The Unconscious Mind, and its Relation to Mental Health

Unconscious Mind

The conscious mind cannot access the different processes occurring in the unconscious mind, an individual is not acutely aware of them. Nevertheless, a number of theories propose that these suppressed emotions have an effect on an individual’s behavior in the present, typically in a negative way.

Freud’s Mind Analogy

To explain his theory of the mind, Freud used an iceberg. An iceberg obscures the bottom from view, leaving observers unable to discern anything beneath it. Like the human mind, according to Freud. The majority of what is hidden beneath the surface is invisible to the human eye. With the remaining portion of the iceberg submerged beneath the water, symbolizing the unconscious mind, the tip of the iceberg represents the conscious mind.

A person’s conscious awareness of the extent of what is hidden from view is never fully realized since the subconscious mind can be incredibly deep. The other region is referred to as the preconscious and is in the middle of the two. It is the portion of the iceberg that is mostly visible from above, but is mostly submerged below the water.

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How the Unconscious Mind Affects Behavior

Even though the knowledge stored in the unconscious mind is not conscious, it nevertheless affects how people behave. The following are some ways that the unconscious can influence behavior:

  • Negative thoughts
  • Self-defeating thoughts and behaviors
  • Feelings of anger
  • Compulsive behaviors
  • Childhood behavioral problems
  • Difficulties in interpersonal relationships
  • Distressing patterns in romantic relationships
  • Attitudes about others
  • Unhealthy habits
  • Distressing dreams
  • First impressions of other people
  • Prejudice and stereotypes

Impact of the Unconscious

Numerous issues, such as the following, may be brought on by unconscious beliefs, thoughts, and feelings:

  • Anger
  • Bias
  • Compulsive behaviors
  • Difficult social interactions
  • Distress
  • Relationship problems

Freudian slips

According to Freud, a lot of our emotions, wants, and feelings are suppressed or kept hidden from awareness because they are seen as being too dangerous. According to Freud, these suppressed wishes and desires can occasionally come to the surface through dreams and verbal blunders, also known as “Freudian slips”.

Thoughts of aggression

Freud also thought that the unconscious mind held all of our primal urges and instincts. The unconscious contained, for instance, the instincts for life and death. The instincts associated with life, sometimes referred to as sexual instincts, are survival-related. Death instincts include things like violent, traumatic, and dangerous thoughts.

Defence mechanism

These desires are suppressed because they are frequently seen by our conscious minds as inappropriate or illogical. Freud recommended using a variety of defence mechanisms to keep these urges from becoming conscious in order to keep them underground.


Due to the fact that some traumatic experiences are stored in the unconscious mind, Freud proposed that they could influence a person’s behaviour even if they were unaware of it.

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Freud continued by saying that psychological disorders, including mental health problems, were frequently brought on by the “repression” of these experiences. The recommendation is then that talk therapy be used to treat the patient, with a gradual approach meant to assist the patient in identifying these feelings and processing them in a healthy manner.


To accomplish this, a variety of strategies can be used. This has a close connection to psychoanalysis theory as proposed by Freud.
Even now, psychoanalysis is used in many talking therapies to treat mental health conditions, with psychoanalytical psychotherapy being the most well-known. The unconscious mind is mentioned in Freud’s theory of life and death instincts, which are fundamental instincts. He maintained that the unconscious mind harbours these instincts.

The basis of life instincts is survival, whereas death instincts are outwardly focused feelings of rage and aggression. Such urges are suppressed by the conscious mind because they are viewed as inappropriate. Humans use Defence Mechanisms to facilitate this process and prevent negative urges from emerging. Furthermore, defence mechanisms come in a variety of forms.

Uses of Your Unconscious Mind

In order to relieve psychological suffering, according to Freud, it is critical to bring the contents of the unconscious into awareness. In more recent times, scientists have experimented with various methods to help understand how unconscious influences can affect behaviour.
Researchers can examine or bring information from the unconscious into conscious awareness in a few different ways.

Free Association

Using a method known as free association, Freud thought he could make unconscious emotions conscious. He instructed patients to unwind and speak without regard for how unimportant, pointless, or embarrassing what they might say might come to mind.
Freud felt he could reveal the contents of the unconscious mind, which contained suppressed urges and upsetting childhood memories, by following these lines of thought.

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Dream Interpretation

Additionally, Freud proposed that dreams were an additional gateway to the unconscious. He thought that although unconscious material might occasionally show up in dreams, it usually did so in a disguised manner. Therefore, according to Freud, dream interpretation would entail looking at a dream’s literal content (also referred to as the manifest content) in an effort to decipher the dream’s hidden, unconscious meaning (also known as the latent content). Dreams, in Freud’s view, are a way for wishes to come true. He thought that these unconscious impulses found expression in dreams because they could not be expressed in the waking world.

Continuous Flash Suppression

Research in contemporary cognitive psychology has demonstrated that even unconscious perceptions can have a significant influence on behavior. Researchers can show an image without people realizing it by using a method known as continuous flash suppression. This works by diverting people’s attention with another visual display. According to research, when a particular visual display is combined with a negative or unfavourable “invisible” image (like an image of an irate face), people will evaluate it lower. Exposure to those negative images influences people’s behaviour and choices even though they are not even aware that they are seeing them.

Potential Pitfalls

There has been debate surrounding the very notion that the unconscious exists. Many researchers disagree that there is an unconscious mind at all and have questioned the idea. In the field of cognitive psychology, things that were previously thought to be unconscious have been described more recently by researchers focusing on automatic and implicit functions. This method suggests that a large number of cognitive processes occur without conscious awareness. Although this research may not corroborate Freud’s theory of the unconscious mind, it does provide evidence that our actions may still be influenced by things we are not consciously aware of.

The absence of scientific methodology in Freud’s theory development is one of the main flaws in his work. Case studies or the observations of a single person served as the foundation for many of his concepts. Modern research in the field of cognitive psychology is motivated by scientific investigations and empirical data that support the existence of these automatic cognitive processes, in contrast to early psychoanalytic approaches to the unconscious.

The concept of the unconscious mind is undoubtedly fascinating. What makes it such an intriguing topic is the lack of agreement on its precise nature. There are still talking therapies that place a strong emphasis on the unconscious mind. It is somewhat out of date in others, but it still has an effect.

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