In my previous article, "Magic Thinking," one supposed explanation for, "sudden insights," and other events in consciousness for which there is no explanation is attributed to something called the, "subconscious." It is very important to understand that there is nothing injecting thoughts into our minds, especially not some absurd idea of some consciousness we are not conscious of.
The Subconscious, The Invention Of Bad Psychology
The false concept of a subconscious (or unconscious) was originated by the psychology charlatan's, Anna and Sigmund Freud. It has plagued all thinking about the nature of the human mind since.
The term, "subconscious," was invented by the Freuds as an explanation of, "repression," the idea that one can simply "hide" in some sub-basement of the mind, feelings and desires (or the cause of them) one does not like, and yet those hidden things still somehow affect one's feelings or thinking. The meaning of the term in psychology today has many different and conflicting variations, but retains the idea of something we are not conscious of that, somehow, affects our conscious experience.
There is no subconscious. What we are conscious of, we are conscious of, and all that we can know, identify, think about, experience or have feelings about is what we are conscious of. Nothing "affects" our consciousness we are not conscious of. The only way anything can "affect" out consciousness is by our being consciously aware of it. There are many things we are not conscious of, both physical and psychological but so long as we are not conscious of them they have no relationship to consciousness at all.
One example of the so-called "subconscious" is the pseudo-concept, "repressed memory." We can certainly have memories that we have difficulty recalling because we have intentionally ignored them for a long time, or had no interest in remembering them. A memory we cannot recall cannot have any effect on consciousness, and cannot affect our emotions or thinking because only things we are conscious of affect our emotions or can be thought about. If memory affects consciousness it is because one is conscious of that memory, otherwise it has no effect whatsoever. It may be in memory to be recalled, but if we do not recall it, we cannot be conscious of it, and it has no affect on our consciousness, our thoughts, or our feelings.
Things Mistaken For The Subconscious
There are four things which are mistaken for the subconscious: memory, emotions, desires, and learned patterns of behavior (habits), both physical and psychological.
None of these are some kind of paraconsciousness lurking just under the surface of real consciousness just waiting to burst onto the scene or subtly influence our thinking and feelings without our being aware of them, like the man behind the curtain. They are mistakenly called subconscious because they are real aspects of the human organism, whether or not we are conscious of them, and, under the right circumstances, we can be and frequently are clearly conscious of them.
Memory is all that we have stored and can recall to consciousness. Exactly how memory works is not known, but it is known it is a function of the brain under the control of consciousness, and we know we can recall almost anything we have remembered (learned), with varying degrees of difficulty, but what we remember (become conscious of from memory) is always related in some way with what we are currently conscious of. Memory does not spontaneously push "memories" into consciousness. The reason memory is mistakenly included in the pseudo-concept "subconscious" is because everything that can be recalled is in memory but we are not conscious of it until it is recalled and otherwise it has no effect on consciousness.
What we are not conscious of has no effect on our thinking or feelings. If subconscious only means what we can be conscious of but are not presently conscious of, it must include the entire perceivable existence. It does not matter if they are things external, internal, or from memory, what we can be conscious of has no effect on consciousness unless and until we are actually conscious of them.
The other aspect of human nature which are mistakenly included in the pseudo-concept "subconscious:" emotions, desires, and habituation, do not exist at all unless we are conscious of them. We already know that emotions are our consciousness of our physiological reactions to the content of consciousness. There is nothing mysterious or "subconscious" about them. Except for the most basic biological desires, all other human desires are developed and learned (See the article, "Desires.") and do not exist except as we are conscious of them. The reason habituated actions are included in the idea of the subconscious is because they sometimes seem to proceed without our being conscious of them, such, as when we are typing, or driving a car, or even reading. Nevertheless we are conscious of those actions, and when necessary can take immediate conscious control of any of those behaviors.
The idea of the, "subconscious," is a very dangerous one that has enabled psychologists and sociologists to put over no end of deceptions. There is only consciousness and that which we can be conscious of. What we are conscious of is all that we can have any feelings about or can think about, and what we are not conscious of, if it exists, is only what we can "potentially" be conscious of. There is nothing else. There is no subconscious pushing (brain generated) thoughts and feelings into our consciousness.