Obstacles arise right away because there is no single or precise definition of what the subconscious mind is. Almost every form of therapy or philosophy has its own definition and while many are similar enough that we can all use the term and know what we mean, they do not all agree.
In fact in the beginning when the term ‘unconscious’ was first used by Freud it was considered a dark place where things best not disturb where place. Over time the definition changed until new age and self help industries started to use less complicated definitions and a more positive slant on the term Subconscious Mind.
Whatever definition is used for the sub conscious mind, it should be clear that it is a metaphor to explain in simple terms an extremely complicated and little understood aspect of human behaviour. The Subconscious in its simplest terms can be considered that part of you that is outside of your conscious awareness that creates automatic programs (Beliefs, Behaviours & Attitudes) to make life for you easier to operate in without having to place too much focus and attention on everything you are doing
What the Subconscious mind is not and can not do
The Sub Conscious Mind is not a metaphysical aspect outside of the physical structure of the brain. We do know that all of the aspects that have been studied show real activity within the brain. That means everything we know thus far has a physical aspect of neurological activity – nothing has yet to be attributed to anything outside of the physical world that can be measured, even if the subconscious activity is not present to your conscious awareness.
Unlike many claims of the self-help community, the Sub Conscious mind is not an all-powerful entity that can accomplish everything. Many people will claim in their explanation for the subconscious mind that it does ‘everything’ you are not aware of, this is just not the case. For Example the subconscious is not responsible for your breathing or ability to walk – these are functions of the autonomic nervous system. The Subconscious will not make you grow taller, change your eye colour or cure cancer it works in the realms of belief, behaviour and attitudes.
What does the Subconscious mind do? And how does it decide?
If we accept the metaphor that the Subconscious mind is a part of you, the part that takes care of making life easier for you by creating automatic behaviours and reactions to events in your everyday life; then the next question is how exactly?
There are a few basic ways the Subconscious mind determines how to create automatic programs for you
1) Previous life experience (This includes the beliefs and customs of your parents, culture, social groups including any religious beliefs)
2) Current life experience (This includes any new skills and abilities you study and learn, the values and beliefs of new groups and social connections and self-initiated attempts at creating change)
3) Listening to the instructions you give it during your Self Talk and thoughts
So who you are at an unconscious level is a combination of how you were raised (childhood impressions in a developing brain are hugely influential), what you do on purpose to grow as a person and the 60,000 odd thoughts you have a day that you never pay any conscious awareness too. Your subconscious mind will take all these confusing and conflicting ideas and concepts on=board and attempt to create some form of coherent automatic response.
How does your Sub Conscious apply its programmes?
Have you ever brought a new car or an item of clothing and all of a sudden you notice the same thing everywhere? Your mind and focus just seems to zoom in on the same car or shoes that others have. Your mind works in a similar way, its job is to answer the questions you ask yourself (see following section) and it does this by highlighting experiences that support the beliefs and questions you are asking for solutions too. It will then trigger off an emotional response it thinks is appropriate to have for this experience
How you create new Subconscious programs
Sub Conscious responses can be expressed in many ways, as a feeling or emotional response, as an automatic behaviour, as habits or ticks and as both empowering and un-empowering reactions. The responses may be contradictory to each other, and most confusing to most people can be the opposite of what it is they want to be!
Your Self Talk – answering the questions you ask
You have around 60,000 thoughts a day, including self-talk, creating images and experiencing emotions. That’s 3 a second! And almost all of the time this self-talk is created by your sub conscious and rarely makes it to your conscious awareness.
For example you make decisions all the time, do you take the stairs or lift? Do you run the orange light or stop, do you eat now or in 5 minutes time, do you go to the bathroom now or wait another 5 minutes. Yet at the end of the day, almost nobody can remember 5 conscious thoughts they had during the day
Worse still is that 90-95% of the time we are asking ourselves or telling ourselves un-empowering questions and statements. We are asking ourselves the wrong questions. Your Subconscious mind then goes about creating automatic beliefs, attitudes and behaviours to make life easier for you by answering these questions. Then it will draw your attention and focus to life experience that supports the answers to the questions you’re asking.
Questions you ask Subconscious Auto Response
“Why can’t I stop eating” Gives you a feeling of craving something you spot out of the corner of your eye
“Why can’t I lose weight” Comes up with feelings of being tired or lazy and justifies certain behaviour you have or avoid
“Why don’t I have any good friends” May interpret a look from a friend as contempt or embarrassment or give you a feeling of betrayal at an action someone does
“Why am I so alone” Manages to talk yourself out of going out and making an effort to change by reminding you that you are shy or don’t enjoy socialising
“Why do I always act this way, I hate that I always do this” Draws your focus to events that trigger off the reaction, and then allows you to mentally beat yourself up for doing it and makes you feel bad
1) Your Unconscious mind tries to make life easier for you by giving you what you want.
2) It knows what you want by the type of questions you ask yourself
3) The types of questions you ask yourself mostly focus on what you do not want
4) We never pay any conscious awareness into changing what we tell ourselves
How to change your Sub Conscious Programmes
The key to changing these automatic behaviours and beliefs is to effectively communicate with your Subconscious. The fastest and most effective methods are to use therapy especially design to work with it, such as BWRT®, Hypnotherapy, Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP). But you can make some changes (albeit slower to take effect) by using Affirmations or Mindful Awareness
Affirmations are statements of positive intent as if they are already occurring. Affirmations are an attempt to counteract all the negative self-talk with how they would rather be instead. Most people are familiar with affirmations but some of the most common mistakes are
1) To focus on the behaviour you do not want.
2) To make the statement in a future tense not the present
For example, “I don’t want to smoke” should be “I am a non-smoker”; and “I don’t want to eat chocolate” should be “I only eat healthy food”. Some people find Affirmations difficult because what they are saying is not true, and they feel like a fake using them. That’s fine, if the affirmations were true you would not have to be making them. Affirmations are a deliberate attempt to brainwash yourself into a more empowering set of automatic programs. Subliminal Messages are a form of affirmations given at a sub conscious level avoiding these feelings, and allowing change without too much conscious effort.
Mindful Awareness is the ability to actually make yourself consciously aware of the types of thoughts you are having. The beauty of this approach is that when you notice a negative thought you can immediately counter it by saying to yourself “Cancel that what I mean is …” and insert a positive affirmation. The skill of Mindful Awareness is one of the best self help and personal development tools you could possibly have. It allows you to become aware of and take charge of your self talk. It allows you to determine how you will program your sub conscious mind rather than allowing it to make the decision for you.