A model of the mind



In order to grasp a complex subject, it is often useful to create a model of it. Not an Airfix model but a conceptual model. The idea behind a model is to represent complex subjects in an understandable way without the need for prior education on the subject.  Models gets thrown around academic circles like a Frisbee at a BBQ. Business models, computer models, thought models, more models than you can shake a stick at. I have them too (as a therapist). A therapist has all kinds of models for how things can change, models for why actions and behaviours occur and models of the mind. Models can be incredibly useful in helping people understand who they are.

The downsides to models are that, through simplifying the subject you wish to represent, you lose the subtlety and nuance of the subject. Models are not necessarily the truth but useful stories we tell each other to gain a more important truth.

Here’s an example of what I mean. Hypnotherapists talk (endlessly if you allow them) about the conscious and unconscious as if they are two distinctly different parts of the brain. The truth is a little more complicated than that, in as much as conscious and unconscious processes happen all over the brain. There are areas that handle mostly conscious or mostly unconscious processes but there is always cross over.

If models come with such inaccuracy then why use them? The answer is simple. Although they may not be completely accurate (and trust me, no model ever is) they serve to give people the knowledge they need and not bog them down unnecessary information.

I am a huge fan of mind models. There are plenty of them about. Each useful in it’s way and many are just different ways of saying the same thing.  One of the models I heard about most recently is a three part model of the mind that I would like to present to you.

Imagine your mind is made up of three component parts. The first is your happy, positive, conscious that is always eager to try new thing. The second is your negative, obsessive subconscious that wants everything to stay the same. In between these two parts sits your precedent library.


The precedent library is a vast storehouse of all your knowledge and experience. As we go through life, we throw everything that happens to us in the library, on the floor. At night, as we dream, our librarian files away all of our knowledge and experience in such a way that it’s easy to access when needed.

The librarian also gathers all the thoughts and expectations we’ve had throughout the day and files them too. Thoughts that are positive and/or useful get filed away and thoughts that are negative and/or useless get shredded and thrown away.

Now imagine that we keep throwing more things into our library than our librarian can handle. Soon our library would become a complete mess. Piles of paperwork would start to stack up and begin covering all the useful filing cabinets and bookshelves we often need. Our conscious can’t handle the mess very well but the subconscious thrives on it.

The subconscious start filling your thoughts will more negative and/or useless thoughts which in turn makes the library even messier and so on and so forth.

I learnt this model as an overview of how stress can form and lead to anxiety, depression and panic attacks. And although there is no library in our minds, it is a great way to understand what’s going on in our minds. It also gives us a useful story of how our minds become stressed (messy).

In the next blog article we will discover some ways to tidy out your library and ease the stress in your life. Until then, have a happy times and if there are any models of the mind or brain you’re particularly fond of, please feel free to email them to me,

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