How Do Our Minds Work? The Conscious, Subconscious and Unconscious

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How Do Our Minds Work? The Conscious, Subconscious and Unconscious

Guest Post by Jake Robinet of Open Mind Neurofeedback

Our CNS or central nervous system is made up of the brain and spinal cord. These two structures help run and control our entire body. This post is going to try and explain the structures and function of the brain to what is relevant in our daily lives.Have you ever heard the saying ‘we only use 10% of our brains’? This is not at all true but we do only consciously control 5-10% of our mind, which is where I believe the saying comes from. The other 90-95% is subconscious or unconscious which can be thought of as automated processes both trained and instinctual. The reason for this is so that we don’t have to constantly focus on breathing and our heart beating and how to walk, it’s done for us by the subconscious. The subconscious also holds all recent relevant information for us to use at our request like names, phone numbers and what we did yesterday. The unconscious is much more encompassing and is where all memories are held from birth until now, as well as where all habits, behaviours and beliefs are held. The unconscious communicates with, and is formed by the subconscious, meaning you can’t consciously remember every outfit you wore in 7th grade.






Conscious Mind

This is the captain of the ship. It gives all the orders and does all the thinking. It communicates by speech, pictures, writing, movement and thought. It is distinguished by the ability to direct our focus wherever we wish, and imagine what is not real. Both are key to living the life we ultimately want.

Directing focus. If the conscious mind is captain of the ship every thought, image or idea we focus on is an order given and a direction the ship will take. So if we focus on what’s going wrong, we will get a stressful response of fear, worry and memory of other failures to prepare us for a negative situation. If we focus on the positive, we will get confidence, be more open and have feelings of joy to look forward to. It’s our choice of focus.

Imagine what is not real. Our ability to imagine allows us to create. It allows us to experience the feelings of anything we wish because our subconscious can’t tell the difference between what is real or imagined, as long as we believe it. If you tell someone they won the lottery and they believe you they will react the same way as if it actually happened. This can be extremely freeing emotionally if all the amazing things we enjoy hearing from others (Good job! You look great! You’re amazing!), we can say to ourselves and increase our own self-worth and confidence. Now how the outside world views us will only be a bonus and not the main source of encouragement we get. Believing we are our best selves in the only way to truly become our best selves.


The subconscious can be thought of as our short term memory as well as currently used day to day memories. It holds common memories (like your phone number), as well as common behaviours, habits and moods you choose. It also filters information and sensations through your accepted beliefs. The subconscious filters all incoming information (sounds, images and movements) and delivers only the important things to our conscious mind via emotions, feelings, sensations, reflexes, images and dreams.

The advantageous part of the subconscious is it can be programmed however we like! It will believe and obey whatever it is told by our conscious mind. Chances are this will not be as easy as flipping a switch to change the subconscious programming because it has been trained a certain way your entire life. That being said why not start training the subconscious to think we are amazing people who can see the joy and good in just about all that happens in life.


The unconscious (not to be confused with being “knocked out”) is the basement level of our mind that communicates with the subconscious mind and stores all our memories, habits, behaviours and beliefs since birth. Changing the unconscious beliefs about ourselves, and life in general can be life changing, but isn’t easy… The difference between the subconscious and unconscious is which memories are readily available and which are buried too deep to remember without some sort of second connection (like a scent or a hypnotic state). The subconscious calls upon all our stored memories to form its filters and reactions for our conscious minds.

What all this means for us

It means a few things:

  1. Our perspectives of our lives are shaped by everything we have thought, seen, felt and experienced throughout our entire lives. Sometimes these are still there but no longer helpful to our current lives.
  2. What we focus on shapes our perspectives and how we experience the events in our lives. Positive or negative.
  3. We can change our negative unconscious deep seated beliefs by directing our focus on the positive and present moment.

By focusing on what we have the power to change and not what we are powerless to change. By staying away from absolutes like ALWAYS and NEVER and seeing things for what they actually are. By letting go of our limitations such as what we think we are capable of and being open to what is possible, we can have a dramatic impact on how we experience our lives.

We have the power, to either choose to change for the better or we experience enough pain and suffering to decide it is enough and it’s time to make a change.

We can’t live better lives without change. The question is when each of us will be ready.