea of how big a part of you the Conscious Mind is if you compare it to an iceberg.
As you know, an iceberg has about 10 percent of its mass above water and about 90 percent below water (actually 89.2% underwater and 10.8% above the water to be precise but I don’t think that really matters here ☺).
So, if the Conscious part of your mind is ten times smaller that the Unconscious part…
Who’s running the show?
Let me give you an analogy here.
Your Conscious Mind is like the Captain of a ship.
The Captain of any large ship is just one man, but his decisions determine where the ship goes. He might have a crew of 2000 people but as long as the crew are properly trained and follow orders the ship stays on course.
But what happens if the crew interpret their orders incorrectly? What if the orders weren’t completely clear? What if their training wasn’t up to scratch?
Who knows what course that ship might take?
Your Subconscious is like the crew of the ship.
Your crew get on with running all the day-to-day functions of your ship like breathing, regulating bodily functions, repair work and a whole lot of learned skills like walking, writing or driving a car.
Your Subconscious Mind takes instructions from your Conscious Mind and puts those instructions into action, just like the ship’s crew.
Let’s say that you want to go to town. Picture this in your mind.
You decide to go to town. You probably grab your keys, maybe put on your coat, get into your car and drive to town. You might listen to the radio while you drive. You might even shake your head and exclaim about the standards of other people’s driving. You look for somewhere to park, park the car and head off to your first destination.
How much of that was conscious activity?
Did you think about breathing throughout that journey? What about controlling the muscles required to balance while putting one foot in front of the other? What about the controls of the car?
Did you even consciously decide which route to take?
It’s pretty well accepted that the average person can hold “seven, plus or minus two” things in their mind at any one time. So depending on your circumstances you can deal with between five and nine things simultaneously.
That’s not a lot. In fact it’s not even enough to safely drive that car!
In fact driving is a perfect example of how the subconscious works.
Initially you had to learn a complicated set of actions in order to drive the car and ultimately pass your driving test, and these actions had to be managed consciously.
But these actions rapidly became programmed into your subconscious until you became able to drive while holding a conversation, listening to music, thinking about your big meeting or the multitude of other things that you probably shouldn’t do while driving.
It’s a brilliant system, with some major drawbacks, because it’s just as easy to unintentionally train your Subconscious incorrectly.
You see, you might not realise it but your Subconscious Mind is learning all the time. Every action and its result is stored, processed and evaluated and the results go to form a set of rules or guidelines that the “Crew” refer to whenever an order comes down from the Captain.
And if the Unconscious Rules counteract the orders from the Conscious “Captain” you get a mutiny!
Sure, you can often force the “Crew” into compliance with sheer willpower but it takes effort, and as soon as you let your guard down the Subconscious takes over again.
Ultimately this can be summed up like this:
Your Conscious Mind controls what you say you desire
Your Unconscious Mind controls what you actually get!
As I said, your Subconscious Mind is constantly learning and one of its main reasons for this is to ensure your safety.
You come equipped with a powerful defence mechanism which learns, particularly during childhood, what is safe and what might be a threat. This is handled by the Subconscious because during our evolution threats normally required instinctive actions.
Our ancestors probably didn’t apply much conscious thought before running away from a predator!
However, the problem with this defence system is that it often mistakenly gets triggered by emotional threats as well as physical ones, so you have a bunch of rules and guidelines stored in your Subconscious that are trying to protect you from emotional threats as well as physical threats.
As an example, it’s fairly obvious that a child who is repeatedly ridiculed by teachers at school for answering questions incorrectly may well develop problems with public speaking. However what might not be so obvious is that child may well develop an aversion to standing out from the crowd at all.
That could be a real shame if they grow up to be a talented artist but their Subconscious won’t allow them to exhibit their work for fear of ridicule….