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.

Sensory Integration Dysfunction and Mental Disorder

Most of my research in the past has been centered around affective disorders, theories surrounding the causation of dysfunction, and the cognition / behaviors that sustain it. I am broadening my horizons to include many mental health disorders and developmental disorder, particularly autism.

I have had a theory for awhile that hinged almost completely on curious connections I’ve made between bipolar disorder and autism spectrum disorder. Doctors ruminated on the potential for my father and bipolar disorder. By the way my parents describe his mother, it didn’t seem surprising.

We’ve always assumed that my “affective disorder” (assumed Major Depressive Disorder in my teens) was a result of my father. Assumptions are changing around parents house in light of serious mental health symptoms popping up on my mother’s side of the family. My grandmother has “dementia”, politely termed to describe her psychosis. And my aunt who cares for her has developed paranoid delusions. She has isolated herself, because she is sure that the family is “against” her and consorting with one another behind her back.

These things don’t come out of nowhere. They become present after certain events happen, whether they are biochemical or a result of external stressors.

So, why is it that two parents with suspected “affective” disorders bear one child with moderately severe classical autism and another with bipolar disorder? Another generation passes. Two parents, one with an affective disorder and another with a mental health disorder, both with psychotic features, bear a child with mild Autism Spectrum Disorder : Pervasive Development Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified?

I’m not at liberty to speak in detail about my husband’s disorder. I have determined that it is up to him; it is his own business, and it is best for his mental health to know that I am only vaguely referring to it as a “disorder”. I will leave it at that.

We have actually been speaking now, sometimes at great length concerning symptoms, dysfunction, and identifying with one another. Many of these symptoms seem to revolve around sensory disturbances. For me, I’ve gone to great length to describe times of sensory overload caused by a removal of a “sensory filter”. It’s a chicken and the egg conundrum. Does the emotional disturbance make me more susceptible to the sensory integration and processing dysfunction or vice versa?

Unfortunately, there isn’t a great deal of literature on sensory integration dysfunction and mental health disorders. However, there is a wealth of it, as it is considered a component of Autism Spectrum Disorders.

It is thought that the main feature, besides pervasive behaviors, is sensory integration dysfunction / disorder. It is observed that children with ASD fall into categories of sensory “seekers” or “avoiders”. Seekers are thought to have dampeners on sensory imput. Avoiders are opposite and have a sensory overload. But, in most cases, there is usually a combination of the two. Some seeking and some avoidance. Unfortunately, avoidance is considered the most recognized behavior, as it is considered the most dysfunctional.

I can only speak for me. In episodes of hypomania, I become a seeker. One would think there should be an avoidance, but in hypomania, I cannot get enough. My brain eats it at hyperspeed and processes it just as fast.

However, mania is a different story. Often, sensory stimuli overloads an overly active mind. It makes manic symptoms worse. Sometimes, the racing thoughts become fragmented and my thinking becomes disordered. My speech becomes disrupted and incoherent, because the intergation of external stimuli cannot be effectively integrated. And an overload occurs.

In psychotic states, the sensory stimuli becomes confused and distorted. Places and people may become foreign and strange. Hallucinations can occur, distorting sensory stimuli even further. And delusions are fed by misinterpreted stimuli.

Mixed states are the worst. As everyone knows, a mixed state is probably the most unstable a person with bipolar disorder can get. Sensory stimuli is integrated, but poorly. The cognitive associations are often misinterpreted and can spark even worse symptoms.

A sensory overload is common in this state. The internal struggle is enough to shy away from anything stimulating, because of the cognitive inability to process it properly.

I’m still working on interpreting mixed states, the dysfunction, and how I experience it. The problem I face is that many new symptoms I did not expect surfaced at the same time.

Moving to depressive states. I find that I am often very easily overstimulated, though my mental state is dulled. My mind suffers a certain retardation of congitive and physical function. The problem the occurs is the foggy state makes the processing of stimuli difficult. It deepens emotional distress when presented with too much. I simply do not have the processing speed.

So, there are several functions that cause the dysfunction. There are a few facts that remain. I am an auditory avoider when I am unable to process external stimuli due to aggitated or foggy states. I am a tactile seeker in these states, with the explicit exception of psychosis. In (hypo)manic states, I am a motion seeker, as it calms. In depressive states, I am a motion avoider, but a visual seeker. Contrastingly, I am a visual avoider in (hypo)manic and psychotic states.

I could go on from there, but I won’t. I am more inclined to seek input from others. Examine your behaviors of seeking and avoidance. What do you find?