• Posted: June 2012
  • Comments: 5

Conscious and unconscious mind; what’s the difference?

In NLP we often Speak about particularly in change work the conscious and the unconscious mind, in my map being aware of the differences will not only benefit your clients, it will take the elegance of your change work in others to the next level.

The state of trance is biologically very similar to the hypnogogic state (transition from waking to sleeping).  We go through different cycles of consciousness and trance each day, which is why we find ourselves when driving or watching the television having no conscious awareness of what we are seeing/hearing until something triggers us, a turn of you need to make to get home, a road sign, someone asking what programme are you watching, we were day….dreaming.

The Conscious mind

The conscious mind has limited processing capabilities compared to the conscious mind and is dominated by natural language partitions. The famous paper by Miller ‘Magical number Seven, plus or minus two, is often cited in NLP as a reference point into the limits of the conscious mind.
The conscious mind is aware if what you are aware of in any given moment. It expresses itself through your internal running commentary of the events you experience in that one moment. The conscious mind is the part of your mind that you are using to read and process these words, and gather meaning from and how it relates to you. It’s linear, sequential, logical and likes things to makes sense. Someone who has an overactive conscious mind wants a label to explain every experience, can find it hard to let go and has a lot of inner self talk. Hypnosis is a great way to flood their unconscious mind and go direct to the unconscious, that’s right…..

The unconscious Mind

The unconscious has complete knowledge of the system that is you. It is everything you are not conscious of at the moment, past experiences, breathing, the blood circulating around your body, blinking, what’s on your desk at the moment.

It has amazing processing capabilities and research has shown the unconscious absorbs millions of bits of sensory information through the nervous system in a single second, take a look at the latest developments in neuroscience for more specific research into the power of the unconscious.

On the Physical side

At the moment your unconscious is regulating your body, pumping blood through your heart, digesting food, healing any cuts or scrapes. You don’t consciously have to think about making your heartbeat , your eyes blink your your lungs fill with oxygen, it all happens unconsciously.

The unconscious learns and holds locked internally, if I was to ask you to think of your first day of school, first kiss or an important moment in your life it would no doubt come to your conscious attention. If you have a phobia every time the stimuli in front of you (VAKOG) is similar to the stimulus locked unconsciously from a past or similar event, the phobic flight or fight response is instantaneous. Introduce the phobic stimulus and no matter what the person is doing at that time the response will occur, conscious logic is totally ignored in this setting even if the person knows the spider or whatever the stimulus causes the response cannot hurt them in that moment.

The unconscious presents itself through sensations and signals. We often ignore these signals, for example we run ourselves down and get ill, how many signals did we ignore before from the unconscious before you actually got ill? Usually quiet a few. People come for change in the worlds of Erickson due to being out of rapport with their unconscious I.E not listening the signals and sensations the unconscious is presenting to you.

The unconscious is the ideal place to work with, with change work, hence Hypnosis and NLP being great tools for. Unless the context for development is changed at an unconscious level the context will keep arising until its intention is satisfied and new behaviours are learned, luckily the unconscious is a very quick learner.


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  • I found this really useful in how it pulled together my learnings from the Practitioner course. Michael’s delivery was superb.

    Moz Scott
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