Traditionally the field of hypnosis has worked with the notion of the conscious and unconscious mind. Describing the unconscious mind as a magical place that can influence us without our knowledge. The conscious mind only has awareness of things you can focus on. Typically only 5 to 9 ideas or experiences at a time. It helps you to make choices and plans. Freud describes the conscious mind as the tip of an iceberg. The bit you can see. With the unconscious mind forming the part of the iceberg under the water that cannot be seen. The unconscious mind influences everything you do even if you are not aware of it.
Most people will have driven a car or ridden a bike. It can be explained that we use the conscious mind to learn to drive the car however once learned it passes to our unconscious and we therefore drive automatically. Once learned this skill is never forgotten. Rusty maybe but practice can help!
Another analogy is to think of the unconscious mind as a huge cave full of ideas, dreams, fantastic notions, bizarre thoughts and all manner of other treasures. The conscious mind is a man (or woman) with a small torch. No matter how big the beam of the torch he cannot possibly see the whole cave at once. There is a limit to what the beam can focus on.
Techniques such as hypnotherapy can help the conscious mind explore the cave, find the treasure and bring it into your conscious awareness (Hypnosis Training Academy). Erikson also describes the unconscious mind not as a cave but as a “vast store house”.
“The conscious mind is the part of the mind which thinks, feels and acts in the present. The unconscious mind is a much greater part of the mind, and normally we are quite unaware of its existence. It is the seat of all our memories, our past experiences, and indeed of all that we have ever learned. In this respect it reveals a large fling cabinet to which we can refer in order to refresh memory whenever we need to do so”. (Hartland, 1971, p13).
However, There is much debate as to whether the unconscious mind actually exists. In Adam Easons The Science of Self Hypnosis Eason states indeed that it does not. (2013 page 10). He quotes Heap and Aravind ( 2002 page 203);
That the mind is divided into these two parts, the conscious and the unconscious, is an over simplistic and potentially a very misleading idea and one that unnecessarily limits our progress in understanding humans psychology and hypnosis in particular.
So rather than carrying our ideas around in a big warehouse we engage in activities that enable us to remember. We remember rather than have memories. Just in the way physical activities are not stored in our bodies moreover our bodies are just capable of performing those activities. Rather than the unconscious mind being a magical place that is separate from our conscious mind it is in fact all as one. Your unconscious mind is you and everything you have learned or experienced. Hypnosis merely helps us to focus in on what we need. Not a magical process but one that needs to be engaged in fully and practiced. Harnessing our thoughts gives us the ability to change what we need to. Practising that process enables us to keep those changes and improve our lives for the better.