Many professionals in the field of psychology consider the use of the word “subconscious” to be “quasi-scientific” and prefer to use the term “unconscious.” It was Sigmund Freud who introduced the concept of interpreting the thoughts within an “unconscious mind” through techniques such as random association, dream analysis, and Freudian slips.
On the other hand, to be unconscious is to be in a comatose state, where the mind does not respond to environmental stimuli. Rather than suggest an “unconscious mind,” which nevertheless responds to the queries of the psychoanalyst, this article opts for the concept of a “subconscious mind,” which responds to stimuli beneath conscious awareness. Subconscious responses often enter conscious awareness.
Understanding the subconscious mind requires an overview of the principal pattern recognition processes operating in the nervous system. Beneath your awareness, neural drives remember and recognize patterns and act with logical precision. Those drives support your speech. They respond to your feelings, organize an idea, find the right words, arrange them in order, check grammar and operate your vocal chords. You are only conscious of the final outcome.
Most of the things you do are outputs of your subconscious drives. Even the emotional turmoil you experience is caused by internal drives triggered by emotions. Effective mind control depends on an understanding of the major neural drives within your subconscious mind.
Your conscious actions eventually become subconscious habits. The basal ganglia, a brain organ, is believed to “automate thinking and acting, turning focally conscious activities into quick, reliable, unthinking habit.”
Ann Graybiel recorded neural activity in the basal ganglia of a monkey, while it learned to associate the sound of a click with the availability of a sip of juice. With the start of activity in the throughput lines of the region, “spidery arms that eavesdropped” on the flow fired in rhythm, and learned the activity. Later, the region mirrored the firing rhythms, converting it into an act managed by a subconscious drive for the animal.
The Subconscious Mind - PET Scans
Science has clearly shown that complex intelligent activities can be managed by your subconscious drives. In their research using PET scans on subjects playing video games, scientists discovered that cortical activity increases significantly when you first begin to learn a skill. Such activity decreases when you master the pursuit. Your conscious thoughts are correlated to cortical activity. The bulk of your activities are learned and converted into habitual drives. Those drives subconsciously manage your motor systems without your awareness.
Understanding The Subconscious Mind - Automated Motor Controls
Your cerebellum is reported to support motor functions, using an accurate biological clock. It is considered "necessary for smooth, co-ordinated, effective movement." Its outputs are through rows of Purkinje cells, which sent impulses to the motor neurons. Each of those cells reportedly evaluate 2,50,000 parameters including which opposing muscles contract, their levels of tension, on pressure, stretching of skin and the beginning and end of muscle movements. Your subconscious drives set objectives and your motor systems interpret current sensory and motor data and act to achieve those objectives.
Understanding The Subconscious Mind - Decisions & Actions
Your motor control systems have a galactic store of preprogrammed habitual actions, finely tuned to meet specified objectives. Everything you do has an objective. Your will, or your emotions, decide those objectives and your motor systems select appropriate action to achieve those goals. A television set recognizes the selected movie channel (the drive objective) and delivers a preprogrammed set of images, which enact your movie. A drive is a set objective, which delivers the desired chain response. When you travel on a transatlantic flight a single subconscious drive manages your trip. Your conscious actions are limited to reading a few airport signs to assist the current drive.
Understanding The Subconscious Mind - Muscles Meet Objectives
When you decide to move a piece on a chess board, a specific drive takes over. It controls the sequences of motor impulses, which persist from the instant your hand picks up the piece, till it is set down in its new position. Muscle movements are sequences of contractions, which last just milliseconds. Each signal invokes only a tiny contraction. Myriad muscles have to contract and relax over thousands of cycles till your chess piece reaches its desired position. Interpreting the drive, motor codes continually issue precise instructions to meet its objective. Your hand does not wander off on its own. Drive systems within your subconscious mind persistently iterate the objective till it is achieved.
Understanding The Subconscious Mind - Emotions Set Objectives
Hydra, the earliest animal, had a nerve net, which triggered
primitive drives, which enabled it to move about and absorb or reject
food particles. From those primeval origins, nature developed an
incredibly sophisticated range of emotions,
including fear, sadness, disgust, contempt, curiosity, surprise,
love, pleasure, embarrassment, guilt, and shame, which control the
finely differentiated activities of animals. Those emotions set the
objectives for the subconscious drives, which deliver appropriate
Understanding The Subconscious Mind - Emotions & Motor Systems
The memories of drives are assembled from the cradle, with the intense activity of an infant triggered by inherited drives, which set off its typical hand movements. Its basal ganglia records the emotion signals of pleasure against the drive, which erratically touch an object. When the object is seen again, its desire is converted into the drive. The emotion recalls the drive pattern, which activates the recorded hand movements. It purposefully touches the object. With repeated play and experimentation, the child learns to move its hand towards seen objects. In time, it learns to reach out and grasp a pencil. As emotions increasingly control specific drives, the random activities of the infant cease.
Understanding The Subconscious Mind - Subconscious Habits
It requires your undivided attention, when you first learn to drive a car. A conscious learning process links your motor drives to sensory perceptions. The system stores those memories. Over the years, millions more contextual memories are added. Shortcuts, early lane changes, responses to traffic snarls. With experience, your drive home requires little conscious thought. Ordinary people were unaware of the drives, which tie their shoelaces, or slice a carrot. Such drives remember and manage your myriad habitual subconscious activities.
Understanding The Subconscious Mind - Subconscious Goals
Determined by childhood longings and beliefs, the more enduring drives set your career path. You do not consciously decide to follow your career every morning. They are long term programs, established at a young age. Those drives decide your daily routines persistently over thousands of sleep and waking cycles. They are learned gradually from infancy, forming sequences of physical activities, to be recalled instantly - to flee, attack, or negotiate. Many such patterns are learned in the playing fields, where habitual emotional responses controlled personal relationships in the subconscious mind.
Understanding The Subconscious Mind - Complex Drives
Programmed drives manage sophisticated behavior from remembered responses. Birds built nests driven by such programs. Drives enable the mind to meet complex rules for a game and achieve objectives. Many drives are inherited, making us shake with sobs in sadness or laugh loudly with happiness. Emotions trigger the drives. Pleasant emotions generate drives, which approach and accept. Unpleasant emotions generate drives, which seek to escape, or reject the stimulus. Each moment of your life, an intuitive process selects an emotion which activates appropriate drives in your subconscious mind. That emotion immediately decides your current attitude to life. You respond with pleasure, or withdraw from pain.
Understanding The Subconscious Mind - The “Hurt” Component
While the pleasure drive approaches and accepts, pain triggers drives, which seek to escape. The drives, which actively struggle to escape pain are quite different from your sensation of pain. Medical texts report that pain is felt in two waves, separated by an interval of a few tenths of a second. The first sensation of pain is sharp and localized. The second drive signals are disagreeable. Those signals "hurt," because they trigger drives to "escape" the situation. There are medical conditions, where patients report that they feel pain, but it does not “hurt.” The "escape" drive channel was cut through surgery - prefrontal lobotomy. Effective mind control is about a level of self awareness, which identifies the physiological sensations and so stills the more troubling drives.
Understanding The Subconscious Mind - A Shopping List Drive
Drives manage the search processes in your mind. Just as precisely sequenced motor impulses manage the slash of a surgical knife, programmed drives search your memories, or superimpose one image on another in your imagination. This process within the machine can be verified by you. When you set out to write a shopping list, a persisting drive is set off. Its objective is to discover the items in your list from your memories. Those memories are stored in the context of your needs, defined by your feelings. As you write each item down, drives bring a new item into your short term memory.
Understanding The Subconscious Mind - Creativity Of A Monkey
Konrad Lorenz describes the creativity in the mind of a chimpanzee. The animal was in a room which contained a banana suspended from the ceiling just out of reach, and a box placed elsewhere. "The matter gave him no peace, and he returned to it again. Then, suddenly - and there is no other way to describe it - his previously gloomy face 'lit up'. His eyes now moved from the banana to the empty space beneath it on the ground, from this to the box, then back to the space, and from there to the banana. The next moment he gave a cry of joy, and somersaulted over to the box in sheer high spirits. Completely assured of his success, he pushed the box below the banana. No man watching him could doubt the existence of a genuine 'Aha' experience in anthropoid apes." Drives manage creativity in your subconscious mind.
Understanding The Subconscious Mind - Creativity Is Its Product
Human creativity is founded on search drives. The memories of a lifetime of events are added to a galactic memory, storing knowledge inherited across millions of years of evolution.
Drives can superimpose one concept on another in memory to create a new image in any imagined combination. Even a child can imagine a chair with an attitude, or a refrigerator with a toothache.
By interpolating millions of possibilities, your subconscious mind arrives at new and original solutions. Creativity stands on the firm foundation of a search drive, which manipulates a gargantuan memory.
Understanding The Subconscious Mind - The Search Drive Burden
More stress is a distinct possibility if you manage a large organization. Any large enterprise has many problems, demanding solutions. Within your subconscious mind, multiple drives persistently search for solutions to endless issues. Unless managed, these drives persist, recycling their searches, and repeatedly encountering frustrations. Those frustrated searches create a turmoil of emotions, giving you no peace. Persons, who retire from such responsibilities report a feeling of a burden lifted off their shoulders the very next day! Effective mind control requires an awareness of such drives in your subconscious mind. Systematic planning and mindfulness exercises can free you from the burdens of such drives.
This page was last updated on 13-Sep-2016.
For my peace of mind, I earmarked 20 minutes for meditation on the terrace. With my eyes closed, I sense my hands on the chair and feel the numbness in my feet.
I feel my breath flowing through my nose, my throat, my chest and my stomach. I can hear the chirping of birds, the phut phut of auto rickshaws, the occasional roar of a truck and the insistent hooting of horns.
When I open my eyes, I see a pale moon over two hundred thousand miles away. I see the nuclear fires, blazing for millions of years in the pale globe of the setting sun. A star millions of miles away in space.
I can see green shoots coming up on a tree, watch the dives and swoops of birds, the great circles of the hawks and flocks of birds flying home for the night.
Diffused light from the sun reflects off a parrot on the tree and enters my eye through a pinhole opening. I sense the bustling mood of the bird, even though it is smaller than a drop of water in my eyes.
All these things are seen and felt by me in a few brief minutes. In the distance, is the head of a man seeming to be no bigger than a pea. Yet, that head too sees and feels such things. Ten million people in this great city see and feel in ten million ways.
My mind wanders to a misty view of postwar London; an exciting glimpse of Disneyland. An awed view of Tiananmen Square. The looming Himalayan ranges. My mind takes me to distant galaxies.
It carries me into the heart of millions of invisible neurons, where electrical charges flash thousands of times a second powering my contemplation. I see the campaigns of Julius Caesar and Alexander. I feel the longings of Jehangir.
Already my mind has taken me to palaces, battlefields and even the stars. And yet, the 20 minutes hang heavily on me. If I lost everything, but can just see and feel, in just a few brief minutes, my mind can travel the world, or imagine the cosmos.
Life has already blessed me
with over twenty million waking minutes. I have an infinity of time
on my hands. Have I a right to expect more from life?
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