THE DUALITY OF CONSCIOUS AND
SUBCONSCIOUS MIND. PART TWO.
In the first part of this blog on the duality of conscious and subconscious mind, I had discussed the evolutionary perspective of the evolution of our conscious and subconscious mind. I had indicated that the biological explanation of the origins of subconscious mind is not available. The only possible inference from the evolutionary evidence is that the subconscious mind must have evolved out of the spare cognitive capacity and not due to natural selection depending on the environment. Therefore, it is necessary to understand the psychological perspective to find out how the subconscious mind could have arisen. Therefore, in this second part of the blog, I would discuss the psychological perspective of the subconscious mind.
To begin with, the term subconscious mind is rather loosely defined. In fact, the contemporary psychology doesn’t even use such a term. Therefore, for the sake of simplicity, I would use this term to refer to all such thinking that remains beyond our awareness. Now, let us see what psychology has to offer on this two different compartments of our mind. According to psychology, the reason why one needs a subconscious mind is that there are thoughts and thought processes which would cause immense pain if one is aware of them. Therefore, as a matter of mental well being, Nature has chosen to keep these thoughts and thought processes out of our awareness. As result, these subconscious thought processes can operate and add to our cognitive capacity without causing any pain. The reason why biology can not explain the emergence of subconscious mind is that we don’t know how our cognitive processes operate. In fact, even today, there is a marked gap between our understanding of neurology and psychology. Therefore, all we can say is that it is the possible experience of pain that causes our mind to push all such pain causing thoughts and thought processes beyond our awareness. Thus, it is more of a survival strategy rather than a well thought out plan, that our mind is divided into two compartments.
The question that is central to this duality of our mind is what are the consequences of this separation of the conscious and subconscious mind ? After all, we didn’t decide how our mind should have evolved, but nonetheless, we have to face the consequences of this duality of mind. Therefore, let us see what are the consequences. There are two important consequences of this duality. Firstly, these two compartments influence one another even though they operate on different principles. Secondly, there is no way to disentangle the outputs of these two compartments.
Let us begin with how the subconscious mind and see how it influences our conscious mind. The most visible influence is that the subconscious mind withholds some important but unpleasant information from the conscious mind for its processing. Therefore, very often, our conscious thoughts are lopsided or distorted. This results in a biased perspective that we mistakenly believe to be fact. Most of our disputes, with people who are close to us, arise due to the incomplete analysis of our lives. The real tragedy is that we are blind to our own inbuilt biases and therefore can never resolve differences with people close to us.
Similarly, there is a reverse influence of our conscious mind on our subconscious mind. However, this influence is important only in our formative years when our subconscious mind is gathering details of our surroundings. Admittedly, our subconscious mind comes preformed, but it is developed further by the signals and information about the surroundings that we consciously observe. Therefore, in tune with our popular psychology, our childhood determines our adult life attitudes towards the world. What is strange, and perhaps poignant, is that emotional states in our childhood are subject to random changes. Therefore, it is these random changes in our emotional states that decide what is recorded in our subconscious mind. As a result, similar conscious experiences may be recorded differently in our subconscious mind simply because the underlying emotional states were different during those similar experiences. This is evident from the studies on twins. They grow up in similar surroundings and yet, they tend to develop different types mental biases. The real tragedy, once again, is that we are so attached to our childhood impressions (of course, subconsciously ) that we are unable to perceive our own biases and live our entire lives imprisoned by our subconscious biases.
Now, let us look at the second important consequence of this duality. As mentioned above, this cross influence of conscious and subconscious mind on one another is so all pervading that it is very difficult ( if not impossible ) to disentangle them. As mentioned earlier, our ego acts as a conduit between these two compartments. Therefore, it is possible, in principle, to reconstruct our conscious attitudes by resolving our subconscious biases. This possible because we are gifted with an ability to reflect on our own selves. Therefore, it is possible to reflect on our conscious thoughts and try to understand how could they have originated. It is this constant and continuous self examination that can help us to minimise the contradictions between our conscious behaviour and our subconscious motives. However, it is easier said than done.
In other words, our salvation or enlightenment is available to us throu all our lives, but we choose,instead, to not to avail that path. We are caged within our subconscious biases, but the key to open that cage is within our reach. Each one of us has a choice of either looking for that key or of looking at the cage and feel sorry for ourselves.
In summary, we are destined to live with the dualities of life. However, the destiny (if it exists ) has also provided us with a choice of dissolving these dualities. It is for us to decide whether we want to rise above these dualities.
This brings us to an end to this series of blogs on the duality of life. After a gap of few weeks, I would resume blogging with the focus on writing my third, as yet unfinished, novel.