The Unconscious: The Primary Process

We tend to think that we are in charge of our lives. We generally insist that we know why we do what we do—that is, we have reasons for everything. Most are aware that their unconscious minds, and I’ll use that term instead of the subconscious to refer to any and all non-conscious mental activity, participate to some extent in our choices and behavior. Still, the main of it comes down to our understanding that the conscious mind is in charge.

Think of your mind for a moment. We generally assume at least a two-part system to our minds—that which is conscious and that which is unconscious. Ask yourself what thinking about thinking might include. Do you think it should begin by thinking about your own unconscious first?

Two-part system

Would you be surprised to learn that the secondary system is the conscious mind while the primary system is, in fact, the unconscious? Data-driven research clearly demonstrates that this is indeed how our minds work. Quoting from the new release, The Unconscious by Professors Joel Weinberger and Valentina Stoycheva, “In fact, unconscious processing is the default mode of functioning—the primary process. Additionally, it tends to be broad, expansive, and uncritical. Unconscious processes come to the fore when the person adopts a passive, noncritical attitude, whereas focus and efforts to figure out what is going on favor consciousness…At the same time, unconscious processes often show stereotypy, rigidity, and resistance to change.”

So, we discover that unconscious processes are at the forefront of our thinking and behavior. They predispose our thinking in ways yet to be determined. What’s more, the data also reveals the fact that we can be primed out of awareness and make decisions based on the prime. Not only that, but we will also argue that the prime had nothing to do with our decision even after learning about the subliminal prime.

Normative unconscious

Additionally, unconscious processes are normative. In the words of Weinberger and Stoycheva, “Unconscious processes are a normal, integral part of how we function in the world and with each other.” That said, “They [unconscious processes] do not operate in a rational fashion. But they are not irrational for motivational reasons; they are that way because they are organized associatively rather than logically and/or hierarchically.”

The bottom line, it turns out that the unconscious is much more involved than Freud or anyone else even imagined. So once again, I ask, “Should we begin our thinking about thinking by first attempting to understand our own unconscious?” It seems to me that the answer is obvious: YES!

Thinking about thinking

So, how do we begin to think about thinking? We begin by self-reflection. We begin by discovering the boundaries that exist in our own unconscious particularly with respect to goals and ambitions. We get to know what we unconsciously believe about our own worth, our abilities, our biases, and so forth. Unless we do this, and then actively pursue creating unconscious beliefs that are of our own conscious making, then we will continue to be controlled by the unconscious and argue that we are not.

My thoughts, what are yours?

Thanks for the read,


Eldon Taylor

Eldon Taylor
Provocative Enlightenment
NY Time Bestselling Author of Choices and Illusion