The Key to Successful Therapy: Working with the Unconscious (Part 1/2)

95% of your mental activity is unconscious (e.g. out of your awareness). So why aren’t therapists talking about the unconscious?

Have you felt the excitement of picking up a lauded self-help book, only to find it unable to follow-through on its promises? Or maybe you’ve been in therapy before, but couldn’t make lasting change in your life?

What was missing? The majority of things people try to help them feel better fail because they are unable to target the root of who you are as a person: your unconscious mind.

You don’t commonly hear people talk about “the unconscious mind.” Which is unfortunate because neuroscientists estimate that 95% of your mind is unconscious. Meaning that the substantial majority if your thoughts and feelings are outside of your awareness. These are thoughts and feelings that directly affect how you think and feel about yourself, your partner, your friends and family, your goals, etc. The unconscious mind directly affects how you act on a daily basis, and yet so many doctors, self-help gurus, and therapists disregard it!

One helpful way to think of the unconscious is to picture an iceberg. As many people know, the majority of an iceberg resides under the water. The amount of ice you see above the surface pales in comparison to the vast amount of ice that you don’t see below. This is true for the mind. The 5% that you are aware of is the above-the-water-ice of the iceberg. While the 95% of your mind that you are not aware of, is the ice that is underwater. And this is the unconscious mind. Just like with an iceberg, there is more to your mind than you are able to see.

If you find yourself stuck in patterns of thought, emotion, or behavior, and you are having difficulty getting out of those patterns, it’s because you are not dealing with them at their origin, which is your unconscious mind. At any given moment, the thoughts you are aware of are actually caused and created by unconscious thoughts. Just like thunder is the after-effect of lightning, your conscious thoughts are only the after-effects of your unconscious thoughts – ones that you are never aware of.

The vast majority of mental health treatments, self-help books, retreats, ask you to take stock of your conscious thoughts and feelings. This is helpful, but only to a certain point. Based on the statistic I mentioned earlier, these methods are only addressing 5% of your mind! It’s hard to image someone expecting to provide lasting change, while only being able to work with 5% of who you are as a person.

There are two main reasons why common treatments don’t delve into your unconscious mind so that you can find lasting relief:

1. Many practitioners don’t know how to work with the unconscious mind.

2. Working deeply with someone takes time, and this is antithetical to what our culture tells us we want.

In the next article, I will expound these points. And I will tell you why it’s important – if you are looking for lasting change in your therapy – that you consider whether or not your therapist is trained and experienced in working with the unconscious mind.