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In Defense of the Subconscious Mind


Mind and Subconscious Mind

Since Freud there has been a tradition in the field of Psychology to think of the human mind (not the brain) as having two parts, the conscious part and the subconscious part. That way, functions of mind can be accounted for without regard to whether or not they are done intentionally, reflexively, or habitually. Within sub-traditions, such as that developed by Carl Jung, the subconscious became the unconscious, and even the collective unconscious. Many people seem to use the words subconscious and unconscious interchangeably.

In one current approach to hypnotherapy apparently the concept of the subconscious mind is considered obsolete. This practitioner explains his results in terms of neurological substrates and the mechanisms of brain mechanics and chemistry. However, even those who are willing to define the subconscious mind out of existence do not appear ready to discard the rest of the mind.

The mind is a singularly unscientific construct that, like hypnosis, can be defined in any way the writer wishes to use it. Cutting edge epigeneticist Bruce Lipton (The Biology of Belief, 2008) (1) writes that the mind is composed of energy and is therefore a non-physical entity. In a recent talk, Deepak Chopra, MD (10-19-09) (2) explained that scientists have never been able to physically locate the mind-nor even the function of memory-anywhere in the body. He said that most evidence suggests that memory is not a function or property of the brain, but of the mind, which is distinguished from the brain by being non-physical. Dr. Lipton agrees.

The Mind

Eastern philosophical and religious traditions similarly regard the mind to be a non-physical aspect of our being, located at our "center," behind the fourth (heart) chakra, in the middle of the chest. These traditions refer to "mind" as we refer to "heart." Apparently supporting these ancient concepts, recent neurological research reveals that far more neurological information originates from our heart than from our brain, where it radiates out and communicates with the body via neuroenergetic vibrations just as the brain does (Rollin McCraty, Ph.D. The Living Matrix, 2009) (3).

Even if we construe the mind and all its functions and manifestations to be concrete and observable there will still be invisible pathways of communication and effects underlying it. As it continues to direct all the subtleties of our life the mind will still be composed-or at least manifest in the form of-energy. Einstein has satisfied generations of scientists that everything in the universe is reducible to energy, which is exactly as invisible as the wind. The mind-and indeed the entire fabric of our existence-depends upon the patterns of subatomic activity that underpin all life and the universe itself. No one knows the mysteries of how, according to the laws of subatomic activity, the mind-and everything else-is at once physical and non-physical (blinking in and out of physical existence) and at once here and there (nonlocal). This has led many (e.g. Deepak Chopra, op. cit.) (4) to suppose that Mind is not a discreet possession or characteristic of you or me, but that it is a core aspect, feature and function of existence that is shared by all of us, and that it is not "inside" the body. Rather, it is we who exist "inside" this invisible field of which everything is made. Jung was on the right track.

Mind: Organization Across the Lifespan

It is equally clear that our individual and collective being has a sense of direction and organization, just like the lilies of the field, but more complicated. The healthy human develops naturally to maturity and follows prescribed and predictable social patterns of behavior across the lifespan. Hence my definition of Mind: it is the "organ" of that organization, integration and direction across the lifespan; it is the "quality" that makes awareness, organization and coordination possible. It is aggregate Consciousness. It is possible that this quality (Mind) inheres in all life and that it explains the sense of intelligence, order, organization and direction that is observable throughout the web of life.

Consciousness and Mind

Awareness is consciousness. Consciousness is the capacity to perceive activity and respond to it. Whatever else it is that underpins life-and expresses itself as energy-it must be consciousness. Every one of our fifty trillion cells has consciousness, as do the atoms of which they are composed. Consciousness appears to be the basic building block of existence. If the brain is not the source of the mind, then the brain-like the heart-acts as a radio receiver, transformer and transmitter for the vibrational energies of Mind. These energies exist "in" Mind, or the Zero Point Field (Lynne McTaggart, 2002) (5), not the brain. Humans have a highly developed frontal lobe that allows for self-conscious or self-reflective awareness, along with the capacity to intentionally direct mind energies (Lipton, p. 103) (6) through every kind of mental activity. This highlights the mechanics, power and importance of conscious mind focus, but how could that be the whole story?

Consciousness and Subconscious Mind

All of our functions of mind must be precisely coordinated in their intricate dance throughout a lifetime in order for us to survive, grow, and thrive as creatively and satisfactorily as possible. But the vast majority of our mind functions can't possibly originate in focused awareness. There are too many, and most of them are far too complex and subtle for the conscious mind to comprehend and direct. If it is Mind that organizes, coordinates, directs-even originates-all of the activity of consciousness, including wound healing, growth and development, central nervous system activity, memory and gene expression, then the aspect of mind that has the necessary skills to accomplish these latter feats lies far beyond the ability of waking, intentional, focused consciousness. I refer to the aspect of mind that can handle these tasks as the subconscious mind. It satisfies the definition of consciousness and mind but it is not a product of any self-conscious mental activity and therefore not transmitted by the frontal lobe. It is a product of "deeper" processes.

"Sub" is a prefix meaning "below." Conscious and subconscious mind comprise an indivisible whole, a seamless fabric of awareness that supports our existence in every moment. When I semantically divide conscious from subconscious it doesn't mean that you lose any of your awareness. At any given time your being is conscious of all the information that is available to your frontal lobe, while you also remain connected with everything that is in the basement (the subconscious), though at the moment you are not self-consciously aware of it. Often information drifts between the floors and the basement of awareness: the border is permeable. Your consciousness is unified.

Though the conscious mind can formulate a healing thought, only the subconscious mind can carry it out.

Subconscious, not Unconscious

The terms "subconscious" and "unconscious" are often used interchangeably. I disagree with the use of the word "unconscious" when referring to the subconscious mind-or to mind at all. My argument is more than semantic. I disagree with it on the grounds of usefulness and practicality, and because "subconscious" is healthier and more therapeutic. "Unconscious" connotes a division between states of awareness that doesn't in fact exist, and it suggests a state of obliviousness that does not favor being open to the holistic and fluid nature of mind and body/mind. It can cause the perception of being split or divided-unwhole and therefore unhealthy. I believe that talking in terms of the subconscious mind fosters a sense of acceptance and openness to deeper currents of mind and a greater sense of wholeness and connection and that unconscious does not. Subconscious awareness can come up from the basement; it's only below conscious awareness; it's not gone from awareness; it's not divided from you. There is no doubt that it exists and that it is as close as your ability to receive it. If you're unconscious you're just asleep, oblivious, and likely to remain that way. The word connotes inertia and disconnection. I object to those implications. I prefer the expectation that I am boundless, unlimited, connected and whole. Unconscious means to lose consciousness, and I don't believe that is even possible. Where would you leave it?

I suggest that we think and talk about consciousness as fluid and holistic in order to promote people's sense of coherence and wholeness. "Health," after all, is a synonym of "whole." When we feel whole we feel healthy.

Next: The Subconscious Mind in Clinical Application


(1) Bruce H. Lipton, Ph.D. (2008). The Biology of Belief. New York: Hay House. 95-97.

(2) Deepak Chopra, MD (10-19-09). Public Talk: St. Louis, MO.

(3) Rollin McCraty, Ph.D. The Living Matrix. (2009). San Rafael, CA: Becker Massey LLC.

(4) Chopra op. cit.

(5) Lynne McTaggart. (2003). The Field. New York: HarperCollins.

(6) Lipton, op. cit. page 103.

Published 11-9-09 by the International Hypnosis Research Institute

David Kohlhagen - Think Responibly! Branded Graphic THINK RESPONSIBLY!


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