What do we understand by the concept and role of the unconscious mind? What role does the unconscious mind have in maintaining negative and destructive behaviours in people? We discuss the unconscious mind at length in our NLP Trainings and here are some thoughts:


We don’t pay attention to our unconscious mind, we are not aware of it. Our unconscious mind has “Prime Directives” or ‘Duties”. The prime directives of the mind are frames or ways of thinking that are convenient, they serve us with a purpose.Firstly, it controls our bodies, the autonomic unconscious functions of the body – for example breathing and our reflexes. It has it’s idea, a blueprint of the best state of being for our body and mind and will always try to keep us at our healthiest. That said it can get it wrong, the unconscious mind is also responsible for preserving the body, if there were a mix up of intentions between the unconscious and conscious mind. The unconscious mind always acts in what it believes is the best intention and will look for the least effort, the path of least resistance, to get its results.It stores information Temporally (in relation to time) for example limiting decisions and Atemporally (not in relation to time) for example, language and values. Our unconscious mind stores memories, Wilder Penfield learnt that everything is stored in the unconscious mind, all our memories. It is the domain of emotions, so we consciously give orders to the unconscious mind to change the way we feel in order to change our emotions. It organises all of our memories, and can recall them in a sequence, like a movie or timeline in our minds. So as we continue living our lives the unconscious mind will relate it to things in the past, so we make judgements on current experiences based on those we have stored, either positive or negative. That means that we can attach a negative emotion to a current state based on that experience recall, even though the current experience may not be negative. And by changing the way we feel, how our unconscious mind recalls that we can change our current state, how we feel.

The unconscious mind can also maintain negative and destructive behaviours in people as it also represses memories with unresolved negative emotions, working to protect us from negative memories with negative emotions. The unconscious mind keeps it repressed until we have the lessons, resources within ourselves that we need in order to be able to overcome that negative emotion. When we have the ability, resources our unconscious mind will present the repressed memory for resolution, in order that we may be able to translate that memory, our past experience in a positive way for us, enabling the old negative emotion to be released.

If the mind were to keep presenting these negative emotions for our resolution, and we keep repressing them, eventually the unconscious mind can get used to these suggestions rejected that it no longer presents the negative emotions, which can run the risk of it refusing to release them at all, meaning we unconsciously hold on to these negative emotions. Storing negative emotions is uncomfortable, it holds dis-ease or disease and can make us genuinely ill, and some people become unable to express or feel anything at all. On the other hand, if you were in an environment that it would be inappropriate to to reveal your emotions, the unconscious mind would repress them for our protection, for example a doctor giving patients bad news.

The unconscious mind needs clear orders to follow, if you want to lose weight but you want that chocolate, it will become confused between the two. This is why negative patterns can continue in people who are overweight. And by proper and clear instructions one can improve because with constant and continued focus on one area of improvement the conscious mind will deliver. Because it controls and maintains all that we perceive, it receives and transmits perceptions to the conscious mind. People who focus on negative thoughts then continue to direct the unconscious mind in that direction, and negative emotions can be powerful ones, and because the unconscious mind generates, stores and distributes energy we need to make the right positive requests the energy required to overcome our negative emotions.

It maintains instincts and generates habits, for example learning to tie shoes. And so negative behaviour and habits can easily become installed in the unconscious mind. We can re-learn them by making them conscious. And, as with all habits, the unconscious mind requires repetition until that habit or a new healthy habit is installed. But because it is programmed to continually seek more, the more you feed it the more it wants, and so people develop problems with drug or alcohol abuse. And with smoking, a highly repetitive habit installed, that is negative for us. And this is also where negative behaviours can be maintained, because we consciously repress the issue and seek, consciously, a short term resolution to cover that negative emotion.

To change negative thoughts to positive ones requires a lot of positive energy and focus, and the unconscious mind works best as a whole integrated unit, when all of you, your conscious and unconscious is focused on the same goal. Incongruence in our conscious and unconscious mind can keep negative and destructive behaviours from becoming resolved.

It is symbolic, uses associations and is the basis for intuition. If it notices something within a situation that was negative in the past it can direct you or you ‘feel your instinct’ telling you something there is wrong.

It takes everything personally, the basis for perception is projection. Or as I like to say “it’s all about me” and that can be negative as well as positive. All your thoughts relate back to the self, so what you don’t like in someone else, is usually a reflection of something in yourself that you don’t like. Lastly, it cannot process negatives, so don’t do x, y, or z is received as do it!


The role of the unconscious mind is that it serves various purposes in running the body. It stores memories of all events. Some memories are stored in line with your timeline, others such as values are not. Language and how it is used to place order and reference on experiences are not stored in a timeline.

It is the domain of emotions and as it uses a timeline to reference your experiences it can access emotions and feelings as well. From the experiences we have, we store and organise the memories along with the feelings and emotions that correspond with it. In essence it acts as a template for reference. It collates memories and stores them as experiences. In the here and now, where a situation may arise with similarities to a previous experience, it is likely that your unconscious mind will provide an intervention to either protect you or inform you of the best solution to the situation. The unconscious mind has information needed to repair the body and maintain the body’s running.

The role the unconscious mind has in maintaining negative and destructive behaviours in people is that when we experience negative situations, the bad memories are often repressed as a protection mechanism. They are stored until they can be resolved. it’s a bit like putting them into a special filling cabinet in the back of your mind. The problem with this is that the more that are stored, it can affect your health as there is always a potential for negative emotional consequences to surface, while there is negative content present. This can lead to a conditioning where the unconscious becoming accustomed to negative emotion and effectively normalising it.. The release of emotion is a natural process and a congruent one as it demonstrates rapport with oneself and is emotionally necessary.