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Stories in Bathroom: Compartmentalization of Conscious and Unconscious

Bingqing's picture

Bingqing Li

Paper # 10

Professor Dalke


Stories in Bathroom:

Compartmentalization of Conscious and Unconscious


My normal day’s events start from bathroom and end with bathroom. “Going to bathroom and releasing the pressure of your bladder after opening your eyes and before closing your eyes are a healthy habit,” my mother told me this and forced me to do so since I was in elementary school. This behavior has transformed into a real habit; therefore, I finish the whole process without thinking about it or being reminded by my mother. According to the online Oxford English Dictionary, unconsciousness is “not characterized by, or endowed with, the faculty or presence of consciousness.” In this regard, this initially conscious and imposed action of going to the bathroom has gradually become one indispensable part of my daily life, one process that I can finish automatically and unconsciously.


In contrast, we have daily routines that we perform so fluently, without being aware of them, that we regard them as unconscious processes. When we really try to interpret these processes, we find sophisticated, conscious reasoning underlying our daily routines. I found an example of this behavior in my bathroom routines in Bryn Mawr College. There are two toilets in the bathroom of my residence hall, Denbigh, at Bryn Mawr College. The outer toilet which is close to door is smaller and brighter in the night because it contains the only functioning light bulb. Meanwhile, the inner one which contains a window is bigger and brighter in the daytime. After using the bathroom for nearly four months, three weeks ago, I suddenly got inspiration and found that, if both of these toilets are available, I always chose the inner one during daytime and outer one in the night. I meditated my reasoning for choosing different toilets at different times of a day and then gained self-convincing conclusion. Firstly, I believed that the inner one gives me more privacy. Secondly, I try to avoid darkness due to my fear of the dark. At first, I chose which toilet to use without awareness. Then, I realized that I prefer different bathroom depending on the time of the day and reasoned my choice consciously. The consciousness or the unconsciousness: which indeed happens first?


Maybe, I consciously had preference of certain toilet to use but I just did not notice. Can people consciously do something without being aware of it? I needed help to test my experiment and verify my conclusion, so I asked my roommate about her preference regarding the toilets.


 “I just use them without choosing. Sure, I choose the empty one,” I got the answer as I expected form my roommate.


“If both of them are empty, which one will you choose?” I was certainly not satisfied with her previous response and understood her ignorance about the question.


“It is just going to bathroom.”


“They are different. Do you not prefer one over another? Just reconstruct the scene that you enter bathroom and see both of them are empty.”


“I prefer and often go into the outer one, I guess, because the inner one has a window which makes me uncomfortable.” My argument can be established now.


It seems that people are unconscious when they choose toilets to use; however, their conscious minds develop very complex and rational reasoning. I really cannot figure out the exact compartmentalization between unconscious and conscious in our daily life. On one hand, some conscious behaviors can be turned into unconscious ones after being repeated again and again. On the other hand, some actions which are normally considered to be unconscious hold logically and rationally underlying conscious reasoning processes. The familiarity with certain routines often obscures their reasoning processes; therefore, they become unconscious acts or just give us an allusion that we do them unconsciously.


“After I told you about the preference of the toilets, did you start to think about it and consciously choose to use the one you preferred if both of them are available?” I asked my roommate a week later.

“Indeed,” my roommate answered.

I smiled. When consciousness is injected to our mind to reason a behavior that we seemingly always do unconsciously, we can hardly do this behavior unconsciously any longer. Perhaps, I can call this wakening “inception” (Inception.)


Work Cited

Home : Oxford English Dictionary. Web. 03 Dec. 2010. <>.

Inception. Dir. Christopher Nolan. Perf. Leonardo Di Caprio and Ellen Page. Warner Bros., 2010. Film.   

Shrestha, Kriti. Personal Interview. 22 Nov. 2010.  


ceida's picture

Yes exactment. it is ception.

Yes exactment. it is ception. you can amuse youself with much and many more human experiments :P