The most powerful and influential programmes in the subconscious mind originated during the formative period between gestation and six years of age. During this time, a child’s brain records all sensory experiences and learns complex motor programmes for speech and movement—learning first how to crawl, then stand, and ultimately run and jump. Simultaneously, the subconscious mind acquires perceptions in regard to parents, who they are and what they do.
Then, by observing behavioural patterns of people in their immediate environment, a child learns perceptions of acceptable and unacceptable social behaviours that become the subconscious programmes that establish the ‘rules’ of life.
Now here’s the catch—these life-shaping subconscious programmes are direct downloads derived from observing our primary teachers: our parents, siblings, and local community. Unfortunately, as psychiatrists, psychologists, and counsellors are keenly aware, many of the perceptions acquired about ourselves in the formative period are expressed as limiting and self-sabotaging beliefs.
Consider that you were a five-year-old child throwing a tantrum over your desire to have a particular toy. In silencing your outburst, your father yelled, “You don’t deserve things!” You are now an adult and in your self-conscious mind, are considering the idea that you have the qualities and power to assume a position of leadership at your job. While in the process of entertaining this positive thought in the self-conscious mind, all of your behaviours are automatically managed by the programmes in your more powerful subconscious mind.
Since your fundamental behavioural programmes are those derived in your formative years, your father’s admonition that “you do not deserve things” may become the subconscious mind’s automated directive. So, while you are entertaining wonderful thoughts of a positive future and not paying attention, your subconscious mind automatically engages self-sabotaging behaviour to assure that your reality matches your programme of not-deserving.
How subconscious develops
Nature facilitates the enculturation process by developmentally enhancing the subconscious mind’s ability to download massive amounts of information. EEG [Electroencephalography] readings from adult brains reveal that neural electrical activity is correlated with at least five different states of awareness, each associated with a different frequency level:
- Delta [0.5 – 4Hz]: Sleeping/unconscious state
- Theta [4 – 8Hz]: Imagination state
- Alpha [8 – 12Hz]: Calm consciousness state
- Beta -12 – 35Hz]: Focused consciousness state
- Gamma [>35Hz]: Peak performance
EEG vibrations continuously shift from state to state over the whole range of frequencies during normal brain processing in adults. However, EEG vibration rates and their corresponding states evolve in incremental stages over time.
The predominant brain activity during the child’s first two years of life is delta, the lowest EEG frequency range. In the adult brain, delta is associated with sleeping or unconsciousness.
Between two and six years of age, the child’s brain activity state ramps up and operates primarily in the range of theta. In the adult, theta activity is associated with states of reverie or imagination. While in the theta state, children spend much of their time mixing the imaginary world with the real world.
Calm consciousness associated with emerging alpha activity only becomes a predominant brain state after six years of age. By 12 years, the brain expresses all frequency ranges although its primary activity is in beta’s state of focused consciousness.
This stage usually arrives in the life of children when they leave elementary education behind and enter into the more intense academic programmes.
A profoundly important fact in the above timeline that may have missed your attention is that children do not express the alpha EEG frequencies of conscious processing as a predominant brain state until after they are six years old. The predominant delta and theta activity of children under six signifies that their brains are operating at levels below consciousness.
It’s fixed before six
Delta and theta brain frequencies define a brain state known as a hypnogogic trance, the same neural state that hypnotherapists use to download new behaviours directly into the subconscious mind of their clients.
The first six years of a child’s life is spent in a hypnotic trance. Its perceptions of the world are directly downloaded into the subconscious during this time, without the discrimination of the dormant self-conscious mind.
Consequently, our fundamental perceptions about life are learned before we express the capacity to choose or reject those beliefs. We are simply ‘programmed.’
The reason behind
The inhibition of conscious processing [alpha EEG activity] and the simultaneous engagement of a hypnogogic trance during the formative stages of a child’s life are a logical necessity.
The thinking processes associated with the self-conscious mind cannot operate from a blank slate. Self-conscious behaviour requires a working database of learned perceptions. Consequently, before self-consciousness is expressed, the brain’s primary task is to acquire a working awareness of the world by directly downloading experiences and observations into the subconscious mind.
The flaw in the method
However, there is a very serious downside to acquiring awareness by this method. The consequence is so profound that it impacts the life of the individual—we download our perceptions and beliefs about life, long before we acquire the ability for critical thinking. Our primary perceptions are literally written in stone as unequivocal truths in the subconscious mind, where they habitually operate for life, unless there is an active effort to re-programme them.
How subconscious influences reality
Acquired perceptions in the subconscious mind can even override genetically-endowed instincts. For example, every human can instinctually swim like a dolphin the moment he emerges from the birth canal. So, why do we have to work so hard at teaching our children to swim?
The answer lies in the fact that every time the infant encounters open water, such as a pool, a river, or a bathtub, the parents freak out in concern for the safety of their child. The parent’s behaviour causes the child to equate water as something to be feared. The acquired perception of water as dangerous and life-threatening overrides the instinctual ability to swim and makes the formerly proficient child susceptible to drowning.
Through our developmental experiences we acquire the perception that we are frail, vulnerable organisms subject to the ravages of contagious germs and disease. The belief of being frail actually leads to frailty since the mind’s limiting perceptions inhibit the body’s innate ability to heal itself.
This influence of the mind on healing processes is the focus of psychoneuroimmunology, the field that describes the mechanism by which our thoughts change brain chemistry, which in turn, regulates the function of the immune system. While negative beliefs can precipitate illness [nocebo effect], the resulting disease state can be alleviated through the healing effects of positive thoughts [placebo effect].
How perceptions are formed
It is through perceptions that the subconscious mind controls our reality. Here’s how perceptions are formed.
There are three sources of perceptions that control our biology and behaviour. The most primitive perceptions are those we acquire with our genome.
Built into our genes are programmes that provide fundamental reflex behaviours referred to as instincts. Pulling your hand out of an open flame is a genetically-derived behaviour that does not have to be learned. More complex instincts include the ability of newborn babies to swim like a dolphin or the activation of innate healing mechanisms to repair a damaged system or eliminate a cancerous growth. Genetically-inherited instincts are perceptions acquired from nature.
The second source of life-controlling perceptions represents memories derived from life experiences downloaded into the subconscious mind. These profoundly powerful learned perceptions represent the contribution from nurture. Among the earliest perceptions of life to be downloaded, are the emotions and sensations experienced by the mother as she responds to her world.
Along with nutrition, the emotional chemistry, hormones, and stress factors controlling the mother’s responses to life experiences cross the placental barrier and influence foetal physiology and development. When the mother is happy, so is the foetus.
When the mother is in fear, so is the foetus. When the mother ‘rejects’ her foetus as a potential threat to family survival, the foetal nervous system is pre-programmed with the emotion of being rejected.
Sue Gearhardt’s book, Why Love Matters, reveals that the foetal nervous system records memories of womb experiences. By the time the baby is born, emotional information downloaded from the life experiences in the womb have already shaped half of that individual’s personality.
Finally, the third source of perceptions that shape our lives is derived from the self-conscious mind. Unlike the reflexive programming of the subconscious mind, the self-conscious mind is a creative platform that provides for the mixing and morphing of a variety of perceptions with the infusion of imagination, a process that generates an unlimited number of beliefs and behavioural variations. The quality of the self-conscious mind endows organisms with one of the most powerful forces in the Universe, the opportunity to express free will.