The Conscious and the Unconscious Mind

The role of awareness in mental wellbeing


We often hear the term ‘consciousness’, but what is the difference between the conscious and the unconscious mind? Most importantly, how can we learn and develop at both conscious and unconscious levels?

At the conscious level of the mind, we typically learn things directly through reading, listening, taking courses, etc. There is vast amount of information available to us that can help us develop and grow at the conscious level. It is important to note, however, that the unconscious mind is incredibly more powerful and also highly adaptive.

The unconscious mind works like a computer processor — it organizes and interprets information that we receive through our senses from the time we are born. It is efficient and focused on our survival, and we could not be alive without it. The unconscious mind is responsible for:

· Habitual learning (pattern detection)

· Selective attention (filtering through information)

· Quick judgements and interpretations

· Gut feelings based on prior experiences

In his book “Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious”, Timothy D. Wilson defined the unconscious mind as “mental processes that are inaccessible to consciousness but that influence judgements, feelings, and behaviour”. Wilson explained that the unconscious mind is capable of learning complex information, and can do it even better and faster than the conscious mind.

As a sophisticated processor of a high volume of information throughout our life, the unconscious mind holds incredible power over our perceptions and actions. Becoming aware of how unconscious processes shape our reality and learning ways to develop this aspect of the mind are crucial for our wellbeing.

Developing the Unconscious Mind

Unlike the conscious mind, the unconscious mind does not develop through direct learning. To learn at the unconscious level, we can use imagination and autosuggestion. In sports psychology, the use of imagination and visualization has proven to optimize performance. When we imagine or visualize ourselves going through a specific scenario…



Milena Braticevic, PhD Integral Health

Milena’s work explores prevention-oriented methodologies for mental health, sustainability and wellbeing.