This is a challenging question to answer because there are a lot of people who disagree about what the answer is, or who understand the answer from a different perspective.
Therefore, I will answer it in the simplest terms I can up front. If the conscious mind is that part of your awareness that wakes up in the morning, is awake during the day and goes to sleep at night, then the subconscious can be thought of as that part of your mind and awareness that dreams at night.
This of course is a much simplified answer, as over time I have found evidence that there is not just one “subconscious” part of our awareness, and that the line between “conscious” and “subconscious” is not black and white. The so-called “subconscious” appears to be more conscious than our “conscious” minds, and certainly has a much greater range of capability and capacity. Most people are stunned when they hear about the things the subconscious can do, compared to the conscious mind.
Here is an example. You would consciously have a hard time listening to just two conversations at once and making sense of them. But your subconscious awareness can listen to more than seven conversations at the same time, follow them without effort and make perfect sense of them all, all in real time.
Another example. Your conscious mind can remember a maximum of approximately seven simple things at once, and usually only for short periods of time. But your subconscious mind actually records everything you ever experience, from all five senses, and “remembers” it all, forever. That means you have in your subconscious a clear memory of what you saw, heard, felt, smelled and tasted at the moment you opened your eyes for the very first time in your entire life.
Another. The conscious mind must sleep and rest. The subconscious mind never sleeps. It is always “awake” and functioning, doing it’s thing. It is what keeps your body functional, even when your conscious mind is asleep.
And one more. Your conscious mind has a hard time multitasking, and even the best multi-taskers among us can not usually do more than five or six things at a time. But your subconscious mind is responsible for keeping track of and maintaining literally millions of different functions every second of every day, just to keep you alive. Think about it: the muscles in your irises that open and close it: subconscious. The muscles that move your eyes while you think you are staring at something and your eyes are not moving: subconscious. Your breathing while you sleep, and most of the time while you’re awake: subconscious. Heart beat: subconscious. Thousands upon thousands of muscles in your digestive system: subconscious. Glandular functions: subconscious. Immune system: subconscious. The thousands upon thousands of muscles in your arteries: subconscious. And so on and so forth.
So when we say the subconscious mind, what we are referring to is that part of your awareness that is “everything but” what wakes up in the morning, and goes to sleep at night.
Posted in: About The Mind