There are three levels of consciousness namely:
Conscious, Subconscious and the Unconscious.
Each of these levels of consciousness are dependent on our state of mind and what we choose to focus on. Our conscious mind is that which lives in the present our thoughtful state, it is based on our thoughts and our perceptions to that which we are focusing on. Whereas the subconscious mind is more related to our memories and those things that we want in life without having to give it any thought. Our subconscious mind is that voice in our head that tells us about the things that we aren’t thinking about. It is the state of consciousness that we do not control and because of this we very seldom act upon it. Our unconscious mind however is filled with a variety of things that we have very little to no control over, our unconscious mind is where our fears, motives, insecurities, irrational urges, greed, sexual desires and hurt comes from. This unconscious state is completely ruled by emotion and a “lack of thought” or control if you will. Our unconscious state of mind is where our dreams come from and where anxiety and depression stem from as we have these thoughts and feelings that we are unable to explain or control and because these thoughts are contradictory to what we believe to be real in our conscious mind we find ourselves feeling anxious or unsure of what decision to make.
In psychology this concept of consciousness was explained by Freud using an iceberg analogy, in that there are three parts to an ice berg. A tip, a middle and what lies beneath the surface. The tip of ice berg being our Conscious mind as it is the first thing that we see and because of what we see we believe it to be real. The second level of the iceberg which is the middle would be described as our Subconscious Mind. In there exists the truth and what we consider to be the rest of the ice berg. The subconscious is that which we didn’t see at first yet it holds a much greater significance than the tip of the iceberg. Then we look at what lies beneath the surface which in terms of icebergs is almost always far greater than that which we are able to see at the surface. This is what we call our Unconscious Mind as it lies beneath the surface and we are unable to see just how deep or vast it is. Much like with the iceberg, the depth and magnitude of our unconscious mind is unknown to us. Our unconscious mind is in control of our reactions to our own emotions and is capable of destroying anything that comes near it. (Much like the Titanic was destroyed)
- The Conscious Mind – Thoughts & Perceptions
Our conscious mind is in essence that which we consciously think about. Our conscious mind is that state of mind that we spend of our time listening to and is the state of mind that we give the majority of our attention to. This is because our conscious mind is entirely made up of our own thoughts, and these thoughts that we are having are made up by the perceptions that exist within our mind. We use this state of kind to focus on our problems and to create answers to questions that haven’t even been asked yet. We try to find meaning in that which we see by over thinking and over analysing our thoughts. However what our conscious mind is incapable of doing is filtering out our perceptions and our prejudices. Understanding that what exists within your conscious mind is not always the truth or in fact not the true reflection of the situation that you find yourself in but rather that it is built upon the idea that has been implanted within your mind. This can help you to overcome obstacles within your life by changing the way in which you think about things and people. This is where our subconscious comes into play.
- The Subconscious Mind – Memories and Stored Knowledge
As we have just learnt that the Conscious Mind is our controlled thought pattern which is dependent on our perceptions and prejudices. The Subconscious Mind is very much the opposite. As Gaston Bachelard (A French Philosopher from the late 1800’s) said, “The subconscious is ceaselessly murmuring, and it is by listening to these murmurs that one hears the truth.” Let’s look at this quote for a while shall we; “ceaselessly murmuring” our subconscious mind is ever present, it is constantly trying to break through to us to provide insight and perspective. Because of our conscious mind we are often unable to hear our subconscious, however when we do allow ourselves to hear our subconscious we tend to ignore it as it tends to disagree with the train of thought that we have already established within our conscious minds. “it is by listening to these murmurs that one hears the truth”, if we are to believe Freud then we are to believe that within our subconscious mind exists our memories and all of our stored knowledge. Within our subconscious exists all of the lessons and ideas that we had thought to be forgotten and therefore we tend to focus on what we see right in front of us as our conscious mind is very closely related to seeing with our eyes (see article titled Three Ways in Which We See). Often times in relationships we have looked at our partners and felt hurt and angry because of them; focusing only on our perspective of the situation based upon our pre-existing expectations and prejudices. However we all have that little voice in the back of our minds that gives us doubt when we want to leave or gives us that feeling of guilt when we show anger and are then proved wrong. That is your subconscious trying to show you the truth. Anger and hurt are based entirely on intention and perspective. Everything is relative and we will dive into where hurt and anger comes from when we start looking down into our unconscious mind.
- The Unconscious Mind – Reaction Devoid of Reason
Unlike our conscious and subconscious minds, our unconscious mind is made up of a variety of idea and emotions. A few examples would be: Fear, Anger, Greed, Sexual Desires, Irrational Urges, Hurt, Insecurities, Anxiety, Motives, Etc…
Our unconscious mind is easily described as the state of mind that takes over when we let go of our conscious and subconscious states. In order to explain what the unconscious mind is we could look at the following story.
A man was sitting peacefully on a train while reading his newspaper (He was using his conscious mind to focus on the paper while his subconscious mind absorbed the information and related it to his own experiences). The train pulled into the station and the man continued to read. At the station passengers disembarked while other passengers boarded the train. The man remained blissfully unaware of his surroundings and was at peace with reading his paper. Once the train had started to move again, two children were sitting nearby to him and began to get quite loud on the train. They were running around and playing and laughing and screaming as children do. The man started to realise that his attention was being drawn away from his newspaper and his conscious mind started to focus on the children’s behaviour. His conscious mind had already made the assumption that these were naughty children. Instead of ignoring the children and listening to his subconscious which was telling him that it doesn’t matter, children will be children, let them enjoy themselves. He chose to give in to his conscious mind and build up this great prejudice against the children and their father who was also on board the train. This lead to the man believing that this father was a useless parent who was incapable of controlling or disciplining his own children. At this point the man’s unconscious mind took over and filled with rage he start to shout at the father who was sitting quietly on his chair. He yelled at the father telling him how useless he way and how much of an embarrassment his children are and how dare he allow them to carry on with such dreadful behaviour. By the time the man had finished shouting he had unknowingly built himself into a fit of rage which had ruined his entire experience.
What happened next was when he realised this fact. The father simply looked up at the man and said to him: “I am sorry that my children have upset you sir, and you may be right in saying that I am a useless father; but, we have just come from my wife’s funeral and are on our way home. I let my children play and make a noise because I want them to experience happiness wherever they can find it as when we arrive home their mother and my wife will not be there” – Had the man listened to his subconscious and simply left the children to play. Had he stopped his conscious mind from building upon his perspective of their situation and his prejudice of the other man being a bad father he might have saved himself the pain of guilt and embarrassment. More than that though he would have saved more pain and hurt from being inflicted on a man who was already struggling to keep himself together.
Our unconscious mind is not privy to circumstances or situations and the only way that we are able to have calmer unconsciousness is by being mindful of our conscious and sub consciousness.