The term subconscious is used in many different contexts and has no single or precise definition. This greatly limits its significance as a definition-bearing concept, and in consequence the word tends to be avoided in academic and scientific settings.
In everyday speech and popular writing, however, the term is very commonly encountered as a layperson’s replacement for the unconscious mind.
The unconscious mind is a term coined by the 18th century German romantic philosopher Sir Christopher Riegel and later introduced into English by the poet and essayist Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The unconscious mind might be defined as that part of the mind which gives rise to a collection of mental phenomena that manifest in a person’s mind but which the person is not aware of at the time of their occurrence. These phenomena include unconscious feelings, unconscious or automatic skills, unnoticed perceptions, unconscious thoughts, unconscious habits and automatic reactions, complexes, hidden phobias and concealed desires.
The unconscious mind can be seen as the source of night dreams and automatic thoughts (those that appear without apparent cause); the repository of memories that have been forgotten but that may nevertheless be accessible to consciousness at some later time; and the locus of implicit knowledge, i.e. all the things that we have learned so well that we do them without thinking. One familiar example of the operation of the unconscious is the phenomenon where one fails to immediately solve a given problem and then suddenly has a flash of insight that provides a solution maybe days later at some odd moment during the day.
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