Ep 9. Insomnia and the Unconscious Mind

Sep 26, 2023

This unique episode is ALL about the unconscious mind.

Sleep at its very core is SIMPLE. There is nothing you need to do or be.

But could we be missing an opportunity to understand insomnia from greater perspective?

Could insomnia itself be a conditioned fear that lives beneath our conscious awareness?

I certainly think so!

In this episode, I share 3 reasons WHY understanding the unconscious mind isn’t just valuable, but transformative.

  1. It knows WAY more than the conscious mind does
  • It’s where emotions are
  • It’s where the immune system resides
  • Your nervous system represents your unconscious mind
  • Beliefs and value systems stem from the unconscious mind

  1. It helps us better understand ourselves
  • Insomnia is a habit
  • Anything we DO with repetition, THINK with repetition, or FEEL with repetition becomes habituated in the nervous system
  • Repetition creates habituated patterns of thought like: “I’m not a good sleeper,” which eventually moves over to the unconscious mind (to clear up space in the conscious mind)
  • The story you tell yourself over and over becomes the reality.
  • We can get addicted to a belief, ideology or story

  1. It makes it easier to make changes in your life
  • The conscious mind is limited – we’re missing a greater intelligence to work with
  • Helps people tell new stories
  • Changing habits = changing the brain

If you’re curious about you own life experience and want to understand insomnia from an unconscious level, this episode is for you.

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About Beth Kendall MA, FNTP:

For decades, Beth struggled with the relentless grip of insomnia. After finally understanding insomnia from a mind-body perspective, she changed her relationship with sleep, and completely recovered. Liberated from the constant worry of not sleeping, she’s on a mission to help others recover as well. Her transformative program Mind. Body. Sleep.™ has been a beacon of light for hundreds of others seeking solace from sleepless nights.

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Insomnia and the Unconscious Mind

My Approach and Perspective

Today’s episode is all about the unconscious mind and why I think it’s helpful to understand in the context of insomnia.


So far, doing this podcast has been interesting because I want to talk about things that I think are valuable around sleep and insomnia, but I also don’t want to complicate what is essentially, a very simple process.


Sleep is simple, there is nothing you need to do or be. It only becomes complicated when we start to overthink it. So, I’ve been a bit hesitant to talk about some of these things because I for sure don’t want you to feel like you have to go really deep and understand all this stuff to get beyond insomnia, because you definitely don’t.


From a personal level, these are just the things that have contributed to my philosophy and approach. There is something very purposeful from me behind talking about insomnia from this perspective. It feels not only really interesting but also very congruent to my understanding and experience.  


And this isn’t super surprising to me because growing up, my Dad was very interested  in the metaphysical and understanding things around consciousness and what the relationship is between mind and brain and while I didn’t really see the value of all of that until much later in life, when I did finally find myself in place reaching for a greater understanding of things, all of that sort of came back around in my memory. And I’m really grateful to my dad for planting those seeds in such early life.


And you know, I just find all of this to be such a fun exploration of life and really my curiosity for it just never gets old. But I have noticed that I am particularly drawn the role of the unconscious mind and for the life of me can’t figure out WHY it’s not a bigger part of the conversation. And not just the sleep conversation, but any conversation or insight into how the mind works. Because it’s such a powerful aspect of our human existence.


But I will say that I’ve have noticed that in the period of time from when I finished my thesis work in self-directed neuroplasticity which was in 2019 to where we are now, there has been a big shift in the general public in terms of what is considered really “out there” because I use to just say the words “the unconscious mind” and people would give me some strange looks and just thought it was pretty woo-woo and now it’s more like: “oh yeah, the unconscious mind, cool.” So, it’s become more prevalent in the mainstream and in the popular press which I think it’s great because it’s a cool thing to learn about.


If you want to know more about my 3 core philosophies around insomnia, you can go back to episode one where I explain what those are and how they came to be.

 3 Key Reasons It's Important to Understand the Unconscious Mind

Okay so what’s the big deal about the unconscious mind? Why does it matter and what does it have to do with sleep or insomnia?


In this episode, I want to talk about the 3 reasons why think it’s helpful to have an understanding of the unconscious mind.


1. The unconscious mind knows so much more than the conscious mind does – it holds so much more information! So why wouldn’t we seek to understand this a bit more, right?


We think we’re consciously running our lives, but that’s not really true because it’s the unconscious that processes basically every single moment of your life.

  • It’s where your emotions live
  • It’s the powerhouse behind your immune system
  • Your nervous system is a representation of the unconscious mind
  • All of your beliefs and value systems live in the unconscious mind
  • It not only controls all of your bodily functions, it’s ALSO the place where wisdom, creativity and all of your ideals and aspirations stem from, which I think is so fascinating.


Insomnia itself is an unconscious fear of not sleeping. So for those of you out there that are wondering why you can’t sleep even though you’re not outwardly anxious, it’s because the fear is conditioned beneath your conscious awareness.


It’s sort of like we wouldn’t touch a hot stove anymore because our unconscious has learned that this would be painful, but we don’t have an outward fear of touching a hot stove.


Distinction Between Mind and Brain


Anywhere from 95-97% of everything we do is processed by the unconscious mind. And that’s by design, right? Because can you imagine if we had to think about walking down the street, or driving, or healing, or digesting our food, or tying our shoes, or engaging all of our senses — that would be exhausting? Because we don’t have the conscious capacity to think intentionally about all these things — they just happen automatically.


Now a lot of times people take this 5% statistic about the CONSCIOUS mind and apply it to the brain — maybe you’ve heard the myth that we only use 5 or 10% of our brain. But I’m not talking about the brain, because I suspect that we are using certain parts of our brain for different things all the time and blood is flowing through our brain I would assume to be 100% of the time, I don’t know because I’m not a neuroscientist. But I’m talking about the aspect of the MIND that creates the vast majority of how we go through life!


Now, if you’re wondering what the difference is between the mind and the brain that really is a whole different episode. And I love that one of my students in the mentorship actually did ask me this a few months back (I was like, oh, you are my people!), But there really is no agreed upon definition or decision for the relationship between mind and brain. So, for the purposes of this podcast, I’m taking a dualism approach which asserts that the mind and brain are two separate things that operate interdependently.


And you know here’s the thing… there really is so much more that we don’t know about this relationship between mind and matter than what we do know. And frankly there’s a lot that I don’t think science will ever fully understand. But what we do know is still pretty fascinating if you ask me.


So, number one is just acknowledging the tremendous role of the unconscious mind in how we live our lives. I think it just makes sense to give equal weight to understanding these two aspects of the mind.


Understanding Insomnia from Unconscious Perspective


2. It provides greater insight into understanding your life experience or whatever you’re in.


There is nothing better than being able to connect the dots of your own human existence, right? One of the most significant a-ha moments of my own life came when I realized, through my own understanding of the unconscious mind, the many ways my brain was unintentionally fueling insomnia.


I could suddenly see all the persistent thoughts and beliefs that had been stuck on a loop, just running on replay shaping my identity as someone with insomnia.


Now, without my understanding of the unconscious mind, who knows, I might have continued on the path of endlessly seeking solutions for my sleep for quite possibly the rest of my life. But once I understood that I wasn’t dealing with a “sleep” problem, I was dealing with a conditioned fear problem, I felt a lot more equipped to tackle that.  


And this doesn’t just apply to sleep, it can apply to anything we struggle to understand about ourselves.


  • Why we’re afraid to fail
  • Why we’re afraid to succeed
  • Why we sabotage certain situations
  • Why we fear things that make no sense
  • Why we’re sick
  • Why we don’t trust ourselves


All of these things are much more easily accepted and understood when we have an awareness of the unconscious mind. Because when we understand that most of what we do is based on beliefs and programs we learned from other people in early life as a way to survive in the world, we can then consciously adapt them to fit what WE want for ourselves in own lives.


In a sense, we bring the unconscious conscious


Which leads me to number three which is….


Comprehensive Interplay Between Two Spheres of the Mind

3. An understanding of the unconscious mind is helpful because it can help you make changes in a more comprehensive way.


In my opinion, trying to understand things and change them from a strictly conscious perspective is really pretty slow and limited. And this can actually go both ways….


Because a lot of times people will ask me about modalities that work mainly at the unconscious level like hypnosis or EMDR or tapping. And I think all of those things have merit.


But again, focusing on just ONE aspect of the mind, and in this case, it’s the unconscious isn’t always the best approach. Because if your conscious understanding doesn’t match the work your unconscious is doing, it’s like being on two separate paths.


So, for example, if you’re getting hypnosis for insomnia, but you don’t have an accurate understanding or education of what insomnia is and why it happens from a conscious perspective, you’re probably going to get pulled right back into those patterns once you start living life.


Alright, so those are the 3 big reason I think it’s important to understand the unconscious mind. Just to recap:


  1. It’s storing a lot of information about why we do the things we do
  2. It helps us better understand our lives
  3. It makes it easier to make meaningful changes in your life


Coaching the Unconscious Mind


When I’m working with clients, I will often ask them all kinds of questions that may not make sense to them, but I’m looking for the ways their unconscious is holding up insomnia. I’m looking at what could be keeping it in place and how their minds are doing it. Because the unconscious knows the reason behind everything you are doing.


So I’m working with some of the background beliefs and thoughts and emotions that are driving this identity.


I know that my clients already have the answer to insomnia, I’m just drawing it out them and then they usually connect the dots on their own.


So, my understanding of the unconscious mind allows me to trust their unconscious mind.

I think having this basic knowledge can take some of the pressure off and allow us to be kinder to ourselves. Because much of what we do in this world is driven by our unconscious mind which is always rooted in love and survival. It’s always coming from a place of love.


When we can see the positive underlying intention behind things like insomnia, the meaning of the experience starts to change. And when that meaning becomes a little kinder and a little gentler, then it’s much easier to start responding differently to these patterns.


So I hope this episode gave you some insights into the unconscious mind. It’s always been a curiosity for me why there isn’t more emphasis on exploring this aspect of our existence. In much the same way I’ve always wondered WHY the placebo effect isn’t the most fascinating part of any study.


These are the things that make life a wonder for me, so I appreciate being able to share them with you on this podcast.


This is Beth Kendall; I’ll see you next time…

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