The Power of The Unconscious- Part 4

That the Unconscious controls your inner organs is an understatement. It controls everything that is not in your awareness including our habits. Many illnesses develop as a result of Stress you experience by the fight between the Conscious and the  Unconscious mind.

Anatomically, the hypothalamus, thalamus, hippocampus and amygdala are parts of the Unconscious. So is the pituitary gland that is responsible for secreting many hormones. It is thus responsible for secreting the chemicals that control so many of the body organs.

If you are chronically stressed, your hypothalamus is constantly stimulated. It causes the pituitary to be active all the time. It secretes hormones to keep the body alert with constricting the blood vessels, raising the heart rate, increasing cholesterol in the blood and also suppressing the immune system. The body is in a fight-flight mode for much longer than necessary. If it is a short-term need the body can handle it. But the problem arises when it is unable to switch off to a relaxed mode.

No amount of argument with the Unconscious mind is going to reverse the process of chronic stress. If the Conscious or the Cognitive mind tries to impress upon the Unconscious mind to change its behaviour, it can do so temporarily. But the Unconscious mind is emotional in nature. It can only be changed long term by working with emotions. Logic has limited effect on it.

However, if you know the process of influencing the Unconscious, you are a winner. Many times you have to decide at the cognitive level how you can influence the Unconscious mind. For example, affirmations are used cognitively to influence the Unconscious. When you repeat an affirmation, it is believed to sink into the Unconscious. It does so only when there is imagery and emotion involved with the affirmations.

On the other hand, the Unconscious affects the Conscious mind too. If you have old unresolved emotional issues, for example, you could behave angrily in many situations without realizing that it is happening. This anger may be coming from some old experience in which you were traumatized. As long as that trauma is still affecting you, the Unconscious mind will continue to make you behave angrily in particular situations. When that anger is expressed fully, then the Unconscious mind perceives the situation as peacefully resolved. It is then able to influence the Conscious mind in having better control over your behaviour,

Most of the ills of society are caused by the angry and fearful Unconscious mind of the people who are considered ill or of criminal minds.

Unconscious mind is positively influenced by meditation.  Prisoners who meditate experience less stress. (see link below).

Poor lifestyle decisions are associated with trauma symptoms. These decisions come from our thinking mind. This is an evidence that the Unconscious mind affects the decision making through the Conscious mind. If the decision- making is done with a peaceful Unconscious, it is more positive for everyone involved. When the decisions are made from an Unconscious full of anger and fear, vengeful, cruel and loveless behaviour is seen. This behaviuor is not under the person’s control.

Amygdala is a region in the limbic system that gets stimulated when you get angry. It was once understood that it is able to influence the pre-frontal cortex because the fibres run from it to the pre-frontal region. The pre-frontal region is responsible for decision making. The amygdala when it is active sends rapid fires to the pre-frontal cortex, affecting your thinking. As a result, you can make rash decisions when you are angry. Pre-frontal cortex is not supposed to have fibres running from it to the amygdala.  So it is unable to send messages to amygdala and cool it down. Scientists explained that this is the reason, when you are angry, your reason usually does not control your anger.

The Unconscious mind is thus a powerful ally to appreciate and a strong enemy if not given its due respect.

Link for how meditation affects stress in prisoners:

The Power of The Unconscious- Part 3

A correction officer was doing his duty in the prison. He was suddenly attacked by a prisoner for no reason. The attack was so sudden that he had no time to respond. As he shouted for help, his colleagues arrived to rescue him. He was so shocked that he did not know he was bleeding. He had to be told by a colleague that he was bleeding from his face. He then went for first aid for his injuries. It took a few days for the physical injuries to heal. But then he started to have nightmares. His sleep became disturbed. He started to have flashbacks of the assault. He became irritable and sensitive to slight noise. He had developed symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He had the understanding to appreciate that whatever was happening to him was not logical. But he could not help himself from feeling the way he was feeling.

This is a typical example of the “fight” between the logical Conscious and the “illogical” Unconscious mind.

The logical mind was stating that the event of assault had ended after a few seconds. The Unconscious mind believed that the event was not over yet. He could not sleep and had to resort to take medication to help him sleep. His sleep had been disturbed by his Unconscious mind that had the role to help him survive. It did not want to make him sleep as it was afraid he would be killed if he slept. The Conscious mind, on the other hand, was trying to convince him that everything was well. There was a fight going on between the two. And the correction officer was suffering as a result.

When someone feels depressed, they are preoccupied with negative thoughts of the past. The cognitive Conscious mind is active in the thought processes. The low “feeling” comes from the Unconscious mind. It is also responsible for the sleep disturbance that happens in depression.  Now we have a situation that the Unconscious mind does not let the person sleep because it considers the situation as dangerous for the person. The Conscious mind is at odds with it as it is trying to convince the Unconscious that there is no logic for sleeplessness.

Similarly, in Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, for example, the obsession is a thought that the Conscious mind gets hooked on. The Unconscious mind is insecure and fearful about the situation. It tries to make the person avoid the anxiety provoking situation. The Conscious mind, on the other hand wants to be convinced that there is nothing wrong in the situation. As the two struggle to convince each other to their own beliefs, the person suffers.

If you look at the various mental health conditions, almost all of them can be understood and explained on the basis of the “fight” between the Conscious and the Unconscious mind. This fight involves a lot of energy for which Cortisol- the stress hormone- is responsible.  According to some energy practitioners, it is this excessive energy production that cause the mental / physical problems.

Mostly these conditions are treated with medication based on the principle that they cause neurotransmitter imbalance in the body. But another angle to their treatment can also be based on the understanding that the battle between the Conscious mind and the Unconscious mind can be brought to a halt by helping them work together. If the Unconscious mind is at peace, the Conscious mind has no problems. It is at peace too.

If this angle is appreciated, then we  can have another understanding in the treatment of major psychiatric disorders using little or no medications.  

The Power of The Unconscious- Part 2

In the last part, we learnt about the differences between the Conscious and the Unconscious.

As you know they are both parts of you. If they go against each other, they will destroy your life. If they work together, they will give you all that you desire. The whole trick is to appreciate how they work and make the best out of it.

Imagine being a part of the family in which the parents are fighting with each other most of the time. These two people are at loggerheads with each other. The energy and the time spent to make each one agreeable to the other negatively affect the lives of the children. On the other hand, if the parents have a good relationship with each other, the family thrives. The children grow up to be well-adjusted adults who can then raise their own children the same way.

When the Conscious and the Unconscious do not get along together, emotional and psychological stress is experienced. In the present day world, the education system encourages logical learning or Conscious learning. All educational activities are about raising questions and exploring answers. The Conscious mind is a good planner.

When the student is engaged in such activities what happens to the Unconscious mind? The Unconscious mind takes a back seat and becomes inactive. Because it is creative and imaginative, it does not bother about facts and figures. Its main responsibility is to make sure that YOU survive. So it is very good at creating conditions for you to fight or flee if there is danger. It is spontaneous. It does not plan. It is emotional.

A highly qualified professional once told me that he was very good at passing exams. But when it came to living a life happily, it was difficult. He had not been happy since early childhood. There was no problem in doing a good job in the field that he was an expert in. Living a life of his choosing was not possible, that made him unhappy. It was obvious that the Conscious and the Unconscious were opposite each other creating stress in this particular individual. This had lead in the past to excessive use of alcohol.

In therapy, in this case, our job was to align the Conscious and the Unconscious minds. When the two get aligned, they relax the individual psychologically, physically and emotionally. Instead of mental turmoil, you feel calmness. A form of wisdom comes in. You can then bring together your gut feelings and facts together to draw a conclusion about any life issue, which will give positive results. You become more productive.

All forms of meditations and most therapies that do not involve cognition, work at the Unconscious level. These therapies align the Conscious and the Unconscious mind. They do so by clearing out the now unnecessary survival emotions, of anger and fear. These emotions have outlived their usage. They were meant to end after the event of perceived danger was over. But because they have outlived their usage, they become negative for the happy state of the body and the mind. The mere clearance of anger and fear makes you wiser and smarter as the Unconscious mind comes to peace within itself. Once it feels assured of your survival, the Unconscious starts co-operating with the Conscious mind. This brings about a state of peace and happiness in the individual.

The Power of The Unconscious Mind- Part 1

In this first part you will get to know the meaning of the Conscious and the Unconscious mind.

The Unconscious mind got major recognition with Freud’s work. It was not that it was not known before that. The old Hindu scriptures are replete with references to ways and means of affecting your “inner self.”

Many people are confused or unaware of what the Unconscious is all about. In order to understand it, you have to look at the Conscious mind.

The Conscious mind is the aspect of us that allows us to plan our life, to think about philosophy of life or to create a routine in life. It is a “thinker.” It has made the world a materialistic place, with all the advancements in technology. It is associated with the left hemisphere of the brain. It is logical, factual, practical and business like. It is unemotional. From anatomical perspectives it is supposed to be located in the New Brain or Neocortex or Cerebrum. It is the part of the nervous system that makes us more intelligent as compared to other animals. It is considered to be the more mature, thinking part of the nervous system.

The Unconscious is a bit different form of consciousness. It is the part of the nervous system that is emotional. It is a “feeler.” It is supposed to be more influenced by the right cerebral hemisphere. It is the part that controls our habits. Anatomically it is associated with the older parts of the brain- the basal ganglia, hypothalamus, the hippocampus and is associated with the control of almost all of our internal organs. This part of the nervous system is oblivious to logic. It makes you cry and laugh and feel the feelings that you feel. Freud and others describe it as if it is like a child. It defies logic but plays a very important part in your life. It is a dreamer. This is where dreams come from. It is creative. It makes stories, fantasizes, creates images and enjoys music. And interestingly it helps the nervous system store images.

What influences do the Conscious and the Unconscious mind have in your life?

Suppose you are struggling with a habit of drinking too much. If someone asks you why you do that, you may say “I don’t know.” But you can also defend yourself by saying that you cannot control your drinking once you start. You may be asked to “just stop” drinking “too much” by someone who wishes you well. You know that it is a tall order. You cannot “just stop” drinking too much because someone tells you to do so. You just cannot control your drinking.  

This example is true of many other habits you may have. You cannot control them. On the negative side, you may be gambling or you may be using drugs or you may be addicted to food. On the positive side, you may be engaged in doing regular physical exercise because you “enjoy” engaging in a physical activity. As long as you do them as a habit, they are controlled by your Unconscious.

All habits, good or bad, are controlled by the Unconscious. The Unconscious, as stated before, is illogical. But when you understand the power and the abilities of the Unconscious, you can change almost every habit that you would like to change. More than words, the Unconscious appreciates feelings. That is why almost all “life changing” experiences involve emotions and feelings. If you know how you can influence your own Unconscious, you can master your life.

There is another interesting thing about the relationship between the Conscious and the Unconscious. They influence each other.

If you are in the habit of leading your life as a professional or as a busy worker, it is likely that your Conscious mind has been more active than the Unconscious mind. With the logical Conscious mind so active, you are sometimes likely to lose the ability to be creative or even to enjoy music or arts. You will then probably describe yourself as a “busy” and “practical” person. You will find it hard to change your habits. You will believe, most likely, that you “don’t do emotions.”

Another interesting fact is that if you can influence your Unconscious mind to change, your Conscious mind naturally follows it because it has no option but to respect the change. This is the law of Nature.

How do we influence the Unconscious mind to change? We will explore in the future posts.