Jose Antonio Cangco

We have always felt in awe of how our mind works in solving situations that we have found ourselves in. Every day we are confronted with problems requiring an immediate answer and solution. These require searching for solutions using our intelligence and other ways of thinking.

A different set of problems however requires unconventional means of approaching the question in matter. Although these predicaments also weigh heavily in importance, they do not need an immediate answer so that they can wait for several days to be solved. When we are faced with these latter kinds of problems, we can use our subconscious to help us solve them while we are carrying on with our daily lives.

In previous issues of the Philippine Panorama, I have written the basics about the mind’s having two parts: the consciousness and the subconscious and about a simple technique of improving our memory. This may be done by organizing information into imaginary filing cabinets in our subconscious for easy recollection later when they are needed. In this present article, I am going one step further, that is, I will try to explain how we can solve problems using our subconscious.

A short introduction will be helpful to refresh outdated ideas that we may have formed about the way we think. Our mind is divided into consciousness or the “active” and “dynamic’ part, while the subconscious as the keeper and repository of information and knowledge plays a passive role. We can liken it to a vault or library where all the information, knowledge and events that happened in our lives are kept and filed.

Our mental processes, such as thinking, reflection, cogitation and other willful means of understanding information happen in the consciousness. When any information or raw data has been acted upon by our consciousness it becomes knowledge and is then stored in memory. Meanwhile the unprocessed data or bits of information which we have considered trivial, unimportant, useless, or just simply ignored, are not really lost. They are still drawn into our subconscious. Unknowingly, these are filed side by side with our past experiences and thoughts. Therefore, our subconscious is indeed a repository of experiences—whether we are fully aware of them or not.

For example, Little Billy, a city boy, went hiking with several friends in the mountains of the countryside. After a few hours of climbing over rocks and jumping across small streams, they stopped on a soft grassy place under the shade of some wild trees and sat down to rest. Little Billy is not a lover of nature but he enjoyed the company of his friends and their stories. Most probably, when he goes back to the city he will remember the stories and jokes they shared together, but not the panoramic view of the mountains. Nevertheless, it will form a part of his subconscious.

Fast forward to the future: Little Billy is now a professional, writer, composer, painter, or maybe a happily married man. As a loving father telling stories to his children, he recounts his adventures during his younger days. He may even be able to tap into his memory about this particular scenery and will tell them a very compelling story indeed.

But we can do something even more with a little help from our subconscious. It is not only for keeping long lost memories which maybe recalled later; more importantly it can help us solve major problems in almost any aspect of our lives—our work, careers, personal relationships, and family.

Here, we shall employ this untapped potential to good use.

Imagine that you’re an employed average family man. Your eldest daughter has been hospitalized due to influenza and is scheduled to take the nursing board exams in a few days. This situation has gotten you and the other members of your family terribly worried.

Maybe you have other problems, too. The first step to solving them is to set priorities. Setting priorities is one way to get a grip on your situation and be on your way to solving them. Once you have made priorities according to the gravity of your troubles, then we can go to the second step which is to reduce and simplify each of these problems in a manner that can be easily managed and understood. Each one should be analyzed and any unnecessary clutter be removed. For example, while the child is sick, worries about her coming board examinations should temporarily be sidestepped because her health is paramount. These little worries should not detract you from the main problem.

This simplification process is very important for the success of our endeavors because as has been stated earlier, the subconscious is passive and is not an active player in our thinking process. It is a repository of knowledge. And the “clearer” and the more “simplified” the problem is when it is presented to the subconscious, the less time there is spent in relating this to the best and probable solution there is.

After the major predicaments have been simplified in easy to understand terms and cleansed of the minor issues, then the third step in harnessing the help of our untapped potential is to “throw” them into the subconscious in the order of importance, which we have rated them during the early stages.

Meanwhile, as all of these processes are happening inside our subconscious, we go on with the task of daily living, unhampered. This is because we are not fully involved in finding the solutions of the problems; our mind has automatically allocated a small, almost insignificant portion of itself to tackling the different predicaments. These parts or segments that have been assigned to the hierarchy of our problems may seem insignificant to us, yet they are able to do the task. Our mind knows what is best for itself. It does not assign more resources on any one single task running inside our subconscious at the expense of our daily, normal life.

There is a very little known saying that if you have a problem and you want it solved to “sleep on it”. This simple rule is true, but the three steps outlined above are still necessary before dozing off to dreamland.

After some hours, or more often, after several days have passed by, our subconscious will come up with the answers. Looking up for the best answers is a complicated process, but it does not follow the first-in first-out method of cranking up the solutions. Rather it obeys the fundamental rule of finding answers: easy problems get solved first.

Most of the time, when we think of it we consider our subconscious as a “useless” backstage mystery because it is not an active component of ourselves. But, if we begin to appreciate the potential that lies in our subconscious, it can be our best friend.

Copyright by the Author
(Published in the Philippine Panorama, May 6, 2007)

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