The subconscious mind - how is it different from the conscious mind?


A number of new clients ask me what the subconscious mind is, how it is different from the conscious mind and why we speak to the subconscious when in hypnosis. So here is an explanation (without getting too sciencey!!)

Your conscious mind is the logical, thinking part of your mind. It is the part of your mind that decides what you’re going to have for breakfast, plans your day, decides which route to take to work and so on. It is based on logic and thought. We are aware what we’re consciously thinking!

Someone clever somewhere once worked out that we take in 11 million new pieces of information per second. There’s no way that the conscious, thinking mind can process that. This is where the subconscious mind comes in.

Your subconscious mind is not based on logical thought, it kind of works on its own programming and it’s where your store all of your beliefs, behaviours and habits. Whilst your conscious mind is the thinking logical mind, your subconscious mind uses ‘automatic programmes’ based on all your past experiences.

This programming starts to be created from the moment you’re born. When you’re young, your conscious mind isn’t yet fully developed so is unable to analyse information and knowledge that comes in. (Try telling a two-month old baby that the sky is silver with pink spots, you aren’t going to find them arguing). So all of this information goes straight into the subconscious mind and gets stored there.

This information builds up over time, adding more information and new experiences and knowledge and begins to create a ‘file of experiences’ in your subconscious.

When you were very young you would have been taught how to use a knife and fork to eat your dinner. Those first few times it was probably quite tricky and involved a lot of concentration. Nowadays (I’m guessing) you don’t sit down to each meal and work through in your mind which hand the fork goes in, how you hold the knife, how you cut – you just do it. It’s automatic. Your subconscious has an ‘eating my dinner’ programme up and running and it gets on with it for you while you’re busy talking to your family or planning your evening.

The same is true for riding a bike or driving a car. We have so many of these subconscious ‘programmes’. Think about brushing your teeth, having a shower, driving to work….you do these on autopilot without having to think about each single action.

So this is our subconscious mind. It takes in all of those 11 million pieces of new information per second, stores all this into ‘files’ and creates ‘programmes’ from it. This enables us to do many things ‘on autopilot’ while we get on with other stuff. Incredibly useful!

However sometimes the subconscious mind can actually be very unhelpful. Some of these programmes it has built up are destructive. Take a look at the following examples:

  • Limiting beliefs such as “I’m not good enough” or “I’ll never be rich”

  • Bad habits like smoking or biting your nails.

  • Destructive behaviours like over-reacting to things or always thinking the worst.