Does the Mind Really have a Subconscious?

It is hard to talk about the “subconscious” without giving up the rigor, precision, and empirical basis required by knowledge, research, and the spread of scientific knowledge. Not for nothing, it is a common idea that has been a part of popular culture for the last 150 years. However, Psychology, Neurology, and the scientific community mostly reject or ignore it.

There is no doubt that the word “subconscious” is used a lot in books, plays, movies, and TV shows that are made up of stories. Also in paranormal-themed essays, meetings, or publications. But it gets much harder, if not impossible, to use this word to describe, explain, predict, or change any kind of human behavior in an effective way.

As in other areas of knowledge, science and superstition go in different directions.

What is the Subconscious?

Back in the 19th century, the first gurus of psychoanalysis told us that the subconscious or unconscious was an “instance of our psyche” that had the secret power to control everything we do, say, or wish. This was a bold and creative idea at the time. They were even brave enough to imagine dark, invisible forces that pushed us down and kept specific desires from coming to light. For them, dreams, the couch, or thinking about it were the only ways to figure out the dark mysteries of that unfathomable moment that was hiding in who knows what part of our “interior.”

At the moment, the medical dictionary tells us that “subconscious” is an “ambiguous term that is used in everyday language more than in science.” In general, it is what is below the threshold of consciousness.’ This definition refers to things that are not conscious or are not active in knowledge at a certain time but can become conscious at other times.

The RAE (Royal Spanish Academy) dictionary says that the subconscious is everything that does not become conscious. He says that the subconscious is the “state of consciousness in which, because its perceptions are weak and short-lived, the person barely knows about them.”

What is the Unconscious?

Putting aside old ideas about an unknowable “subconscious” that controlled people’s lives beyond their control, cognitive psychology later tried to define the unconscious as a system made up of the contents, actions, and mental processes that happen in the organism and are important for describing and explaining how it works on the inside and outside.

People aren’t aware of these processes because they happen outside of their awareness. We also don’t have a personal view of them. There is no talk of an “instance” with a separate identity. Instead, we talk about a set of vital and essential processes for our survival, with no mystical or mysterious undertones.

How does the Unconscious Work?

As we’ve already said, when we talk about neuroscience, we won’t talk about a single case so much as a set of processes in which we don’t know how important our nervous system is. In fact, there are a number of automatic, reflex, or involuntary behaviors that are controlled by our brains. This means that we don’t have to make conscious decisions about important processes all the time.

To use the most well-known examples, no one chooses when to start digesting or what their pancreas or small intestine should always do. Even if we tried, we couldn’t control which memories come to the forefront of our minds depending on what we’re doing at the time, like at a Christmas meal, a wedding, a final exam, a funeral, a night party, or the day you retire. These actions and many others are all part of the contents or unconscious processes that were just talked about. They are habits that we don’t even realize we do, but they are very important for us to stay alive every day.

There are a lot of learned movements and behaviors that start out as conscious but later become part of these automatic processes. For example, staying balanced on a bike, taking a shower every morning, driving a car on a very familiar route, or even breathing when we don’t think we are breathing are all examples.

It would be a real mess if each person had to make a conscious and deliberate choice about all the processes, memories, contents, thoughts, emotions, intuitions, sensations, desires, or actions that the body needs to move forward. Not possible and very tiring.

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