Why do I draw a distinction between the unconscious and the conscious self?
The short answer is because it’s a convenient way to talk about them. Actually all is consciousness. The unconscious is just the unaware part of the conscious mind i.e. the conscious is unconscious of the unconscious. Get it?
We perceive a lot of things during the day, but we are not necessarily aware of them. Some of this unconscious material affects the meaning we consciously give to the things that we perceive e.g., for someone who lives in Montana, or in the middle of Europe or in Russia the word “Palm” elicits a different meaning than it might for someone living in Hawaii, the Philippines, or California. This is because the word has been biased through ones experience.
In reality our past perceptions of our experiences and the decisions we’ve made about those experiences bias everything that we see in the present and often into the future. It’s a bias, or a conditioning, that has served humankind well over the millennia where we had to learn a set of responses to a set of experiences in such a way that it made our survival more likely.
But conditioned responses have a down-side because they remove us from the events of the moment. This might be good if we find ourselves in an emergency where we need to act quickly, but in any event where we need to act more thoughtfully it can have disastrous effects. This is especially true if we come to depend on a set of conditioned responses without thinking before reacting.
Old material stored in the unconscious can be stimulated if the conditions are right and then used as a means of responding to new situations. Sometimes this is appropriate, but much of the time it is not especially in the modern world where the response patterns required are significantly different than those needed by the cave man.
Ever notice how some things just seem to happen to you, over and over again i.e., choosing the wrong mate (girlfriend/boyfriend, husband/wife), or you make the same kind of bad decision over and over again, or negative things just seem to happen to you more frequently than to others? Why are you stuck in a dead-end job, you’re just as smart and talented as the next fellow? It may be because of conditioned and unconscious material buried in the unconscious mind.
This is why some folks go to therapy, or counselors, or special self-development seminars and workshops–to find out what is tripping them up. Others seek answers through meditation or their dreams. Dreams tap into the unconscious on a regular basis and provide a means to make the material conscious again. But the unconscious mind functions differently and not as rationally and more chaotically than the arguably more ordered and linear conscious mind so it takes a bit of work to decipher the meaning of its images.