Conscious, Subconscious, or Unconscious

Your mind functions on several different levels. You can think of these as the layers in an outfit. Each serves a purpose, but you are more aware of some than others. Hypnosis works primarily on the subconscious level of thinking. To understand what that means, a hypnosis practitioner needs to understand the different levels of consciousness.

Conscious Coat

The outer layer of your outfit might be a coat that keeps out the rain and wind. This first layer is the one that you are most aware of. When you look in the mirror, you see the coat. You may know that underneath it is a blue sweater, and under that is a green shirt, but you see the coat.

In your mind, the outermost level is the conscious mind. This conscious mind is the level of thinking you are most aware of. It’s where you make decisions. Choosing which jacket is most appropriate for the weather or deciding to wear your dressier coat to a work function–both of these are decisions made by the conscious mind. You are very aware of your thought process and this decision-making.

Subconscious Sweater

The next deepest layer is the subconscious mind. This layer stores information we don’t need to use all the time. In your outfit, this might be your sweater. It’s hidden under the jacket, but you still know it’s there, keeping you warm.

In your mind, this layer is home to all the automatic thoughts and responses you use during your day, often without being aware of them. You don’t have to stop and recall how to walk; you just take a step, and it works. Each time you drive a car, you don’t have to purposefully draw up the information that when you turn the wheel, the car moves left or right. You don’t have to stop and actively recall that when you press the pedal on the right, the vehicle goes faster, and when you activate the left pedal, it slows down.

You know these things and could answer questions about them if asked, but you don’t need to recall them actively to use them. Your brain has the information and provides it as necessary. This is how subconscious thinking works.

Unconscious Underthings

The innermost layer is unconscious thinking. Your unconscious mind is where your brain stores the things of which you are mostly unaware. As with your clothes’ innermost pieces, this is the most private, personal layer. Desires, repressed memories, automatic reactions, and survival instincts all come from our unconscious mind.

These are the deep recesses of your thinking, where your forgotten past is stored. You don’t actively control these feelings and reactions because they are hidden from your conscious mind.

Iceberg Ideas

Sigmund Freud likened these levels of thinking or consciousness to an iceberg.
The part of the ice above the water is the conscious mind. You can see it and are very aware of it.

The subconscious mind is the section of ice below the water’s surface but still visible. If you decide to look for it, it is clearly there.

The section of iceberg that exists in the murky depths but can’t be seen is the unconscious mind. We know it is there, but we don’t know any of the details because we can’t see it.

When you have an experience that is too painful, frightening, uncomfortable, or strange to accept, it will be pushed into your unconscious mind. That helps you get through your life without the horror or intensity of the experience interfering. You don’t have to see that part of the iceberg. However, that section of the ice still exists. It continues to affect the upper sections of the ice, controlling how the iceberg moves, the rate at which it melts, and the shape it takes. Just because you can’t see it in the case of the ice, or because you aren’t aware of it in the case of your mind, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have an ongoing and substantial effect.

Translating This To Hypnosis

Hypnosis works primarily on the subconscious mind. A skilled professional hypnotist will work with a client to help them bring the conscious and subconscious mind into coherence–making them work together in a healthy way. Using hypnotherapy scripts to help a client access their subconscious mind, a hypnotist can help them make positive changes to destructive patterns or overcome limiting challenges and fears.

For example, imagine a young child with a gift for singing performs in a school talent show. They forget the words, causing the performance to be a failure. Perhaps they are also teased by their peers, deepening the trauma.

This situation can create a learned fear of performing in front of crowds. In addition to limiting their ability to share their love of singing, this could also cause problems presenting to colleagues at work. The subconscious mind alerts them to danger because the school performance has created that association. They aren’t choosing to be afraid. They don’t form a conscious thought that this work presentation could end up like the talent show, so it is scary and should be avoided. They just know that when they are asked to perform, they feel terrified and physically ill.

This situation is similar to our earlier example of driving. If you need to veer your car to the right to avoid an accident, you don’t stop to think, “If I turn the wheel right, the car will move to the right.” Your subconscious mind does all that for you so you can just act. In the case of the car, your subconscious is helping you. In the case of the stage fright, it is hindering you. In both cases, this is your subconscious at work.

Hypnosis helps people explore the damaging or unhealthy connections and automatic reactions hindering their lives. That might be helping someone realize that it is safe to take the stage and sing. It could be helping someone understand that they can have a life that doesn’t include smoking cigarettes. Once they envision that smokeless reality, they can take steps to overcome their unhealthy habit.

For anyone who has anxiety, worries, negative thinking, intrusive thoughts of the past, or frustrating habits, hypnosis can help them connect with their subconscious to move forward. Weight loss, limiting fears, smoking cessation, and processing trauma: that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how hypnosis can help someone tap into their subconscious mind and improve their life.

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