Understanding the Unconscious

The unconscious is where most of the work of the mind gets done; it's the repository of automatic skills (such as riding a bike), the source of intuition and dreams, the engine of much information processing. Fleeting perceptions register in the unconscious mind long before we may be aware of them.

The unconscious mind is not some black hole of unacceptable impulses waiting to trip you up, but it can be the source of hidden beliefs, fears, and attitudes that interfere with everyday life. Most forms of psychotherapy aim to bring into conscious awareness many of these hidden hindrances, so that we can examine them and choose how to deal with them.

Recent Posts on Unconscious

How to Put Yourself in Someone Else’s Shoes

By Paul Thagard Ph.D. on November 27, 2015 Hot Thought
You can empathize with people in three ways: recognizing their situations as analogous to your own, perceiving their pain or emotions using mirror neurons, or simulating their experiences using unconscious embodied rules.

In Discussing "Youth," Jane Fonda Touches on "Superfluidity"

Jane Fonda recently described the awe-inspiring aspects of having a peak experience while discussing her upcoming movie 'Youth.'

Standard Interpretations in Psychotherapy

By Fredric Neuman M.D. on November 22, 2015 Fighting Fear
Psychotherapists who cannot think of something sensible to say sometimes make facile interpretations which do not apply to any particular patient and which are, for the most part, wrong.

Why I Am No Longer a Sex-Addiction Therapist

Our evolving understanding of the complexities of human sexuality have revealed an increasing number of cracks in the foundational models of sex-addiction therapy.

We Are Becoming Gods

By Mario D Garrett PhD on November 21, 2015 iAge
While we are behaving more like gods, we are learning that we are less human.

The Uneven Distribution of Violence and News

Which violence counts? It is as if the entire world is complicit in some unconscious belief that violence in some parts of the world is unavoidable, part of life, and therefore not important, and only some parts of the world, those that have managed to export violence elsewhere, those are the parts of the world about whose rare acts of violence news media speak.

Near Death Experiences: Paranormal or Normal?

The latest Neuroscience on what happens when we are about to die.

Have to? Should? Could? Will?

Caught up in the "too much" world, we may find ourselves living unconsciously, doing, doing doing. But take a moment and imagine what you might do in any moment. Sit with possibilities. And then, feeling into your own knowing, make a choice.

“Fix You,” Conscious Uncoupling and Irrelationship

We think “Conscious Uncoupling’s promise of a “Happily-even-after” makes good sense. Our one big concern, however, is that the description of "Conscious Uncoupling" also provides ample opportunity for irrelationship to do its very best—that is, each incident of conscious uncoupling might just be an incident where a couple has stepped on a land mine of irrelationship.

What to Do When Life Hits the Fan

It doesn’t matter how enlightened, successful, or brilliant you are. It doesn’t matter if you live on the edge inviting challenge or tiptoe through life protected by bubble wrap. Unexpected and unwanted stuff is still going to happen. The difference is in how we respond.

What's The First Thing You Read?

By Kaja Perina on November 04, 2015 Brainstorm
In initial encounters we think in heuristics to be safe, not to be correct.

Why Do We Like Watching Scary Films?

By Mark D. Griffiths Ph.D. on October 29, 2015 In Excess
Why do we love to watch scary horror films? Some psychologists claim people go to horror films because they want to be frightened or they wouldn't do it twice. You choose your entertainment because you want it to affect you. But what else does the literature tell us about the psychology of horror movies?

The Myth of Welfare Dependency

By Ken Eisold Ph.D. on October 27, 2015 Hidden Motives
Well-meaning people worry about welfare dependency, while others use it as an argument against helping the poor. But last week, a director of the Poverty Action Lab at MIT released a paper suggesting it just isn't so.

The Surprising Power of an Uncomfortable Brain

By Garth Sundem on October 27, 2015 Brain Trust
What happens when surroundings don't match your expectations? A new series of experiments shows that this "cultural dysfluency" shocks your brain off autopilot and back into thinking.

People Who Don't Dream Might Not Recall Their Dreams

By Patrick McNamara Ph.D. on October 25, 2015 Dream Catcher
Although some people swear that they have never dreamed new data suggests that they may be mistaken.

A Message from the Muse

By Susan Rako M.D. on October 23, 2015 More Light
Unconscious processes work in mysterious ways. Do you know what it takes to realize your full creative and productive potential?

The Rational Unconscious

By Richard E. Nisbett Ph.D. on October 21, 2015 Mindware
Your unconscious mind is fully as rational as your conscious mind. Some types of learning are among the things your unconscious mind does better than your conscious mind.

How Therapy Can Help Exercise Addicts, Part I

When you're addicted to exercise or struggling with an eating disorder, what does "opening up to what's going on inside of you" entail?

The Walking Dead: The Further Confessions of Father Gabriel

On AMC's The Walking Dead, Father Gabriel Stokes lets zombies kill the members of his congregation, then projects his feelings about his own cowardice and untrustworthiness onto the program's main characters. After becoming progressively more self-destructive, attempting suicide by walker and provoking someone else, he sees he projected his own worst qualities onto others.

Psychology and Hillary vs. Bernie

By Jeremy E Sherman Ph.D. on October 15, 2015 Ambigamy
Do you want to hear what's true or what feels good? If you're human you want both: "Give me the unvarnished truth, and it better be pleasing." Given this tension, politicians have to walk the tightrope between honesty and electability. Political seasons, especially this one, are a great opportunity to explore the tension.

What is Reality?

Who are you? What does it mean to be a person in this world? What is reality? These are the questions Neuroscientist David Eagleman tackles in his new book, The Brain: The Story of You.

Analyzing America's "Gun Complex"

By Pythia Peay on October 12, 2015 America On The Couch
Psychologists today understand that when individuals act against their own better interests, unconscious processes in the form of a complex are most likely at work. These same unconscious processes can also operate in a nation's psyche: that force field made up of symbols and historical memories accumulated by a people over time.

The Effect of Unconscious Associations on Visitors’ Behavior

Our thoughts and behavior are not under our intentional control, but are instead widely influenced by environmental factors. These automatic processes have a fundamental implication to our behavior in general as to our online behavior.

Be Slick, Do Less, Get More

The irony of caregiving and caretaking is that the worst form of rip-off is doesn't occur when we give too much—what's better than a well-nursed grudge or a blast of righteous indignation? Actually, though, the real shakedown comes from having our own contributions refused.

God, the Future, and Our Brain

As we evolved, humans developed an ability to anticipate the consequences of our actions. This critical part of our survival brought with it an unexpected consequence: when we think about the future, we may think about our mortality. This fear may have contributed to our conception of a powerful entity to protect us after our bodies no longer can.

The Best Way to Process Big Data Is Unconsciously

By Susan Weinschenk Ph.D. on October 01, 2015 Brain Wise
The conscious mind can handle only a small subset of data at one time, but the unconscious is great at taking in large amounts of data and finding patterns. If you want to see the patterns in big data, you have to engage the unconscious.

Demons, Drivers and Defenses

By Adrian Furnham Ph.D. on September 25, 2015 A Sideways View
Does therapy destroy as much as it creates? Can your demons act as a wonderful source of inspiration? Or is that nonsense? Surely therapy is aimed at making us happier, healthier and better able to cope with the vicissitudes of life?

One Skill to Curb Unconscious Gender Bias

By Joseph Grenny on September 23, 2015 Crucial Conversations
What if your colleagues discriminated against you just for being assertive? Unfortunately for many women, gender bias is a reality in today’s workplace.

Do You Have Relational Courage?

Do you have friends who are passive-aggressive, won't stand up for themselves, or can't stand criticism? The bad news is, you might be looking in a mirror.

Hiring the One-Armed Surgeon

Working with an impaired psychotherapist is like hiring a surgeon with one arm.