The familiar iceberg analogy of the mind states that 10 percent of the mind is conscious and 90 percent is unconscious. We are aware of only the tip of the iceberg, but its real power and strength are in the vast mountain floating beneath the water’s surface. As American psychologist William James noted, “The power to move the world is in the subconscious mind.” The subconscious engineers our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
To access the subconscious mind, one must bypass the conscious mind. The subconscious, along with the collective unconscious, and the superconscious make up the unconscious mind, a blanket term covering the parts of the mind that are not conscious, of which we are not aware. The subconscious is so much smarter than the conscious mind, the conscious mind doesn’t even know how much it doesn’t know.
The subconscious is our personal unconscious. It is known as the picture mind and the feeling mind because it is the seat of our memories, including past life, prenatal, and natal memories, and emotions. A hypnotherapist can put someone in hypnosis who cannot spell, and suddenly he or she can spell perfectly. Back out of hypnosis, the person has trouble spelling again. As the picture mind, the subconscious has seen words written correctly somewhere and stored that information. When the conscious mind relaxes, the subconscious does its natural work of revealing what’s in it.
This does not mean, however, that you can consciously recollect with 100 percent accuracy what lies in your subconscious. Testimony from hypnosis is not admissible in a court of law, for example, because memory recollection is flawed. The memories are there, but remembrance can be misshaped by the conscious mind or by deeper emotions like fear. Level of trance depth, degree of fear, and desire to tell the truth—or not—all factor into recollection. Some people recollect more easily than others.
The subconscious not only contains what it has seen and felt, it also holds beliefs, imagination, and creativity. Many great artists, writers, poets, and inventors have relied on the power of their subconscious. Thomas Edison, when trying to solve a problem with one of his inventions, would take catnaps. He would put two heavy ball bearings in one hand and prop that elbow up on a table as he drifted off. When his arm dropped, the crash of the balls would wake him, signaling him to write down his first waking thoughts. Those subconscious ideas helped him figure out what needed to be done next.
Salvador Dali began painting his dreams after reading Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams, which is why his paintings don’t make sense to our conscious mind, even though they elicit something deeper within us. Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote the famous poem “Kubla Khan” immediately upon waking from a dream.
Dreaming and hypnosis are two of the best ways the subconscious reveals hidden messages. The prolific psychic Edgar Cayce, who I will detail later in the book, believed that one of the greatest tools for self-analysis is dream analysis. Dream journaling unlocks subconscious information. I find it easier to use a voice-activated recorder by my bed, which allows me to record dreams I would otherwise be too sleepy to write down. To my amazement, there have been times when I’ve played back the recording in the morning and listened to dreams that I have no conscious memory of. You must simply program the subconscious the night before to remember your dreams the next morning. You can say something as simple as “I will remember my dreams because I want to remember my dreams.” And watch your subconscious begin to flow. We don’t remember our dreams only because we don’t care to remember them. It is said that if you wrote down your dreams for a year, you would be able to see your past, your present, and your future in them—all in your subconscious mind.
Dr. Bruce Lipton, a research scientist and former medical school professor, says “The subconscious mind is a million times more powerful than the conscious mind.” What the conscious mind cannot resolve, the subconscious can. This book that you are reading came from my subconscious. I rarely take naps, but on Easter Sunday seven years ago, I took a nap and woke up with the idea. Very Edisonian. I went directly to my computer and wrote for two days. Consciously, I had been struggling for months because I knew I wanted to write a book, but I couldn’t come up with the right format. When my conscious mind gave up, my subconscious took over.
Answers to daily problems can be found in the subconscious. If you have a problem, do what you can to consciously resolve it, then put it aside and take a nap or a walk, indulge in a favorite hobby, read a book, or ask for guidance in your dreams. With your conscious mind out of the way, your subconscious will go to work to find the perfect solution. Do what you can, then let go. It’s not just how your mind works, it’s how life works.
In a world of multitasking, we obstruct the gifts of our knowledgeable subconscious. If we went back to the days of walking the dog without a cell phone, for example, we would discover new insights, directions, and answers. The catalyst for revelations is often our perfunctory tasks. We think we are getting more done by multitasking, but we’re not. The practice of Buddhist monks is focus. We would accomplish a great deal more by being present. The subconscious cannot get through a wall of constant conscious mind chatter.
Another subconscious problem-solving technique can be used before sleeping. Review the problem and then surrender it to your subconscious, asking the answer to be revealed in the morning: “When I wake-up, I will know what I need to do.” First thing upon awakening, let your mind drift to the problem and note your fresh perspective. Trust your initial impressions, insights, and feelings. The key is to first make a concerted effort to troubleshoot the problem, tackling it from all angles, before surrendering it to your subconscious. Conscious exertion fires up the engine of the subconscious.
The subconscious can store conscious knowledge, but the conscious mind does not store subconscious knowledge. Thus, the subconscious is responsible for all automatic responses. For example, you don’t need to be told where to put your hands and feet each time you get on a bicycle; your subconscious remembers what the conscious mind has learned. But the conscious mind does not typically remember what you wore to your first birthday party, though that knowledge is stored in your subconscious.
The subconscious is not limited by time and space, as the conscious mind is. It does, however, obey the commands of the conscious mind. The subconscious accepts information as fact. It does not discern. Just as the hard drive of a computer is programmed, what we accept as our programs, show up on the screen of our life. The subconscious will not accept anything the conscious mind is in disagreement with, however. A hypnotherapist cannot program a client to rob a bank unless the client thinks robbing a bank is a good idea.
Whereas the conscious mind is critical and judgmental, the subconscious mind is non-critical and non-judgmental. The subconscious mind holds what we believe to be true. Not Truth, but what we believe is true. It should be noted that the subconscious has various depths and levels, some more accessible than others.
Like anything in this world, the subconscious can be used by the ego or the Holy Spirit. It can hurt us or help us. We can employ the subconscious to write a beautiful poem or plot a crime. Unfortunately, we don’t often take control of what gets programmed into our subconscious, and that’s where its bleak reputation comes from. But it’s not the fault of the subconscious; it’s our fault. We decide what is programmed. The subconscious merely responds to our direction.
The subconscious is also famously responsible for repression, which often acts as a defense mechanism against pain. A repressed memory cannot be retrieved if its unveiling would do more harm than good. A Course in Miracles tells us that the goal of healing is always less fear. If revealing a memory makes you less afraid, then it will be revealed. If
repressing it brings less fear, it will stay repressed. When we are ready to heal—meaning we have let go of the fear surrounding the memory or issue—the subconscious will provide the information. Otherwise, it stays repressed as a survival mechanism. The subconscious has good intentions, though it doesn’t always seem to manifest in that way.
Part of the conscious mind acts as a gatekeeper between the subconscious and the conscious. Freud called it the “critical faculty.” Today it’s commonly called the “critical factor.” It is the discriminating part of our mind that is fully developed in children between the ages of nine to eleven. Before that, we are an open subconscious mind, accepting all information as fact. That is why you can tell children about Santa Claus and they believe you. You can also tell them that they will never amount to anything, that sex is dirty, God punishes, men don’t stick around, or women can’t be trusted, and they will more than likely spend their lives acting out those accepted ideas. When we develop the critical factor, it says, for instance, “Wait a minute, Santa Claus can’t fit down the chimney with a bicycle, or drive a sleigh around the world in one night.” The accessibility of the subconscious prior to the development of the critical factor is also why some children have past life or pre- incarnate memory.
The subconscious is programmed not only by what we are told but also by what it is shown. For example, Mom and Dad may not have explicitly said that money is bad, but their attitude toward rich people programmed us to believe that.
The mind doesn’t age. It simply accepts and releases information. We may be forty, but we are carrying around the same old programs dating back to before we developed the critical factor. As a result, we’re still triggered by the same issues. The subconscious does not perceive time linearly like our conscious mind does. To the subconscious, it’s all happening now. When we were eight, our father may have told us we would never amount to anything, and today at forty, we’re not amounting to much. We keep sabotaging our best interests, we can’t live up to our capabilities, and our relationships are a disappointment. Nothing ever really changes because we keep replaying the same out-of-date programs.