One thing that has come up plenty of times in conversations with clients is my use of the word unconscious in my articles and videos when referring to the mind. Sometimes people mistakenly try to correct me by telling me I mean subconscious. But I use the word unconscious very intentionally, because the word subconscious, though much more commonly used when talking about things like changing limiting beliefs, or overcoming trauma or self-limitation, is not necessarily the most accurate word to describe the part of your mind that the limitation stems from.
Why is this even important you might wonder? Well using a more accurate word helps you more accurately understand what you are working with here. There is a big difference between your subconscious mind and your unconscious mind. And if you are completely unconscious of something important, wouldn’t you want to know that?
The Subconscious Mind
When we review what the word “subconscious” means, the prefix “sub” denotes that whatever follows it is just below the threshold of your awareness. For example, subliminal means just below the threshold of your perception of sensation. You don’t hear subliminal audio, but it’s just barely not audible. If you were to turn the volume up, or pick apart the audio file, you could easily find it. The same goes for subliminal visual effects. You don’t consciously see them, yet they are just barely not visible. If you slow down the video they will easily show up.
When we are talking about the mind, what lies in the subconscious is not directly within our range of awareness. And yet, it is not so far away from us that it cannot be detected. And sometimes it even bleeds up just a little bit into our day to day awareness, especially when we do things like meditate, or use brainwave entrainment audios.
An example might be something like a food craving. Just the other day I was driving through my neighborhood and I cracked the windows of my car. The seasons are changing right now and there was that distinct fall crispness in the air. And all of a sudden I’m craving green Thai curry. Why? Because last year around this time of year I was eating green Thai curry when I first started dating my beautiful wife. It was a particularly good night and that good experience anchored in my mind with the smell of the fall air.
I didn’t instantly know this as soon as the craving for the curry came into my awareness, and I wasn’t fully aware of every mental mechanism that put this all into play, but when I took some time to reflect upon it, it was easy enough to figure out.
Working with the subconscious mind is very useful. In the least it is much more useful than just trying to work with the conscious mind (where working on oneself rarely yields genuine results). But the subconscious mind is not where we get down to brass tax if we are truly wanting to go deep and make real lasting change. In fact, the main reason why working with the subconscious mind can be helpful is because of its connection to the unconscious mind.
We could liken it to a particular command on a software program. We get results by getting the command right (ie: using the software in the best way possible) but if the software itself is incapable of doing what we need it to do, it’s time to upgrade to a better version.
The Mysterious Unconscious Mind
Often times as I am speaking with someone about the unconscious mind and they feel inclined to correct me, I detect a certain sense of fear (probably unconscious fear). And I understand why this would happen. We are all terrified to admit that, to an incredibly large extent, we are completely and entirely unaware of what is actually going on in our own mind.
Yet this is why it is important to use the proper terminology when describing such things! We don’t get anywhere from being in denial, and it is important that we start from the understanding that we are dealing with something we are not just sort of unaware of, but completely unconscious to.
I’m sure you’re familiar with the iceberg analogy. If were to look at a picture of a huge iceberg in the water, we see the little tip of it poking out of the water (the conscious mind), then there is an area of the iceberg just below the water (the subconscious mind), and then the big looming bastard underneath in the deep.
Our unconscious mind is running the show. This is another thing that is very hard for some to admit. Our conscious mind is freakishly running on autopilot, including the part of it that tricks you into thinking you are the one that is in control. If you really want to be in control (at least as much as is possible) your best bet is to learn to work with the unconscious mind.
So how do you work with the unconscious mind? You are after all, completely unconscious to it. First off, understand the impact of just how unconscious you are to it, and relinquish control. This humility is absolutely necessary. You have to be willing to admit that many of those things you do, that you wish you didn’t do, are due to reasons that you are completely unaware of. You may even be tricking yourself into thinking you are aware of these reasons. You also have to be willing to admit that you may be doing things on a daily basis that you have no idea you are doing, that are sabotaging you.
Yes, that’s right, you could be sabotaging yourself right in front of yourself and not even know you’re doing it.
That’s what the unconscious mind does. Of course it also does a lot of unconsciously good things as well (like keeping you alive, moving you strategically through this experience of life, keeping your basic needs met, etc.) But again, to beat the dead horse, this is all happening in the realm completely outside of your capacity of awareness.
But just because we aren’t able to be aware of an unconscious program, doesn’t mean we can’t figure things out about it, and take that knowledge into our self-work. Think of it like a black hole, or dark matter. We are not able to directly measure these things, but we figure out a lot about how they work from measuring their effect on the variables around them that we can measure. We understand black holes by measuring their gravitational pull on the matter surrounding them.
So in this sense, you can observe the effects of your unconscious programs by being self-aware, and exercising humility with an open mind.
A prime example would be relationship problems. How many times have you found yourself in a new relationship with someone completely different than that crazy asshole you dated before them, only to find that you are actually in that same unhealthy relationship again? Did that person you met who was so completely different than your ex strategically hide themselves from you? (slightly possible) Did they become a different person?
Guess what. It’s probably you. And you’ve probably suspected this at least to a small degree for a while now. Even though you have no idea exactly how you are doing it, you’ve seen yourself do it enough times that the common denominator of your self-sabotaging unconscious programming is starting to become suspect number one.
Keep in mind this is just one of the most easy examples, and there are literally thousands of things going on in your life both large and small that fall under this same premise, from how you feel when you look at abstract art to how you interact with your boss at work.
So as I always say, your self-awareness is where your greatest power lies. You might not be able to directly see those demons lurking in the deep unconscious mind, but you can begin to see what they are up to, and what they are related to by watching what goes on in your life. When you catch yourself having one of those moments where you go “Wow, I ruined it for myself again!”, or when you catch yourself in the depths of negative emotion where your shadow is coming through, you have the opportunity to start to hone in on where you can work on yourself.
At that point you can employ an educated strategy for working on this, whether it be in the form of some kind of healing modality (like EFT) or perhaps an affirmation, subliminal messages, or hypnosis.
What many people don’t realize is that their biggest issue is not that they don’t have the tool to address their problems, but that they are not fully aware of what the problem even is. Or even worse, they think they know what it is but they are still largely unaware of it.
So to sum it up, humility is key. You must be willing to admit that you don’t know, and watch yourself from that perspective. Secondly, self-awareness is one of your most valuable resources in this game of working on yourself and reprogramming your mind.
One last piece of advice
As you would expect from me, I highly recommend using brainwave entrainment as a tool to help you super-charge your results. This technology has a tendency to really enhance self-awareness. It seems that it either enables previously unconscious material to rise to the surface of your awareness, or perhaps enables your conscious awareness to extend deeper into those subtle realms. It does this by enabling you to remain conscious while producing slower brainwave states that are often time only reserved for either sleep or very experienced meditators. To learn more about this I recommend checking out THIS QUICK VIDEO .
Also, meditation is the key to everything my friend. Meditation is the tool that enables you to cultivate the relationship with yourself, and the inner workings of your mind that makes this type of work even possible. If you haven’t already, make sure to check out our premier meditation program, The Missing Link, which is aimed at getting straight to your absolute core, and making positive changes at the level of your self-identity.
Until next time!