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Joined: December 20, 2005  (email not validated)
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Ok for some odd reason I came back here after years of making a post. Someone mentioned that Freud used the term 'Pre-Conscious' and never Sub-Conscious and they're absolutely right.

What I'd like to clarify a bit just to put this confusion to rest once and for all:

You hear of the 'Sub-Conscious' used all the time in books and magazines/movies etc and what they really mean to say is 'Unconscious.' It's easy to imagine what 'Unconscious' means. It doesn't mean that you're knocked out. But to use that image as an analogy, if you *were* knocked out and someone asked you a question, you wouldn't be able to answer. Your mind is shut off.

That is the unconscious memory. It is shut off from us. We can't remember by choice, what is in the unconscious. It's as if it wasn't there. If I ask you to remember your third day at school in kindergarten, you probably can't remember that--if the memory still exists at all (because we do *not* always remember everything we experience, even in the unconscious (Freud thought we did, but we don't)).

The original question is what is the difference between sub-conscious and unconscious. The answer is, the sub-conscious is generally a term invented by magazines and non-psychologists who believe they're talking about the unconscious. Unfortunately they're not up to speed with their Psychology.

That said, my post before was actually describing the 'pre-conscious', not the sub-conscious. I'll put my foot in my mouth here and say that yes, actually, during our studies in Psychology, sometimes the 'wrong' term of sub-conscious has been used. However, the term sub-conscious is usually used to mean 'pre-conscious'.

In summary:

Unconscious = You can't remember whatever it is you're trying to, no matter how hard you try (unless you get special help).

Sub-Conscious = Used by people in every day life when they mean 'Unconscious'. This is totally wrong. However, it has also been used by some psychology students or even professors to mean "Pre-Conscious'.

Pre-Conscious = Memory that *is* accessible. If you want to spell your name out, most people can do that from memory. If you choose to recall something you can. This is the Pre-Conscious.

My advice: Never use Sub-Conscious. It's misleading and confusing. Most of the time, when you see someone write or say 'sub-conscious' they're talking about the unconscious.

John Hasznosi April 27, 2010, 9:26pm

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I have a degree in Psychology and wondered about this during my studies. Here's your answer (I hope).

Unconscious is the term usually used in Psychology to refer to the thoughts we have that are 'out of reach' of our consciousness. A traumatic childhood event that we repress is an example, but it doesn't have to be so serious as this. It could be something very distant like a memory that we can't 'pull out' at our choosing. It's there, but we can't remember it no matter how hard we try. Certain psychoanalytical methods can bring back these memories (such as hypnosis) and can also be triggered by an event (a scent, a familiar place etc).

The important point to remember here, is that we cannot, by choice, remember anything in our unconscious without some special event or technique. This is the unconscious.

The sub-conscious is almost the same, but the very major difference is, we *can* choose to remember. Sub-conscious is used far too often (erroneously) to mean unconscious. It's simply not the case, and you'll find that in Psychology the topic of the unconscious of *far* more prevalant (and important for study) than that of the sub-conscious. The sub-conscious is for example the part of your mind that let's you remember your phone number. Before reading this, you were not conscious (thinking right now) of your phone number, but should I ask you for it, you're able to bring it to the conscious level by pulling it from your sub-conscious. The person who told you your phone number for the first time has perhaps faded from memory. It may still be in there somewhere, but it's something you can't remember (maybe), and if so, this is in your unconscious mind. So there you have it.

John Hasznosi December 20, 2005, 10:47am

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