Because your subconscious mind is difficult to access directly though your conscious mind, it’s difficult to know for certain what’s going on in the deepest recesses of your psyche. Sometimes, though, the subconscious speaks up and makes a brief appearance in your conscious awareness. Once you learn to notice these intrusions of the subconscious, you can use this information to help you make decisions in your conscious mind.
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Did I say that?
Have you ever meant to say one thing, but then said something else entirely? When you call someone by the wrong name, for instance, is that just a mistake, or is it actually a call from your subconscious mind? Many dub these errors in speech and writing “Freudian slips” as Sigmund Freud used them to gain insight into information he believed his patient was repressing. Consider that your accidents may actually be a moment of insight into your most concealed, conflicting desires. Write the incident down next time it happens and give some thought to what it might mean.
Have a hunch?
Sometimes you get a “gut” feeling about a person or situation. Maybe you think you’re applying for the job you’ve always wanted, but once it’s offered to you, you sense that something’s not right about the situation. Some believe this intuition comes from your subconscious mind, which is a storehouse of valuable information, not all of which your conscious mind has access to. Learning to quiet your mind and trust your intuition is one of ways you can gain a deeper connection to your subconscious wisdom.
These are considered any information you absorb below a certain level of conscious awareness. While researchers differ in their opinions about the effectiveness of subliminal messages, many studies indicate that there are potential benefits to incorporating information into your subconscious minds. For instance, some studies have shown that exposing patients to anti-smoking subliminal messages during elective surgery have helped a good number of patients reduce or quit their smoking habits by the one-month post-surgical appointment. By introducing the appropriate subliminal messages, the powerful subconscious mind can influence the conscious mind to respond positively.
Tapping Into Your Subconscious
Now that you’re somewhat aware of what your subconscious is potentially capable of as well as what it’s currently preoccupied with, read about some techniques that are designed to access that valuable part of your brain.
A number of famous pioneers in psychology had hypotheses about what dreams mean. Freud believed that dreams are disconnected from conscious reality, and that they are indicators your deepest subconscious wishes and desires. He distinguished two levels of dreams: the manifest level, which is the action in the dream, and the latent level, which is borne out in the symbolic elements. He found the symbolic elements the most informative about the workings of the subconscious, and that’s what the technique below should help to access.
Carl Jung also studied dreams. There are many different techniques you can use to interpret your own dreams and illuminate your deepest motives and desires, but the next time you have a troubling or confusing dream, try Jung’s direct association technique:
1. In the center of a large, blank sheet of paper, write down the most compelling image or element in your dream. Maybe it’s a body of water or an animal.
2. Write down the first word or phrase that comes to mind when you think of that aspect of your dream.
3. Continue writing down the words or phrases you associate with that image. For example, if the central element you started with was the sun, and the first word you thought of was “bright,” the second word or phrase you write down should also be associated with the sun.
4. Do this process as quickly as possible, without stopping to think or consider too much. The more conscious thinking you do, the less likely you’ll be able to access your subconscious associations during this exercise.
5. Once you’ve run out of associations, review the words you’ve written down, and consider how these might connect with what you already know about the circumstances in your life in your conscious mind.
Hypnosis is a deep state of mental relaxation that allows you greater access to your subconscious mind. Early on, before Freud became more focused on free association, he used this technique with his patients to uncover their unconscious issues and desires. You can hypnotize yourself using a number of techniques, but first try the following simple steps:
1. Sit in a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed.
2. Close your eyes and inhale and exhale ten times, slowly and deeply.
3. Tell yourself the following, filling in the blanks for yourself: “I’m going into this trance to help my subconscious mind _________.” (For example, “believe I’m a good person, just the way I am.”)
4. Count backwards from 20. When you reach 1, look around inside your mind and see who is there and what you see. Allow your mind to flow freely.
5. When you’re ready to come back into your conscious mind, start counting up from 1. When you reach 20, take a deep breath, open your eyes, and examine what you’ve discovered in your conscious mind.
Freud used the technique of free association with his patients. By having them speak freely about whatever happened to come into their minds, regardless of whether it seemed related to anything significant, Freud believed he could uncover their underlying problems and their subconscious conflicts. You can simulate your own version of this technique through the process of freewriting:
1. Sit down with a notebook and a pen or pencil.
2. Choose a topic that you want to know more about (perhaps the realm of life that you’re struggling with the most).
3. Set a timer for fifteen minutes.
4. Once the timer starts, write continuously for the entire time. Do not stop to think. Don’t worry about punctuation or grammar or sense. Just keep your pen moving and write everything and anything that comes to mind.
5. Once the timer goes off, sit back and read what you’ve just written. Does the content seem to focus on anything in particular? Are there interesting repetitions? What is the tone of adjectives you’ve used?
6. Now consider what’s going on in your life.
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