When my two of my sons were young, we bought a set of bunk beds that needed some assembly. Even with a set of instructions, I have a hard time assembling anything. What might take an average person a few minutes to figure out generally takes me twice as long, and the assembly is half as good. There are often leftover parts and screws and some things that don’t fit quite right.
Eventually, I got the beds put together, but I could not figure out how to insert the two upper bunk mattress supports. They refused to go in correctly. I moved onto another project, and the supports found their way to the back of the boys’ closet where they were soon forgotten.
Months went by. Luckily, the top mattress stayed in place.
One early morning maybe a half year later, I dreamed that I was standing in my sons’ bedroom. In the dream, I opened the closet door and took out the two mattress supports and inserted them in the bed frame below the upper mattress exactly how they were supposed to go. They fit perfectly. The dream woke me up with a start.
It was dark outside and my family was still asleep, but I immediately got out of bed, went into the boys’ room, and found the mattress supports in the closet. I woke my son in the upper bunk and had him get out of bed and lift his mattress. I slid the supports into the frame exactly how I saw myself do it in my dream, and just like in the dream, they fit perfectly. I was puzzled that I could not get them to fit earlier but relieved that they were finally in place. The mattress was now secure. What in the world had just taken place?
This is a classic example of the unconscious mind at work.
The unconscious is the least understood area of the mind. Freud taught that the unconscious mind is the reservoir of feelings, thoughts, urges, and memories that exist outside of our conscious awareness. Because there is no known location in the brain where the unconscious mind resides, it is almost impossible to study. But because it is the haven of thoughts, feelings, and memories, it seems to be the place where problem-solving ideas originate and grow. Although my conscious mind had completely forgotten about the mattress supports, my unconscious mind had not. It had been quietly and unobtrusively working on the problem for months, and when it was able to get through, it sent the solution to me in the form of a dream. Thankfully, I paid attention.
If the unconscious mind is the source of inspired thought and the place where innovative ideas are born, accessing the unconscious should be a high-priority skill for everyone. In the BIG IDEAS Connect-the-Dots workshop, three paths are identified for accessing the unconscious mind.
Paying attention to your dreams is one way to access the unconscious. Keep a journal by your bed and write about your dreams. You’ll be astonished at what you learn and the issues your unconscious is working on.
Another way to access the unconscious is by writing, or journaling, about your problems and questions. The act of writing things out by hand creates new neural connections in your brain. It also opens a pathway for the unconscious mind to deliver insight to your conscious mind.
A third way to access the unconscious brain is by doing the preparatory work needed to generate more Aha! Moments. The book BIG IDEAS teaches people how to have more and higher quality insights. If you’re doing the right things to prepare, Aha! Moments will take place.
What happened when I had that dream is not unusual. Many people have similar experiences where they don’t know the answer, but a solution arrives quickly and fully formed. Sometimes these solutions come in a dream. Other times the answer to a problem or question arrives when you are writing in a journal or when your brain is disengaged from active thought, like when you’re in the shower or driving to work. Pay attention when answers come. It’s your higher wisdom knocking.