What is the subconscious mind?

What is the subconscious mind and how does it affect our conscious choices and decisions?  Learn how powerful your subconscious is and how it’s programming directs the trajectory of your life.

Our eyes are starting to open to the reality of the subconscious mind.  And are learning how much control it has over our actions. Psychological research is just starting to peel back the deep layers behind our personality, choices, and actions.

The most fundamental piece of this internal “self” is the subconscious mind, the one we can’t directly reach. Yet it is the reason for the majority of our successes and failures.

Instead we have to learn about this most ancient and instinctive form of self by careful observance of our emotions, intentions, and motivations.

what is the subconscious mind

What is the Subconscious Mind

We have two halves of our mind: the conscious mind and the subconscious mind. The conscious mind is what you are actively thinking right now. It is the choices you clearly see yourself making and the intentions you have right in front of you. The Subconscious Mind is the vast memory bank.  We fill it with all of our experiences, our understanding of those experiences, and our predictions of future actions based on those experiences.

what is the subconscious mind

Though you are actively making conscious choices, your subconscious is directly affecting and causing those responses.  But it is not as simple as a direct relationship. Both are constantly sending information to the other, and maintaining a feedback loop.

We rely on our subconscious mind to provide us with stability of self and consistent.  It keeps us acting and thinking in a way that is similar or inline with what we have previously done. 

In a sense, our subconscious mind keeps us in our comfort zone, which is where we are safe and able to optimally function. It despises change, questions, or having it’s beliefs challenged.

We start to fill up this memory bank in our infancy, long before we develop language and emotional intelligence. Regardless, events start to happen, and our brains attempt to make sense of them. And after deducing the reasoning behind an event, we write a mini program and download it into our subconscious mind.

Programming the Subconscious Mind

Let’s look at a small example. As a child you witness your parents arguing and verbally abusing each other. Instead of understanding that their squabble is between them, you blame yourself for the anger, frustration, and confrontation.

You may not directly remember this event, but as you grow, conflict may trigger this subconscious pattern and without thinking you immediately feel shameful and guilt. 

And as you age, this shame and guilt grows in your subconscious and becomes applied to other situations.  You continue to hold onto this misconception that you are the cause of 

what is the subconscious mind

Now you think that you are at fault when others quarrel, withdrawing from social situations and avoiding social interactions. This obviously has huge consequences for your adult life. All stemming from a incident in your childhood, that you misunderstood and subsequently carried into your adulthood and started applying it to all situations.

As you do this hundreds of times from young childhood to adulthood, you can see how our subconscious mind is literally programmed incorrectly. Some of the situations we may have understood properly, but the vast majority of the micro-traumas from our youth were incorrectly processed.

As an adult, we have to comb back through the subconscious programming and rewrite huge swaths of it to reflect the actual reality of our being.

The Subconscious Mind & the Ego

The ego is another concept used to understand our subconscious mind. It is most frequently known for the use by the psychologist Sigmund Freud in his work on personality. 

He believed the ego was the arbiter between the basic animalistic “id” and the higher moral “superego.” Though much of this understanding is the foundation for our current understanding of personality, it is not used as much.

Ultimately, the ego is our sense of I. How much of I is involved determines how much of our ego is activated. And it influences our thoughts, intentions, motives, emotions, choices, and behaviors.

We mentioned earlier that the subconscious mind’s goal is to maintain the status quo in our mind. The ego wants to stay the same and maintain our comfort zone. It hates being challenged, or asked to change.

And this is where we get the term ego-defense. Any time one of our beliefs or ideas is challenged, the ego rises to fight, stirring up emotions of anger and resentment.

Ego is how we see ourselves, the best, idealized version we want to be.  And it is our belief about our own skills, talents, and abilities. I and me statements can reveal what we really think about ourselves. And it may be different than the way we portray ourselves to others.

Many of the different beliefs that we acquire or are programmed into our minds as we grow and mature, especially before we have emotional language and understanding

Recognizing your Ego

Our ego is very good at convincing us we are something.  It is an expert at hiding evidence that suggests otherwise.  And makes sure to focus our gaze only on the information that reinforces it’s opinions.  Whether those thoughts be positive or the negative (the ego will resort to whichever is more self-serving in the moment).

The ego is also responsible for creating the powerful emotional reactions.  And through these emotions we can start to understand the issues at play with our ego.  For example, feeling anger or frustration is usually our ego thinking it “knows better” or having a sense of self-righteousness. 

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Most of the time we assume all of these thoughts and emotions are “us.”  But in reality they are actually our ego or subconscious mind trying to warp our reality to maintain our status quo.  It is trying to protect us from the dissonance between the truth and our concept of the truth.

Ego Reveals our Subconscious Mind

The ego and subconscious mind are not bad things.  And are incredibly necessary to our ability to function effectively in society, but too much of a good thing is a bad thing.  Our ego is also responsible for our self esteem and self confidence.  Therefore it is more about mediating our ego and “keeping it in check.”  

You can learn to do this effectively through several different methods such as journaling.  Check out our post How to Start Journaling to learn some easy tips for starting a journaling practice (even if you’re not a writer).  

But the best place to start is simply by detaching and observing your emotional reactions.  What upsets you, what about other people frustrates or annoys you?  How about what makes you feel good and reinforces your self image?  

These are all things that are ego-serving and need to be analyzed to ensure they are helping us towards our goals and not hindering ourselves with skewed stories that we hold about our lives and our world. 

The key is learning to work with and detach from the ego.  And in conjunction with exploring and reprogramming your subconscious mind, we can start to make the conscious choices and changes that we want to.  Without having to get in our own way and step on our success due to the lies our ego tells ourselves.