Updated: May 15, 2020
What is the best explanation of the difference between the conscious and subconscious mind?
A: 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:
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.
Is attracted to the “negative.”
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.
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.