When you ask someone to recall the most painful event of their life, he/she may be able to invoke some memories of it from their subconscious mind, but not entirely. Some of the most painful memories linked with that event are subdued forcefully by a part of human mind. This is unconscious mind.
The Brains Behind It All
Famous Austrian psychoanalyst and neurologist, Sigmund Freud popularized the concept of the unconscious mind and believed that it was a repository of thoughts, memories, feelings, etc., which our conscious mind is reluctant to accept.
Sigmund Freud’s theory of personality divided the human mind into 3 levels: the conscious (10%), subconscious (50 – 60%), and unconscious (30 – 40%) minds. PsycholoGenie does a comparison between the concepts of subconscious and unconscious, only to help you understand these two psychology concepts in a better way.
The Unconscious Mind
While unconscious is reckoned as a synonym for subconscious, the two are, in fact, quite different from each other. Firstly, when Sigmund Freud used the term ‘unconscious mind’, he was referring to that part of our mental being that was responsible for making people ill. The theory that he developed was posited on the belief that the thoughts, feelings, ideas, and memories that were loathsome to the conscious mind were all locked away in the unconscious mind. These mental contents weren’t accepted by the conscious mind fully because of their disturbing nature, and hence, they are deliberately made unconscious by the conscious mind, which Freud thought had the potentiality of affecting us.
These mental contents stored in the unconscious mind are not necessarily negative, but definitely powerful which, however, cannot be procured after a little prodding like that of the subconscious mind. What is really fascinating is that these mental contents, despite being unacceptable aren’t discarded from our mental being altogether and continue to influence us on a subliminal level.
Likewise, Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Gustav Jung too, believed in the concept of the unconscious mind and further divided it into personal unconscious and collective unconscious, where the former made the feelings that were once conscious but forcefully subdued, and the latter comprised the accumulated genetic information and experiences.
The Subconscious Mind
The subconscious mind, as we all know, it is the part of conscious mind that stores information continuously and gives out reactions based on our experiences and emotions associated with someone or something. As contrary to what many perceive, it is the conscious mind and not the subconscious that draws in your reins, while the subconscious mind simply brings out your feelings and responses.
The subconscious mind is that part of the mental being that holds information, however deep, yet approachable. It is something as easy as remembering your address when you are not even thinking about it. You are able to remember your address as you direct your focus on it. However, this is not the same for the unconscious mind.
Subconscious Mind Vs. Unconscious Mind
The main difference between the subconscious and the unconscious mind lies in accessibility. Meaning, that whatever gets stored in the subconscious mind can be recalled as and when you intently bring your attention to it.
In the case of the unconscious mind, summoning up memories requires specific techniques. To effectuate a repressed memory from the unconscious mind, certain psychoanalytical methods are needed to be employed as one can’t just retrieve memories from the unconscious that easily.
Another difference between the two lies in the behavioral influence that they both wield on us. The mechanism of the subconscious mind is simple―it will merely enact the script you have fed it with; if you have embedded false ideas about something or someone, it will act so. It doesn’t have a mind of its own and is purely instinctual. Memories associated with traumatic events, which are buried deep away in the unconscious mind too, influence us.
But, you don’t feed your unconscious with anything; depressing and threatening thoughts automatically store themselves up in your unconscious mind, thus, controlling your behaviors and decisions.
The confusion between subconscious and unconscious mind arises because of their incorrectly interchangeable usage. Second reason of confusion is the understanding of the word ‘unconscious’ in medical context, which means blacked out or anesthetized.