“The power of our subconscious is beyond all measure.”
~ Joseph Murphy
As I continue my journey through the world of neuroplasticity and all things mind-body, I become more and more fascinated with the subconscious mind.
There are several levels of human consciousness such as: the preconscious, the unconscious, and the recently popularized superconscious, but for the sake of simplicity (and my own existential sanity), I’ll refer primarily to the subconscious for this blog.
It wasn’t long ago that simply SAYING the word “subconscious” seemed almost “woo-woo,” or taboo. Now, thanks to new-age educators like Dr. Joe Dispenza and Dr. Bruce Lipton, the subconscious is out of the closet and into the mainstream. Hot new areas in the field of neuroscience like psychoneuroimmunology and epigenetics fan the flames of curiosity around this fundamental aspect of our consciousness.
In this blog post, I talk about what the subconscious is, how it affects everything we do, and why it's so ridiculously powerful.
Your mind operates on two different levels – the conscious and the subconscious. Both have important jobs to do but they are always working in tandem with each other.
No agreed upon definition of the subconscious actually exists because science has only recently begun to understand how the two minds interact. Consciousness in general remains one the deepest, most fascinating mysteries humans have ever tried to resolve.
Here is a simple overview of the two minds:
The conscious mind is aware of the present moment and can only do one task at a time. For example, we might be aware of our breathing, our environment, or the people around us.
The subconscious mind is in charge of critically important, yet rather mundane tasks such as breathing, sleeping, and organ function. But, it’s also the powerful layer beneath our conscious awareness that’s holding on to all of the information driving our thoughts, actions, and beliefs.
To provide a bit more context…
Remember when you were learning how to drive a car? (Especially a stick shift) You had to use your conscious mind to change gears, put the brakes on, turn, etc. Everything required focused attention. After a couple of years, however, those things became automatic because you started driving subconsciously. The feet do their thing, the hands do theirs, and for the most part, not much effort is required to do it efficiently (unless you're in a foreign country, of course 😬 ).
But there’s MUCH, much more to the subconscious.
The subconscious is the part of the mind holding on to all of the resources of your past. It’s like a giant memory bank. All of the memories, emotions and beliefs about everything you’ve ever experienced gets stored in the subconscious, kind of like programs on a computer.
Its capacity is virtually unlimited. Our brains have developed the astounding ability to download a mind-boggling amount of information. By the time you reach the age of 21, you’ve stored the contents of the entire Encyclopedia Britannica hundreds of times over.
The subconscious mind is millions of times more powerful than the conscious mind.
So, the function of your subconscious is to store and retrieve data.
Have you ever read that humans only use a portion of their brain? The graphic below provides some visual perspective for why that is.
Now, let's start diving into WHY your subconscious is so ridiculously powerful.
So, what exactly is the big deal about the subconscious and why is it so important to understand?
Well, the subconscious mind controls basically… EVERYTHING! It’s like the wizard behind the curtain. We might think we’re consciously in charge of all that we do but that’s not really the case.
The subconscious mind drives 95% of the human experience.
Yep, that means that we only use about 5% of our conscious activity during the day. The rest is all happening beneath the surface and THAT’S what’s running the show 😮 .
Most of our decisions, actions, emotions, and behaviors happen unconsciously and automatically. And let’s face it, for many of us, the programs could use a little updating. Because much of what we hold subconsciously sabotages what we consciously want to create.
So, if you want to experience real, sustainable change in your life, this is the key that unlocks that potential. Knowing how your subconscious works means you get to take massive control of your life.
The subconscious makes sure that you respond exactly the way you’ve been programmed to. It makes everything you say and do fit a pattern consistent with the programs you’re holding.
It doesn’t reason or logic, it merely obeys the commands it receives from the conscious mind. (That is why it is critically important to be aware of what we are telling it to do!)
The conscious mind is the gardener that plants the seeds; the subconscious mind is the fertile soil that allows them to grow.
Whatever the conscious mind commands, the subconscious obeys. It is a faithful, unquestioning servant that works day and night to make sure it stays in alignment with what it already knows.
It grows flowers or weeds based on the mental constructs we feed it.
As previously mentioned, our life experiences, all downloaded into our unconscious, can be compared to a programmable “hard drive.” The unconscious is habitual and only replays what it has learned from the past.
Every time you have an experience, your subconscious soaks it up like a sponge. The brain creates links with what you see, hear, feel, taste and smell.
The majority of these links and programs stem from our early life experiences, primarily before the age of 7. During the first seven years of life, the brain is designed to download programs simply by observing other people (mostly our parents, siblings, and community).
This occurs in a theta brain state which is a state of hypnosis because consciousness doesn’t even kick in until around age 7.
So, 95% of what drives us during the day is coming from programs we downloaded as young children mostly from other people. We operate from the habits of our family and community and it’s these programs that control our life, actions, and behaviors in the world.
When we consciously decide to move towards our goals and dreams and create something different in our lives, we often struggle because we’re operating from the programs and habits we got from other people.
Remember, all of this happens beneath your conscious awareness.
The fundamental behaviors, beliefs, and attitudes that we observe early in life become hardwired in our subconscious minds. Once programmed into the database of the unconscious, they control much of our life, including our biology, unless an effort is made to reprogram them.
Let’s talk a wee bit longer about how these programs show up in our lives…
A snap judgement… The song that runs through your head every time you step into an elevator…. The desire to drink Coke instead of Sprite or drive a truck instead of a car.
Your dislike of roses but love for tulips. The expression on your partner’s face that makes you feel either angry or amorous.
(Or, the perplexing reasons you even married this person in the first place??)
Welcome to your subconscious!
While each of these events is seemingly unrelated, they all reveal a rich, inner life outside of conscious, rational thought.
Most of what we do every minute of every day is unconscious.
So, you can see why understanding how the subconscious operates can most definitely work in your favor!
That said, the conscious and subconscious may have opposing beliefs.
Have you ever tried to achieve a goal only to sabotage yourself at every turn? Frustrating, isn’t it. Please know that you are neither defective nor broken, you’re simply experiencing conflict between the two minds.
If you’re not where you want to be in life, no matter how much willpower you’ve applied, chances are you have subconscious programs keeping you firmly in place.
The subconscious, in a gallant effort to keep you safe and in alignment with its holdings, is resistant to change. Even when the possibility of change feels consciously exciting, the subconscious is probably devising crazy shenanigans to keep you solidly rooted in the known.
The subconscious holds on to the familiar because there's always a pay off; this is known as “secondary gain.” In other words, for the subconscious, there is some kind of benefit for staying where you are even if you want change more than anything. (Hint: the benefit almost always revolves around safety and survival.)
I personally know how difficult this is to consider in the face of suffering. When struggling with things like severe illness or chronic insomnia, it’s hard to imagine ANY sort of gain.
You can, however, create powerful shifts in the subconscious and change the course of your life.
Do not despair because conflict or resistance can be a good indication that you’re on just the right track!
Gently tapping into our limiting beliefs, traumatic memories, and pain allows the subconscious to consider change and shift the perspective. Once the subconscious realizes there is nothing to gain from holding on to an old program, it becomes open to change.
Let’s say you are feeling the heartbreaking effects of rejection by someone you care about…
Your subconscious mind, clever detective that it is, immediately goes hunting through billions of programs in your mind to find other examples of rejection. Maybe it pulls up references about your best friend in the second grade that dumped you for the popular group. Perhaps it pulls up a family member that went through a painful rejection that you just happened to witness early in life.
Somehow, somewhere along the way, a decision or belief was made that you are unworthy, unlovable, or deserve to be rejected based on something you saw, learned or experienced earlier in life. And this will be the driving force behind your current response (even if it doesn't necessarily make sense).
Now, here’s where it gets really interesting…
If you have an experience that CONFLICTS with an already established belief or program, your subconscious will reject or reframe it so it aligns with whatever existing programs you’re holding.
That means that your brain will go to great lengths to talk you in to or out of something that isn't even true!
Let’s pretend you have an underlying belief that you’re unattractive. Then, say an attractive person expresses interest in getting to know you. The first thing you might think is that there's just no way this could be true. Maybe it's even a cruel joke. You won’t believe that this person could find you attractive because you have the long-held belief that you’re unattractive.
This is how the subconscious works.
It will throw up roadblocks and give you all kinds of evidence to stay in the reality that there is simply NO WAY that this attractive person is interested in you.
Then, you’ll likely reject them before they can reject you or you’ll sabotage any potential possibility until there really is no possibility.
But here’s the thing... the moment you understand that the belief ISN'T TRUE, it's simply a misguided effort on the part of the subconscious (based on programs that aren't even relevant anymore) to stay in the known, you start changing the narrative.
And THIS is when you move out of the passenger seat and into the driver's seat of your life.
If you take nothing else away from this blog, go forward in life simply aware of your subconscious. It is an influential aspect of your mind that can help you (or harm you) depending on how you understand it.
Harnessing the connection between the conscious and unconscious is the key to creating a life that you love. Nurture the two, and you will transform your reality.
I’ll leave you with this powerful quote:
“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
~ Carl Jung
Cheering you on,
Beth Kendall MA, FNTP
Holistic Sleep Coach
Health Disclaimer: The information and other content provided in this blog, or in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment.
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