Create a close and productive relationship with your unconscious mind

The Function of the Unconscious Mind

The function of the conscious mind is to deal with daily life and provide framing and direction to facilitate the unconscious mind’s search and processing functions. It might choose an outcome or frame a desire to fulfil and propose the outcome to the unconscious mind for support, ideas and options to get there. Developing a relationship with the unconscious mind will support a mutually beneficial collaboration between conscious and unconscious functions for the person.

If your starting point is reservation about the existence of your unconscious mind, consider the involuntary responses that keep us alive. When we eat, our food is digested without our conscious input. Our hearts beat and our blood flows round the body. If we had to walk consciously, it would be a slow and rather ineffective task. If our hair stopped growing a bad haircut would be more than a temporary disaster. If someone asks a question we can answer immediately, the answer is there, regardless of what we were thinking about a moment earlier. When asked a less obvious question we may have to search for the answer before it presents itself, but the search is not conscious.

Given the invisibility of mind conscious or otherwise as opposed to the brain, it is entirely possible that the unconscious mind is a metaphor for some other form of automation. However treating it as an able and well-intentioned part of us allows fruitful communication between conscious and unconscious to take place. The unconscious has more than one function. As well as running things it acts as a library for all the experiences we have had including the ones we do not remember consciously.

It is entirely possible that the unconscious mind is a metaphor for some other form of automation. Click To Tweet

It has a search function and like a search engine the quality of the results it produces are directly proportional to the quality of the search criteria it is given. For example you can offer your unconscious a clearly visible movie of yourself achieving an outcome and ask if the unconscious will support you in having that outcome. If the movie is sufficiently detailed your unconscious has enough information to search your library for relevant data. It can determine quickly if it is ecological and useful for you to have that particular outcome. If you need help creating a prospective outcome the exercise Outcome, Intention and Consequences is designed to help you develop clear representations of your outcomes as well as ensuring they are well formed. Your unconscious can use the products of Outcome, Intention and Consequences as search criteria.

(Note: If you would like to learn more about the New Code of NLP you can get a copy of  our latest Kindle book ‘AEGIS: Patterns for extending your reach in life, work & leisure’ by Jules Collingwood, NLP Trainer. For only $4.99 here).

The unconscious has a form of wisdom, in that it is not limited to seven plus or minus two chunks of information and it works in relata and systems. However it can respond somewhat literally with language use. It can miss nuances and respond literally to questions and requests. In most cases it deletes negatives. If I say; ‘Don’t drop that cup’ your unconscious mind will represent that cup then represent you dropping the cup in order to make sense of my statement. Don’t think of blue is a common example. You have to think of blue in order to know what not to think of. Then you can delete blue.

Yet at the same time, the unconscious mind has fun with the spoken word and appreciates the hidden patterns in metaphor. It can make multiple meanings of words with the same sound and phrases with more than one meaning. In writing sale and sail look different but when we hear them the context tells us which one it is. “The sun shines out of my ask anybody if I’m a good Premier” is attributed to Joh Bjelke Pietersen, the late fearless leader of Queensland, Australia. This is an example of language use designed to engage the unconscious. What is not said is picked up when the presuppositions surrounding the statement give it direction. Presuppositions frame what is stated and the definition of a Presupposition is What has to be true for a sentence, paragraph, comment or text to make sense.

The unconscious mind not only stores representations of experiences, or schemata, it groups them, relates them to other experiences, develops elaborated sets and makes meaning of them. It will prompt us to go searching in the world for more information on matters of interest to us, provided it is not offered definitive closure on a topic. For example most people who learn NLP do so from choice because it is a fascinating area of study and has so many practical benefits. Thorough immersive training in the patterns and principles of NLP offers the opportunity to continue to learn and develop generatively, long after the event. Students find they are using NLP to explore itself and other patterns of excellence in the world. Unconscious minds enjoy playing with life enhancing patterns and there is endless opportunity to do that with no closure on pattern detection and utilisation in the world.

Contrast that experience with being handed a book of scripted formats that map onto specific problems. In that world life and change is presented as problematic with a linear one tool to fix one problem mindset. There is low grade closure at every turn. The conscious mind crunches the numbers avidly and the unconscious mind’s desire to explore is constrained. Worse still at the end of a short period of training using the book those students return to the world clutching their book of recipes with a sense of having done NLP and ruled it off. That is sad.

Establishing Communication Between Your Conscious and Unconscious Mind

Communication between conscious and unconscious is natural and continuous. The unconscious gives signals which we may or may not notice consciously. Often we become habituated to our own signals and ignore them. While this is very common in extreme examples this does not promote good relations between conscious and unconscious. For some people, when they get back in touch with the unconscious initially, the relationship has to be re-established.

First, we can learn to detect our unconscious signals by attending to our senses and exploring small shifts in light, sound and sensation. To facilitate this process there are at least three excellent practices for communicating with the unconscious mind. Here we shall explore one of them in detail.

Using natural signals to communicate with the Unconscious Mind

The simplest way to detect and apply unconscious signals, which we all possess, is to remember a time when we had an instant and engaging certainty that something was right for us. Did someone make you an offer you could not refuse? Did you have an opportunity to do something very appealing? When you find an example that gave you a very clear signal of Yes, I want that, re-live it and re-experience that clear signal. Note every sensation and any internal images or sounds. That is your natural signal which the unconscious uses to indicate Yes, I want or support that. It is usually a clearly detectable, felt sensation centred about the vertical midline of the body, in the chest or abdominal region. There may be an involuntary move or lean forward, towards what you want.

You also have a signal that fires when something is utterly unacceptable and you would move heaven and earth to prevent it. Can you find an example of that? Has someone suggested you do something distasteful, unacceptably dangerous or even abhorrent to you? This is the signal that lets you know that. It is you natural signal for No. This is also usually centred around the vertical midline of the body, but feels radically different from the Yes signal. It may include an involuntary move backwards, away from the unpleasant idea.

When you have identified the Yes and the No signals by finding examples where each fired naturally, you are ready to engage the unconscious and start to communicate with it. At this stage, you are restricted to asking questions which can be answered with Yes or No, known as Closed questions. Framing for your questions is essential to facilitate the unconscious mind’s search function.

First, you need to establish communication, so relive or replay your Yes signal and simultaneously ask your unconscious mind (by asking inwardly or out loud) ‘Unconscious, if you are willing to communicate with me, please repeat this signal’. Then you wait for the signal to repeat. When you get the signal, thank your unconscious mind. Then ask,  If you are willing to use that signal (replay the Yes signal) to answer Yes to my questions, please do it again. When you get a Yes response, thank your unconscious.

To set up your No signal, relive or replay your No signal and simultaneously ask your unconscious; ‘Unconscious, if you are willing to use this (No signal) signal to answer, No to my questions, please repeat the signal I am demonstrating now. When you get the signal, thank your unconscious mind. Then confirm the No signal by asking: Unconscious, if that is the signal to answer No to my questions, please repeat it now. When the signal fires again, thank your unconscious. You are now ready to start some meaningful communication.

You may be wondering about the frequent thanks I am recommending to offer the unconscious mind. Having worked with many unconscious minds and discussed this subject with John Grinder, we have observed that unconscious minds appreciate and respond well to a high level of courtesy. This seems to be true, even with consciously discourteous clients and students. It is highly amusing to watch a churlish conscious mind’s unconscious begin to communicate and insist on clear framing, polite requests and thanks articulated after every answer.

If you would like your unconscious mind to support you in achieving and having something you want, create your outcome in as much detail as you can muster. Make a clearly visible internal movie, with a sound track and sensations of being there. Play it for your unconscious mind and ask the question: Unconscious, will you support me in having this? If you get a Yes, you are in business. Say ‘Thank you’. If you get a No still say Thank you. Now you need to ask more questions or provide more information.

How do you know what to ask next? What would you want to know before you could offer informed comment to someone requesting your input on their plan or situation? This is the kind of information your unconscious may need.

You could ask if you have provided enough information.

  • Was your movie sufficiently detailed to enable a thorough search?
  • Are there consequences attached to the outcome that you had not considered consciously?

You could pursue your intention for having the outcome. The intention is what you want to experience through having your outcome fulfilled. It is the answer to the question; What do you want that for? Or, What will having that do for you?Notice the direction is quite different from the answer you would give to; Why do you want that? In this context, reasons and excuses are not helpful.

The intention for having your outcome might be more acceptable to your unconscious mind if the outcome itself is not. If you are unsure of your intention, ask if your unconscious will share it with you. If it agrees, the idea will spring to mind in the familiar manner of your regular ideas, connections and realisations.

Regular communication with the unconscious mind, using Yes and No signals, facilitates the relationship between conscious and unconscious. As the connection develops, the conscious mind becomes able to see, hear and feel information offered by the unconscious in the form of ideas and representations or thoughts. When we ask for the support of the unconscious in achieving our outcomes, the unconscious may want us to do something specific consciously. For example, someone wanted to remain alert and fully functioning until a particular task was completed. This required working for a 17 hour period that stretched far into the night. The unconscious agreed, subject to the person promising to sleep late and take the following day off, with an early night at the end of it.

If the unconscious stipulates a condition for facilitating an outcome and you agree to that condition, you are advised to keep the agreement. Unconscious minds can lose trust in their person quite easily if agreements are not kept and they develop trust by collecting evidence of trustworthy conduct. Through no fault of our own, there is a long history of people ignoring unconscious signals they have received without recognising them as such. Eventually the unconscious has stopped trying to get their attention. In extreme cases, sincere apologies are called for.

A student once described losing an excellent relationship with her unconscious mind. When she was an undergraduate, she and her friends thought one of their lecturers was very attractive, from a respectful distance. At that time, her unconscious mind was working with her conscious mind in a co-operative and effective arrangement. One evening, she went to the relevant department to hand in an essay. The building was almost empty and the attractive lecturer invited her up to his office. Her unconscious mind said No, very clearly and directly. She ignored the signal and the lecturer tried to rape her. She managed to get away from him, but her unconscious mind stopped working with her. She came to the Grad Cert NLP 10 years later and told the story, saying her unconscious mind had not communicated with her at all since then. Arrangements were made, using signals for Yes and No, combined with profuse apologies and a promise to honour all signals, advice and arrangements. Her unconscious agreed to reestablish communication provided the student kept her agreements and the relationship started to improve.

Communication with the unconscious is an integral part of the New Code of NLP. Click To Tweet

Sensitivity to our own unconscious signals is not a normal part of our upbringing and education, at least in the west. Therefore we may need to spend time learning to detect quite subtle signals from our unconscious minds so we can create or enhance the relationship. Later on, when the relationship is well established, we can move on from formal communication to faster and more comprehensive interaction, using internal images, sounds and sensation as we do with more conscious thoughts.

Communication with the unconscious is an integral part of the New Code of NLP. It is possible to engage the unconscious to participate in NLP work with less explanation than is given here, but for the reader, depth of framing makes an appreciable difference to the quality of your experience, especially if you want to do this by yourself.

(Note: If you would like to learn more about the New Code of NLP you can get a copy of  our latest Kindle book ‘AEGIS: Patterns for extending your reach in life, work & leisure’ by Jules Collingwood, NLP Trainer. For only $4.99 here).

Article By Jules, Collingwood, NLP Trainer at INSPIRITIVE.

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