What Is The Preconscious, And What Does It Mean To Me?
You may have heard of the conscious and unconscious mind, but the word “preconscious” is generally not as widely known or used. The preconscious generally refers to the thoughts you aren't actively thinking of but can call to mind easily given the right trigger. In contrast, unconscious thoughts tend to be repressed to the point that you can't remember them without extreme effort and specialized help. The preconscious mind may benefit you by allowing for memory storage, providing you with intuitive understanding, and helping you discover solutions to problems you may be facing. In therapy, a licensed mental health professional may use the preconscious to connect your memories, help you learn from your experiences, and fine-tune your awareness. If you’re interested in using your preconscious mind to address mental health concerns, working with a therapist online or in person can be beneficial.
Freud And The Preconscious
The definition of preconscious psychology typically uses psychoanalytic theory as its basis. Josef Bauer, an Austrian physician specializing in the brain, may have coined the word. Freud is generally believed to have used the term preconscious extensively for many years before he developed the idea of the id, ego, and superego as the three parts of the psyche.
Freud frequently talked about conscious, preconscious, and unconscious thoughts.
- Conscious thoughts can be defined as those we're aware of right now. In general, we must actively hold these thoughts in mind. If we don't, they might be stored in the long-term memory or the unconscious mind.
- The unconscious mind can encompass all the thoughts we have that we aren't actively thinking about at this moment. Within the unconscious mind, Freud said, there are usually thoughts we can't easily retrieve. These may be traumatic memories or thoughts we have repressed.
- The preconscious thoughts are generally those that we aren't thinking of now but can think of easily if we choose to or if they are triggered. We may not be using those thoughts at this moment, but we can pull them out of our unconscious minds quickly and easily.
Some sources place the preconscious as a part of the mind separate from the unconscious. This interpretation of Freudian theory typically makes a clear distinction between the part of the mind we can easily get to and the part we can't. However, whether the preconscious mind is a part of the unconscious or not, all three aspects of the mind can work together as we perceive and make decisions about our lives.
The Id, Ego, And Superego
As Freud continued to develop psychoanalytic theory, he is believed to have had difficulty refining the definitions of the conscious, unconscious, and preconscious. After that, he generally focused on the three parts of the psyche he identified as the id, the ego, and the superego.
- The id can be defined as the disorganized part of the psyche where instincts and impulses rule.
- The superego may be the part of the personality that’s concerned with what you should do.
- The ego usually mediates between the id and superego to determine the actions you take. The ego can ultimately be thought of as the decision-making part of your mind.
Freud also related the id, ego, and superego to the theory of the conscious and unconscious mind. He generally saw the ego and superego as conscious parts of the personality. The id may contain our unconscious desires and drives that may not be accepted socially or within our conception of what's right and wrong.
The ego mostly operates in the conscious mind, although it may call on the preconscious mind for information and memories. The superego primarily operates in the conscious mind as well. However, there may be times when you have feelings of right and wrong without being aware of the thoughts that come with those feelings.
Benefits Of The Preconscious Mind
Your preconscious mind can be very handy. It may provide several benefits that the conscious mind can't supply on its own. Below are a few ways that the preconscious may benefit you.
Long-term memories may be stored in your preconscious and unconscious minds because your conscious mind typically only holds the memories, thoughts, perceptions, and desires you're experiencing at this exact moment. Because the memories tend to be close at hand, your brainpower may go far beyond the thoughts you can hold in mind at any given moment.
Your unconscious and preconscious minds typically contain all your memories that go back longer than a few minutes. However, you can't usually recall repressed memories from your unconscious without help or a very powerful trigger. The memories within your preconscious may all be right there, waiting to be called on as needed.
Our intuition typically comes across as a feeling, but it's usually based on thoughts we aren't aware of. These thoughts may reside in the preconscious or unconscious. We may not consciously know the specific reasons why we have a feeling that something's right or not right, but more deeply, we may know. This intuitive understanding can be invaluable for self and achievement.
As adults, we usually try to draw conclusions and base our decisions on what seems the truest to us. In short, we frequently want to rely on our inner resources to make important life decisions.
You may have a breadth of knowledge within your preconscious that you can use to solve life's problems. By calling on these memories and bringing them into your conscious mind, you can benefit from experiences and information you've committed to memory. You can learn from them long after the events have taken place.
How Therapists Work With The Preconscious
Whether you're experiencing emotional difficulties, needing to make an important decision, going through relationship issues, or trying to overcome a mental health condition, therapy can help you handle each of those situations. In-person and online therapists, whether they practice psychoanalytic methods or other types of therapy, may help you tap into the thoughts within your preconscious mind for several reasons.
Often, we have two bits of information or two experiences we could put together to provide us with insights we may never have realized before. Both factors may be in your preconscious, so that you aren't aware of them at the moment.
A skilled therapist may prompt you to remember facts and events that can help you draw your own conclusions. If your psychologist knows your background, they probably have some ideas about what kinds of experiences you may have had that can apply to the current situation.
For example, if you're trying to resolve a conflict with your child, your therapist might ask you to try to remember certain childhood experiences. Then, they might ask you to remember a time when you faced a similar conflict between you and another adult. By connecting these memories in your conscious mind, the therapist can help you decipher the differences and similarities between having a conflict with a child and having a conflict with an adult.
Teaching You Through Your Own Experiences
Therapists can help you connect memories from your preconscious to the conscious thoughts you're having during the session. In this way, they may help you activate your mental resources. As you move from stored information to conscious thought, you may find it easier to make these connections on your own.
Fine-Tuning Your Awareness
The main value of having information in your preconscious mind can be in being able to quickly use it. We can usually only make reasoned decisions on things we're aware of at the moment. What we choose to be aware of can make the difference between making a positive decision and continuing to struggle.
After you gain an insight in therapy, your therapist may suggest that you keep that insight in mind as you face an upcoming situation that may be difficult for you to handle. You’re not likely to have that information locked in your conscious mind from the time of the session to the time the event occurs, but you can call it up from your preconscious as soon as the event begins to take place. This can be the benefit of doing work in therapy, so you can take what you learn and apply it to circumstances outside of sessions.
The Preconscious And Therapy
The preconscious may play a large role in psychotherapy. Therapists often ask questions about their clients’ lives, which frequently helps them with their preconscious memories. This can help clients combine memories in their preconscious with new lessons to create solutions that lead to important changes.
Memory recall can be difficult for those experiencing a variety of mental health disorders – including depression, anxiety, substance use disorder, and others – but a licensed therapist can help improve memory and reduce undesirable symptoms.
Benefits Of Online Therapy
Finding time to fine-tune your awareness can prove difficult if you lead a busy life. This is where online therapy may help. In general, you won’t have to travel in traffic to a therapist’s office and sit in a waiting room. You’ll likely be able to schedule convenient sessions outside of typical office hours as well.
Although there’s currently not much research regarding online therapy’s efficacy in utilizing the preconscious mind, a literature review has shown that online therapy is typically just as effective as face-to-face therapy, and it can treat a variety of mental health concerns. Online therapy may be a consideration for you as you explore the preconscious mind and how it works in your adult life.
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What is an example of preconsciousness?
The preconscious mind can quiet the “noise” of information. Things like your passwords, the names of important people in your life, your address, what to do when your phone gets wet, and other information is stored in the preconscious mind to be recalled when triggered.
However, sometimes the preconscious mind can hold information we wanted to keep in our consciousness. For example, imagine that you leave your home to pick up groceries, mail a letter, and stop by a friend's house to say hello. You get all the groceries on your list and stop by your friend’s house, but it’s only when you get home and see the letter sitting on your kitchen table that you recall you were supposed to mail it. Mailing the letter fell into your preconscious mind, and was only recalled to consciousness when you saw the letter.
What is the meaning of preconscious?
According to Sigmund Freud, people have three distinct levels of awareness, which are the preconscious, conscious, and unconscious level.
- Preconscious: This level includes anything that could be brought into conscious awareness. Preconscious ideas are not currently being used, but can be easily recalled.
- Conscious: The thoughts, feelings, desires, wishes, and memories you are aware of at any particular moment are your conscious mind.
- Unconscious: This level includes suppressed or unpleasant feelings, urges, thoughts, and memories that may influence unexplained behaviors. Unconscious thoughts include a deep reservoir of things that are not easily recallable into consciousness. However, these feelings may come to the surface in dreams, during psychoanalysis, or in times of deep introspection.
Eventually, Freud began using the tripartite division of the super-ego, ego, and id, to relate these concepts. According to this concept, the ego and super-ego have conscious and unconscious elements, while the id is entirely unconscious. In a healthy person, the ego seeks to join the super-ego and the id. However, when there is an imbalance in these divisions, a person may experience distress.
What is preconscious memory?
Preconscious ideas, events, perceptions, and feelings may date back to your earliest memories, which are recalled in the presence of certain triggers. Here are some examples of preconscious memories being recalled to the conscious mind:
- You may not think about the birthday dinner your parents used to cook for you until your spouse asks you what you want to eat on your birthday.
- You may not be actively thinking about your phone number, but when prompted to write it on a form, you quickly write down your 10-digit phone number.
- When asked who your first grade teacher was, you may recall it even though you had not been conscious of them in a long time.
- When a car veers off the road towards you, you rapidly respond by getting out of the way and waving your arms.
By definition, preconscious memories are long-term memories of ideas, thoughts, feelings, and beliefs that you are neither repressing nor actively thinking about.
What is an example of a preconscious memory?
Preconscious memories are memories of past events, feelings, and ideas, which we are aware of but not currently noticing. However, these memories can typically be quickly recalled when triggered by a particular stimulus. For example, you may not think about someone you knew in high school until you bump into them at the grocery store.
Sometimes, your brain engages in preconscious processing without your conscious awareness, which occurs when you have a word on the “tip of your tongue” that you cannot fully recall.
What happens in the preconscious?
The preconscious mind stores information we are aware of but not currently paying attention to. Some neuroscientists theorize that the reticular activating system (RAS) in the brain uses gamma band activity to regulate the preconscious mind. This “stream of consciousness” allows people to ignore a lot of unnecessary complexity until it is needed.
What is the difference between preconscious and conscious?
Sigmund Freud described the different levels of the mind by comparing them to an iceberg. The conscious mind is the portion of the iceberg above the water, the preconscious is visible but below the surface of the water, and the subconscious is the large portion of the iceberg that is in deep water and not visible from the surface.
Memories, feelings, and events in the preconscious mind are happening under the surface, but they can be brought up to the surface (conscious mind) when needed. Unlike the preconscious mind, unconscious thoughts are much more difficult to bring to the surface because they’ve been repressed.
How do you use preconscious in a sentence?
Preconscious can be used as an adjective (something not present in the conscious mind but recallable) or noun (a level of the psyche). Here are some examples of its use in a sentence:
- The preconscious mind eliminates noise in the consciousness, filtering information into awareness as needed.
- Sometimes, people inadvertently express preconscious processes, as seen with “priming” and “tip of the tongue.”
- Preconscious memories occur just below the surface of consciousness.
What is preconscious psychology?
Levels of consciousness were first introduced by Sigmund Freud, which developed the framework for psychoanalysis. According to this theory, there is a primarily unconscious (repressed) mind, a preconscious mind, and a conscious mind. These levels form the basis of the super-ego, ego, and id (called the tripartite division).
Beyond psychoanalytic psychology, some researchers believe that Freud's theory of consciousness could benefit the modern field of cognitive psychology.
What are the characteristics of preconsciousness?
Key characteristics of preconsciousness include:
- Connection to the world: Unlike the unconscious mind, preconsciousness is based on known events.
- Recallable memories: Anything in the preconscious mind can be brought to consciousness when needed.
- Reality-testing: There is an ability to separate internal thoughts from external reality.
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