It is clear that the subconscious mind is a very powerful and important part of our bodies. It is essential for life. There is no way we could possibly live without it. Yet, at the same time, we find that some of its actions make it hard for us to live our lives. I’ve spent quite a bit of time researching and trying to understand my subconscious, and I feel that I’ve learnt a lot but still I know very little. There is so much to know. However, what I’ve learnt so far has been helpful to me and I hope it can help you too.
Why is the subconscious so important?
Just consider all the things that our subconscious is handling without us hardly knowing. Things like our heart beating, our breathing, digestion, detoxifying in the liver and the kidneys. Then there are all the other things that are not so obvious, like controlling all our muscles so we don’t fall over or fall off the chair, driving a car while we think about something else. Our subconscious mind is handling a huge array of things all of the time and we’re so lucky it is – we could never handle all of that consciously.
How does the subconscious learn what to do?
It’s interesting to consider the state of the subconscious at birth. We obviously come pre-programmed with some pretty important programs, like beating the heart and breathing. These are a bit like the operating system in a computer. If we didn’t have these programs we couldn’t function at all but, with only these, we can’t really do much. Babies can’t sit-up, can’t balance, can’t talk, can’t drive a car, but later in life we can do all of these.
At birth, the subconscious comes with some essential programs but, using the computer analogy again, it also comes with a huge empty disk drive. The empty drive can be used to load programs. I think of this a bit like downloading apps from an AppStore. There are millions to choose from and as soon as we’re born, we start downloading. Whenever the baby sees something or experiences something, it’s a chance to download a new app.
Let’s consider a couple of typical downloads. One is to cry to get attention. The baby realises very quickly the connection between crying and getting attention. The app is very simple. The conscious realises something is not as the baby would like and the the response to this thought is to cry. It could be argued if this is a downloaded app or one of the built-in ones. It’s hard to say. Another typical app is to duck your head. If you throw a ping pong ball at a babies head it doesn’t move. It might be surprised when something hits it, but it doesn’t move. Later in life it does – it ducks it’s head. Somewhere in between it’s had some painful experiences and learnt to duck its head. Effectively it’s downloaded the “duck your head” app.
Why is the subconscious so important?
Consider the “duck your head” app mentioned just above. If you never downloaded this app, one day you might be killed by a serious flying projectile. Your subconscious is so important because it can run apps so quickly and respond “without thinking”. If a projectile was coming toward your head and you had to use your conscious mind to consider what to do about it, you’d be too slow taking evasive action. Lucky your subconscious has the app and can “react instinctively” without any conscious thought. The subconscious also handles our internal defences against things like virus’ and bacteria. When something foreign like that is detected in the blood stream, our subconscious just takes charge and gets on the job instantly. It doesn’t ask the conscious mind if it has permission to start attacking the invaders, it just gets on with it. Again, this is a good thing as too much time contemplating what to do might be fatal. The subconscious has to be a bit bull-headed. As soon as it gets information that there are invaders, it goes on the attack, no questions asked. Sometimes this is actually a problem because the information received by the subconscious might not be perfect and the result is auto-immune diseases. It would appear that some of these apps we have for fighting invaders come as part of the package (when we’re born) and part are learned as we come across new, unknown invaders.
We can imagine the subconscious mind as a hugely powerful computer that has an enormous range of apps running on it all the time. All the apps are active, all at the same time, but they are all quite simple. Each app basically says “if the input is XYZ, then I’ll do 123”. They are all simple reactions to a certain types of input.
The input to the subconscious can be from one of our senses or it can be thoughts from the conscious mind. The subconscious doesn’t care if these things are real sensory input or just thoughts. It’s all just input. If your conscious mind thinks something and thinks it’s real, then your subconscious will treat it as if it’s real and activate any apps that are triggered by that input.
Once some input comes into the subconscious (sensory or thoughts) it instantly scans all the apps to see if any have this specific piece of information as an input (sometimes the information might satisfy more than one app). Once an app is found that matches the input, the reaction of the app is triggered, no questions asked, it just runs.
One example of a subconscious app triggering happened to me this morning. I was driving to work and it was dark and raining. As I was taking an exit, I saw what I thought was a person at the side of the road. Actually, my hands had jerked the wheel in the opposite direction even before I could consider who or what it was. Turns out it was just a road sign that was distorted in the dark and rain. So, my subconscious had reacted to the input from my eyes even before my conscious could consider the image that was yet to be formed (similar to the example of blindsight in this video). That’s how powerful the subconscious is. It instantly noticed that the input suggested that there was a person on the road and it triggered an app to evade in lightning speed. I had no control over this. The app was there and it was triggered.
Do we need all our subconscious apps?
Easy answer is no. We downloaded most of these apps before we were 7 years old. They can’t all be the ones we want today. Sure, many of them help us live and keep us alive, but some of the are just downright annoying and we don’t even know they are there.
One of the bad apps I have that I’d rather not have is something like, “you have to eat regularly or you’ll get hungry” or “if you don’t eat enough you’ll be hungry later”. These are probably things my mother said to me when I was very young. Now, the sensory input that can trigger these apps can be as simple as seeing food that I know I like. Essentially, I see food, these apps get triggered and I have the urge to eat and probably eat too much. These are apps I’d rather not have.
Another similar app I have is “eat everything on my plate or my mum will get mad”. Again downloaded when I was very young. Now, when I have a plate of food in front of me, this app gets triggered and I feel the urge to finish everything even if I’ve had enough.
A more subtle subconscious app that I have is “don’t let people take advantage of you”. I notice this one get triggered whenever somebody cuts in line, for example, and gets an unfair advantage. I instantly become mad and want to do something about it or at least say something about it. However, if I take time to think about it, I realise that it makes almost no difference to me and I couldn’t care less. I have no idea where I got this app from. It’s just there and it doesn’t really help me today.
So, we know that we have some subconscious apps that we don’t really want, What can we do about this?
Supervise your subconscious using your conscious
The really good news is that your conscious brain can control your subconscious brain but only for one thing at a time and it might take quite a bit of effort. Our conscious mind can take over all of the bodily functions that the subconscious normally takes care of, if we “put our mind to it”. Interesting saying that, isn’t it?. For some proof of this, see Bruce Lipton’s interview and the video of The Iceman. So, don’t just daydream and let you subconscious run whatever old apps it has installed, pay attention and see what’s going on.
How to identify a bad app?
First things is to bring the conscious mind into the present. Stop thinking about what has happened or what is going to happen, think about what IS happening. Some people would say this is close to meditating, but I prefer to think its just assuming some responsibility for what we’re doing right now, in some detail. It is also called being “mindful”. Once we’ve got our mind concentrating on the present;
- Observe an emotional reaction we don’t really need (eating when not hungry, getting instantly angry over something minor, etc.)
- Consider what sort of app might be running to cause that reaction
- Now, very important, what was the input (sensory or thought) that caused the reaction
Once you’ve identified what the app might be and what input triggers it, you have a great chance to either replace the app or avoid the input. You have to keep your conscious mind in the picture, well focused, to have a chance and almost constant repetition will be really helpful.
A simple example
Let’s take one of my simple examples I mentioned earlier in this post.
- Emotional subconscious reaction – putting food into my mouth even though I don’t need it
- The app that’s running – “if you don’t eat enough you’ll get hungry later!”
- Input that triggers the app – seeing food that I like.
Now that I’m aware of it, that’s a very good start. Every time there’s food I like in front of me, I have the chance to bring my conscious mind into the present and deal with the issue. The concentration of the conscious can stop the subconscious app from running. But it takes focus.
For me, making some very simple rules often works. For example, I might have a rule like “I’m not going to eat before midday” or “I don’t eat sugary foods”. Hard and fast, simple rules. They are so simple that my conscious mind can remember them very quickly and almost compete with the subconscious on speed of reaction. I find it much easier to control the subconscious with some appropriate, simple rules.
Tapping and other techniques?
Tapping, or EFT, fits in exactly here (see The Tapping Solution book and film – http://www.thetappingsolution.com/eft-tapping-film/). The physical act of tapping forces the conscious mind to get into the present. Then there is a focus on the input that’s triggering the app and outcome of running the app. After some time of tapping, a more appropriate app is suggested to the subconscious and it appears that this has the potential to very quickly replace the app with a new one. Results can be fast and dramatic. Bruce Lipton called this learning how to hit the record button on a tape player and recording a new program.
I’ve used EFT with some success and been pleased with it. I’ve also had success from concentrated conscious thought, simple rules, meditation and positive affirmations. I’d recommend a combination of all of these in a form that feels right for you.
Keep an eye on your subconscious and prosper
The real key is use your conscious mind to stop your subconscious running with the show and using some bad old apps over and over. Check what your subconscious is doing. Challenge it. Change the apps with any practice that works for you. Don’t allow the same old inputs to trigger responses you could do without. You have the power to do this. You can do it yourself. It might not be easy, but you can do it.
One of the real difficulties is that as soon as you conscious mind starts thinking of something else, your subconscious could just start running that same old app again. This can be disheartening. Don’t worry as progress will ebb and flow, but if you keep working on it and remain positive, you definitely have the potential to make real, significant improvements in the quality of your life.
As with all improvements in our lives, they will be much easier to achieve if the conditions in and around your body are good for it to thrive. While working on your subconscious, be kind to yourself and avoid the bad things that can be damaging and get more of the good things into your life. If you make some progress in all of these areas, there’ll be no stopping you!
Other suggested reading and viewing
- Subconscious Mind | 9 Facts You Should Know – an interesting article from Mike Bundrant at iNLP Center
- Subliminal : how your unconscious mind rules your behavior by Leonard Mlodinow
- An interesting video with Leonard Mlodinow discussing his book and doing an experiment;
Please leave me your thoughts and suggestions. Leave a comment below. I’d love to learn from your experiences. Thanks.