The Power of subconsciousness
A dear friend of mine always ends up in the wrong relationships. Each time she falls for a guy, it turns out he’s a drunk and often an aggressive one too. It’s absurd, because she’s beautiful, cool, smart, and definitely should know better. It’s as if she attracts them.
Another one of my friends is a great team player, hard working and funny as hell. Unfortunately, he seems unable to keep a job. He always ends up arguing with the boss, which sooner or later results in being fired or quitting.
Another one of my friends is the Emperor of procrastinators. He bought himself a book about how to overcome procrastination, and then started to procrastinate as to not read it…
Now you could argue that I have a poor choice of friends, but the truth is, we all have these types of patterns in our lives. At one point or another we end up realizing there is something at hand, however we’re not sure what it is, where it comes from, and more importantly, how to get rid of it. That’s usually the moment where we end up swearing to ourselves and asking that one sanity-threatening question that could haunt us for the rest of our lives: What the hell is wrong with me!? Why is it that, at times, it seems as if something else is taking over, some kind of dark force, over which we seem to have little or no hold.
Well, there is a reason for that, and yes, something is going on. It has everything to do with how our brains work and the distinction between our rational thinking self on the one hand and our subconsciousness on the other.
We have a voice in our head. At least I do, and normally you should too. That voice represents that part of us that is conscious. It’s like with an iceberg. It’s the visible part. That little voice firmly believes he, or she, is the center of the universe, of our universe.
That little voice is pretty delusional as well, as it firmly believes it’s in control, it’s the one making the decisions, when in fact, he or she is simply a mere supporting actor, unaware of the main protagonists down below.
Yes, that’s right, I just told you you’re not running the show in your own life, not even, or especially not in your own head.
So who is?
As far as we know today, there are three main forces at play below the surface
The first one is our genetic programming. Millions of years of evolution have embedded in our DNA a whole series of survival strategies which will diminish the risk of being eaten alive or becoming extinct as a species. Amidst the pyrotechnics of firing neurons and rushing hormones, this programming will lead us towards preferences that keep us safe from harm. From primal instincts over physiological needs, It leads us for example to repeating the same patterns over and over again. Familiarity breeds trust. What we know is good. It’s safe.
The second force influencing our subconsciousness builds on the first one. As a species, we’re born incomplete. Our brain needs to continue it’s development and won’t reach maturity until the age of approximately 24 years old. Now of course everything we do stays recorded in our brain, however especially what happened before reaching maturity, will have a strong impact. Even if we don’t remember a thing of our first years on this planet, our brain does. Since the first moment we left the safety of our mother’s womb, and actually already before that, our brain started to form itself and responded to the environment it was confronted with. Most of our values and norms come from this period. But also our inhibitions, limiting beliefs and attached coping mechanisms. And all that remains under the surface.
The third and last force is intimately interwoven with the two others. It’s the environment we’re in. With environment, you have to understand the physical, social and psychological environment. Colors, smells and sounds will influence us, just as the company we’re in, or the amount of strain we’re under.
So these three forces from our subconsciousness combine, mingle and continuously assign value to things, people and situations. Once our conscious self comes into play, it can merely choose out of the pre-assigned associative valuations, which he has no clue why they came to being in the first place. It’s like going to a restaurant and having to pick from a menu with only a couple of options. Is this really free choice? Or is it merely the illusion of it…?
Sometimes, the suggestions that bubble up are in competition with one another. Our primal instincts craving one thing, such as having that desert with extra whipped cream, and our education (what will the others think of it) or life experience (that goes straight to my thighs) suggesting another.
That’s where that little voice in our head comes in. That’s when our reason picks a fight with our emotions. That’s when we test our willpower. That’s when, sometimes, we just feel torn apart with the foresight of guilt when we know that we’re about to do something that we will regret, but feels oh so good…
And it’s the same story with procrastination. It’s the same story with fighting with our boss. It’s yet the same thing when falling for a guy or girl who will end up being wrong for us. One of those programs below the surface, from our subconsciousness, is pushing us towards that choice. And if that little voice in our head isn’t paying attention, it will just go with it.
Time and time again.