Why did I shake that?

The other morning, after I had my shower as normal, I was putting on my deodorant and as I passed it from one hand to the other to do the other underarm, I shook the deodorant without thinking. This might not sound unusual, but the deodorant is a stick deodorant, so there’s no point in shaking it. I was surprised and thought “why did I do that?”. Well, years ago, I used to use roll-on deodorants that needed to be shaken so that the applicator had enough of the deodorant fluid on it, but I hadn’t used a roll-on for at least 4 years. So what made me shake the deodorant stick this day?Applying deoderant

This type of incident is a good opportunity to learn something about the workings of my subconscious mind. Obviously, it was my subconscious mind that made me shake the deodorant. I was not thinking about it in any way in my conscious mind. My conscious mind was thinking about a hundred other things like what I had to do that day and other things I was probably worried about. So, it was my unconscious mind that was handling everything I was doing after my shower. It was managing the application of the deodorant and it was that same unconscious mind that decided to shake the deodorant. There must be an old memory in my subconscious that triggered the shaking of the deodorant.

So my body got itself into a familiar situation, the act of passing the deodorant from one hand to another, and that was enough to trigger a response from my subconscious mind. The input was the sensory perception of a familiar situation and that somehow found a deep, old (4+ years) subconscious program that had the output of “shake the deodorant”. My conscious mind then stopped thinking about all of those other worries and thought “hey, why did I do that, there’s no point shaking a stick deodorant?”.

So what can I learn from this. It seems like the subconscious is not so smart. It just learns reactions to situations whereas the conscious mind can analyse situations and consider what to do. The power of the subconscious is that it’s very capable and can respond almost instantly, much faster than the conscious mind. We definitely need a well functioning subconscious to survive, but we also need to realise that it’s mostly a collection of learned responses and it really doesn’t “think”. If a certain input comes in and it matches the input to one of the learned responses, then the programmed reaction is implemented instantly. One good example is this;

  • sensory input = object is flying through the air in the direction of my head
  • programmed response = duck the head out of the way as quickly as possible

Whenever the subconscious gets the sensory input that there could be something on its way to my head, the subconscious instantly triggers the response to duck my head. Not much the conscious mind can do in this situation except think about it later. And that’s a good thing to as the conscious mind cannot think and act quickly enough and maybe the subconscious has just saved my life.

Based on the shaking of the deodorant stick, all of the programmed responses stored in the subconscious are not necessarily useful and/or helpful. This is a key learning. I’m sure my subconscious is doing many, many things that I’d rather it didn’t. For example, whenever I’m not consciously thinking about it, I find I’m feeling nervous about the “things” I have yet to do (who knows what) and I have tension in my shoulders, but just a little bit of conscious thought can make this go away. ¬†As these are programmed responses to certain sensory inputs, the only things that could be done is to try and delete the responses that don’t help or learn new responses.

I find all of this fascinating and provides me with hope that it is possible to find and overcome subconscious reactions that are not helping me. I don’t really care about shaking my deodorant stick, but I have many other reactions I could really do without.


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