Congruent Joy

Two Systems of the Mind

BDSM begins by engaging the conscious mind. Discussing interests, mutual fetishes, limits, possible scenarios. Obtaining informed consent.

Yet to have a fetish or not, to desire something or not, comes from our brain, but doesn’t come from our conscious mind.

Someone might wish they had a fetish (perhaps they have a relationship partner that has a fetish and they wish they wanted to participate), or perhaps wish they wished they didn’t have a fetish (if, for example, they aren’t able to safely practice their fetish, and so are left unsatisfied).

We can choose whether to allow ourselves to indulge in a desire, or not. If we choose to indulge in a desire, we can choose how to satisfy that desire.

But we don’t get to choose our desires.

In his book “Thinking, Fast and Slow”, Daniel Kahneman describes these two systems of the mind.

System 2 is our conscious mind, our “I”, that is verbal, that makes decisions, that gives consent, that pays attention to one thing or another.

While System 1 is the part of our mind that runs automatically, nonverbally, without a sense of voluntary control.

Our desires, intuition, and feelings come from our System 1.

System 1 is what we colloquially call “the subconscious” or “the unconscious”.

Daniel Kahneman never uses these terms in his book.

A hundred years ago when psychology was getting started, there was a lot of speculation about what the subconscious or unconscious mind was like.

With modern experimental cognative psychology we know a lot more about the actual systems of the mind. It is this modern understanding that Kahneman refers to by “System 1” and “System 2”.

The original speculation can be of historical interest, but makes a term like “subconscious” ambiguous: are we talking about a modern understanding of how the mind works, or how the “subconscious” or “unconscious” was described a hundred years ago?

However, in the BDSM hypnotic community the term “subconscious” is commonly used.

And “subconscious” rolls off the tongue a lot easier than “System 1”.

Thus I find it easiest to use the term “subconscious”, and when I use the term to specifically mean the mind’s System 1.

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