This is the 3rd article in the series on the human mind, its structure and how it works. Here, I want to explore in a deeper way the role the subconscious mind plays in the creative process and determine where good ideas come from. How does it work when we are inspired and great ideas just pop into the mind out of nowhere? Let’s explore!
Where Good Ideas come from
Remember the last time you experienced a famous aha moment? Like when Archimedes discovered a method for measuring changes in volume and yelled “EUREKA!”? Where did your answer come from? Where do ideas come from? How did it appear in your mind? It must have been careful reasoning and calculation. You seek and you shall find as the saying goes. Or was it intuition, the realm of the subconscious mind? In my opinion, the process of creative thinking requires both intuition and careful reasoning, conscious processes and subconscious processes, the combination of which is where good ideas come from.
Conscious thinking vs. Subconscious Thinking
The conscious mind is literal and with good mental health, rational. When you consciously think of a chair, chair is associated with a specific image and definition. As a species we need to be able to communicate with each other and if for one person a chair is actually a potato and for another it means armed robbery, then you can wave civilization goodbye and prepare for the Stone Age. In order to have a functioning society, we need to be able to have terms that mean the same for everybody, literally. To be clear, when I say chair, you will certainly have a different chair in mind, but the idea of a chair, it’s ‘chairness’ so to speak, is the same.
This is not the same for the subconscious mind. “Subconscious thinking” is faster than “conscious thinking” and is not limited to specific images and language. It`s representation of reality is “blurry”. If you read the first in this article series, you’ll know that the subconscious mind takes in more sense perceptions than you could possibly pay conscious attention to. If you didn’t have a conscious mind, your reality would be a fragment of those sense perceptions mixed with vague emotions. You would have no “hold” on reality because you consciously give meaning to that reality. All of the images, definitions and representations in the subconscious mind are lawful, but they are also “blurry”, or not necessarily literal.
Subconscious Thinking and the poet
To more fully understand the process of subconscious thinking, think of the poet. The poet takes one idea, develops it, and links it to ideas that seemingly are unrelated. As the poem develops, the poet conveys to the reader’s mind a higher conception, birthed through the metaphorical relations between the two ideas. The new idea is of a higher order than either of the original ideas and communicates something beyond the literal representation of both.
Often times, we come upon moments where there are no words to truly describe the moment. In science when a new, original, discovery is made, we have to create new language for the new concepts, after the fact. This is why metaphor and analogy are so important in human creativity because they allow us to communicate concepts when literal language fails.
The Power of the Subconscious Mind
This is exactly what the subconscious mind of a person in good mental health does when it is working in conjunction with the conscious mind. The mental space is created for the subconscious to create connections between ideas and symbolic representations of reality that the conscious mind, being too literal or logical, cannot do. That’s where the ‘aha moment’ comes in and that’s where good ideas come from! The new idea leaps into your mind, as easy to ignore as a lion in downtown New York City! It seems like the idea comes from nowhere, in an instant. Except the idea came from somewhere, it came from the interplay between the conscious mind’s reasoning, asking the right questions, and the subconscious mind making new metaphorical connections. We may refer to this process as intuition or intuitive thinking.
Intuition or Intuitive Thinking
These moments of intuition tend to happen when we least expect them. Ever notice that an ‘aha moment’ happens when you are totally relaxed? (which hypnotists know is a first step in accessing the subconscious mind directly). Pay attention to the next time an ‘aha moment’ happens to you. Does the answer come when you first wake up in the morning? Does it wake you up at night? Does it happen on a coffee break or during light reading? Does it happen when you partake in an activity that you love? For myself, I generate many of my best ideas under hypnosis.
So to sum it up, good ideas come from subconscious mind making connections between ideas that the conscious mind cannot, through metaphor. The conscious mind poses the problem, the subconscious mind generates the initial solution, then you have to consciously work through that idea and develop it. That’s where good ideas come from.
Tips for intuitive thinking
To unlock the power of your subconscious mind, give your subconscious mind the time to process a problem. You cannot force a solution, as stress interferes with the process. I call this an ‘incubation period’. You pose a question, pass it over to the subconscious mind and revisit it later. You expect to get an answer, but you don’t necessarily force it. Chances are you’ll have an ‘aha moment’ and it will pop into your mind when you’re relaxed. Remember, relaxation is a key to subconscious thinking.
Not all answers or new ideas are good. Where good ideas come from, bad ideas lurk as well. Your subconscious mind is not omniscient or omnipotent. You have to check if the new idea or solution makes sense by looking at it from the standpoint of conscious reason. If it passes that test, you should go with it. If it actually makes no sense, you should disregard it.
Good Mental Health and intuitive thinking
In Dr. Lawrence Kubie`s book: Neurotic Distortion of the Creative Process, he argues that a person must be in good mental health for the best ideas to be generated. When a person has emotional problems or neurotic problems, which they tend not to be aware of, the process of generating ideas in the fashion I just described breaks down. The neuroses block creative thinking. The next article of this series will be dedicated to why this happens, but suffice to say these emotional problems can be recognized when someone thinks, acts or feels the same way without any ability to change whatsoever. When you are locked into a mode of being, like a vicious cycle, there is a neurotic problem that needs to be addressed that is blocking creative thinking, intuitive thinking and subconscious thinking. The contribution of the subconscious mind to creativity depends entirely on its freedom from neurotic and emotional problems. It must flow freely to be in good mental health.
“The free play of preconscious (Subconscious) processes accomplishes two goals concurrently: it supplies an endless stream of old data rearranged into new combinations of wholes and fragments on grounds of analogic elements; and it exercises a continuous selective influence not only on free associations, but also on the minutae of living, thinking, walking, talking, dreaming, and indeed of every moment of life.” – L. Kubie “Neurotic Distortions of the creative Process”
Conclusion of Where Good ideas come from and the ‘Aha moment’
If you’ve read the previous articles in this series, you now know the twin roles of a subconscious mind in good mental health: automate behaviors to create an economy of thought and making metaphorical connections between seemingly unrelated ideas. This process can be consciously guided by consciously focusing on it and massively accelerated through the use of hypnosis because hypnosis allows the conscious mind to “get acquainted” with subconscious. It is setting up of a channel of communication and the striking of a grand bargain! How many people actually know that the human mind works like this? How many people know the power of the subconscious mind? How many people know where good ideas come from? People don’t even like to talk about mental health! How could you possibly get anything done as a team if you don’t know who’s on your team? You now have a distinct advantage in life.
In the next article, I will discuss those blocks to intuitive thinking and the creative process, delving deeper into the realm of the unconscious mind. I hope I can do it justice.
As always, if you would like to take me up on my hypnotic offer, check out the hypnosis sessions page or if you’d like the cheaper option, buy a hypnosis download and get the benefits from the comfort of home.