What is the subconscious and unconscious mind?

There is always a lot of confusion between the terms "conscious", "subconscious" and "unconscious". Even Freud himself used the terms interchangeably for many years (before eventually settling on the word "unconscious" to describe the part of the mind that is not consciously available to us).


However, if we delve deeper into the mind, we might find things are even more confusing!

The conscious mind

The conscious mind refers to the part of our mind that is aware of our thoughts, feelings, and surroundings. It enables us to communicate with others and have a sense of self-awareness. The subconscious mind operates just below the level of consciousness and acts as a vast database that stores all our experiences, memories, and learned behaviours. It is responsible for our automatic responses, such as habits and reflexes.

It is often described as like the tip of an iceberg above the surface of the sea. The subconscious and unconscious mind make up the larger part hidden beneath the waterline. 

So, what do they do exactly?

The subconscious mind

The subconscious mind is the part of the mind that operates just below the level of consciousness. It is believed to be that part of the mind that is responsible for storing most of our memories. It is also home to the"limbic system", which is the source of our emotions. Therefore, our subconscious plays a vital role in shaping our behaviours and attitudes. This is because emotions greatly influence our thoughts.

For example, if you are in a low mood (due to lack of sleep) it is easy to convince yourself that you may be depressed or even ill. This can then be the first step in a cycle of negative thinking that then perpetuates psychosomatic symptoms, such as IBS

The subconscious mind is often described as being like a vast computer database that stores all of our experiences, and learning.

When you are driving a car or riding a bike, you do not need to consciously think about balance or coordination because the subconscious mind has learned these routines and performs them automatically. This frees your mind to wander, dream or think about other aspects of your day.

What is the unconscious mind?

The unconscious mind is the part of the mind that is not consciously "awake", but that still has a powerful influence on our behaviour. It is the part of the mind that contains the thoughts, memories, and desires that we are not aware of, but that still influence our actions and decisions.

The unconscious mind is the "hidden" part of the mind that contains memories, experiences, and impulses that the brain does not need or want to remember! It is also believed to be the source of many of our automatic responses and reflexes. This includes our breathing, digestion and even regulating our temperature.

How can hypnotherapy help?

Hypnotherapy is a form of therapy that can help people achieve positive changes in their thoughts, feelings, and behaviours by accessing the otherwise unreachable parts of the mind. A hypnotherapist will induce a state of deep relaxation in the client, known as hypnosis. In this state, the client is more open to the therapist's suggestions, which can help to facilitate powerful change.

There are several techniques that hypnotherapists may use to access the unconscious mind.

Here are four of the most common:

  • Hypnotic suggestion involves the therapist making positive suggestions directly to the client's unconscious mind, encouraging them to make positive changes. 
  • Visualisation involves guiding the client through a visualization exercise, where they imagine themselves making positive changes in their life.
  • Regression is another technique where the therapist helps the client revisit past experiences that may be influencing their current thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. Regression involves revisiting past experiences from earlier stages of life.
  • Lastly, parts therapy helps the client identify and work with different parts of their personality that may be in conflict with one another.

By utilising these and other techniques, hypnotherapists can help their clients with a wide range of issues, from anxiety and depression to phobias and addictions.

The only limits are your underlying beliefs!

So, if you're struggling with a problem and want to explore your unconscious mind, hypnotherapy may be worth considering. Just remember to always seek out a qualified and experienced hypnotherapist to ensure the best possible outcome!

Why would I want to access my deeper mind?

It's easy to want to suppress thoughts, feelings, and memories that have been painful to us. But we need to be careful that we're not throwing away the lessons we've learned from those memories that have made us stronger and more resilient. Sometimes, it's the discomfort of those memories that points us in the direction of growth and, ultimately, true fulfilment!

The power of our mind(s)!

So that is a (very!) brief overview of the conscious mind, the subconscious mind, and the unconscious mind. They're all part of you, whether you're aware of them or not. And they all play a role in making you who you are. When they are in balance with one another they can work together to help you live in a way that allows you to live without old stories keeping you feeling stuck.

If you would like to see a video version of this article, please visit my YouTube channel.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Hypnotherapy Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Northwood, Hertfordshire, HA6 1BJ
Written by Adrian Jackson, Specialist in Anxiety & Depression (DipHyp, CNHC (Acc), HPD)
Northwood, Hertfordshire, HA6 1BJ

I am a Cognitive Hypnotherapist in North London.

My flexible, modern approach helps clients relieve unwanted patterns of behaviour, often underpinned by depression and anxiety.

I’m always available for a free private chat about how I may best help: 0208 798 0992

Very best regards,



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