Your Conscious and Unconscious Mind

Many streams of psychology and performance coaching use the concept of the ‘conscious’ and ‘unconscious’ mind. We are all aware that we have a conscious mind, and we could all benefit by building trust between it and our unconscious mind.  So what is our unconscious mind?  Our unconscious mind runs everything that we don’t do consciously.

There’s a model of learning that illustrates the conscious/unconscious mind link very well.


Unconscious Incompetence


Conscious Incompetence


Conscious Competence


Unconsious Competence

It suggests that when someone learns a new skill they start by not even knowing that they can’t do it, because they don’t know it exists to be done.  Then they realise that they can’t do it.  As we learn it we get to know that we can do it but only if we concentrate.  Finally, the skill becomes automatic and you can do it without thinking.  At this stage it is your unconscious mind that looks after the skill for you.

How many times have you been doing something unconsciously without having to think about it?  You do not consciously ‘manage’ your body, your unconscious mind does.  You don’t have to consciously breathe, but you can if you want to.  So if we can trust our unconscious mind to breathe for us then we can trust it with other tasks too.

Would you trust your unconscious mind with other skills you’ve learned such as driving your car?  If you’ve ever been driving and arrived at your destination but don’t remember details of the journey then that’s exactly what you do.  If you remember first learning to drive (when you were consciously incompetent) it may have seemed complicated.  But now your unconscious mind drives you and navigates you safely even though you are not consciously aware and you are ‘miles away’ in some kind of trance.  If a dangerous situation had arisen, your unconscious mind would have said ‘Hey, I need some help here!’ and you would take over driving consciously.  In fact, at any particular time most of the cars on the road are being driven by unconscious minds, all quite safely!

So if you trust your unconscious mind to keep your heart beating and you trust it to drive you then you can certainly trust it in your performance too.  And one of the main reasons for trusting it is because it contains all the resources you need.  It ‘knows’ all of the things you don’t consciously know now.  How many times have you resolved a problem not by conscious thought but by sleeping on it, and the next day the answer just pops into your head?  You know that when you’ve forgotten something the answer can be on the tip of your tongue, but the harder you try to consciously remember, the more elusive it is.  It’s only when you let your unconscious mind take over (by not thinking about it) that you are able to remember.  So you not only know more than you might think, you actually know a great deal more about everything to do with your performance because you don’t have conscious access to the majority of what you do actually ‘know’.

So just like solving a problem by ‘sleeping on it’, you can overcome many of your performing problems by tapping into your unconscious mind for the answers you need and know now that you don’t yet consciously know.  And that’s good!

I suspect you already know that one of the best ways of doing this is to access your unconscious mind through psychology or hypnosis and NLP.  And imagine how good you will be when you have progressed through the learning model to ‘unconscious competence’ and then go beyond it – to conscious mastery and beyond!

So for now be aware that your conscious mind just represents the tip of the iceberg and as you start to trust your unconscious mind you are making friends with a dormant giant within.  Future articles will examine ways of harnessing the unconscious mind and dealing with distractions – a key skill in keeping ‘in the performance zone’.

“In judo, he who thinks is immediately thrown.  Victory is assured to those who are mentally non-resistant.”

Robert Linssen.


One Response to Your Conscious and Unconscious Mind

  1. Jackie May 28, 2010 at 3:24 am #

    This blog starts off explaining that you are unconsciously incompetent and move through to unconsciously competent whereby the new skill is embedded in the unconscious memory to look after the new skill. One then acts from the unconscious competent level with that skill from that point on. This indicates that our conscious mind developed and practised the new skill before passing this onto the unconscious mind for storage and later use.
    Later parts of your article indicate the unconscious mind knows all the answers we just need to tap into this by handing over the problem to the unconscious mind to solve.
    But the first part indicates the conscious mind taught the unconscious mind.
    I find this quite confusing.

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