The unconscious mind: Do we really have control?

The unconscious mind is somewhat of a tool usually described to explain the controlled function derived to control and maintain our automatic functions such as this expressed from the circulatory system under stress. Increased the consumption of oxygen into our bloodstream for carbon dioxide to be expelled at a much faster rate. In return, this increases the cardiovascular system to emit this increased oxygen input to reach the starving oxygen-deprived cells of the muscles. For years it was thought that the unconscious process was just to control functions like those mentioned, to prevent our conscious thought process from being overloaded. However, this tends to not be the case, much research in the last few decades has created an immense time for a neuroscientist to understand how humans develop and understand the world.

Our senses are predominantly the main role in which we understand the world around us. This understanding especially from a young age helps guide our explanation of the world via experiences and essentially learning from others. Research suggests that there are many different stages as to which we adapt physically and mentally to provide our best chances for survival. Our mind and physical bodies were designed for a survival primitive life out in the wilderness whereby starvation, water, predators, and shelter were the major challenges daily. However, clearly, this is not the case now, our relaxed inattentive concern from where our next meal will come from, or where the nearest water source location is a thing of the past. The concerning issue is that the world in which we live has evolved at a rapid rate leaving our own evolution in the dust. This is easily shown from our daily habits, growth in population and our mental capacity.

It is in the very early years of life that takes our unconscious understanding of the natural world. Studies show that a developing foetus will develop in response to the external pressure perceived from the outside environment. If the mother feels stressed about our social way of lives like financial concerns or maybe the mother is in an abusive relationship this will emit to the growing foetus. As the mother becomes worried or anxious about a continuous matter, she will emit a fight or flight response. A fight or flight response is designed for a stressful situation in the primal world to help you escape from danger. However, in our recent lives, we now create the same response over social concerns and in return it stimulates a continuous release of stress hormones like cortisol. Slowly this increases the blood pressure and essential places your mindset in an unresponsive way of thinking. As we all know, under stress it is merely impossible to think controllably. Now essentially like in the mothers’ case this is behaviour controlled from previous experiences from which the mother perceived to be previously stressful. In return, this increased production of stress hormones will emanate to the growing foetus that the external world is dangerous. Therefore, instead of increasing the productive energy towards brain development, the energy will be supplied into skeletal muscle growth allowing the child to maintain the ability to be stronger when older.

Our unconscious brains are a default of habits, naturally learning routine traits that can be routinely run via the unconscious allowing you to stay alert from the dangers around you. Learning to drive is the best example, just think of the process of driving, you first put your seat belt on, turn the key, place the clutch down if manual, place the gear stick into gear one, slowly bring the clutch up whilst press down slowly on the accelerator, whilst doing all of this you look around you for pedestrians or oncoming traffic, plus if others are in the car they may also be requiring your attention. All this just to before the car is even moving. This is the same with everything we do in our lives. The unconscious mind will form relative habits making a decision before your conscious mind already has done. Our unconscious minds do the thinking, so you do not have to. From a survival standpoint, this is great, it allows you to naturally complete tasks whilst staying alert to environmental dangers.

The unconscious is a natural projection of our own experiences, for example, as a child if you experienced burning yourself on fire or watched someone burn themselves with fire you may have an alternative perceived experience around a fire. The keyword here is PERCEIVED. Our perceptions are collective to our own self-understanding, what we perceive will be different to someone else. This type of understanding is strongly emanated in fears, usually, people will hear stories of dangerous creatures and create a physiological reaction (fight or flight) when around the creature. Therefore, it is best to advise a developing child to be cautious of these dangers around animals, but that they will only harm if threatened. This will then in return create a natural understanding and developed a respect for the creature and not a feared response.

Our brain is extremely powerful controlling everything about us, our characteristics, behaviours, choices we make and of course our autonomic nervous system. However, we do have some control, we can form new habits and change our thinking, perception within our own environment to re-write our own understanding. 


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