Do You REALLY Know What Conscious-Unconscious Means?


This little diad conscious-unconscious has caused a lot of confusion.
The only topic that wreaks more havoc in the community than this one
is the question “what is NLP?”

In my opinion, we need AT LEAST five distinctions to make sense of
this conscious-unconscious deal… Let’s peel those off to see if my
observations tie in with yours.

Often times, people use the terms “conscious-unconscious” to mean
“aware-unaware”. That’s OK, as long as they know what they’re talking
about. Here’s the phenomenon: some stuff you’re aware of and some
others you aren’t. You’re aware of some processes, like tying your
shoes, and unaware of others, like beating your heart. This
distinction also applies to the big existential questions. Today,
we’re aware that the Earth revolves around the sun but before we were
unaware of that.

“Conscious-unconscious” is also used sometimes to mean
“foreground-background”. Think of the various windows you might have
open on your computer screen. Your internet browser window is
currently in the foreground, while Excel, Word, PowerPoint or any
other window might be in the background. This distinction simply means
that some processes are accessible consciously but aren’t focused on
right now, so they stay in the background. This is obvious when I
shift your attention from the computer screen to the weight of your
left foot.

“Conscious-unconscious”, in some contexts, also means
“programmer-executer.” We talk a lot about this particular distinction
in NLP when we say that the unconscious mind actually is more powerful
than the conscious mind. Conscious mind gives the instructions,
unconscious executes them in the background as a stored procedure.
Think of all the stuff on your computer that is just spinning in the
background. All of that was programmed at some point and installed to
be executed “unconsciously”.

“Conscious-unconscious” also touches on “masculine-feminine”. The
analogy here is that of the seed and the earth. The conscious suggests
and the unconscious makes that grow and expand. While this is similar
to the third distinction, it’s not quite the same. Programmer-executer
has more to do with actions while masculine-feminine has more to do
with ideas. A great example of this are hypnotic metaphors.

This means that we control certain aspects and not others.

These are just five dimensions that I notice when talking about the
conscious-unconscious diad. There might be more. But there are at
least these four.

“If you’re not confused, you don’t know what’s going on…”

– Bradley White

About the author 

Martin Messier

Martin Messier has been practicing NLP for 20 years. He was trained in NLP and Neuroassociative Conditioning by Master Trainer Rex Sikes and Tony Robbins. He holds a BA in Economics and International Studies and a Master's degree in International Political Economy.

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