Can You “Think” Consciously and Subconsciously at the Same Time?

I was reading Daniel Goleman’s book Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence and the following leapt off the page at me “Voluntary attention, willpower, and intentional choice are top-down; reflexive attention, impulse, and rote habit are bottom-up” (as are distractions).”

By “top-down” he is inferring what Daniel Kahneman would call Type 2 thinking or archer’s “conscious” thinking,” and by “bottom-up” he is referring to what Kahneman would call Type 1 thinking or archers would call “subconscious or unconscious” thinking.

I have learned and have taught all along that an archer’s thought process was something the conscious mind taught the subconscious mind, until it became habit and then the conscious mind followed the process as an observer while shots were executed in earnest subconsciously. The monitoring of the shot sequence gives the conscious mind something to do so that it doesn’t interfere with the subconscious routine, aka habit, which is the shot itself.

For some reason, even though I understood this to be the case, that archers are trying to harmonize the workings of their conscious and subconscious minds to work together . . . at the same time, too often I took this to be switching back and forth between the types of thinking, but now I see that there are two streams of thoughts that are interwoven.

We now know that the subconscious mental activities use the same regions of the brain as do conscious activities. For example, when you are examining something visually, you engage the visual cortex of your brain. If you just imagine the same object, the visual cortex is engaged once again. Those brain cells have been optimized to deal with visual information, so using the same circuitry, as it were, makes very good sense.

So, as our conscious and subconscious minds weave their way through your shot sequence, we do not want to tangle those threads. For example, if you are aiming, you are using your eyesight intensely to align your sight aperture or arrow point with your point of aim. You do not want to use a visualization at this point to help with any aspect of your shot as the visual cortex is involved in aiming and you don’t want to pull it away to imagine a visual object.

So, while you are aiming, you need some nonvisual marker of whether you are completing your shot. Since we can’t use vision, either directly or in a visualization of your draw elbow, for example, we use instead something like the feeling of muscle tension building, building, building in our back muscles which are used to finish the draw and to execute the hold.

We now know that we can hold two things consciously in mind at the same time, instead of the one thing we used to think so we can aim (optimizing our sight picture) and focus upon feeling our back muscle tension building at the same time. (This, by the way, is the only time our conscious attention is split during a shot. The rest of the time, it is one thing at a time.)

So, while you are shooting are you thinking consciously or subconsciously? Answer: yes!

Both steams of thought are continuous and if trained right, interwoven. The key is assigning the right tasks to the right streams.

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