Just Who Is Pulling Your Strings? (2 Of 5)
The term 'subconscious mind' is commonly bandied about when discussing personal development - but what exactly IS this 'other' self which seems to influence so much of our behaviour?
Anyone who has looked into 'personal development' and similar topics will be familiar with the idea that much of what we do and how we act, even the 'reality' we are currently experiencing, is controlled by the 'subconscious mind'.
But what is this mysterious entity - this 'other' self which holds our short leash with such an iron grip?
The term 'subconscious mind' is a convenient catch-all phrase used to describe practically anything that goes on in our brains without us being consciously aware of it. But this concept covers a vast range of processes ranging from completely unconscious automatic systems that regulate our basic body functions, through those that process ?raw? nerve inputs from the body and senses and store and retrieve (remember) information, to actual independent thought processes that go on without our conscious awareness.
It used to be thought that that the subconscious mind could be compared to a huge warehouse in which all our experience is stored, with the conscious mind being likened to a narrow flashlight beam that can focus attention on a small part of this heap of stuff in response to sensory input or communication.
However, recent research using brain imaging techniques has revealed a much more complex picture. Newly-developed 'real time' brain imaging techniques are now allowing the brain to be observed as it works on various tasks. In effect, actual 'thoughts' can be observed as they happen, as different areas of the brain 'light up'.
The data obtained in this way has provided a new understanding of subconscious mental functioning. In particular that:
* ?subconscious? thought processes are not located in any particular spot, or associated with either hemisphere of the brain, but are distributed throughout the whole brain,
* they are completely independent of normal consciousness, and continue in the absence of conscious awareness,
* conscious thought represents only about 15-20% of the mental processing involved in any given task, the rest of the work is carried out subconsciously.
The ?Alien Being? Inside You
The picture emerging is of a conscious mind (the part of you that is reading this ebook and considering these words) that is in effect only a ?brain within a brain? - a small and isolated entity that exists within, and is largely governed by, a much larger system ? the subconscious mind.
This is NOT the ?subconscious mind? that runs the body and interprets incoming sensory data - these are automatic unconscious processes that the subconscious mind can control, but which are not a part of the subconscious mind itself.
Instead the true subconscious mind is an actual thinking apparatus that is largely independent of the conscious mind and far more powerful than it, and which has its own thoughts and objectives.
The brain tissue that generates and supports the subconscious mind is physically separate from the ?wiring? of the conscious mind (which seems to be located primarily in the frontal lobes of the brain) and consists of vast numbers of superfast neural connections extending throughout the structure of the brain. This system can access a host of processes not available to the conscious mind - it is effectively a supercomputer of enormous potential that can direct all the ?automatic? functions we need to stay alive, and manage and control all parts of the brain, including the areas which generate our ?consciousness?.
For anyone who has not previously come across this idea, it can be a little frightening to suddenly realise that most of the time they really are simply not in control ? that almost everything they do and achieve is actually done and achieved at the prompting of an internal ?entity? that may even have completely different aims and intentions from their own.
The subconscious mindis not really an 'alien', or even separate from us. It was born as a part of us, grows with us and will die with us. It is in a very real sense who we are - our personality, habits and beliefs. As well as ensuring that we eat, drink, sleep and carry out all the other biological imperatives we have inherited, it 'automates' all the skills we acquire as we develop (such as talking, walking or riding a bike). Subconscious processes also try to keep us alive by making us fearful of obvious danger such as heights and potentially dangerous creatures (for example, snakes) and by causing us to automatically react when physically threatened (for example by a car coming towards us at speed).
But along with all these basic and generally beneficial 'programs', the subconscious also accumulates a ton of garbage that leads to inappropriate fears, feelings of inadequacy, unnecessary limitations, 'personal problems' and a host of other behaviours that either don't serve us well, or which actively conflict with our conscious needs and wants. Poor subconscious 'beliefs' can and do also result in physical manifestations such as recurring illness, clumsiness, obesity and much more.
Some people - just a very few, and often from 'privileged' backgrounds - have been lucky enough to develop internal programs which are largely positive. These people tend to be successful in whatever fields they choose to enter, are usually confident and outgoing, enjoy wealth and success, and generally lead rich, fulfilling lives. Put simply, they expect 'success' and never doubt that this is how things will be, and so this is what their subconscious minds ensure that they receive.
Unfortunately, most of us are NOT that lucky. The fact is that much of the input the subconscious gathers up when it 'writes' the internal directives that shape our lives is irrelevant rubbish - negative comments made by others (particularly during childhood), hurtful and damaging experiences of almost any kind, inappropriate associations, misunderstandings and so on. But because of the non-judgmental way in which this part of the mind works, ALL perceived experiences, whether useful or damaging, accurate or illogical, are stored away and used to construct the system of internal 'beliefs' used by the subconscious mind to direct our lives.
This means that without assistance, our conscious desires and efforts to lose weight, quit smoking, be more confident, stop procrastinating, or to effect change of almost any kind, stand little chance of success against what our subconscious minds direct us to do. For most of the time we are at the mercy of our subconsciously generated 'habits'. Our efforts to change by using our 'willpower' are almost always doomed to failure because our subconscious minds will invariably sabotage anything which would result in a movement beyond the limits it has set.
In virtually every way we are unconsciously tethered by a short leash, yet most of us have no idea at all that it is even there.
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