the unconscious mind makes the decisions

“You” Aren’t Making Your Own Decisions


The Unconscious Mind Is Driving The Bus


In my business (helping people using hypnosis & NLP as tools), you quickly come to the conclusion that people typically aren’t in control of themselves the way they think they are. Clients (all of us, really) may decide to stop smoking or lose weight or stop biting our nails or forget about that painful breakup and not do it. How is it even possible to decide to do one thing but end up doing another? Or as I sometimes ask people who want to stop smoking, “Who lifts the cigarette up to your lips?”

The answer is that “we” make our decisions–but perhaps not the same “we” that made the decisions to stop smoking, or whatever. Many of our decisions are not made consciously at all.

Yet most of us walk around acting as if our conscious minds are in control. Hmmmm.

How Decisions Happen

This article from Wired, Brain Scanners Can See Your Decisions Before You Make Them gives us some insight about how decisions happen.

It turns out that we make at least some decisions before we know we’ve made them–7 seconds before. The short version is this…

By looking at brain scans, scientists can predict with pretty good accuracy, what decision you’re going to make, before you know it yourself. Or as National Institutes of Health neuroscientist Mark Hallett said, “…your consciousness is only aware of some of the things your brain is doing.”

So our conscious minds, the part of us we may be used to thinking of as “us,” really isn’t making decisions. It’s being fed the decisions from other parts of our mind–parts of which we may be unaware. The process of our unconscious mind making us aware of what we’ve already decided is what feels to us like “making the decision.”

Honestly it seems creepy until you realize that those other parts of our minds are at least as much “us” as our conscious minds. So what does the conscious mind do?


The conscious mind makes up stuff about why we do things and why things happen. It rationalizes, finds reasons and makes excuses after the fact. All of that may give us a feeling of certainty about why something happens–but it may not help us get the job done. It does a lot of cool stuff too but that’s for another article.

All the while, we waltz around as if our conscious minds are in control.

What’s The Point?

  • Whatever you think caused whatever problems you’re having might benefit from examination. You might be wrong. Probably. Me too.
  • Don’t take your reasons seriously. They may be untrue. Probably. Me too.
  • If you’ve got a rationale for not accomplishing something and that rationale is outside of your locus of control, you might consider changing it. Even if your new belief is untrue, it might get you closer to getting what you want.
  • Trying to change via conscious willpower is the hard way.

And that’s one reason hypnosis and NLP are so cool! They help change unconscious patterns–and that’s where the action is.


About The Author:

Keith Livingston is the main instructor for Hypnosis 101. Keith has been studying hypnosis since he was a boy and doing hypnosis & NLP training since 1997.

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  1. Keith, this is a great illumination in the power our subconscious has over our conscious mind. This is a great way to show people why changing our subconscious thinking is the first step in achieving the changes we wish in life. Excellent job, Mate!


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