A Positive Understanding of the Subconscious

The following chapter is from Randal Churchill and Cheryl Canfield's provocative forthcoming book, Churchill-Canfield's Law: What Can Go Right Will Go Right, which we are pleased to announce will be published in March.

At the center of your being you have unimagined resources. - Lao-Tzu

The possibilities of creative effort connected with the subconscious mind are stupendous and imponderable. They inspire one with awe. - Napoleon Hill

The rational, intellectual part of the mind is amazing - constantly juggling external information and situations, sorting through facts, making choices and often on fast forward as we muscle our way through the day. It can be rich, stimulating and exhausting all at once. Then we might throw ourselves into some mind-numbing activity like television, social media or internet surfing as a way to relax and put on the breaks. What we may be short-circuiting is our connection to a deeper, inner awareness that links us to our greatest potential.

The subconscious mind, just below the surface, is a rich reservoir of everything that is stored away from our conscious awareness in order to keep us from existing in a confusing chaos of information and complexity that can better be dealt with in small bites. It is the non-reasoning part of the mind that is a storehouse of our previous programming, memories and experiences. It is also the part of the mind that dreams, regulates autonomic body functions, is the pathway to creativity, imagination and intuition, and gateway to the superconscious. Henry David Thoreau tells us, "Direct your eye right inward, and you'll find a thousand regions in your mind yet undiscovered."

One of those hidden regions contains a current of creativity. When you connect with the subconscious you access that constantly flowing stream. Fritz Perls said that the average person "lives only five percent to 15 percent of his potential at the highest. A person who has even 25 percent of his potential available is already considered to be a genius." The rest of that 75 to 95 percent is unused potential, accessible when you develop an ongoing connection with the subconscious mind. A look at practices like meditation and self-hypnosis can give a perspective of what can be achieved through a greater understanding of the subconscious.

Meditation, in part, is the practice of silencing the "inner chatter." This mental focusing has a door opening effect that has been described as a clearing of the mind and sharpening of the mental processes. By way of the subconscious mind, the superconscious mind is accessed. A neurologist, Richard Cytowic, tried a form of meditation or quieting of the mind called Zazen. Although he was skeptical, he sat in front of a blank wall until he reached what is called "the still point." He wrote of the experience, "My cognitive mind was astonished that the internal dialogue really could be stopped, while the rest of me relished the sense of tranquility that accompanied this feat. It is a feeling (that) must be experienced to be understood, because it cannot be explained." A poll published in Newsweek stated that 45 percent of meditators polled had "sensed the sacred" while meditating.

What does all of this mean in terms of the affect of meditation on daily life? It can lower blood pressure and stress levels, lead to clearer thinking, more energy, and a sense of connection with something spiritual or bigger than ourselves. The affects differ between individuals and range from calming to mountain-top or peak experiences. One woman who was taught meditation and relaxation techniques while in the hospital felt so peaceful and loving that she wanted to share it with others. She walked down the hall and found a woman sitting by herself in a room. As they talked she observed the other woman's spirits lift. It happened with the woman's roommate as well. She called it the rippling effect, a feeling of being saturated in love.

The state of relaxation can be expanded with hypnosis and hypnotic processes. Relaxation and deepening allow our awareness to pass through that door to the subconscious where positive suggestions and visualization can become very powerful and healing. Old negative habit patterns can be uprooted and replaced with positive new ones. On an even deeper and therapeutic level, misconceptions or negative beliefs held by the subconscious may be brought to the surface where they can be processed, education can be given, and the subconscious programmed with new information and empowered beliefs.

In the late 19th century the term "unconscious" was used to refer to the part of the mind that is out of sight of rational awareness. One school of thought brought to the forefront by Sigmund Freud was that the unconscious was comprised of negative forces that attempt to break through into consciousness and have to be controlled. However, as the field of hypnotherapy developed, gradually more practitioners began to use the term subconscious and emphasize it as a positive force that could be directed and trained.

Hypnosis is an altered and natural state beyond ordinary consciousness that can occur spontaneously. In addition, there are many ways that hypnosis can be induced and deepened. A spontaneous form of hypnosis is entered when we get absorbed in some activity or thought process to such a degree that we momentarily lose awareness of our environment. It might happen while reading a book or watching television or even "highway hypnosis" while driving a car. We simply narrow our focus to an activity or thought that is all-engrossing.

An eclectically trained hypnotherapist can use a variety of methods to bring a person into a state of hypnosis, deepen and lighten the state, guide various processes and return the subject back to normal awareness. Generally, the most well known characteristic of hypnosis is increased suggestibility. Though there are varying degrees of this heightened responsiveness to suggestion, it is only one of many kinds of value that can result from access to the subconscious. It is used in areas such as chronic and acute pain control, to change the pain threshold or to affect the psychological associations of pain. It can be used effectively to improve confidence, concentration, recall, motivation, achievement, focus, health and stress management. Hypnosis can help overcome addictions, habits, eating disorders, insomnia, fears, phobias, negative thought, emotional and behavior patterns. It can also tap people into the utilization of their full potential in endeavors like work, sports, art or creative expression.

By definition, any method that gives you direct access to your subconscious or inner mind while awake is hypnotic. Whenever profound therapy takes place, it is the result of entering an altered state that accesses and affects the subconscious mind, whether induction is formal or spontaneous. Understanding the subconscious mind as a positive force that can be directed and trained allows you the greatest use of this inherent creative potential, providing access to an empowered life of meaning and fulfillment.