Conscious, Subconscious, and Extraconscious


I began the original discussion of my theory of multiple consciousness in a response to An Open Letter of Apology.  To summarize, the theory of multiple consciousness stems from the existence of a conscious, thinking brain, a subconscious brain working in the background, and a third “extraconsciousness” that works somewhere in between.

This is not to be confused with the idea of paraconsciousness, or a consciousness that can be external to the person.  It’s not dissociative in the way the way that a person becomes detached from themselves, as in depersonalization.  Rather, this is a theory of the co-existant “personas” that perform different functions within the operations of conscious, subconscious, and extraconscious.

First, we’ll start with defining the conscious mind, the subconscious mind, and the third mind, which I refer to as the extraconscious mind.  The conscious mind is the thinking brain, the one that interfaces with the world in a real-time way, and processes immediate information.  This is the mind that takes in sensory information, begins the process of storing memories, uses cognition, and is the immediate persona, meaning set of behaviors and emotional responses based on external stimuli.

The subconscious mind is a mind that we aren’t immediately aware of.  The information that is taken in by the conscious mind is usually stored temporarily in the subconscious mind.  The subconscious mind then works at making sense of all of this information, and stores it where it belongs.  In other instances, the information needs to be worked out for a solution, and instead of being stored, it is continually being worked on.  These are operations that we aren’t aware of, until solutions and thoughts come out of nowhere.  That is when our subconscious mind has paired with other operations of the brain (cognition, memory) and then passed it over to the thinking brain, even while the brain isn’t active in that function.

The third operation is a new concept.  For me, anyway.  It is the extraconscious mind, meaning the mind outside of the defined states of consciousness.  This mind exists somewhere between the conscious mind and the subconscious mind.  Sometimes, it operates as a bridge between the subconscious and the conscious minds, relaying information between the two.  For instance, a person can feel vaguely aware of something, but not be fully aware.  That information is retained in the extraconscious mind.  Other times, it acts as a storage unit for the conscious mind and subconscious mind alike, until the information can be processed and passed back over.  And in some cases, the extraconscious mind acts as a place where semi-dormant things exist, that would ordinarily exist in the subconscious mind.

Why the third consciousness?  Why does a extraconscious mind exist?  I’m not saying that it exists in all individuals, though it probably does to some degree whether it is recognized or not.  The extraconsciousness exists for a number of reasons.  First, to bridge the gap between the conscious mind the the subconscious mind.  Second, in instances where there is repression of memories, thoughts, emotions, etc, the conscious mind is unable or unwilling to process that information and make sense of it.  The subconscious mind cannot store it indefinitely, because the conscious mind is already aware that it exists.  So, it becomes a part of the extraconscious mind.  And lastly, the extraconscious mind exists to house semi-dormant constructs and concepts.

Now, this ties directly into my still developing theory of multiple personas as a part of splitting and dissociation.  It is similar to Depersonalization Disorder, in that a person feels as if they are watching themselves from a place outside of the conscious mind.  However, the feeling is not completely external from the body and mind.  It is a vague awareness that the primary persona is not currently active or in control.

It is also similar to Dissociative Identity Disorder, which is that there are multiple “personalities”.  However, in DID, full blown personalities are completely separate from one another and aren’t aware of the other.  It produces states of complete amnesia.  The theory of multiple personas residing in the extraconsciousness is slightly different.

First, the personas are not full-blown personalities.  They are variations on the primary persona based on their function, which defines the predominant characteristics of the persona.  A person may be, at least, vaguely aware of the existence of these personas, as they make themselves known through the extraconscious to the conscious mind..  They may even be aware when a different persona switches into the conscious mind, where the primary persona is forced back into the extraconscious mind, as a helpless bystander during the event.  Typically, there is only a vague awareness of the events that took place during a dissociative state, where another persona resided in the conscious mind.  It doesn’t produce complete amnesia, but there may be some haziness to smaller events, while larger events aren’t quite as detailed.

As the same with DID, the theory of multiple personas allows for an indefinite number of personas.  Many of these personas take different stations within different consciousnesses.  For instance, one or more may reside in the extraconscious mind, making the primary persona residing in the conscious mind vaguely aware of their presence.  The awareness comes from subthreshold auditory hallucinations.  Since the hallucinations aren’t external, then it is not considered a complete hallucination.  However, the internal voices are still separate from the conscious mind, though not always active.  Multiple personas often reside in the subconscious mind, almost completely inactive, save for performing functions related to processing information.  This is how delusional thinking may begin, as misinterpreted information in the subconscious mind, colored by the multiple personas. However, it is uncommon that multiple personas exist in the conscious mind.

Sometimes, the extraconsciousness may be completely devoid.multiple personas.  This is preferable.  It means that the symptoms are largely inactive, since there is no persona to interfere with the conscious mind, and the information coming from the subconscious mind is less distorted.

However, in other times, the conscious mind may be completely devoid of personas, making a person largely catatonic.  This usually means that the primary consciousness has receded into the extraconsciousness.  Sometimes, this is to prevent psychic harm.  Other times, it may be a struggle to see which persona prevails in the consciousness.

In the next segment, I will define the multiple consciousnesses, describe how they came to be, define their functions, and detail how they operate between the consciousnesses.

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16 thoughts on “Conscious, Subconscious, and Extraconscious

  1. You know I experience Depersonalization Disorder, but I didn’t know the name for it. I knew it wasn’t DID but I’ve felt outside my body and mind in that way but I knew I don’t have more personas. Don’t get to deep on me, I’ll get lost lol

    • This is somewhere between the two. It is having a consciousness outside, but not exactly vacating the body. But in DID, it is full blown personalities, rather than personas. I guess we can call it different versions of oneself. So, as you can read, it’s not a complete departure from oneself.

      At least it makes sense in the context of symptoms. I’ll get to that later.

        • I considered it some kind of psychosis myself with auditory hallucinations. My doctors disagreed, since I could identify it as an internal source. I couldn’t control these intrusive thoughts, nor did they have any relevance to the current situation that I was in. They would find some kind of relevance from external cues to say the same derogatory and demeaning things to me. I had to develop the one voice in there that would occasionally stand up to it all. But, it still creates so much noise in my head.

          Obviously, it’s some kind of dissociation not yet defined. It’s dissociating with oneself, but only partially. It’s not exiting the body, as much as it is exiting the conscious part of the mind. And it doesn’t do so willingly. Not usually, unless it’s a part of a defense mechanism. Even then, when it’s willful, personas in the extraconscious are at least mildly to moderately aware of what is going on in reality, except they experience it as a parareailty. It’s akin to what is actually going on, but a little distorted.

          • mine is more than auditory. I visually see myslef in my mind doing everything I do but it is only when I am active. There is no struggle or choice. I can’t control it.

            • I agree, mine is mostly auditory. When I start having visual problems, that’s when I start to worry. When I say external cues, I’m talking about the personas in the extraconscious directing their commentary at me in my current context, and not because of my current context. There really isn’t any causation, but there is certain an effect.

              Sometimes, I do feel like I’m outside myself, watching myself, but it’s never completely external, like feeling out of my body. It’s not that kind of dissociation. It’s a dissociation from a conscious mind, but not being unaware, like in DID.

  2. Interesting. I do think my sporadic self-harming and “normal” personas are actually different. Because I feel like, in the former, something different takes over and overrides my “normal” self. It’s not just when I’m self-harming . . . it’s when I’m in the very depths of hopelessness and feeling like I’ll never be useful or important. I once described the way I experienced this to someone else on a depression forum, and they said it sounded like two personalities. But it’s not that, not really. It’s more like different aspects of myself . . . it sounds more similar to what you’re talking about.

    • I feel a certain dissociation taking place when I’m driven to self-injure myself. It’s not a separate personality, because it still feels like it’s a part of me. But, I know it’s not me. The me that exists in the typical day to day made a promise to certain people a long time ago about how that behavior would remain in the past. And here I am.

      But, there are other times where it feels like something else takes over. Like, when I’m particularly angry. Or, when I feel myself about to lash out. I hold on with all of my might, and I still slip away. Whatever comes out, I can’t control it. It’s like it has a mind of it’s own, and I’m standing in the background screaming, or sometimes just silently witnessing myself head into walls. It’s hard to explain, but that’s why I’ve come up with the theory above.

      I’m still working on the second installment. Weekends are always a slow blogging time for me.

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