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Overcoming the Unconscious Mind

Each individual has a unique set of life experiences. It is within these life experiences that we develop beliefs, values, and perceptions. Often, these beliefs are limiting, irrational, and faulty. How we perceive the world, and how we make meaning of each situation, is then filtered through our limiting belief system. When we function this way, we are in the “ego-state” and able to see only a distorted and filtered truth.

For example, a man’s partner respectfully disagrees about the way he handled a situation with a co-worker. The man then feels threatened, defensive, and angry as he lashes out at the partner for not taking his side and understanding him, ever. He begins to take the disagreement personally and filters it through arrested limiting beliefs that had become ingrained in his childhood. It triggers his unconscious mind to hijack his conscious mind and revert back to a childlike state.

In this example, perhaps his mother did not allow him to have an opinion as a child, and he learned that he was not important, heard, or valued as a person. Now, in his adult life, if he is ever disagreed with, his stuck beliefs of feeling unheard and unimportant are triggered and lit up without his full awareness of it being so. To him, his partner is being mean and unfair.

When we begin to understand what is underneath our ego-state, or our triggers for feeling painfully uncomfortable and upset, we can begin to be feel free of our stuck unconscious limiting beliefs. When we are being mindful and living at the conscious level of awareness, we are present with our surroundings, our thoughts, and our feelings. We begin to observe our thoughts and emotional states rather than be controlled by them. Our false limiting beliefs are irrational and sit in our unconscious mind like land mines waiting to be stepped on. After they are triggered, if we never attempt to understand them or process them, they reset and patiently wait for the next experience to ignite them.

Each of us walks around with a filter holding false beliefs that were created in our childhood. We then let all of our experiences pass through this filter. When we begin to understand what our filters are, we become more aware of our triggers and what story we had been telling ourselves. As children, we did not have a choice or knowledge base and accepted what we were shown. As adults, we do have a choice to unlearn and relearn.

As adults, we can begin to perceive things as they are, as well as create new meanings. For the above example, if the man did not filter what his partner said through his ego-state, he would have seen that his partner was coming from a loving, supportive, helpful place.

It is also possible, in some scenarios, that the man’s partner could have been judgmental and hurtful. When we are observing others and experiencing life within the moment, it allows us to better see the situation with clarity. This allows us to assess and respond respectfully and effectively so that our needs are met. It also can show us when our boundaries are being crossed. If we are in a state where we filter things irrationally as we revert back to a childlike mindset, we cannot properly assess another person’s behavior or a situation.

Mindfulness techniques allow us better to stay in the moment and process what we are experiencing. It is similar to the refresh button on an Internet page — each moment is new. Mindfulness is seeing everything just as it is without interpretation. Using our senses to guide us, we can return to the present state. Diaphragmatic breathing can also help us return to the moment, slow the nervous system down, and regain mental balance and physical clarity.

Psychodynamic therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, and biofeedback therapy are among the most effective therapeutic approaches to helping one understand their unconscious processes, reprocess and heal broken memories, and manage present behaviors.

Couple disagreeing photo available from Shutterstock

Overcoming the Unconscious Mind


Kristi A. DeName

Kristi A. DeName, M.S. is a mental health counselor and biofeedback specialist. Her primary focus is bio/neurofeedback and how this type of behavioral therapy combined with a mindfulness approach applies to various physical and mental health concerns in both children and adults. See her website for more details.


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APA Reference
DeName, K. (2018). Overcoming the Unconscious Mind. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 26, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/overcoming-the-unconscious-mind/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.