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The conscious V unconscious mind

The Conscious Mind

Inside the machine

"You always do what you want to do. This is true with every act. You may say that you had to do something, or that you were forced to, but actually, whatever you do, you do by choice. Only you have the power to choose for yourself."

W Clement Stone

The conscious mind represents only 10 per cent of the total capacity of the human brain and is essentially whatever you are currently aware of and focused upon.

We can only ever hold seven (+/- 2 ) items at any one time in short-term memory. The conscious mind can therefore only ever process a maximum of nine items at any one time.

The conscious mind sleeps when the person sleeps, it is more logical and is focused in terms of activity on the left hand side of the brain for the majority of people.

The Unconscious Mind

The unconscious mind represents 90 per cent of the total capacity of the human brain. It is focused on the right hand side of the brain, and is associated with:

  • The autonomic nervous system
    • Heart-rate
    • Homeostasis (temperature control)
  • Memories
  • Habitual behaviours
  • Some propose that the unconscious mind stores all possible experiences

The unconscious mind is awake when we are asleep.

NLP proposes that the unconscious mind operates always in accordance with a simple set of prime directives the most important of which is to ensure our existence. (Every behaviour has a positive intention)

There is little or no direct conscious control only over low level autonomic nervous system functions eg heart rate. Almost all thoughts, feelings and behaviours have some level of conscious control even if we believe the reverse to be the case. A fire breather for example will at some level have the same unconscious instinctual reaction to fire as we all do ie fear, but they consciously over-ride that fear and over time their unconscious fear response reduces.


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Bill Frost - Clinical Hypnotherapist 1998-2020

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Last updated 24 October 2020

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