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The Conscious vs. the Subconscious Mind Explained

Have you ever wondered what is the difference between the conscious mind and the subconscious mind?

It can be helpful to understand what the difference between the two is and how these unique aspects of the mind function.

There are two unique “aspects” of your mind; the conscious mind and the subconscious mind. Your conscious mind is the part of the mind that you are aware of during your day-to-day life. It’s the part of the mind that rattles off your to-do list, it creates the running commentary on your own life and experience, as well as commentary about other’s lives and choices. The conscious mind is the stream of thought that you are aware of.

And below the surface of every-day awareness is the subconscious mind. The subconscious mind is the store-house for all of the data that you have accumulated throughout your lifetime. It receives all of the sensory input from your body and nervous system and thus it houses all of your memories, beliefs and fears. It stores all of your preferences and tendencies, as well as learned patterns and habits.

For example, take a moment to remember back to when you were learning to drive a car. The first several times in the driver’s seat, you had to consciously think about each step of the process; where to put the key into the ignition, how to turn the key to activate the engine. You had to think about looking into the rearview mirror and around the car prior to backing up or driving forward. You had to think about turning on turn signals and how to apply your foot to the gas and brake. Each step of the process you had to consciously think about prior to doing it.

However, as time went on, your subconscious mind learned the patterns and behaviors that would allow you to safely drive your car without needing to use all of that conscious mental energy thinking about each step. You hands knew where the turn signals were. Your foot knew how much pressure to apply the brakes so that you could easily and comfortably slow down for a stop sign.

After a while, you may even have had the experience of getting from point A to point B without even thinking about any of the necessary steps needed to drive your car. Perhaps you’ve even arrived at a destination without remembering anything about of the drive. The reason for this is that the subconscious mind handled all of the details for you and the conscious mind was free to think of other things.

If you liken the size and relationship of the conscious mind to the subconscious mind, it is helpful to view it as the iceberg below.

Iceburg

The top 10% of the iceberg represents the conscious mind which processes approximately 7,000 pieces of information. The lower 90% of the iceberg represents the subconscious mind which processes 70,000 pieces of information.

The subconscious mind literally resides in every cell of the body and plays a large part in forming and informing your entire energy system. Because of the vast amount of data handled by the subconscious mind, it is easy to see that much of this processing takes place below conscious awareness to keep you from overwhelm and to protect you.

The Purpose of the Subconscious Mind

The purpose of the subconscious mind is to regulate your body’s systems and ensure your safety. This occurs in many different ways. For example, if you are facing excessively high temperatures, the subconscious mind will cause the body to sweat to cool itself. If you are facing low temperatures, the subconscious mind will cause you to shiver to warm the body.

Likewise, your subconscious mind prefers stability and consistency in your outer life. Stability and consistency allow you a sense of control and security because when you know what to expect in life and your environment you can respond with a sense of confidence.

Another example of the subconscious mind’s personal safety function is if you have been taught that strangers are dangerous, or that being outside of your familiar comfort zone is unsafe, you will experience fears or resistance t0 new experiences. You may even notice “self-sabotaging” behaviors when you attempt new things. This is because there is some kind of fear or belief that your subconscious mind is responding to.

This is why it can be so difficult to create change. You can consciously intend to do something different in your life, such as cut out sweets, or end a dysfunctional relationship, but if the subconscious mind feels that this is a threat of some sort, it will do what it can to protect you. You may even find yourself binging on the thing you just consciously renounced. Somewhere in the subconscious mind being denied what it wants is perceived as dangerous.

If there is ever a disagreement between the conscious mind and the subconscious mind, the subconscious so often wins because it’s primary objective is security and stability, and it is powered by your emotions and beliefs. In relationship to your conscious mind, your emotions and the beliefs that they stem from hold much more weight than your conscious stream of thought. This is why it is so important to address and work with the subconscious mind when creating lasting change.

Enjoy greater ease now with your FREE "10 Ways to Stop Struggle" report and meditation.
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