What can disturb this special relationship, essentially, between the conscious logic part of your mind and the subconscious felt-emotion part? In a word, fear.
More specifically, limiting beliefs can activate the body’s fear response unnecessarily. Your survival is not at stake, for example, when you discuss a sensitive issue with your spouse, yet your body’s defenses act “as if” it is, i.e., with an angry outburst or an emotional shut down.
Why do you have reactions that, to your logical mind, are “unreasonable”?
New neurological findings suggest that the part of the brain that is in control of habits, the subconscious mind, does not easily let go of certain patterns. Imprinted in cellular memory in the first 3 to 5 years of life, at the time, they played a critical role in helping you survive.
Your subconscious depends on this special pool of data, accrued from past “scary” experiences, to know when to activate your survival response, on the basis of what you specifically “perceive” as “threats” (subconsciously, danger).
Once set, these protective response patterns operate, for the most part, without conscious awareness. And, that is precisely what keeps them in place — you are not consciously aware of them.
You are designed to do more than survive!
- You were born with an inner drive to thrive, not merely survive, rather to fulfill heart yearnings to love and be loved, to contribute meaningfully, empathically connect to life around you, and so on.
In the words of Daniel L. Siegel, M.D., your “brain is a relationship organ.” Your greatest fears, as a human being, are connected to not fulfilling these universal drives, which activates core existential fears of rejection, abandonment, inadequacy, loss of self or the unknown, and the like.
- Thus, a belief is limiting when it unreasonably activates one or more of your core existential fears, such as rejection, abandonment or inadequacy, and so on.
Knowing this, your subconscious ever prompts you in this direction. It’s the operating system of your mind and body, after all.
- Your subconscious mind is designed to be open to your direct influence. Ideally, the conscious and subconscious are designed to work together.
As they each perform tasks the other cannot, each depends and relies on the other to do its part, without which the quality of their individual performance is impaired in some way.
- Safe to say, your subconscious mind has been waiting for you to take conscious charge of your life, on a consistent basis, ever since you’ve had the cognitive abilities to do so (for most, between 20 to 25 years of age)!
Any limiting beliefs you may hold, however, cause it to believe that you’re not ready to take the reins. So, one new way to understand these “unreasonable” responses is to see them as prompts from your subconscious mind.
- The pain itself is a prompt to pause, reflect and make inner changes.
Emotional suffering is a byproduct, you may say, of not accepting that you are wired to face the pain that stretches you out of comfortable places.
- In other words, you are wired with a tendency to resist change until the pain of not changing becomes greater than changing.
Pain is an integral part of all growth, however. Your body seeks to impart its wisdom to you, and pain is one of its chemical messengers. “No pain, no gain” is more than a cliché.
Reactivity is caused by inner perceptions and not outer events.
When your conscious and subconscious are at odds, where fear is a factor, the subconscious performs a coup d’état — not unlike a dictator.
- Logic does not dictate behaviors. Emotions do.
Many personal and relational problems stem from limiting beliefs, held in memory by your subconscious, that continue to hijack your brain.
- If your ability to make conscious choices is regularly hijacked, a limiting fear is likely in play.
This is call action.
- You simply cannot create more love and happiness in your life and relationships with thoughts focused on “what you lack” or “who is to blame.” These automatically energize your existential fears.
Life does not work that way.
- Feeling your fears was only a “real” threat to your survival in childhood. The main threat, as an adult, is how your brain in survival mode blocks you from thriving emotionally, mentally and spiritually in your personal life and relationships.
The subconscious cannot alter your beliefs, however; this is a task for your conscious mind.
So, what’s the solution?
The solution involves getting to know yourself, building rapport with your inner self (subconscious), taking consistent action and giving yourself the gift of your own full acceptance.
- Get to know yourself.
To break the hold of unreasonable fears, you need to identify any limiting beliefs, understand your thoughts and feelings, how these are designed to work, your wants, needs, passions, goals, and so on. These processes allow you to have an inside-out response to events around you, so that your conscious self is in charge, rather than your senses.
- Rapport-building communication.
To develop rapport with your subconscious, you need skills for building rapport. As in any healthy relationship, you need to learn how to communicate with your inner self in ways that build rapport, foster compassion and understanding, acceptance and honor, and create the sense of safety you need to remain empathically connected to yourself and life around you.
- Take consistent action!
It’s not enough to build your understanding and know how. To seal the deal, you need to follow through with regular action. Even small steps, such as observing your thoughts, noticing your emotional response, replacing a limiting belief with an life-enriching one the moment it surfaces, and so on, can make a huge impact. It is consistent action that will integrate new life enriching beliefs into your subconscious so that they become part of you inner value system.
- Full Acceptance of Yourself.
To fully accept yourself you must necessarily come to a place in your life where you fully embrace painful emotions as essential messengers, as your body’s wisdom communicating with you to teach you what works and doesn’t work, and to support you to make conscious choices to do more than merely survive — to thrive.
How do you capitalize on fears and painful emotions as potential messengers or teachers?
That’s the subject of a future post!
Siegel, Daniel J. (2010). Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation. NY: Bantam Books.