Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Making the subconscious conscious

Last year, we discussed the question whether free will was an illusion or not. The background for this were studies that have found that half a second before we consciously decide to do something (e.g. move a finger), our neurons already fire and prepare the movement. Thus, our subconscious seems to control our conscious. This certainly entails important discussions on ethics, but it may as well imply the question: why don’t we make the subconscious conscious?

This is what software developer Adi Andrei who used to work for NASA engages in. He argues that our conscious mind makes us believe that it is in charge of our decisions, but in fact before we actually make a decision, something happens in our mind subconsciously. The subconscious (or the “I”) makes the decision, the conscious (or the “me”) becomes aware of it half a second later. In his opinion, a lot of problems in our lives (e.g. mental or physical health problems) we can’t explain come from the simple fact that I and me are not in accordance. On the other hand, when the two actually are in accordance, we experience happiness and well-being. He concludes that for this reason we have to understand our subconscious. In a video, he explains his ideas in more detail.

The question is: how do you enter the subconscious? According to Adi Andrei, we don’t need a psychiatrist nor do we need any medication, but rather, we can use everyday life events, e.g. when something disturbing happens. He sees our reaction to the event as the entry point for understanding our subconscious, simply by becoming aware of the disturbance and observing it. He suggests using technology to guide us through a dialogue with the purpose of finding a way to express the energy contained in the disturbance to such an extent that our conscious can accept it.

With a co-worker, he designed an app one can use for looking at one’s dreams. It helps interpret them. For doing so, it guides the user by asking questions and has them interpret their own symbols. It tracks these interpretations and thus builds up a database. It also helps the user integrate what they dream of into their daily life.

There is a whole movement, the “Quantified Self”, with the purpose of connecting people interested in self-tracking. There are users as well as tool makers in it who collaborate online, but also meet or blog. It is a rather interesting movement that somehow tries to bring us back to ourselves taking advantage of the modern technology we usually use for multi-tasking and for being available for anyone at any time, the tools that speed up our lives in such an incredible way, the devices that often take us far away from ourselves and from the present moment.

Are you using self-tracking devices? Or have you maybe joined the Quantified Self community? Please share your experiences with us, either by leaving a comment here or on our Facebook site, or by writing us an email (cute.scienceblog (at)

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