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The Iceberg Metaphor: The Conscious And Unconscious Mind

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Autor:  cat_91  27 November 2009
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Who are we? What determines what we do? Why do we do it? Are we consciously thinking to perform a task? Perhaps our unconscious controls all our actions and leaves the conscious to just think a person is in control of their own life. Not much is known about the unconscious, but it is far more powerful then its active conscious counterpart. Understanding these two elements of the mind is key to gaining the knowledge of how it they work, and an easy way to learn about them is through a simple metaphor.
A simple metaphor that can be used to understand the unconscious mind, its relationship to the conscious mind and how the two parts of our mind can better work together is that of an iceberg. There are two parts to the iceberg, the visible part and the massive chunk of ice extending deep into the ocean. The small percentage of the whole iceberg that is visible above the surface represents the conscious mind. ]t is the part of ice that is seen and visible, we notice it just like we notice our own conscious actions. The unconscious mind, the larger and most powerful part which lies dormant in the brain is much like the base of the iceberg that can’t be seen. The unconscious mind holds all awareness that is not presently in the conscious mind. All memories, feelings and thoughts that are out of conscious awareness are by definition 'unconscious.' It is also called the subconscious and is known as the dreaming mind or deep mind.
Knowledgeable and powerful in a different way than the conscious mind, the unconscious mind handles the responsibility of keeping the body running well. It has memory of every event we've ever experienced; it is the source and storehouse of our emotions; and it is often considered our connection with Spirit and with each other.No model of how the mind works disputes the tremendous power which is in constant action below the tip of the iceberg. The conscious mind is constantly supported by unconscious resources. Just think of all the things you know how to do without conscious awareness. If you drive, you use over 30 specific skills... without being aware of them. These are skills, not facts; they are processes, requiring intelligence, decision-making and training. Besides these learned resources which operate below the surface of consciousness there are important natural resources. For instance, the unconscious mind regulates all the systems of the body and keeps them in harmony with each other. It controls heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, the endocrine system and the nervous system, just to name a few of its natural, automatic duties.The conscious mind is a small portion of the whole being. The conscious mind is what we ordinarily think of when we say 'my mind.' It's associated with thinking, analyzing and making judgments and decisions. The conscious mind is actively sorting and filtering its perceptions because only so much information can reside in consciousness at once. Everything else falls back below the water line, into unconsciousness. Right at the water line the iceberg metaphor is where people would dream and imagine. The imagination is a two-way communication medium between the unconscious and conscious minds. It functions as the membrane through which material and processes happening in the unconscious mind come into conscious awareness. Communication through the imagination is two-way. The conscious mind can also use the medium of the imagination to communicate with the unconscious mind. The conscious mind sends suggestions about what it wants through the imagination to the unconscious. It imagines things, and the subconscious intelligences work to make them happen. However, the unconscious mind uses the imagination to communicate with the conscious mind far more often than the other way around. New ideas, hunches, daydreams and intuitions come from the unconscious to the conscious mind through the medium of the imagination.

An undeniable example of the power in the unconscious mind is dreaming. Dream images, visions, sounds and feelings come from the unconscious. Those who are aware of their dreams know how rich and real they can be. Even filtered, as they are when remembered later by the conscious mind, dreams can be quite powerful experiences.
Many people have received workable new ideas and insights, relaxing daydreams, accurate hunches, and unexpected intuitive understandings by replaying their dreams in a waking state. These are everyday examples of what happens when unconscious intelligences and processes communicate through the imagination with the conscious mind.
To carry the iceberg metaphor forward, every person can be represented as an individual iceberg, with the larger part of themselves deeply submerged. And there's a place in the depths where all of our icebergs come together, a place in the unconscious where we connect with each other. The psychologist Carl Jung has named this realm the 'Collective Unconscious.' This is the area of mind where all humanity shares experience, and from where we draw on the archetypal energies and symbols that are common to us all.
Although the conscious mind, steeped in cognition and thought, is able to deceive another, the unconscious mind, based in feeling, will often give people information from under the iceberg that contradicts what is being communicated consciously."Sounds right but feels wrong," is an example of information from under the iceberg surfacing in the conscious mind, but conflicting with what the conscious mind was able to get on its own.
In the end though, no one is completely sure of what the unconscious mind thinks or why it works the way it does. It may be possible to one day tap the unimaginable potential of the unconscious and have it lead humanity in a new direction.

Works Cited Page

Corey, Benedict. “Who’s Minding the Mind.” New York Times 7/31(2007)

Chalmers, David. The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory. New York : Oxford Publishing Company, 1997

Corrol, Robert. “Unconscious Mind.” The Skepdics Dictionary 03/December/ 2007. 11 Apr 2008 <>

Gulik, Robert. “Consciousness. “Stanfod Encyclopedia of Philosophy 2004. 11 Apr 2008 <>


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