Conscious, Subconscious and Unconscious Mind

The conscious mind is the seeing, aware, awake mind. The subconscious mind is the inner mind that is not as aware. It is less conscious but runs our body functions such as digestion, blood circulation, etc. More differences between the conscious mind and the subconscious mind are as follows:

Conscious Mind
  • Can perceive, learn, reason, judge, and criticize.
  • It is a logical, sequential, one-thing-at-a-time processor.
  • Can use words in a highly abstract way.
  • Works creatively with the past and the future.
  • Is best at analyzing, planning and choosing/deciding.
  • Is easily distracted — has a short attention span.
  • Turns off completely when we sleep.
  • Can get bored; can get curious.
  • Thinks it is in charge.
  • Is where “will power” resides.
  • Writes “programs/subroutines.”
  • Is attracted to the “negative.”
Sub-Conscious Mind
  • Stores all perceptions, memories, and emotions.
  • It learns and is in charge of recall.
  • Is relatively unlimited incapacity, and never turns off.
  • It is a holistic, multi-processor.
  • Symbolic — good with pictures (V), feelings (K), and sounds (A).
  • Takes everything personally and runs all mind/body systems.
  • Needs some repetition; is in charge of change.
  • Manifests any image or concept embedded in it.
  • It does not “care,” unless you do.
  • Gets pictures/feelings from conscious and itself.
  • Works to get for you what you think about it.
  • Implements “programs/subroutines.”
While these differences seem accurate, it is important to understand that there is no need to, therefore, give credence to one over the other. As Bruce Lipton writes in the Biology of belief…

…the seemingly “separate” subdivisions of the mind, the conscious and the subconscious, are interdependent. The conscious mind — which represents the seat of our personal identity, source, or spirit — is the creative mind. It can see into the future, review the past, or disconnect from the present moment as it solves problems in our head. In its creative capacity, the conscious mind holds our wishes, desires, and aspirations for our lives. In contrast, the subconscious mind is primarily a repository of stimulus-response tapes derived from instincts and learned experiences. The subconscious mind is fundamentally habitual; it will play the same behavioral responses to life’s signals over and over again, much to our chagrin. When it comes to sheer neurological processing abilities, the subconscious mind is more than a million times more powerful than the conscious mind. If the desires of the conscious mind conflict with the programs in the subconscious mind, which “mind” do you think will win out? You can repeat the positive affirmation that you are lovable over and over or that your cancer tumor will shrink. But if, as a child, you repeatedly heard that you were worthless and sickly, those messages programmed in your subconscious mind will undermine your best conscious efforts to change your life. Our lives are essentially a printout of our subconscious programs, behaviors that were fundamentally acquired from others (our parents, family, and community) before we were six years old. As psychologists recognize, a majority of these developmental programs are limiting and disempowering.

While these differences seem accurate, it is important to understand that there is no need to, therefore, give credence to one over the other. 

The subconscious mind vs unconscious mind
Let us know look at the the difference between sub-conscious and unconscious mind. While on the internet, you will find some differences, may of my friends in the training industry including psychologists and me agree that they can be used interchangeably. Even Freud, who made the word unconscious mind popular, used sub-conscious mind and unconscious mind interchangeably. Because unconscious as an adjective could refer to be knocked out, it is better to use the word sub-conscious. However, If one day I will publish an article in a peer psychoanalysis journal, I will use the word ‘unconscious’ because among psychologists, that is more popular and perhaps more encompassing.

Is there something beyond even the sub-conscious mind?
I love to get people to experience what my spiritual teacher Sirshree and several other non-dual teachers say — when the mind drops, consciousness shines. I believe that beyond the sub-conscious mind is universal consciousness. I teach people about the powers of the mind and try to get them to experience this. Rather the attempt is for consciousness to experience itself. If this is too much for you to fathom, I suggest you begin with this Wikipedia post and explore meditations where the experience of the no-mind state can be had.

Rashmi Iyer

Travelpreneur, Homeschooling Mom, Mindscience and Parenting Expert.

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