The Many States of Human Consciousness

The definition of Human consciousness in psychology is, “the state of being conscious and the awareness of one’s own existence”. Your reality appears the way it does, because of your Consciousness. The continual communication of your brain with the other organs, the information extracted by your senses, the thoughts and emotions in your mind, the state of your physical body, your reactions to the outside events, your memory of the past and anxieties about the future, all are different elements of your Consciousness. With so many elements contributing to Consciousness, a static Consciousness isn’t a likelihood if you are a human being with a working brain. And it will not be incongruous to say that the Human Consciousness is as mutable as the state of your mind and body. Any change to your mind affects your Consciousness and so does any change in your physical being. In this article, we discuss the multiple states of Human Consciousness and the factors that contribute to the diverse states of Consciousness.

The Different States of Human Consciousness

You know that any conditioning to your mind alters your awareness quotient, but did you know that it’s not just your mind and body that alter your Consciousness? Your surroundings and the situation at hand, in fact, have an equal say in the disposition of your Consciousness. Let’s say you just got out of your bed and realize that it’s an off-day. Your mind would suddenly go into a slothful mode and you would be prone to be less observant for the next few hours. But how about when it’s a working day? Would you, and can you afford to be lethargic then? That is a simple example of how your awareness, your Consciousness, changes gears with the slightest of changes in not just your mind and body, but also your surroundings and situation. Following are some of the most significant states of Human Consciousness that govern one’s existence from birth until death:

1. Waking State

The Waking state of Consciousness is where your mind and body are at the peak of their activities and your senses are open and receptive to all that is impressed upon them. The Waking state is perhaps the most significant state of Consciousness because this is when you are constantly aware of the happenings around you. In this state, your awareness level is higher than that of most of the other states of Consciousness like the Sleeping state and the Drugged state. Your Consciousness when you are awake is both the object and the subject of your life. While it enables you to take actions for your own good, it also makes you a spectator of everything happening around you. Your experience of life is all that it is, due to your actions and takeaways during the Waking state of your Consciousness. However, there are times when you are awake, but your awareness isn’t at its peak because your Consciousness alters itself to suit the situation at hand. For instance, when you wake up from a night’s sleep, there are those initial moments in which you are anything but conscious. Likewise, when you are stressed out, your focus is narrowed down to one particular problem. In such situations, not just the overall awareness but also the awareness of the context surrounding the problem may take a backseat. Something similar happens when you are too excited, and your attention is taken away mostly by the source of your excitement.

2. Sleeping State 

One would ask, why even consider the Sleeping state as a state of Consciousness. The answer would be, while your conscious mind is latent during the Sleeping state, your subconscious mind and all the organs like the heart, the lungs, the liver, the digestive system, continue to work. Even your senses and your mind are ready for action in the Sleeping state if the situation demands. For instance, when you are sleeping and the alarm goes off, it is your ears that hear the ringing of the alarm and send out the signal to your brain, which ultimately wakes you up. Another aspect of the Sleeping state that makes it worthy of being considered as a state of Consciousness, is the mysterious element of Dreams. Dreams are like projections or wild mixup of your imaginations from the Waking State of your Consciousness. These behind the scene activities that go on in your body when you are asleep, are proof enough that your Consciousness doesn’t leave your body when you are asleep; it just takes another, more subtle form.

3. Meditative state 

Your Consciousness takes a skyward ride when you are into Meditation. Meditation is a practice which tranquilizes your senses and your mind by way of deepened breaths and constant focus on nothingness. It trains your mind to unlearn things to improve your focus and render you with heightened levels of awareness and emotional balance. Multiple studies using modern technologies like fMRI and EEG have been able to confirm that Meditation actually reduces anxiety and depression, and helps develop a better sense of responsibility, compassion, and self-acceptance. The Meditative state of Consciousness much like the Sleeping state of Consciousness is a ‘fuel stop’ for your Consciousness where can refuel and nurture itself for the longer run. But I would rate the Meditative state of Consciousness higher, and call it the mother of all the other states of Consciousness because Meditation doesn’t just provide nourishment to your Consciousness, but it also develops the positive aspects of your self and diminishes the negative ones.

4. Hypnotic state 

Disclaimer: The following information may not be entirely accurate and for any medical advice, you must consult your doctor.

Hypnosis is a state of Human Consciousness characterized by suggestibility, heightened imagination, and diminished peripheral awareness. A person under hypnosis briefly loses the power of voluntary actions and becomes more responsive to suggestions coming from an external source. There are two familiar types of hypnosis, namely, Self-induced hypnosis and Hypnotic induction. ‘Self-induced’ hypnosis is very common, and includes day-to-day activities like daydreaming, watching movies, listening to music and so on. The reason these activities are sorts of hypnosis is that when you are involved with something that interests you, your awareness greatly diminishes, your mind becomes receptive to suggestions and your imagination jumps into action, all of which are pretty much the signs of Hypnosis. ‘Hypnotic induction’ also known as ‘Hypnotherapy’ in the therapeutic parlance, is a more sophisticated type of hypnosis where a hypnotist induces hypnosis in you, using a series of instructions and suggestions. The subject who is being hypnotized can see, smell, feel based on the hypnotist’s suggestions. In fact, the power of hypnotic induction is such, that the hypnotist can even alter the subject’s memory using his suggestions and instructions. The good thing about hypnotic induction is that it can be used for multiple healing purposes like the treatment of pain, depression, stress, habit disorders, anxiety, and phobias.

5. Drugged state 

Disclaimer: The following information may not be entirely accurate and for any medical advice, you must consult your doctor. We also oppose the use of any addictive or harmful drug and recommend a doctor’s prescription before you opt for any type of medicinal drug. 

There are special drugs collectively known as the ‘Psychoactive drugs’, which act directly on your brain, thereby altering the state of your Consciousness. The Stimulants, the depressants, the painkillers, and the hallucinogens are some of the prominent categories of the Psychoactive drugs. Stimulants like cocaine, nicotine, caffeine, and ecstasy alter your Consciousness by increasing the brain activity. On the contrary, depressants like alcohol and cannabis, slow down your brain activity giving you temporary relief from anxiety. Painkillers like aspirin, on the other hand, are known to block the nerve impulses thereby giving momentary relief from pain. Hallucinogens like cannabis or LSD, change your perception of reality and cause hallucinations, by altering the way you hear and see things. One thing worth noting here is that, while in a state like the Meditative state of Consciousness, your Consciousness is enabled to take control of itself, in the Drugged state of Consciousness, your Consciousness is tied down by the limitations that a particular drug brings with it. So essentially, this is not a state of Consciousness that a healthy individual would ever be recommended to be in.

6. Dead state 

When someone dies, their breathing stops, their pulses stop, the body becomes pale, the blood starts settling in the lower part of the body, the body temperature steadily declines, the limbs become stiff and the body starts decomposing. These facts about death are analyzed and proved by researchers and scientists, over and over again. However, what is not apparent about death is the fate of one’s Consciousness after death. One take on Consciousness after death is the atheistic view of ‘Eternal Oblivion’. Eternal Oblivion is the permanent discontinuance of Consciousness upon death. The lack of objective evidence of the afterlife is what underpins this philosophy, which is perhaps why this view is rarely rejected by the scientists. However, as per many religious beliefs, Consciousness doesn’t cease after death. The religious concept of the continuance of Consciousness is popularly known as ‘Reincarnation’ or rebirth in the Dharmic religions, and as ‘Resurrection’ or afterlife in the Abrahamic religions. As per the Bhagavad Gita, the ancient religious text of Hinduism, when a living being dies, its Consciousness qualitatively weighs the impressions created on it during the previous lifetime and accordingly transfers itself to a lifeform that best suits its quality. The religious text also goes on to add, that the only time when the Consciousness doesn’t carry itself to another body, is when it unites with the Universal Consciousness of the Supreme Lord, and this state of Consciousness is widely known as ‘Nirvana’ or ‘Moksha’.