top of page
  • Writer's picturePatricia Faust

Emotion Commotion: Conscious vs Subconscious Thoughts

Emotion Commotion: Conscious vs Subconscious Thoughts

The pandemic has served as a very extraordinary primer for introspective reflection. How often did you just ‘fly off the handle’ in anger and then question yourself – ‘where did that come from’? The purpose of this paper is to dig in to our conscious and subconscious mind and find out how it motivates certain emotions.

First, let’s define what emotions, conscious and subconscious (unconscious) thoughts really are.

Emotions: Emotion, a complex experience of consciousness, bodily sensation, and behavior that reflects the personal significance of a thing, an event, or a state of affairs

Conscious Mind: This contains all the thoughts, memories, feelings, and wishes of which we are aware at any given moment. This is the aspect of our mental processing that we can think about rationally. The conscious mind houses all our thoughts and actions that we are aware of. It is the voice in your head that you think is making all your decisions.

Unconscious (or subconscious) Mind: This is where our memories are stored, our habits exist, and any actions that are on autopilot. Everything in our subconscious mind is below our level of awareness.

Facts Comparing the Conscious and Subconscious Mind

Conscious Mind

Subconscious Mind

Comprises 17% of Brain Mass

Is 83% of Your Brain Mass

​Looks for Patterns and Objects that Are Familiar

Averages 400 billion Operations per Second

​Is Where Your Free Will Lives

​Is Non-Verbal (sees in pictures and patterns)

Is Under Your Control

Doesn’t Know Truth from Fiction

​Determines Your Results

​Directs Sensory Input/is Retrainable

​Conscious Impulses Travel at Speeds up to 140 mph

​Unconscious Impulses Travel 100,000 mph

You can see by the chart that your Conscious Mind works in the realm of awareness. The 17% of brain matter that the conscious mind resides in is the cerebral cortex of your brain. The cerebral cortex is the thinking part of the brain where logic and judgment reside. It is the executive function center of the brain and is also considered the strategy center. We are aware of the decisions the cerebral cortex makes.

The emotional center of the brain is the Limbic System. It is composed of 83% of your Brain Mass and includes the Hypothalamus, Amygdala, Thalamus, and Hippocampus. When the brain experiences a threat situation, the cortex is left out of the loop and all reactions come directly from the limbic system. The amygdala is a storehouse for emotional memories. This makes it highly charged. The fight-or-flight reaction is initiated in the amygdala.

Here is the flow:

Data coming in from the surrounding environment passes through the amygdala where the decision is made whether to send the data to the limbic or the cortex area of the brain. Now remember, the cortex is the thinking part of the brain (conscious), and the limbic system is the emotional center (subconscious). If the incoming data triggers enough of an emotional charge, the amygdala overrides the cortex (conscious) and sends the data directly to the limbic system (subconscious) causing the person to react using the lower part of the brain – the emotional part of the brain.

The difference between the flow of ideas at the conscious and subconscious levels is mainly related to the issue of change. The conscious flow is easy to change, especially when we are in the company with others. But the subconscious flow seems to have a life of its own and is highly resistant to conscious attempts to change it. For example – if we are idealistic, we can give preference to our conscious ideas, and then control our conscious emotional response. If there is no idealism involved, the subconscious mind usually exerts priority in emotional response.

We put a value on emotional experience. By liking or disliking things, we put a value on them. Sometimes we choose our response, especially if the situation is a pleasant one. But more often – we act subconsciously. The value that we place on a situation at that moment determines which emotion will be felt.

In general, if we are open with our thoughts, we can let our emotions be positive or negative according to whether the feeling is positive or negative. Otherwise, by placing value on our experience, we can generate positive or negative emotions as we choose.

Emotional Fitness

In that regard, because emotions are a reactive response, we need to build emotional fitness. Emotional fitness is the capacity to think on your feet when the ground is crumbling underneath you. Check in with yourself multiple times a day. Acknowledge the emotions and thoughts you are experiencing and keep a journal of your ups and downs. The detective work can start to help you pinpoint what is triggering your emotional response. Don’t make your emotions wrong. Our emotions can bring out shame and guilt because we think we shouldn’t feel that way. The moment that we give ourselves permission to feel the emotion, that’s the moment we bring light into the darkness. Win the battle in your mind before it becomes real. Most of our fears and stressors are caused by what we think could happen.

Our moods, personality development, personal and professional development are all shaped by our conscious mind. One of its duties is to store and process all the pieces of information that are in our minds even though we are not aware of them. The subconscious makes sure that you respond exactly the way you are programmed. It does not have the power to think or reason independently. It obeys the commands it receives from your conscious mind. So, it ultimately works day and night to make your behavior fit a pattern consistent with your emotional thoughts, hopes, and dreams.

Your subconscious mind will act on any request you make. Remember, it obeys the conscious mind. Any thought that is continually repeated will make an imprint on the subconscious. The practice of visualization, affirmations, and guided imagery are so effective because the subconscious mind does not distinguish between what is real and what is imaginary. Repetition creates images that the subconscious acts upon.

Eight Techniques to Affect the Subconscious Mind

· Paying Attention to your thoughts

o What you think about the most will influence your subconscious mind

o If you believe and think you don’t deserve something – your subconscious mind will make sure that you don’t get what you want

o When we release our negativity and fear, we become more comfortable being positive and allow our subconscious to work for us

· Prayer

o Prayer repeats what you want to adopt in your conscious mind and helps the subconscious mind recognize it as important

o It gives you faith that what you are praying for is coming and that faith solidifies what you want in the subconscious

· Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP)

o NLP is a communication system for your subconscious. There are different techniques, and you must have knowledge of how these techniques work to use NLP properly

· Being Consistent and Repetitive

o Use this tool when you want to establish a new habit

o The more you do or say something, the more your subconscious mind will adopt and accept it

o What fires together, wires together. You rewire your brain with consistency and repetition

· Hypnosis

Hypnosis helps you quiet your conscious mind and open to your subconscious mind

· Subliminal Messages

o Your subconscious mind is always listening and looking for background words, images, or sounds that might interest you.

o You can use subliminal messages to your advantage and create positive affirmations that you want to remember – but don’t have time to repeat over and over

· Meditation

o This helps to turn off your conscious mind

o During meditation you can focus on what you want and let your subconscious mind play around with ideas or images

· Visualization

o Simply visualizing what you want to happen in your life can help your subconscious mind feel as if it is already happening

o The subconscious mind does not distinguish between true or false, real, or not real

o If you visualize strong enough and fell that you are already doing it – it can reshape your reality.

(8 Techniques to Affect the Subconscious Mind, December 2015)

381 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page