1. Alan has completed the new Pain Recovery Program. To read or share it, use this updated link: https://www.tmswiki.org/forum/painrecovery/
    Dismiss Notice

Derek S. unconscious vs. subconscious, repression vs. suppression

Discussion in 'Ask a TMS Therapist' started by Guest, Nov 21, 2014.

  1. Guest

    Guest Guest

    This question was submitted via our Ask a TMS Therapist program. To submit your question, click here.

    Hi everyone- thanks so much for having this service available.

    I would like some clarification from Dr. Sarno's books about the use and definitions of the words unconscious and conscious mind, and the use and definitions/differences of repressed and suppressed emotions.

    There is no use of the word subconscious in Dr. Sarno's writings. I understand unconscious to mean we can never become aware of what is in there, while subconscious means that the info in it can be retrievable using a variety of techniques. Dr. Sarno does say that it is rare for unconscious emotions to become conscious, which leads to more confusion for me. Is he actually referring to the subconscious is this situation?

    One last question/personal observation: Is it possible that virtually any physical health condition can be psychogenically derived?

    With much appreciation, Randy Zonnis, BA RSW RRP(Canada)
    mike2014 likes this.
  2. Derek Sapico MFT

    Derek Sapico MFT TMS Therapist

    Hi Randy,

    Thanks so much for the fascinating question.

    Your understanding of the difference between the subconscious mind and the unconscious mind sounds fairly accurate to me. There are a few things that I would add that I think would be helpful to clarify about the distinction between the two.

    The idea of the "unconscious mind" was popularized by Freud and it is believed to consist of primitive and instinctual desires, in addition to learned information that we cannot easily access (memories, beliefs, emotions, patterns, etc.). The unconscious mind is a primary force that drives human behavior and thinking.

    The "subconscious" mind on the other hand is much more accessible and consists of things that our brain remembers even when we are not focusing on them. I could continue into a discussion of the differences between the subconscious and the pre-conscious but I will spare us all the confusion and inevitable headache that would ensue.

    Incidentally, Freud rejected the concept of the subconscious mind and asserted that if it is easily retrievable information, then it is part of the conscious mind and that the distinction between the two "minds" should be limited to the conscious and the unconscious.

    The terms "unconscious" and "subconscious" are used interchangeably in the TMS world but when speaking about emotions that we are consciously unaware of, both terms are referring to the unconscious mind.

    When we purposefully try to ignore thoughts and feelings that we are aware of we are "suppressing." It is intentional and is just a method of coping. We dictate this consciously and these suppressed thoughts and emotions should not cause pathological symptoms (pain, anxiety, depression, etc).

    When our brain buries or hides feelings or experiences from our conscious awareness because it deems them intolerable, we do not consciously dictate the process and this is "repression." An example would be someone who experiences trauma as a child and their brain relegates the memories and feelings associated with this trauma to the unconscious mind because the brain determines that this is necessary in order for that person to continue to function.

    While you can never fully "know" exactly what is in the unconscious mind, it is generally believed in the fields of medicine and psychology that unconscious memories can surface to the conscious mind. It is not easy and it takes some work, but it can be done via certain forms of dynamic psychotherapy, hypnosis, dream interpretation, and maybe even journaling.

    My advice for you would be to not get too caught up in what any one person says about unconscious vs. subconscious or even the accessibility of repressed emotions because this might feed into your perfectionistic tendencies.

    Instead of worrying about how much information you can actually excavate from your unconscious mind, patiently work towards a greater degree of self-awareness and emotional curiosity. If you are struggling to access certain feelings, work with a therapist who specializes in identifying defense mechanisms that might be preventing you from getting into contact with these emotions that are proving elusive.

    Regarding your last question, the brain is incredibly powerful and can certainly create any type of pain, sensation, or physiological response at any moment and in any part of the body. Whether or not it can be blamed for more serious and persistent conditions such as cancer, diabetes, autoimmune conditions, etc is unknown to science and medicine (and me). I do not adamantly reject this notion, but the existing body of research forbids me from embracing it. Science and medicine are vital to our well-being and physicians, while sometimes flawed in their beliefs and approaches, play an invaluable role in the TMS recovery process.

    I hope that this helps in your understanding of some interesting concepts. It was a good refresher for me, and this sub-forum (or "un-forum") really keeps me and the other PPC therapists on our toes!

    Best of luck.


    Any advice or information provided here does not and is not intended to be and should not be taken to constitute specific professional or psychological advice given to any group or individual. This general advice is provided with the guidance that any person who believes that they may be suffering from any medical, psychological, or mindbody condition should seek professional advice from a qualified, registered/licensed physician and/or psychotherapist who has the opportunity to meet with the patient, take a history, possibly examine the patient, review medical and/or mental health records, and provide specific advice and/or treatment based on their experience diagnosing and treating that condition or range of conditions. No general advice provided here should be taken to replace or in any way contradict advice provided by a qualified, registered/licensed physician and/or psychotherapist who has the opportunity to meet with the patient, take a history, possibly examine the patient, review medical and/or mental health records, and provide specific advice and/or treatment based on their experience diagnosing and treating that condition or range of conditions.

    The general advice and information provided in this format is for informational purposes only and cannot serve as a way to screen for, identify, or diagnose depression, anxiety, or other psychological conditions. If you feel you may be suffering from any of these conditions please contact a licensed mental health practitioner for an in-person consultation.

    Questions may be edited for brevity and/or readability.

  3. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    I agree with Mike about liking Derek Sapico's reply.

    I notice a lot of TMS posts are of a technical nature, wondering about the psychology of TMS healing.
    I prefer to keep it simple. My back pain was not caused by anything structural, it was from repressed emotions
    that went back to my childhood (parents divorcing when I was 7 and then I had two more fathers after that.
    Too many fathers, when I loved my birth father by far the most.

    And I am a perfectionist and have a "goodist" personality, so those things caused a lot of emotional stress
    which became physical pain.

    I am happiest and feel best when I live in the present moment. It keep me from fearing or worrying about
    tomorrow or the distant future.

Share This Page