Did Your Subconscious Perceive Something Your Conscious Mind Missed?

Photo of people gathered around a crowded table eating a meal at a party.

In your dream, you notice a spirit floating over the room. The entity touches everyone sitting around a coffee table in your living room. It’s a warm, friendly presence.

Was it there when you were awake? Is subconscious perception real?

You’re smiling. Everybody seems to be enjoying themselves. The corporeal sit on sofas. The incorporeal float above.

When you awaken, you recognize the scene from earlier last night when you had a group of friends and family over for dinner and dessert.

That is, all except for the floating spirits. In your waking life, you were slicing an apple pie and talking to your guests. Spirits were the furthest thing from your mind.

When you were dreaming of your guests and the little party, you reviewed the day’s events. Dreaming minds often do this.

Yet the review came with a twist: the spirit floating above the room.

It was as if your subconscious wanted to ensure you knew there was a spirit in the room with you last night.

Did it happen? Was there a spirit floating above the room in reality yesterday? Did you not notice it when you were awake? If a dream is realistic (and dreams reviewing the events of your day can be very realistic), it can be hard to tell reality from the dream.

Dreams are often scenes from your life—with a twist

In another dream, your mind is rehashing a conversation you had with someone during the day. You’re sure you know what they were thinking. It’s like you’re reading their mind.

Are you right? Were they thinking about what you were thinking were talking to them?

Did your subconscious mind perceive something your conscious mind might have missed?

Is there some inner truth your subconscious is getting at?

It can and does happen. The subconscious picks up on things the conscious mind misses all the time. Did it happen this particular time? How can you be sure?

Effective use of your dreams

Nobody knows precisely why, but dreaming seems to play a part in memory creation and mental and emotional processing of the events of our lives. Our mental health suffers if we’re not allowed to sleep and dream. 

Yet just because you’ve dreamed something doesn’t make it true.

It may be true, however. You’re better off not discounting the notion automatically. The subconscious has been known to pick up specific signals and hints the conscious mind misses. This is known as intuition or, more recently, rapid cognition. For example, when you meet someone, and there’s something incongruous about what they say and the way they behave. That incongruity leads you to distrust them. Being in touch with your subconscious can help you zero in on the reasons for this feeling. There is a lot of information in the environment and it can be hard for the conscious mind to take it all in.

Rapid cognition: the process by which the subconscious picks up specific signals and hints that the conscious mind misses. Something isn’t quite right…

Another time your subconscious can help: when someone lies to you. Your subconscious mind can tip you off by signaling something about them, that what they’ve said doesn’t quite add up, and that there’s something more to what they’re doing and saying. In the game of poker, this is called a “tell‘ but the concept can apply to everyday life.

The conscious mind can’t process all possible information in an environment

Our conscious minds often can’t process all the possible information in the environment. It has to zero in on what experience shows to be the most significant. Our subconscious, however, senses more details at a higher rate than our conscious mind can. It cues into inconsistencies tipping the smokescreen of the liar. This is a survival mechanism. Using a computer operating system as an analogy, too much detail bogs the central processing unit down. This is believed to be at the core of subconscious perceptions.

Important information necessary for survival and effectiveness is relayed. The rest of it enters awareness as intuition and instinct.

The effect for some people is that it sometimes seems more mystical than it really is.

Learning when and how to trust your subconscious mind to lead you to the truth is important. If you automatically believe anything you dream, you’re going to end up with many erroneous ideas.

Depending on your level of creativity, some of those ideas might even be bizarre.

The better you get at recalling your dreams, the more likely it is you’re going to have these puzzling dream experiences.

You want your beliefs to match reality because who wants to have bizarre ideas for the sake of having bizarre ideas?

So how about it? Was a spirit floating above your party? Were you able to read your friend’s mind?

As a check, you must reconcile what you think might be subconscious perceptions against reality.

You need to be skeptical while not being impossible to convince.

Mundane vs. extraordinary

When a dream features extraordinary imagery, it’s easy to tell it apart from reality. You’re likely to immediately consider how the dream is symbolically communicating a thought or feeling about something.

When the subject of the dream is a slice of life, you may forget to do that.

The first thing, however, is to consider what the extraordinary element of the dream means. It’s the same thing as any other dream element. Ask, what does it mean to me?

In the case of the dream where the spirit is floating above the room, the spirit could be symbolizing something to you. You need to determine what.

It’s the same with the ability to be able to read the mind of the person you’re talking to in your dream. It could be a symbol.

If you spend a little time thinking about it, it might come clear to you. The ectoplasm may be a symbol. So might your friend’s thoughts. Considering that it might be so is the first step to uncovering the truth.

Talk about it

Another thing you can do to uncover the reality of the dream is to talk about it with someone who was there with you in reality.

Be careful to not lead them with your questions. Just ask the question.

“When we were sitting around the table, did you notice anything different going on?”

“What do you think about Janice? What do you think she thinks about _____?”

Another perspective can help you figure out if your insight is real. It’s a frame of reference.

The key is to not lead them on by sharing your dream.

If she says, “Yes, when I was at your party, I couldn’t help but think of our old friend Jeff. He would have liked to have been there.”

You might have been sensing something extraordinary going on. That’s far from concrete proof, of course, but it is an interesting coincidence.

If they say something else, however, or didn’t notice anything unusual, then your vision was a symbol of some sort promulgated by your subconscious.

Putting the whole experience together

If you look for symbolism and talk with others in a non-leading fashion, you’re more likely to arrive at the truth of what happened than if you don’t. Making sure to avoid leading others with your questions is paramount.

You’re never going to be able to reach the level of concrete proof where you can say with 100 percent certainty your subconscious uncovered a hidden insight. There are no testing controls in real life. Unless you’re trying to control your dreams, you’re not even exerting conscious control on them either.

You will, however, be able to say you have a suspicion your subconscious may or may not have uncovered a hidden perception about the world we live in. That’s essential to learning from experience.

Often, it’s just going to be one thing that makes you go “Hmm.”

It might be that it’s meant to be that way.

For further reading:

What does it mean when your dreams have a similar theme?

The people in your dream represent something.

Should you follow your heart or head?


James Cobb, RN, MSN, is an emergency department nurse and the founder of the Dream Recovery System. His goal is to provide his readers with simple, actionable ways to improve their health and maximize their quality of life. 


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Updated Apr. 26, 2022

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