The tip is the conscious mind; or the part of the mind that is responsible for our every day thoughts. It evaluates, judges, assesses, makes decisions, and rarely rests, except maybe when we are asleep.
There is a much larger part of the mind below the surface; this is the unconscious mind. Although we are not actively aware of it, the unconscious mind is vastly larger than the conscious mind. It is responsible for processing information, making snap decisions, governing emotions, controlling our nervous system, storing and recovering memories, and much, much more…
It is the unconscious part of the mind that stores our potential to learn and grow. It is the part of the mind that truly defines who we are. This is the part of the mind where our values… our real values… reside. These values are often not the same values that our conscious mind espouses.
The values of the unconscious mind are the ones that actually govern our actions. For instance, our conscious mind may tell us, and the world, that we value honesty above all else… yet our actions may contradict the message.
Often times our conscious mind will view the world in “black and white,” or “right and wrong.” Yet, we may find justifications for when we violate what our conscious mind says is wrong. Why? Because our unconscious mind recognizes that the world is not digital, it’s not “0 or 1.” It is infinity. It is not “black and white,” but rather shades of gray. Our conscious mind creates reality from our experiences and cultural upbringing, whereas our unconscious mind recognizes reality for what it is… a mere creation of the conscious mind. A false representation constructed through our senses, which are by definition detached from the physical world around us.
Think about this: Your eyes, ears, nose, skin… all of your sensory paraphernalia… really just collect signals that are then sent via neuropathways to your brain, which is encased in a perfectly dark, soundless, sterile environment totally separated from the outside world. And when the signals arrive, they are then passed through a number of cognitive filters that are created by your experiences, beliefs, and (conscious) values, before they are used to create your map of reality.
In other words, the signals your brain receives are used to create and add to your existing model of the world. In most cases they are made to fit that model. Information that does not fit is either manipulated to conform to your model of reality, or discarded entirely. (Actually, the unconscious mind discards nothing, which as we will see later, is extremely important). This is the basis of what psychologists call confirmation bias, and it is why people can have the exact same experiences, at the same time, and have entirely different recollections and interpretations of those experiences. It is also why people with strong beliefs find it so difficult to view the world in any other way than they have grown to accept it.
The only way to make a real impact on your reality is to access the unconscious mind and unlock alternative interpretations of your sensory inputs. There are a couple of ways to do this. You can do so willingly, through hypnosis, meditation, or some other deep reflective practice. Or, you can be forced to re-assess your conscious interpretations through intense or ongoing traumatic experience. Such experiences create what is known as cognitive dissonance, which makes the false interpretations of the conscious mind so unavoidable and transparent that they must be re-evaluated. In doing so, the unconscious is activated and the process of re-evaluation and growth occurs.
Obviously, the voluntary option is normally much less painful. But even trauma may have its positive effects.