Perhaps the best metaphor to understand the conscious/unconscious pairing of the mind is the iceberg. As the iceberg floats in the sea a huge proportion of it is below the surface. Only a small amount is visible above the water. The visible part represents the conscious mind and the large part unseen below the surface is the unconscious.
The conscious and unconscious each have their own set of functions and at the same time share another set. The conscious mind is constantly supported by the unconscious. This allows them to work together do to lots of things that were learned consciously but are now performed without needing conscious effort. Driving a car for example needed concentration when going through the learning process but after a while the act of driving is done almost automatically as the unconscious handles all the individual movements.
We can say that the conscious is who we are day to day; it is where we ‘live’. It is the part of us that communicates with the outside world. The conscious mind is aware of what is happening now, it makes decisions, reacts to things going on around it and experiences the emotions. The conscious mind will make things happen that you want to happen, for example if you wanted to move your leg it would be the conscious that made it move.
The conscious is also the analytical part of the mind that works on problem solving; it weighs up different points of view and comes to conclusions. We also know the conscious is limited and that it can only process so much at one time. This means that when we are concentrating on one thing we become less aware of the world around us. Sights and sounds are filtered out so that the focus of our attention can be central to our thoughts.
The conscious abilities you are aware of can be accessed easily. Whether that ability is taking a sip of coffee from a mug or tying your shoe laces the control of your movements is done consciously. While people are experiencing hypnosis their conscious awareness is focused internally. This means that they can be guided to access unconscious processes and abilities.
The unconscious is the powerful area of the mind that handles the underlying processes. It holds all the feelings, thoughts and experiences that we are not consciously aware of. This vast ‘under the surface’ part of us is like a storehouse of knowledge. It takes in the massive amount of information we encounter everyday and filters it so that the conscious mind is not overloaded.
The unconscious mind regulates the bodily functions like the heart rate, breathing, blood pressure etc. Our automatic emotional responses originate from the unconscious.
Our bad habits reside at an unconscious level, they sit below the surface influencing how we behave and can make positive change difficult. This is where hypnotherapy can be so powerful. In hypnosis your focus is internal and you can have access to the unconscious. Positive changes can be made through visualisation and suggestion.