by Chris Holmes
If you were ever under the impression that the Subconscious mind was just a robotic ‘lizard brain’ that blindly obeys instructions from a hypnotist, you couldn’t be more wrong! Many people get that idea from seeing stage hypnotists, who are deliberately misleading their audience but only getting away with creating the impression that they have influence over other people’s minds because the people in the audience know virtually nothing about the true nature of their own Subconscious!
The Missing Information
You know when you were growing up, and first making sense of the world around you, and being taught things… did anyone mention a Subconscious mind to you? No, me neither! We were all raised and educated as if the Subconscious mind does not exist. So by the time we reach an age when we start hearing that word mentioned from time to time, we don’t really know what to do with the idea of a Subconscious mind, because it does not immediately fit in to the way we regard our own mind. By that point in our development the conscious mind thinks IT IS the mind, so at first it doesn’t like the sound of this ‘Subconscious mind’ and tends to push the idea away.
This is particularly true of very analytical people who tend to cling to logic, rationality and scientific models of reality, some of whom (not all, obviously!) seem to feel a need to attack or pour scorn upon anything that looks as if it must be outside of their comfort zone. A few of these people also come to suppose that the only reason other people don’t think exactly the same way as they do themselves is because those folk aren’t as clever as the strictly rational sort. Here is a typical example, taken from a recent review of Nicotine: The Drug That Never Was by someone who seems (to me) to have only read the excerpts from the book published on this site:
“…according to Mr Holmes, quitting is as easy as a 2 hour session appealing to your mysterious subconscious, that (conveniently) only a hynotherapist can communicate with. You can believe in his miracle cure, and no doubt hand over a large sum of cash in the process, or you can use the method that actually works, and costs nothing – quit cold turkey, and promise yourself you will not smoke just for today. I did that 6 months ago, and my “subconcious” had F-all to do with it.”
This attitude is quite commonplace, which is why I mention several times in the book that “the conscious mind does not believe in the Subconscious, except perhaps in theory. And by extension, doesn’t believe in hypnotherapy either until encountering the results for real.” Notice how the writer here is suggesting that I charge large sums of money without bothering to ask about that, dismisses hypnotherapy by choosing the phrase “miracle cure” and refers to his own subconscious mind at the end in a way that suggests there is no such thing! Not his fault, no-one ever taught him anything about it, or he would know already that it is not ‘mysterious’ to me, nor did I ever suggest that only hypnotherapists can communicate with it – tell that to advertisers, they’ve been communicating with it very effectively for a long time now. Of course, once you understand the Subconscious mind’s view of the world, you are far less likely to be influenced by any of that.
Not Rational = Dangerous!
Sometimes ‘rationalists’ even suggest that mental processing (thinking) that is not within the strict bounds of logic is dangerous, and there is certainly evidence for that: for example when people first dreamed up the idea that we might be able to design a machine that could fly – and maybe even reach for the heavens, walk upon the moon, that sort of thing – well, many of the original pioneers of that sort of fanciful nonsense came unstuck! “Serves them right too”, the strictly logical people of the time would have probably been telling one another, “after all, if man had been meant to fly, he’d have been born with wings!”
My contention is that if man had been meant to always be strictly logical, he wouldn’t have been born with an imagination. And indeed some are not, or at least with such a shrivelled and weak imagination that they hardly ever use it. So maybe what really happens is that we all play to our strengths, and the people with feeble imaginations develop their analytical faculties more, whilst those with fertile imaginations may find logical analysis a bit dull compared to letting their imaginations run wild. And the human world needs plenty of both types – if they are types – because when you need someone to be the financial director of a business, you definitely want the conscious analytical faculties to be confidently brought to bear in that endeavour, but if you want someone to design a new Ferrari or stage the opening of the next Olympic Games, Mr. Logical would be utterly useless.
The Imagination and The Analyst (and the real issue behind the Snow/Leavis debate)
Ever since ‘le petit enlightenment’, as I like to call it, the marvellous role of the Subconscious Imaginary has been less appreciated, even dismissed. “Oh, that’s just your imagination!” is a common expression for demonstrating how little you care for the concerns of another person, but within that phrase there is also a suggestion that “imaginary” = “not real” = “not worthy of serious consideration”.
That notion is really a result of the Subconscious-shaped gap in our general education. And it needs fixing, because in reality the role of the imagination in human affairs has been every bit as vital as the role of the intellect.
(An aside for those familiar with the Snow/Leavis reference: “There is only one way out of all this,” Snow had argued. “It is, of course, by rethinking our education.” He was right, but probably didn’t realise that what we really need to include now is detailed information about the Subconscious mind so that it no longer seems “mysterious” to anyone!)
When Rene Descartes famously declared: “I think, therefore I am”, what he didn’t realise was that we are thinking more than we think we are. Humans have at least two modes of thinking: analytical thinking which our conscious faculties operate, and Subconscious thinking which we call “dreaming”. When we do that whilst awake, we call it “daydreaming”. Examples of a finer quality are also known as “inspiration” or even “genius”.
“Oh, he’s just a dreamer!” is another familiar dismissal of the kind of person who spends more time exercising their Subconscious intelligence than their conscious faculties. But where would we be without the dreamers? Every great invention, each quantum leap in technological development, any stunning performance or inspirational work of art, every great engineering project… they all began with a daydream.
Just look at the way many modern realities were the mere fantasies of yesteryear:
Five centuries ago Leonardo DiCaprio was producing detailed drawings of a Ford Capri that might actually have done 0-60 in 7.5 seconds if only they’d had petrol back then, but all they had was candle grease. They also had no Highway Code, which is why Leonardo wrote The DaVinci Code.
The only reason Britain has the Channel Tunnel today is because Margaret Thatcher loved taking magic mushrooms. That’s why she hardly slept, but during one particularly heavy trip she had visions of a tunnel under the sea that could bring closer together the two nations that love each other best in the world: the English and the French.
Certain thrilling pastimes of the modern world would not exist at all if it hadn’t been for World War II fighter ace Douglas Bader. Hurtling towards the ground in his flaming Spitfire, he paused before ejecting just a little longer than he should have done, because he was enjoying the weightless sensation so much that he started dreaming of ways to re-create it just for sport. That hesitation cost him all his limbs and almost his head, yet he lived to fly again, and that inspirational moment gave us the luge, the bobsleigh and at least two of the rides at Alton Towers.
Bruce Springsteen was hiding in a cave one day, because he had chopped down his father’s cherry tree, when he noticed a spider building a web. Just for fun he destroyed the web, and was surprised to see that the spider was apparently not deterred by this and simply built the web back up again from scratch. What really impressed Springsteen – who was later to become world-famous as Robert The Boss – was that no matter how many times he meanly tore down the completed web, the spider would patiently build it back up again. After several days of this, Bruce emerged from the cave inspired to create something that no-one could ever get rid of, which is why the World Wide Web was born in the USA. Although Bruce wasn’t, actually, he was born in Cardiff. He only swam to America because he wanted to be a cowboy. And also to get away from his dad, who was absolutely fuming about the tree because it was the third time. But I reckon it was his own fault really, he should have just bought the kid that guitar and then maybe none of that axe unpleasantness would have happened. It was Lizzie Borden and the harpsichord all over again.
For most of the time humans have been on this planet, a sudden massive heart attack would have meant a long and quick death. (“Long” as in “dead for a long time”.) Then one day in 1820 a Tasmanian surgeon called Dr Lucian C. Gore was surprised by a mouse in his summerhouse, and began to wonder what would happen if he used industrial cutting gear to rip open the chest cavity of the heart-attack victim before the relatives had time to object and replace the damaged organ with the healthy, fast-beating heart of a fieldmouse. Gore never succeeded with this technique himself, and was soon arrested – which surprised no-one at the time – and yet his apparently crazy idea was adapted later and although Gore’s name is hardly known to the public, in medical circles he is often referred to as the psychotic father of modern organ transplant surgery.
When Martin Luther famously nailed that note to the door of 10 Downing Street in the Nineteen Seventeen Hundreds, which said: “I have a dream!” …of course no-one took any notice, but they certainly felt very silly later when that phrase became one of the most inspirational moments of public oratory since the Declaration of Independence was read out by Ho Chi Minh.
Finally – and I think most convincingly of all – who would have thought that when Captain James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise flipped open his ‘communicator’ and said the immortal words: “Beam me up, Scotty!” in the 1960s that only 100 years later we would be beaming around all over the place in reality, eh? I mean I know we’re still only going to work or to the shopping mall… and we haven’t quite solved the problem of how to go more than four miles in under a minute without disintegrating yet, but we’re working on it baby. We’re working on it. Someone is bound to dream up a brilliant solution sooner or later. That’s why we dominate the Earth.
News from the archives: 1968 “Today in Memphis Dr Martin Luther King was shot dead by a lone assassin. But what of it? As we all know, he was just a dreamer, wasn’t he?”
But as Lennon sang, he’s not the only one.
Now, can you imagine King’s most famous speech being written – or even funnier, being delivered – by Richard Dawkins? Analytical thinking is all very useful, as far as it goes, but to achieve something like that it takes both vision and passion, and for that we need the wonderful Subconscious Imaginary, which has the power to stir the soul of thousands of people simultaneously and change the world in a single afternoon. For real. And at a moment like that, any contribution from the poor little conscious mind of any speaker would not have been noticed at all.
On A Lighter Note:
Just have a look at this review of Nicotine: The Drug That Never Was that someone posted on Amazon.co.uk:
This book was hard work. The author sounds very angry, I could feel the tension from the pages as I was reading – it made me want to smoke more. I made a very expensive mistake buying this book. Just wanted to warn others as I had been swayed by the previous comments which were so positive.