Consciousness, Subconsciousness and Unconsciousness  

Posted by Plato Greybeard

Consciousness, Subconsciousness and Unconsciousness: Implications for Living
Consciousness equals awareness.

But it's not that simple, is it? Since we are conscious creatures, we are able to be aware not only of the world outside ourselves but also something of what goes on inside us. Brain function is, for some, the most interesting challenge of all. Consciousness allows us to appreciate beauty, experience pleasure and suffering, communicate and enjoy the products of our thinking and reasoning. Consciousness is associated with the prefrontal cortex of the brain.

Unless we consciously choose what to think about, our subconscious mind directs most of our thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Throughout life, we learn from experience and the meaning of each experience is stored in our subconscious mind as a basic belief. Subsequently, every new experience is filtered through our unique set of basic beliefs and our physical and emotional responses are determined by them. Because subconscious basic beliefs trigger emotions, and emotions are associated with the limbic system, we can metaphorically associate the subconscious mind to that area of the brain.

Basic beliefs are in the subconscious because, while we are not consciously aware of them at any given moment, it is possible to bring them into consciousness. Some basic beliefs are easier to access than others. While you might easily recall your mother's maiden name, it may be more difficult to express precisely why you have an aversion to someone with a different skin color. Or why you don't.

Now we come to the unconscious mind. This is located in the reptilian brain, the area where the spinal cord connects with the brain itself. This region has the responsibility for regulating bodily functions such as respiration, heart rate, temperature and other activities vital to life. We refer to it as "unconscious" because, although it is an extremely active area, no amount of effort can bring its functions up to consciousness. Although we can consciously affect any measurable function, we cannot be aware of its mechanisms.

It is postulated that this area also holds what may be referred to as "inbornintentions.” These are innate goals that are common to every human. At our core, we seek to respect human dignity, freedom of choice, sense of accomplishment and love. What complicates life, and perhaps makes it even more interesting, is that we sometimes fall away from moving toward these inbornintentions because we have acquired basic beliefs that are contrary to them and because of anxiety.

The inbornintentions are thought to be in the reptilian brain because they too are a vital part of us. If they did not exist, we would not be human.

What, you might ask, has this to do with philosophy? Well, philosophers throughout the ages have struggled with the question of how to live well. Philosophize for a moment as to what life would be like for an individual who consistently makes choices in the direction of the four inbornintentions, unencumbered by contrary basic beliefs or by anxiety.

This entry was posted on July 25, 2011 at Monday, July 25, 2011 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


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