The subconscious mind

The tip of the iceberg

IcebergThere is a familiar anecdote that we only use ten percent of our the potential contained in our brains, and science fiction writers amongst others have pondered the possibilities of the supposed next stage of human development when we learn to use the remaining ninety percent!

This is not, however, a true representation of how the human mind is utilised. It is more accurate to state that we only consciously use ten percent of our mind's power. This conscious part of the mind can only concentrate on between five and nine things at once. Right now, for example, you are maybe consciously aware of the pictures and layout of this page, the meaning I am conveying with my words, maybe the sights and sounds around you, but unless I specifically mention it you are unlikely to be consciously aware of your heart rate, your breathing, that you are blinking, maybe scratching your nose............

The ninety percent of the mental iceberg that lies beneath the surface of conscious awareness and keeps all these functions running without your deliberate mental intervention is, of course, the subconscious mind and it is in constant use, twenty four hours a day. It never sleeps.

What is happening beneath the surface?

Beneath the surface of conscious awareness there is a lot going on. The subconscious (sometimes called the unconscious) mind is responsible for all the hundreds of routine tasks that keep your body ticking over; maintaining your heart rate, breathing, balance and so on as well as monitoring your environment for risks and dangers. Isn't it curious how people who live by a noisy road or even an airport have no trouble sleeping through the noise disturbance? And yet, if an unusual sound like a creaking floorboard were to occur during the night, that subconscious nightwatchman would have them awake in the blink of an eye!

This gives a clue to how the subconscious works, and how it learns. Repetition is the key here. Once the subconscious has experienced something enough times, it is able to take responsibility for it. This frees the conscious mind to do other things. So our sleeping person in the example above soon realises at a deeper level that the passing noise of the planes is not a threat, and the subconscious filters it out, but it is still perfectly capable of hearing the quieter, but more likely to be threatening, sound of the creaking floorboard!

The same is true of the learning process. DrivingLearning to drive a car is mentally overloading for the conscious mind. All those tasks to perform at once! But suddenly and mysteriously there comes a point where you "just do it", as the process becomes a subconscious one. You just get in the car and are half way along the road without even thinking about whether you closed the door, turned the ignition key and put the seat belt on! An experienced driver does not need to be consciously aware of every tiny movement of his or her hands and feet, in fact thinking about it actually makes it harder!

Once learned, these behaviours are seldom forgotten - it's hard to forget how to ride a bicycle even if you haven't sat on one for years. Of course, not all habitual behaviour learned by the subconscious in childhood is useful in adult life. Many phobias and other unwanted symptoms were learned as childhood responses to what were perceived at that time to be threatening situations, but the subconscious is then reluctant later in life to unlearn what it has learned. Sometimes it's not even a behaviour, just a belief that was installed in the younger years, leading to self-confidence and self-esteem issues in later life. But it stays stubbornly in place, despite the conscious, logical knowledge that it is unwanted and unhelpful! The subconscious is not "wired" to forget things. It would be very inconvenient to suddenly "forget" how to drive, or swim, for example. 

So, how to get rid of the unwanted behaviours or beliefs? That's where hypnosis comes in. Hypnosis opens a direct doorway to the subconscious mind.

How does hypnosis help?

In the hypnotic state, the conscious mind is pleasantly relaxed and distracted, and a trained therapist can target suggestions directly at the subconscious mind.  Sessions are sometimes recorded so the client can benefit from repetition of those suggestions, which after all is the same method the unwanted behaviour used to get installed in the first place! This is known as solution-focussed, or suggestion, therapy.

The same state is useful in hypno-psychotherapy too, as the conscious mind is diverted and relaxed, preventing any conscious, logical, interference in what is purely a subconscious problem. After all, if the problem could be solved logically - there wouldn't be a problem, would there? This is why psychoanalysis typically takes hundreds of hours to complete, because of interference from the "critical factor" that is the conscious mind. The process is dramatically shortened by accessing the hypnotic state.

Find out more....

By browsing the links near the top of the page or by contacting me.