The notion of the unconscious or subconscious mind has its roots in Freudian psychology. Despite Freudian theories being controversial, connecting to these parts of our psyche and understanding how they speak to us and inform our state of mind can be helpful to cultivate a deeper understanding of ourselves. Sigmund Freud suggested that the human mind is like an iceberg – the visible tip of the iceberg is our conscious mind, which is made up of our immediate thoughts and the ways in which we perceive the world. The level just under the surface of the water is the preconscious mind, home to our memories and knowledge that we have collected. The unconscious mind is the final deepest level, storing our fears, baser instincts and motivations. The unconscious is paired with his conception of the Id, or the part of our personalities that operates based on our deepest urges and desires. This part of us is well below our level of conscious awareness.
Despite being unable to immediately perceive our unconscious thoughts, it still speaks to us on a daily basis in a multitude of different ways. It is arguably the foundation upon which we build our ways of interacting with the world. There are four main ways in which the unconscious can be heard – through our fears and anxieties, our dreams, our idle thoughts and even our bodies.
Our psyche’s immediate instinct is to protect us from things that we perceive to be threatening. What we deem to be threatening is dependent on the individual, which is why we all have different fears. If we have had a negative experience with something, we build neural pathways that activate a fear response when faced with the stimulus again to protect us from having further negative experiences. Our fight or flight is activated. This is all stored in the unconscious mind. If our anxieties become debilitating it may be helpful to interrogate what the unconscious is trying to tell us and unpack it so that we can release some of our fear.
Dreams are a way for our unconscious to really take centre stage while our conscious mind turns off for the night. Whether or not you believe in the legitimacy of dream analysis, it may be useful to notice whether there are any patterns or recurring themes in your dreams that may be significant. Noticing what the unconscious is bringing up for you while you sleep will allow you to further connect with the parts of you that may be difficult to face consciously.
What do you think about when you aren’t doing anything? What thoughts float up to the surface of your mind when you’re sitting idly? Many of us consider these thoughts to be trivial, but your unconscious mind may be speaking through them. Consider how difficult it is for many of us to meditate – this is because the unconscious is constantly talking to us when we aren’t otherwise occupied.
Lastly, we must listen to the ways in which our physical bodies are responding to our unconscious minds. For example, butterflies in your stomach or heart palpitations are indicative of things coming up in the unconscious. Every system in our body is connected, and your physical body may be trying to draw your attention to something in your psyche that needs to be addressed.Fit50 Survey