Unconscious Mind | Simply Psychology (2022)

Freud and the Unconscious Mind

By Dr. Saul McLeod, published 2009, updated 2015

Sigmund Freud didn't exactly invent the idea of the conscious versus unconscious mind, but he certainly was responsible for making it popular and this was one of his main contributions to psychology.

Freud (1900, 1905) developed a topographical model of the mind, whereby he described the features of the mind’s structure and function. Freud used the analogy of an iceberg to describe the three levels of the mind.

Freud (1915) described the conscious mind, which consists of all the mental processes of which we are aware, and this is seen as the tip of the iceberg. For example, you may be feeling thirsty at this moment and decide to get a drink.

The preconscious contains thoughts and feelings that a person is not currently aware of, but which can easily be brought to consciousness (1924). It exists just below the level of consciousness, before the unconscious mind. The preconscious is like a mental waiting room, in which thoughts remain until they 'succeed in attracting the eye of the conscious' (Freud, 1924, p. 306).

This is what we mean in our everyday usage of the word available memory. For example, you are presently not thinking about your mobile telephone number, but now it is mentioned you can recall it with ease.

Mild emotional experiences may be in the preconscious but sometimes traumatic and powerful negative emotions are repressed and hence not available in the preconscious.

Finally, the unconscious mind comprises mental processes that are inaccessible to consciousness but that influence judgments, feelings, or behavior (Wilson, 2002).

According to Freud (1915), the unconscious mind is the primary source of human behavior. Like an iceberg, the most important part of the mind is the part you cannot see.

Our feelings, motives and decisions are actually powerfully influenced by our past experiences, and stored in the unconscious.

Freud applied these three systems to his structure of the personality, or psyche – the id, ego and superego. Here the id is regarded as entirely unconscious whilst the ego and superego have conscious, preconscious, and unconscious aspects.

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While we are fully aware of what is going on in the conscious mind, we have no idea of what information is stored in the unconscious mind.

The unconscious contains all sorts of significant and disturbing material which we need to keep out of awareness because they are too threatening to acknowledge fully.

The unconscious mind acts as a repository, a ‘cauldron’ of primitive wishes and impulse kept at bay and mediated by the preconscious area. For example, Freud (1915) found that some events and desires were often too frightening or painful for his patients to acknowledge, and believed such information was locked away in the unconscious mind. This can happen through the process of repression.

The unconscious mind contains our biologically based instincts (eros and thanatos) for the primitive urges for sex and aggression (Freud, 1915). Freud argued that our primitive urges often do not reach consciousness because they are unacceptable to our rational, conscious selves.

People use a range of defense mechanisms (such as repression) to avoid knowing what their unconscious motives and feelings are.

Freud (1915) emphasized the importance of the unconscious mind, and a primary assumption of Freudian theory is that the unconscious mind governs behavior to a greater degree than people suspect. Indeed, the goal of psychoanalysis is to reveal the use of such defense mechanisms and thus make the unconscious conscious.

Freud believed that the influences of the unconscious reveal themselves in a variety of ways, including dreams, and in slips of the tongue, now popularly known as 'Freudian slips'. Freud (1920) gave an example of such a slip when a British Member of Parliament referred to a colleague with whom he was irritated as 'the honorable member from Hell' instead of from Hull.

Critical Evaluation

Critical Evaluation

Initially, psychology was skeptical regarding the idea of mental processes operating at an unconscious level. To other psychologists determined to be scientific in their approach (e.g. behaviorists), the concept of the unconscious mind has proved a source of considerable frustration because it defies objective description, and is extremely difficult to objectively test or measure.

However, the gap between psychology and psychoanalysis has narrowed, and the notion of the unconscious is now an important focus of psychology. For example, cognitive psychology has identified unconscious processes, such as procedural memory (Tulving, 1972), automatic processing (Bargh & Chartrand, 1999; Stroop, 1935), and social psychology has shown the importance of implicit processing (Greenwald & Banaji, 1995). Such empirical findings have demonstrated the role of unconscious processes in human behavior.

However, empirical research in psychology has revealed the limits of the Freudian theory of the unconscious mind, and the modern notion of an 'adaptive unconscious' (Wilson, 2004) is not the same as the psychoanalytic one.

Indeed, Freud (1915) has underestimated the importance of the unconscious, and in terms of the iceberg analogy, there is a much larger portion of the mind under the water. The mind operates most efficiently by relegating a significant degree of high level, sophisticated processing to the unconscious.

Whereas Freud (1915) viewed the unconscious as a single entity, psychology now understands the mind to comprise a collection of modules that has evolved over time and operate outside of consciousness.

(Video) Conscious Unconscious Subconscious Mind Model Sigmund Freud Theory of Personality Hindi Monica Josan

For example, universal grammar (Chomsky, 1972) is an unconscious language processor that lets us decide whether a sentence is correctly formed. Separate to this module is our ability to recognize faces quickly and efficiently, thus illustrating how unconscious modules operate independently.

Finally, while Freud believed that primitive urges remained unconscious to protect individuals from experiencing anxiety, the modern view of the adaptive unconscious is that most information processing resides outside of consciousness for reasons of efficiency, rather than repression (Wilson, 2004).

How to reference this article:

How to reference this article:

McLeod, S. A. (2015). Unconscious mind. Simply Psychology. www.simplypsychology.org/unconscious-mind.html

APA Style References

Bargh, J. A., & Chartrand, T. L. (1999). The unbearable automaticity of being. American psychologist, 54(7), 462.

Chomsky, N. (1972). Language and mind. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Freud, S. (1915). The unconscious. SE, 14: 159-204.

Freud, S. (1924). A general introduction to psychoanalysis, trans. Joan Riviere.

Greenwald, A. G., & Banaji, M. R. (1995). Implicit social cognition: attitudes, self-esteem, and stereotypes. Psychological review, 102(1), 4.

Stroop, J. R. (1935). Studies of interference in serial verbal reactions. Journal of experimental psychology, 18(6), 643.

Tulving, E. (1972). Episodic and semantic memory. In E. Tulving & W. Donaldson (Eds.), Organization of Memory, (pp. 381–403). New York: Academic Press.

(Video) The Power of Your Subconscious Mind by Dr. Joseph Murphy Audiobook | Books Summary in Hindi

Wilson, T. D. (2004). Strangers to ourselves. Harvard University Press.

Related Articles

Sigmund Freud Psychodynamic Approach Id, Ego, Superego Psychosexual Stages Defense Mechanisms Sigmund Freud Sigmund Freud Biography Freud Museum Psychoanalysis

How to reference this article:

How to reference this article:

McLeod, S. A. (2015). Unconscious mind. Simply Psychology. www.simplypsychology.org/unconscious-mind.html

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FAQs

What is a unconscious mind in psychology? ›

The unconscious mind is a reservoir of feelings, thoughts, urges, and memories that are outside of our conscious awareness. The unconscious contains contents that are unacceptable or unpleasant, such as feelings of pain, anxiety, or conflict.

What does Freud say about the unconscious mind? ›

According to Freud (1915), the unconscious mind is the primary source of human behavior. Like an iceberg, the most important part of the mind is the part you cannot see. Our feelings, motives and decisions are actually powerfully influenced by our past experiences, and stored in the unconscious.

What are the 3 levels of the unconscious mind? ›

Sigmund Freud divided human consciousness into three levels of awareness: the conscious, preconscious, and unconscious. Each of these levels corresponds and overlaps with his ideas of the id, ego, and superego.

How much of the brain is unconscious thinking? ›

A. Current scientific estimates are that some 95 percent of brain activity is unconscious, says Emma Young in New Scientist magazine. These include habits and patterns, automatic body function, creativity, emotions, personality, beliefs and values, cognitive biases, and long-term memory.

What's in the unconscious mind? ›

The unconscious is the vast sum of operations of the mind that take place below the level of conscious awareness. The conscious mind contains all the thoughts, feelings, cognitions, and memories we acknowledge, while the unconscious consists of deeper mental processes not readily available to the conscious mind.

Do we have an unconscious mind? ›

The unconscious mind is still viewed by many psychological scientists as the shadow of a “real” conscious mind, though there now exists substantial evidence that the unconscious is not identifiably less flexible, complex, controlling, deliberative, or action-oriented than is its counterpart.

How do you activate your unconscious mind? ›

Six tips on how to reprogram your subconscious
  1. Adopt empowering beliefs. Limiting beliefs hold us back from what we want in life. ...
  2. Embrace the beauty of uncertainty. ...
  3. Focus on gratitude. ...
  4. Watch your environment. ...
  5. Visualize. ...
  6. Biohack your subconscious mind with binaural beats.

How can we control our unconscious mind? ›

How to control your subconscious mind?
  1. Stop and Breath. The first step to gaining control over your subconscious may seem a little counteractive, but in fact, it's this inactivity that sets you on the right path. ...
  2. Meditation. ...
  3. Mantras. ...
  4. Yoga. ...
  5. Take time to yourself.
24 Dec 2018

Where is the unconscious mind? ›

The parts of the brain that perform the functions that Freud called the “id” are located mainly in the ERTAS and limbic system, whereas the parts that perform the functions he attributed to “the repressed” (or the “system unconscious”) are located mainly in the basal ganglia and cerebellum.

What is the difference between subconscious mind and unconscious mind? ›

The subconscious is that part of consciousness that is not currently in focal awareness. The unconscious mind consists of the processes in the mind that occur automatically and are not available to introspection, and include thought processes, memory, affect, and motivation. Psychoanalytical term?

What is the difference between the conscious and unconscious mind? ›

There are three levels of the mind model – conscious, subconscious, and unconscious. Briefly, consciousness defines our thoughts, actions, and awareness. Subconscious is defined as the reactions and actions we realized when we think of it. Unconscious is defined as the deep recesses of our past and memories.

What is an example of being unconscious? ›

For example, under ordinary conditions a person may be unconscious of ever having been locked in a closet as a child; yet under hypnosis he may recall the experience vividly.

How fast does the unconscious mind work? ›

There is an increasing body of evidence that only a minuscule proportion of the sensory data processed by the unconscious mind (capable of processing approximately 11 million bits per second) is referred to the conscious mind (capable of processing approximately 50 bits per second).

How many of our thoughts are conscious? ›

According to cognitive neuroscientists, we are conscious of only about 5 percent of our cognitive activity, so most of our decisions, actions, emotions, and behavior depends on the 95 percent of brain activity that goes beyond our conscious awareness.

Does the subconscious mind know right from wrong? ›

There's no right or wrong in your subconscious mind.

As Henry Ford said; “If you think you can, or if you think you can't, you're right!” Neuroscience has shown the majority of our decisions, actions, emotions and behaviour depend on the 95 % of brain activity that lies beyond your conscious awareness.

Why does unconscious happen? ›

Unconsciousness can be caused by nearly any major illness or injury. It can also be caused by substance (drug) and alcohol use. Choking on an object can result in unconsciousness as well. Brief unconsciousness (or fainting) is often a result from dehydration, low blood sugar, or temporary low blood pressure.

What happens when you are unconscious? ›

Unconsciousness is the state in which a person is unable to respond to stimuli and appears to be asleep. They may be unconscious for a few seconds — as in fainting — or for longer periods of time. People who become unconscious don't respond to loud sounds or shaking.

Which theory is related to unconscious mind? ›

In Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytic theory of personality, the unconscious mind is defined as a reservoir of feelings, thoughts, urges, and memories that outside of conscious awareness.

How do I reprogram my subconscious mind to manifest? ›

  1. Create a New Reality Through Visualization.
  2. Reprogram Your Subconscious Mind With Hypnosis.
  3. Tell Your Subconscious Mind a New Reality With Affirmations.
  4. Have Your Goals in Front of You Every Day, With a Vision Board.
  5. Use a Journal to Reprogram Your Subconscious Mind.
  6. Learn How the Law of Attraction Really Works.

Is subconscious mind powerful? ›

Your subconscious mind is a powerful force to be reckoned with. It makes up around 95% of your brain power and handles everything your body needs to function properly, from eating and breathing to digesting and making memories.

How do you control someone's mind? ›

Here are 10 tips to try when you begin to experience the same thought, or set of thoughts, swirling around your head:
  1. Distract yourself. ...
  2. Plan to take action. ...
  3. Take action. ...
  4. Question your thoughts. ...
  5. Readjust your life's goals. ...
  6. Work on enhancing your self-esteem. ...
  7. Try meditation. ...
  8. Understand your triggers.
8 Jan 2021

How can I train my mind to think positive? ›

6 Tips to Train Your Brain to Be More Positive
  1. Start your day off right. The best way to start your day off right is by making sure you take time to ease into the day and really prepare. ...
  2. Make a gratitude list. ...
  3. Rework your response. ...
  4. Stay active. ...
  5. Take care of yourself. ...
  6. Support others.
22 Jun 2022

What happens to the brain when unconscious? ›

“We found that during unconsciousness, disrupted connectivity in the brain and greater modularity are creating an environment that is inhospitable to the kind of efficient information transfer that is required for consciousness.”

What is the meaning by unconscious? ›

1 : not marked by conscious thought, sensation, or feeling unconscious motivation. 2 : of or relating to the unconscious. 3 : having lost consciousness was unconscious for three days.

Which is more powerful conscious or unconscious mind? ›

The subconscious mind is far more powerful than the conscious mind and can process huge quantities of information that come via your five senses and translate them back to your brain in the blink of an eye.

Is sleeping unconscious or subconscious? ›

When you are asleep you leave your conscious state and move into a subconscious state as evidenced by your inability to participate in an intelligent conversation. Some people can respond to inquiries during sleep, but the conversation is nonsensical.

Can you unconsciously do something? ›

When you do something unconsciously, you're not completely aware that you're doing it. You might not realize you've been unconsciously chewing your fingernails until you notice your nibbled nail polish.

How does the unconscious mind communicate? ›

Unconscious (or intuitive) communication is the subtle, unintentional, unconscious cues that provide information to another individual. It can be verbal (speech patterns, physical activity while speaking, or the tone of voice of an individual) or it can be nonverbal (facial expressions and body language).

What are unconscious emotions? ›

Unconscious emotions lack the key feature of consciousness. The absence of consciousness can come in the form of (1) unawareness of the stimulus eliciting the emotion or (2) unawareness of the emotion itself, producing an emotion that is not subjectively felt.

How much faster is the subconscious mind than the conscious mind? ›

The conscious mind solves problems at roughly 100-150 miles-per-hour. Meanwhile, our subconscious blazes away at close to 100,000 m.p.h. “Even if this research is off by a factor of 100,” says Zlotoff, “this still means the subconscious mind is 5000 to 2 million times faster than the conscious.”

How many thoughts come in mind in a second? ›

Since each new thought generates a new “worm,” researchers can recognize when one thought ends and the next begins. After testing these transitions at different times, on two different days, they found a median rate of about 6.5 thought transitions per minute. This rate appeared to remain fairly consistent over time.

How does the subconscious mind affect behavior? ›

Sometimes called the unconscious mind, your subconscious mind contains all of the stored information of everything you have ever experienced. Because of this, it influences how you react to things, such as why you are shy, lazy, eat too much, or have an addiction.

Is the subconscious mind God? ›

Nope. Subconscious mind is not our God. Though Dr. Joseph Murphy has stated in his book -' The Power of Your Subconscious Mind' that our own subconscious mind is our God, I donot believe it.

Can we control our thoughts? ›

We are aware of a tiny fraction of the thinking that goes on in our minds, and we can control only a tiny part of our conscious thoughts. The vast majority of our thinking efforts goes on subconsciously. Only one or two of these thoughts are likely to breach into consciousness at a time.

How do you know if your subconscious is telling you something? ›

  1. 5 Signs Your Subconscious Is Trying to Tell You Something. ...
  2. You Feel Good and/or Confident About An Impulsive Decision. ...
  3. You Feel Uneasy About Certain People or Situations. ...
  4. Your Thoughts Keep Getting Pulled In One Direction. ...
  5. You Have Recurring Dreams. ...
  6. You Feel a Sense of Clarity.

Can you communicate with your subconscious? ›

Communicating to your subconscious mind

Communicating thoughts from your conscious mind to your subconscious mind is difficult because it should be done with emotions. Only the thoughts that are conveyed with genuine emotions make it to the back of your mind.

What language does the subconscious understand? ›

But the subconscious isn't logical and analytical like the conscious mind. It doesn't distinguish between fantasy and reality. And it uses the language of symbols, pictures and metaphors to communicate ideas to your conscious mind.

What is an example of unconscious in psychology? ›

Data that cannot be recalled with effort at a specific time but that later may be remembered are retained on an unconscious level. For example, under ordinary conditions a person may be unconscious of ever having been locked in a closet as a child; yet under hypnosis he may recall the experience vividly.

What is the difference between subconscious mind and unconscious mind? ›

The subconscious is that part of consciousness that is not currently in focal awareness. The unconscious mind consists of the processes in the mind that occur automatically and are not available to introspection, and include thought processes, memory, affect, and motivation. Psychoanalytical term?

What is conscious mind and unconscious mind? ›

There are three levels of the mind model – conscious, subconscious, and unconscious. Briefly, consciousness defines our thoughts, actions, and awareness. Subconscious is defined as the reactions and actions we realized when we think of it. Unconscious is defined as the deep recesses of our past and memories.

Where is the unconscious mind? ›

The parts of the brain that perform the functions that Freud called the “id” are located mainly in the ERTAS and limbic system, whereas the parts that perform the functions he attributed to “the repressed” (or the “system unconscious”) are located mainly in the basal ganglia and cerebellum.

How can we control our unconscious mind? ›

How to control your subconscious mind?
  1. Stop and Breath. The first step to gaining control over your subconscious may seem a little counteractive, but in fact, it's this inactivity that sets you on the right path. ...
  2. Meditation. ...
  3. Mantras. ...
  4. Yoga. ...
  5. Take time to yourself.
24 Dec 2018

How can I tap into my unconscious mind? ›

Here is the process I use to get to this place of creative genius.
  1. Find a Quiet Place and close your eyes. Begin here. ...
  2. Calm Your Mind. ...
  3. Speak Positive Affirmations. ...
  4. Quiet Your Mind Again and Listen to your Inner Voice. ...
  5. Focus on Listening; Don't over-analyze. ...
  6. Write These Images, Thoughts and Ideas Out.
29 May 2020

What happens when you are unconscious? ›

Unconsciousness is the state in which a person is unable to respond to stimuli and appears to be asleep. They may be unconscious for a few seconds — as in fainting — or for longer periods of time. People who become unconscious don't respond to loud sounds or shaking.

Can you change your unconscious mind? ›

Your subconscious mind is the key to success – and you can reprogram it. If you want to live the life you desire, then it's time to decide, to commit and to resolve. It's not what we can do in life that makes a difference – it's what we will do.

Is the unconscious mind powerful? ›

Your subconscious mind is a powerful force to be reckoned with. It makes up around 95% of your brain power and handles everything your body needs to function properly, from eating and breathing to digesting and making memories.

Which is more powerful conscious or unconscious mind? ›

The subconscious mind is far more powerful than the conscious mind and can process huge quantities of information that come via your five senses and translate them back to your brain in the blink of an eye.

Are emotions conscious or unconscious? ›

Emotion is an innate, powerful, and principally unconscious process. It alerts us to problems but doesn't bother us with processes that don't require conscious attention.

How much of our behavior is unconscious? ›

According to cognitive neuroscientists, we are conscious of only about 5 percent of our cognitive activity, so most of our decisions, actions, emotions, and behavior depends on the 95 percent of brain activity that goes beyond our conscious awareness.

Why do you think understanding the unconscious mind is important in analyzing your personality? ›

The unconscious mind contains memories you have repressed or forgotten, instinctual desires and needs, and other hidden facets of your mind that you don't know about. We also learned about your ego.

Which theory is related to unconscious mind? ›

According to Freud, the unconscious mind is the primary source for all human behavior. Freud felt that our feelings, motives and decisions are powerfully influenced by our past experiences and stored in the deeper unconscious mind.

What happens to the brain when unconscious? ›

“We found that during unconsciousness, disrupted connectivity in the brain and greater modularity are creating an environment that is inhospitable to the kind of efficient information transfer that is required for consciousness.”

What is the meaning by unconscious? ›

1 : not marked by conscious thought, sensation, or feeling unconscious motivation. 2 : of or relating to the unconscious. 3 : having lost consciousness was unconscious for three days.

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