The different layers of the mind
In modern medicine, the brain-mind-body connection regarding diseases is rarely brought into play. And although medical doctors will recognize that stress or depression, for instance, can add to an existing issue like a stomach ulcer or gallstones, I yet have to find a doctor that will treat the underlying issues before they will treat the symptoms.
In the 'older' types of medicine, like traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda, as well as some psychotherapies like hypnosis, they have recognized the brain-mind-body connection for many years.
In hypnotherapy, among others, we differentiate between three layers of the mind.
The Conscious Mind
This is the first level of consciousness. Sigmund Freud coined it 'the Ego' or the 'self'. It is that part of our minds that knows we exist, recognizes the reflection in the mirror as ours and makes conscious choices. The conscious mind will also know that action gets a reaction and when you hit a hammer on your thumb, well...you'll know about it.
It's been said that the conscious mind is what differentiates us from mammals and other animals, however, this has been retracted and studied numerous times and I would argue that mammals like dolphins, whales, primates, elephants, pigs, and even dogs have some form of consciousness. Scientists even found that a sea animal like the octopus seems to have a conscious mind. To be honest, I believe that dolphins have much higher awareness and live on a higher frequency than humans. I don't think we've even begun to grasp anything about their minds.
Personally, I've raised quite a few dogs throughout my life. With every puppy, I always looked forward to the first time they would see themselves in the mirror. If you've never seen it happen: it's hilarious. The puppy might bark at his own image, walk back and forth sniffing the reflection in the mirror, or even try to play with it. However, every single time, this moment is very short lived. They quickly realize that there is not another dog watching them and I am quite positive that they now realize that it's them as they will never respond to their reflection in the mirror in the same way again.
The main difference between our way of conscious thinking and that in an animal is probably that we think more profoundly, while an animal reacts out of instinct. It's also our downfall when it comes to natural things like birth. An animal will just act on instinct, while humans have been conditioned to think birth is dangerous, painful etc. and that we can't do it on our own.
The term 'ego' fits the conscious mind too I think, as it doesn't always have to be in our favour to have the conscious mind at work. The fear of spiders or any other creature or thing people could be scared of, for instance, comes first and foremost from the conscious mind. If someone has a fear of spiders, the thought of our 8 legged friends alone will make them shiver. They are very much, and always, aware that the fear is there and what it is they fear. However, they might not always be aware of why they fear spiders so much. The why of this seemingly irrational fear will probably be stored in the subconscious or even the unconscious mind. Maybe it was their grandmother who screamed murder one day when they were playing in the yard because a huge spider crept on the wall. The person may not consciously remember that moment, but the unconscious mind has most likely stored it somewhere. It is important to note that fear is learned behavior. We were not born with fear.
The subconscious mind
The subconscious mind is where our memories are stored that we don't need to access all the time. An old phone number of a place where we used to live in our youth, for instance, will be stored there. If we really need to remember it, it will probably come up and we'll recall the exact number, but it doesn't serve any purpose on a daily basis. Once you're able to ride a bicycle, this information will also be stored in the subconscious mind. We don't need it consciously, because once you can ride a bike, it's quite hard to unlearn it, however, you'll know consciously that you know how to handle the thing. So basically, the subconscious mind is the place that stores more distant memories that we don't always need, and it's quite easy to access these memories when you need them. It's the subconscious that a hypnotherapist speaks to when trying to adjust a habit or achieve healing.
The unconscious mind
Now, this is the part of the mind that seems the most primitive but it's really the most advanced. Babies, for instance, don't have a developed consciousness as we do right away. A lot of their actions are a reflex, or an instinct, both coming from the unconscious mind. A newborn baby doesn't fear the dark. This happens much later when they develop subconscious memories. In the first few months of their lives, they see themselves as an extension, or part of, their surroundings including their parents, and in a very profound way: they're right. They still have to learn that if the mother goes into the kitchen, that she'll come back, but usually, it's only the touch and closeness to the parent that they 'miss', not the individual person itself as they don't see the parent as a different entity, so you might say they miss that part of themselves. Later, this can be anywhere between 6 to 12 months, is when a baby starts to develop the knowledge that they are a completely separate person as their mothers, and this is usually when the seemingly irrational fear of abandonment develops and they might start to cry and get upset when they're left on their own, even just for a minute. However, irrational it is not, since this is also the time when they start to realize that when the mother leaves, there is a chance she might not come back.
Habits we've developed also come from the unconscious mind. We've done these things so often, that the body will be able to do it better than the mind. You wake up, take a shower and get dressed, make coffee and eat breakfast. These are all habits, or routine, that we don't really consciously think of when we're doing it, but our bodies know how to do it. As with riding a bike, some of these habits can be stored in both the unconscious mind as well as the subconscious mind, it all depends on when we need it and I think it perfectly shows the thin line between the two sometimes.
The unconscious is our great protector. It stores those memories that are too painful for an individual to remember. A traumatic birth of the individual, for instance, will be remembered by the unconscious mind, but not by the subconscious or conscious mind. However, it can come back to haunt a person later in life, for example when they have their own birthing experience. I used to work with women who had birthing traumas from an earlier birth and who were fearful to start a new birthing experience, or even to get pregnant. I always worked on their own birth experience first, since this is usually where their fear, and with that their bad experience, came from in the first place. Once these traumas were handled and resolved, the bad experience with their own birthing experience could easily be resolved. Sometimes they didn't need to. These women would always come back to me and tell me how amazing their new experience was. It's really quite something to realize how much influence unresolved and unknown memories can have on a person.
The conscious (ego) thinks, the unconscious knows
The unconscious knows when things are too painful to be remembered by the subconscious and the conscious.
In hypnotherapy, it's the subconscious we address, but it's the unconscious where we dig and prod. One of the first things I learned in my studies, was that if the unconscious is resisting, the client is not ready for whatever it is to surface, so we leave it alone to come back to it the next time, or even later. You hear these stories sometimes where a therapist's client started crying, or even got angry, while under hypnosis. This is actually not the conscious person himself, but his unconscious protecting him from uncovering things the client is not ready for at this stage.
This explains why victims of (sexual) abuse often don't recall (all of) their abuse. They have buried this deep within them. It is stored as a memory in their unconscious mind to protect them as children or young adults and sometimes issues surface in the form of fear of being touched intimately, or a person can get upset when people argue, without the person actually knowing why this is. Then, when the person is ready, small pieces of these memories will surface, or sometimes even all at once. It's the unconscious mind that knows when the person is ready, and the subconscious knows when it is needed for it to float to the surface. The person might feel as if his whole world just collapsed, but when memories like these surface, it is always in the best interest of that person. It's usually when they can't live a fulfilling life without facing their childhood demons first.
Our instinct also comes from the unconscious mind. If you've ever felt the strong urge to turn around instead of walking into this dark alley, and later learned that someone got mugged in there, or you feel there's something wrong with a close friend or family member, and the next day you hear they had an accident, it's your unconscious mind that gives you that feeling. You have no idea where that feeling came from, but it was there and it possibly saved your life.
Have you ever known something, when there was no way of knowing this because you learned it in school or elsewhere?
I have. All my life, I had these moments, when I suddenly knew something that I didn't know before, without hearing it from anyone or reading it anywhere. If I look up the facts, I always find I'm right. Some might think that this is your mind playing tricks on you and that you've always known this, because it was written somewhere or someone told you, but it's really your unconscious mind that 'gives' you these memories. I am positive that memories, made before you were even born, are also stored in the unconscious mind. These can be memories of ancestors, imprinted on you through time, or even memories from other lives.
Most people will have heard about regression therapy, which is a therapy to recall old memories of this life. Most will also have heard of past life regression, in which the person is brought back to past lives. But not a lot of people will have heard of 'Lives between lives' regression. However, those who have experienced it, will have a very profound feeling of 'things falling into place.' Lives between lives is regression therapy, where a person doesn't go back to 'just' a previous life, but actually to the life the soul was experiencing after any of those lives, but before this one. It's where the unconscious and subconscious become conscious, and suddenly we remember. Everything. It's the memories babies have when they're just born.
And in a way, I think that people with dementia, or Alzheimer's disease, are somewhere between that stage and the unconscious. It may seem terrible to their loved ones, but I am not too sure if it always is the way we think it is. My father had dementia, and I have seen moments with him when he seemed completely at peace. There were, of course, also moments of confusion and not knowing certain things that seemed obvious to us, but I am positive I have seen his mind become clearer than any other time before he became ill. There seemed to be some part of his brain that was not too damaged to let out a glimpse of perfection.
From the unconscious through the subconscious to the conscious
When people say that we're becoming more conscious, it's basically the memories from the unconscious filtered by the subconscious and eventually becoming conscious. The third eye, or the pineal gland, it's where the unconscious goes to work to become conscious. Opening up the third eye is nothing more than the unconscious mind bringing ancient memories to the forefront. Little by little, first working through any traumas and bad experiences, gradually getting to those memories much older than those, and often much more important. A lot of Psychologists will argue that the unconscious mind cannot be accessed by the individual without help through therapy or even hypnosis. And in a lot of cases, they might be right. However, I have seen firsthand that it is very much possible for a person to access these memories without help from the outside. Because as I stated before: it will be the unconscious mind that holds the reigns, and it's the unconscious minds that makes conscious decisions about whenever the person is ready to know it all. Some people will never get there, a lot never have, but I am 100% sure that those who search for it, eventually will be able to access all that the mind has in store. Hypnosis or self-hypnosis will help, and of course meditation, which is nothing more or less than a form of self-hypnosis. Be it in an oftentimes less intense way. All those techniques can help to rewire the brain in a way that we understand what lies beneath.
If we look at the different layers of the mind, and we compare it to a computer, the conscious mind is basically whatever we bring to the surface. Whether it is a website, or a file or document. The subconscious mind is the hard-drive that has things stored for future use and the unconscious mind is the operating system. The operating system is not visibly there, but without it, the rest of the computer won't be doing much. In this age where people are awakening to truths that used to be stuck away, it's the unconscious mind that releases these truths, one by one.
I'll leave you with an interesting video (just to make it all even more complex hehehe)
"We hallucinate all the time, but when we agree about these hallucinations, we call it reality" Anil Seth
Thank you for reading!