Sunday, June 7, 2009

Do You REALLY Know What Conscious-Unconscious Means?

This little diad conscious-unconscious has caused a lot of confusion. 
The only topic that wreaks more havoc in the community than this one 
is the question "what is NLP?"

In my opinion, we need AT LEAST four distinctions to make sense of 
this conscious-unconscious deal... Let's peel those off to see if my 
observations tie in with yours.


Often times, people use the terms "conscious-unconscious" to mean 
"aware-unaware". That's OK, as long as they know what they're talking 
about. Here's the phenomenon: some stuff you're aware of and some 
others you aren't. You're aware of some processes, like tying your 
shoes, and unaware of others, like beating your heart. This 
distinction also applies to the big existential questions. Today, 
we're aware that the Earth revolves around the sun but before we were 
unaware of that.


"Conscious-unconscious" is also used sometimes to mean 
"foreground-background". Think of the various windows you might have 
open on your computer screen. Your internet browser window is 
currently in the foreground, while Excel, Word, PowerPoint or any 
other window might be in the background. This distinction simply means 
that some processes are accessible consciously but aren't focused on 
right now, so they stay in the background. This is obvious when I 
shift your attention from the computer screen to the weight of your 
left foot.


"Conscious-unconscious", in some contexts, also means 
"programmer-executer." We talk a lot about this particular distinction 
in NLP when we say that the unconscious mind actually is more powerful 
than the conscious mind. Conscious mind gives the instructions, 
unconscious executes them in the background as a stored procedure. 
Think of all the stuff on your computer that is just spinning in the 
background. All of that was programmed at some point and installed to 
be executed "unconsciously".


"Conscious-unconscious" also touches on "masculine-feminine". The 
analogy here is that of the seed and the earth. The conscious suggests 
and the unconscious makes that grow and expand. While this is similar 
to the third distinction, it's not quite the same. Programmer-executer 
has more to do with actions while masculine-feminine has more to do 
with ideas. A great example of this are hypnotic metaphors.

These are just four dimensions that I notice when talking about the 
conscious-unconscious diad. There might be more. But there are at 
least these four.

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