I am a firm believer that beneath the conscious mind with which we move through the day making choices and taking action, there is a vast subconscious reservoir of wisdom, memories, experiences, fears and desires. It’s the source of what people often refer to as intuition, or gut instincts.For some, the voice that springs from their subconscious communicates in a clear and timely way. “Yes, take that promotion.” “No, don’t buy that house.” “Yes, join the Peace Corps.” But for me, it appears, my subconscious is much more lackadaisical, and I have ample evidence that it just doesn’t place that much value on timely advice.
For example, it once caused me to sit up in bed at 3 a.m. with the certainty that I had listed the wrong polling place and time for a local election in the news story I’d written. And it was absolutely right. But at that point, the paper was already printed and on its way to distribution points throughout the county. There was no website on which to issue a correction, no way to change the misinformation. Clearly my laid-back subconscious had registered the error at the time my deadline-driven conscious mind committed it. But it didn’t rouse itself to tell me until 10 hours later, when it was way too late to rectify the mistake.
Fortunately not all my ill-conceived actions are played out as publicly as on the front page of a newspaper. And yet even in the small arena of my personal life, my subconscious regularly fails to sound the alarm when it sees something amiss. After I’ve already put a batch of cookies into the oven, it sends a very clear message. “Hey, you forgot the baking soda.” Or when I’m 100 miles from home and heavy rain is predicted it mentions, “You didn’t shut the windows.”
To which I say, why tell me now? If you’re not going to spring into action before the disaster, then just be quiet.
It’s true that on occasion my subconscious has provided creative help, thrusting into my conscious mind a good lead for a newspaper story, or a tagline for an ad, or the perfect solution to a murder (fictional, of course). But most often when I am struggling with pros and cons in the real world, it doesn’t weigh in. It’s only after I’ve quit college, married someone I barely know and hitch-hiked to Nova Scotia that it pops in to say, “That way madness lies.”
A friend told me that my subconscious is talking, I’m just not listening. That could well be true, I suppose. But I know I’d be better able to hear that still, small voice if just once it said, “Don’t send that email,” before I hit reply all. Thus sharing snarky comments intended for just one friend with the entire group of people on the email list. Although maybe I should work more on not making snarky comments at all. Regardless, I will continue to be a believer in the concept of the unconscious, but a skeptic about my ability to tap into the wisdom that lies beneath conscious thought.