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Unconscious Mind vs. Subconscious: 12 best ways to reprogram

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If you’ve heard the terms unconscious mind and subconscious mind before, you’ve likely wondered what the difference is. The unconscious vs. subconscious mind debate can best be answered by stating that the unconscious mind is the part of your brain that controls processes that happen automatically, such as your memory and motivation. Your subconscious mind is the part of your consciousness that you are not aware of.

But what do these explanations really mean? Are the unconscious mind and subconscious mind really different things? Are they connected, or are they not?

If these are questions you have, you’re in the right place. This article will cover all your questions about your unconscious and subconscious mind and help you reprogram your subconscious.

 

Understanding the Unconscious Mind vs. Subconscious

Before you can understand the unconscious and subconscious minds, you first need to understand what the terms unconscious and subconscious mean.

Subconscious Mind

Think of the subconscious mind as a submarine. The prefix “sub” literally means below – and your subconscious mind is the mind below your conscious mind – the part of your mind that holds the information you know you know but takes you some time to remember.

For example, consider the name of your favorite primary school teacher. You know what it is – but unless she significantly impacted your life, it might take you a moment or two to recall it. That’s the kind of stuff that is in your subconscious mind.

Please don’t get it confused; the information you have in your subconscious mind is important. Two major types of information are stored here–controlled and automatic data.

Controlled data is information you’ve taken in willingly. This is information that was once part of your conscious mind. After all, there was a point in time when you remembered your primary school teacher’s name with no prompting or additional time needed. While this information might have taken a backseat over time, it entered your mind with your complete understanding of it doing so.

Automatic data, however, is the information you once had to learn but no longer have to think of consciously. Consider smiling – your mind knows how to do it. When you’re happy, you smile – no thinking required.

In fact, think about automatic data too much, and you’ll come up with the same challenge as retrieving the name of your favorite primary school teacher – your mind stops and thinks about it. It takes you a moment or two to complete an activity that is otherwise automatic. Think of it in terms of forcing a smile as a response to a joke that you didn’t find particularly funny – you’ll likely smile anyway, just to be diplomatic. Still, it will take a couple of moments for your body to remember how to do it, and you’ll likely take longer than if you were smiling naturally.

You don’t need time to recall the automatic data stored in your unconscious mind – and when you do need to take the time, it takes your brain a couple of seconds to recall what you need.

 

Unconscious Mind

Your unconscious mind, on the other hand, is a different thing. Again, look at the prefix – where subconscious used the prefix “sub,” unconscious uses “un,” which means not.

So, your unconscious mind is the part of your mind that is not conscious. It is made up of the information you do not consciously know that you know.

A significant part of your unconscious mind carries out autonomic body tasks. For example, consider thermoregulation. You aren’t consciously aware of how to control your body temperature from rising too high or falling too low – but your unconscious mind knows what to do.

Similarly, your unconscious mind helps you analyze other people. It’s one of the essential things that make up a person’s ability to “read” someone else. Though you might not realize it, your unconscious mind is collecting and collating millions of pieces of information about the person sitting next to you, such as their body language, rate of speech, and mannerisms.

This is not information you’ll ever be able to access consciously – but it does mean that if their mannerisms suddenly change or their speech rate is higher than an average person’s, you’ll notice something wrong.

Your unconscious mind doesn’t just handle your autonomic bodily activities; it also handles a significant portion of your emotional core. These are unconscious emotions linked to triggers that you’re not necessarily aware of.

For example, if you’ve ever smelled your grandmother’s favorite perfume on another person and were then transported back to the time you spent with her, that’s an emotion and trigger stored in your unconscious mind. The scent itself is something you would have registered consciously, both on your grandmother and on this new individual. However, the rest of the process – the link between memories and smell, the trigger the smell sets off, and the emotions you felt due to the trigger being activated, were linked unconsciously.

 

Are the Unconscious and Subconscious Minds the Same?

Given the time we’ve spent exploring the differences between your unconscious and subconscious minds, you might wonder why people still ask the question of whether the two are the same.

The answer can be traced back to Sigmund Freud, the father of modern psychoanalysis. Though he was not the one to coin the term “unconscious mind,” he used the concept extensively in his practice and theories. However, when starting, he used the terms “unconscious mind” and “subconscious mind” interchangeably. While Freud eventually stuck to the term “unconscious,” the confusion remains to this day.

It should be noted that both terms are used in psychology (“unconscious” is also, understandably, used extensively in the field Freud pioneered – psychoanalysis). These are not terms used in neuroscience nor actual physical structures in the brain. Your unconscious and subconscious minds are elements of your brain chemistry rather than brain structure.

 

Freud's iceberg theory of consciousness, (conscious, preconscious and unconscious mind)

 

How to Reprogram your Subconscious Mind

Before you start reprogramming your subconscious mind, the first question you might ask yourself is why you would want to do so.

As discussed above, your subconscious acts as your brain’s “auto-pilot” feature. It contains information you once learned consciously but no longer need to think about when performing. This isn’t limited to functions like smiling, laughing, or eating – it also covers behavior patterns.

Consider your morning routine. My routine generally involves:

  • Waking up.
  • Checking the time on my phone.
  • Freshening up.
  • Grabbing a quick breakfast.
  • Making my way out the door.

While this routine might change depending on my schedule for the day, the first two steps – checking the time on my phone and freshening up – remain the same and in that order, barring something truly unexpected.

This part of my morning routine has become part of my subconscious mind. I no longer have to think about checking the time and freshening up – my body does this even if I’m still tired and groggy. For some people, their “subconscious routines” are even more significant – they can cover their entire morning routine, how they react to stress, and their motivation levels.

Most of us aren’t aware of how much of an impact our subconscious minds have on our daily lives. Every experience in your life affects the role the subconscious plays.

For example, bad feedback and reviews could be internalized. If enough people tell you you’re bad at something, your subconscious will affect the way you respond to that situation in the future. If you’ve been told you’re a bad artist, your subconscious will affect your motivation to create more art and make you feel more stressed when you attempt to draw. All of this will impact the outcome – the final artwork.

Reprogramming your subconscious mind helps eliminate this negative programming, allowing you to break free of destructive cycles you may not realize you’re in the middle of. Here’s how you can perform this reprogramming.

  1. Be open to change. Even if you don’t wholly believe in it yet, you should be willing to go on this journey and explore the possibility that change is possible.
  2. Tell yourself it’s okay to be successful. Celebrate your successes without guilt. If you close a big deal, celebrate it without setting yourself the goal of closing five such deals before you can be happy. Celebrate the small as well as the big.
  3. Learn to block other people’s fears. Others have their own subconscious minds and personal experiences holding them back. Don’t be swayed by their worries. Take the example of announcing an engagement – people might talk about enjoying the “free time” you have left rather than celebrating your life event. Ignore these naysayers, and focus on the positives.
  4. Reinforce with positivity. Be prepared for an impromptu win. This can mean keeping champagne in the fridge or having the fine dining restaurant on speed dial. Buy a dress to wear to a big celebration. Learn to expect wins instead of losses.
  5. Change how you speak. Talk about future successes as a given, not a hope. Instead of saying “I hope to be CEO,” say “I will be CEO.” Don’t make statements that aren’t true – so, don’t say “I am CEO” if you aren’t – but, at the same time, make your dreams your expectations.
  6. Visualize your dream and create a space where you bring that vision to the real world. This may take the form of a Pinterest board or a scrapbook – but it should be something you can look at when you need additional motivation.
  7. Figure out what is pushing against your success. Ask why you’re afraid or why you procrastinate and develop strategies to counter this resistance.
  8. Have a plan. This isn’t a 5- or 10-year plan – rather, it should be a plan for the rest of your life—your ultimate goal and the legacy you want to leave behind. Once you know what you want, you can take steps to get there.
  9. Learn to ask for what you want. Reach out to that brand for a collaboration, or ask that industry leader for an interview. Even if you know you’ll be denied, asking for it is the only way you’ll eventually get what you want.
  10. Don’t be too rigid. Your master plan should serve as a guide rather than a rulebook you cannot deviate from. If you plan to run a successful business of your own and your first attempt fails, be willing to reimagine things and try again. Accept that there will always be surprises in life.
  11. Surround yourself with like-minded people who can support you and your dreams. Being surrounded by people constantly at odds with themselves and the people around you will only tell your subconscious that this is the mindset you should emulate, rather than a success-focused one.
  12. Don’t forget about affirmations and motivation. If and when you have the time, listen to motivational and affirmative podcasts, go to talks on these topics, and surround yourself with others who motivate and validate you. Their lessons and encouragement will seep into your subconscious and provide the base for a new outlook on life.

 

Final Thoughts

Your subconscious and unconscious minds are two different aspects of your brain chemistry, and both play an important role in the psychology of who you are. With a little effort, it is possible to reprogram your subconscious mind to be more positive, helping you succeed with your goals in life.

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