Our fascinating subconscious controls our life far more than we realise. It frequently ‘takes over’ without us being aware of it doing so. Like when you’re driving home. Suddenly you realise that you’ve driven for the last 10 minutes without any recall—as your conscious mind reviewed the day, thought about what to cook for dinner and/or sang along to the radio. If you drive a lot, I’m guessing this is a common experience?
I consider myself to be a good driver – so what is going on when my conscious mind is busy with other things? How do I manage to drive for miles without being aware of it? In moments like this, my subconscious mind was literally in the drivers seat. It safely ‘drove’ for me until it noticed something requiring my full attention, at which point it called my conscious mind back from it’s thinking. I would not advocate allowing your subconscious-mind to do the driving—but it is none-the-less a powerful illustration of how we run part of our lives without really knowing what we are doing.
The Processing Powerhouse
One of the best descriptions of the conscious vs subconscious mind that I’ve come across is from Bruce Lipton’s brilliant book, The Biology of Belief:
“The evolution of higher mammals, including chimps, cetaceans and humans, brought forth a new awareness called “self-consciousness”, or simply, the conscious mind. The newer conscious mind is an important evolutionary advance. The earlier subconscious mind is our “autopilot”; the conscious mind is our manual control. For example, if a ball comes near your eye, the slower conscious mind may not have time to be aware of the threatening projectile. Yet the subconscious mind, which processes some 20,000,000 environmental stimuli per second v. 40 environmental stimuli interpreted by the conscious mind in the same second, will cause the eye to blink. (Norretranders 1998). The subconscious mind, one of the most powerful information processors known, specifically observes both the surrounding world and the body’s internal awareness, reads the environmental cues, and immediately engages previously acquired (learned) behaviours—all without help, supervision, or even awareness of the conscious mind.”
Reread the last bit again: “…engages previously acquired (learned) behaviours—all without help, supervision, or even awareness of the conscious mind.” It is because I have driven many thousands of miles that my subconscious can ‘run-the-driving-program’ safely. Think back to when you were learning to drive. Did you wonder how on earth you were going to be able to watch what was happening on the road, read the signs, remember which pedal to push, how to signal – and remember to look in the mirror? At that moment in time, your conscious mind had to do everything because the subconscious mind had not yet ‘learnt’ how to drive. It’s faster processing power was not yet able to help you which is why you felt so overwhelmed by it all.
Programs from our childhood
So your subconscious mind sees and senses far more than your conscious mind. And it runs your programs in autopilot. It does not rationalize, analyze nor does it have a sense of time the way our conscious mind does. For example, if as a small child, whilst trying to help your Mum bake a cake, and you make a mess of the flour and eggs, and because you’re Mum was having a bad day, she yells that you’re a useless cook, the subconscious mind may latch onto the belief that, “I’m a useless cook”. It then runs this ‘program’ whenever you’re in the kitchen and each time you ‘mess-up’ the belief is reinforced. To the subconscious mind it doesn’t matter that it was just your Mum having a bad day, nor that you were only 5 at the time. It simply runs the program until a new, more powerful program overwrites it.
Many of our beliefs stem from our childhood. How our parents view and react to life forms the basis of how, in childhood, we made sense of the world. In adulthood, many of those basic beliefs will still be in place. If I have a client who fervently believes the only way to make money is to work incredibly hard for it, I can almost guarantee that one or both of his/her parents have that same belief. This is what I refer to as your family map. Often when you wish to change areas of your life, recognizing where your programming came from, what’s written on your family map, is the first step of making that change.
Overwriting our subconscious programming is challenging as the subconscious is vastly more powerful than our conscious mind. If any of you have embarked on making big changes to your life, you will know it’s not easy. Simply using conscious, positive thoughts can not complete against a strong belief held in the subconscious mind. However, a combination of different approaches can help get you to your desired destination. Techniques such as visualization, make-it-a-stretch-but-believable, and act-as-if-it-is-true are powerful ways to help you begin to overwrite your existing programs. However, if your subconscious beliefs are deeply entrenched, they may not, by themselves, be enough. In these instances working with a coach, an EFT (emotional freedom technique) practitioner, or a PSYCH-K (muscle testing) therapist helps you break through.
Let me give you another view of this. The brain comprises of millions of tiny brain cells called neurons. Our learnt behaviours create connections between these cells known as neural pathways. They allow the subconscious mind to access memories, responses and behaviours at the speed of light: in effect run our programs. These neural pathways are like our motorways: well lit, with excellent sign-posts allowing for rapid speed.
Physically in the brain, these regularly-used neural pathways are thicker and straighter than the infrequently-used ones. When the conscious mind realizes that the old (subconscious mind’s) programming is not helping you get to where you want to get to in life, then a new neural pathway has to be created or strengthened. This takes conscious (mind) effort – in the same way it took you to learn to drive a car. Instead of going down the neural ‘motorway’ that you’re accustomed to, your new behaviour, actions and thoughts have to ‘travel’ down a little-used or newly created neural ‘cart-track’. It’s no wonder we revert to our old ways: for who wants to go down a bumpy, twisty cart-track when there’s a motorway we could go zoom down with no effort? However, if we persist with the new behaviour, the ‘cart-track’ neural pathway literally begins to straighten-out and become stronger, whilst the old ‘motorway’ begins to degrade itself. Metaphorically, the cart-track upgrades itself to an A-road, then a dual carriage way and finally becomes a new motorway.
Understanding the time it takes for changes to become embedded is behind the 30 and 90-day addiction-free programs, for this is how long it usually takes for a new habit (creation of a new neural ‘motorway’) to be created and fully established.
Fast-tracking your changes
How does working with a coach, EFT or PSYCH-K therapist help you? In the smallest of nutshells, coaching is (in part!) like having Jiminy Cricket on your shoulder, helping you to stay conscious of the changes you wish to make and teaching you the best methods for you to get to your destination. EFT helps you rewire your neural pathways virtually instantly: old habits and fears can be let go of in just a few sessions. PSYCH-K is a brilliant way to access what your subconscious mind truly believes about different aspects of your life. Bringing these beliefs into consciousness then allows you to deal with them.