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Difference Between Unconscious & Subconscious Mind

Sigmund Freud is generally regarded as the father of psychoanalysis, and believed there were different levels of consciousness in the mind that operated in significantly different ways. This was broken down into three main parts: the conscious, the subconscious and the unconscious mind.

How you recall, or suppress, information depends on where this information is stored. How these are defined may differ among those who study psychology, because the mind and how it works is often difficult to conclusively define.

Difference Between Unconscious


Conscious Mind

The conscious mind is how your brain processes events and information in the moment. You are aware of the article you are reading, and possibly the environment around you as you read it.

The temperature of the room, the sounds or people around you all fit into your conscious mind, which is said to hold up to seven separate bits of information at any one time. The residual information is likely pushed down into the next level of consciousness, or your subconscious, for easy retrieval at another time.


Subconscious Mind

Thoughts, information and memories that are just below your conscious mind are filed in the subconscious. If someone were to ask your your birthday, you could easily recall this information even if you were not actively thinking about it.

This information is tucked just below your awareness in what Freud describes as the “preconscious.” It influences your conscious mind with memories or conditioning from your past that affects your conscious behavior, such as religious, ethical or social training or memories of things that may have traumatized you in times past.


Unconscious Mind

Unlike the conscious mind, or even the subconscious mind, the unconscious mind holds information that you either did not earn or cannot acknowledge. This includes the two basic types of information, one that pertains to you specifically and one that pertains to humanity as a whole.

Biological instinct lives within the unconscious mind, and these instincts are more primal. Because your emotions begin there, the potency of powerful or disturbing information is tucked there for self-preserving purposes.


The Iceberg

Freud likened the mind to an iceberg. The information of which you are consciously aware is a very small portion as compared to those things either buried in or held within the subconscious or unconscious.

Yet all of it, even that which you are unaware in the vast vacuum of your unconscious, influences your thoughts and behavior. Freud believed that even the deepest levels of your mind manifested these hidden thoughts and ideas through your dreams and slips of the tongue, hence the name, “Freudian Slip.”


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