Our minds are so complex and for many of us, we know little about the deeper workings of the mind and those unconscious parts of ourselves. The unconscious mind is still viewed by many psychological scientists as just a shadow of the real conscious mind. But, much more research into the field now shows substantial evidence that the unconscious is not identifiably less flexible, complex, controlling, deliberative or action-oriented than its counterpart, the conscious mind. For most of our human history, we had not a great deal of connection to anything other than conscious thought and we saw that everything was based on intentional behaviour. In the 1800s, two very different but very exciting developments were starting to emerge, hypnotism and evolutionary theory. Both pointed to the possibility of the unconscious, with its unintended causes of human behaviour and how these deeper levels of our mind influence us. But nearly two centuries later much of the psychological science remains firmly placed in a conscious-centric model of the higher mental processes. Our unconscious mind is still shrouded in mystery and intrigue, also I don’t think it has helped that our view of the powers of the unconscious mind has come largely from studies of subliminal information processing. We have just not shifted from the belief that the conscious mind holds all the cards, and this can be right for much of our consciousness, but after 27 years working in this field, I know that this is not the full truth. Much of the research looks purely at subliminal-strength stimulation from the environment, thus perpetuating the notion that conscious processes are primary ones.
Our unconscious minds and their automatic effects are sophisticated, reactive, flexible, defensive, and adaptive. It’s like our unconscious mind is a massive behavioural guidance system, giving us high functional value to our lives and how we live. It is nice to know that the unconscious is open 24-7 and is constantly our inner minder, always working for us like the 24-hour petrol pumps left to be used while the owner is absent. These sides of ourselves are 90% of us and I am not saying that your human consciousness plays no role or that it is not special in its powers, because your conscious mind does have amazing capacities to help be that driver to transform, manipulate, and convey information, but your unconscious processes are ultra-smart and highly adaptive throughout every second of our living experience, always there to protect us, whilst also developing patterns and habits to make our lives easier.
The deeper parts of our protective mind sit waiting, never switching off, just waiting for when a traumatic or shocking experience comes our way. When we are faced with shock and trauma, this is a massive process that our unconscious minds undertake, as we don’t just react with our conscious mind, I believe it is mainly just our unconscious mind that takes action. It just springs into full alert, its primary focus is to protect our conscious mind from the overwhelming overload that shock and trauma can have on us. We have been talking about how we can plant a seed or a weed in our unconscious mind and then how we can nurture and grow these with our conscious thought and behaviour. If we look at the shock in this same analogy, we need to see shock as a bulb; something that is big and already grown and it’s just pushed and planted into the depths of our mind. For much of the time bulbs lay dormant and don’t grow or do anything, but they are not dead, they are just in stasis. This is just like a trauma moment; our unconscious proactive processes of our mind just encapsulate the trauma and bury it deep in our unconscious mind.
With trauma we can often go for months and often years without reconnecting to the trauma, it’s not gone away it’s just lying dormant within us. With PTSD we are aware of the trauma, as it is not just dormant anymore, it’s come to life within us and has pushed its way to the surface of our minds. Also, it can be changing and morphing its way into other aspects of how we feel, triggering negative responses and reactions to things in the now. This is just like that bulb that we may have forgotten about in our garden, in spring it just literally springs to life and starts a massive explosion of growth and transformation. Trauma and PTSD can be just the same as this, we have to accept that emotions buried alive, never die. What we need to do is dig up the trauma and clear what has happened. Having specialised working in PTSD for many years now, I have seen so many different types of traumas and just how much of a negative impact this can have, not only on your mind but also on your body and nervous system. Choosing to dig up our trauma and come to terms with it can seem a daunting task, but who wants to sit and wait for another eruption of growth and resurfacing of the trauma? Choosing to challenge ourselves to come to terms with the past, can be both lifesaving and life-changing at the same time. We live in a society that gives us so many choices to be who we want to be and to live our lives free from the constraints we used to live under in the centuries gone by. So don’t stay with those inner constraints which are negatively impacting your life and how you live. Take charge, move forward, and start the process of transformation today. If you would like to know more about PTSD, you can go to the search bar in the MindHealth App and search PTSD to listen to the other podcasts on this topic.
Remember that changing can be hard at the time, but transformation and recovery lasts forever. Enjoy your day Sara x