The subconscious mind is an astonishingly powerful information processor that can record and replay perceptual experiences [program]. Interestingly, many people become aware of their subconscious mind’s automated programmed behaviours only when they realise they’re engaged in an undesirable behaviour as a result of someone ‘pushing their buttons’.
What is the subconscious?
In conventional parlance, the brain’s conscious mechanism associated with automated stimulus-response behaviours is referred to as the subconscious or unconscious mind. That is because its functions require neither observation nor attention from the self-conscious mind.
In fact, the functions of the subconscious mind evolved long before the prefrontal cortex [the neurological platform that enables us to realise our personal identity and experience the quality of ‘thinking’—responsible for our self-consciousness]. Consequently, it is able to successfully operate a body and its behaviour without any contribution from the more evolved self-conscious mind.
The subconscious v/s the self-conscious
The power of the subconscious mind lies in its ability to process massive amounts of data acquired from direct and indirect learning experiences at extraordinarily high rates of speed—it has the ability to interpret and respond to an estimated 40 million plus nerve impulses per second.
In contrast, the diminutive self-conscious mind’s prefrontal cortex can only process about 40 nerve impulses per second. As an information processor, the subconscious mind is one million times more powerful than the self-conscious mind. As a trade-off for its computational bravado, the subconscious mind expresses only a marginal creative ability—one that may be best compared to that of a precocious five-year-old.
In contrast to the freewill offered by the conscious mind, the subconscious mind primarily expresses pre-recorded stimulus-response ‘habits’, such as walking, getting dressed, or driving a car. Although the prefrontal cortex’s ability for multitasking is physically constrained, the self-conscious mind can focus upon and control any function in the human body.
In fact, it is now recognised that some bodily functions such as the regulation of heart-beat, blood pressure, and body temperature, which were thought to be beyond the control of the self-conscious mind, can be controlled by the conscious mind. Yogis and other practitioners have trained their conscious minds to control functions formerly defined as involuntary behaviours.
How both function
The subconscious and self-conscious components of the mind work in tandem, with the subconscious controlling every behaviour not attended to by the self-conscious mind. Most people’s self-conscious minds are rarely focussed upon the current moment, since their mental processing continuously flits from one thought to another.
The self-conscious mind is so preoccupied with thoughts about the future, the past, or resolving some imaginary problem, that most of our lives are actually controlled by programmes in the subconscious mind.
Cognitive neuroscientists conclude that the self-conscious mind contributes only about five per cent of our cognitive activity. Consequently, 95 per cent of our decisions, actions, emotions, and behaviours are derived from the unobserved processing of the subconscious mind. This data reveals that our lives are not controlled by our personal intentions and desires, as we may inherently believe.
Do the math! Our fate is actually under the control of the pre-programmed experiences managed by the subconscious mind.
The control mechanism
Now here’s the catch: Behaviour is automatically controlled by subconscious mind’s programmes when the self-conscious mind is not focused on the present moment. When the reflective self-conscious mind is preoccupied in thought and not paying attention, it does not observe the automatic behaviours derived from subconscious mind. Since 95 per cent or more of our behaviour is derived from the subconscious mind.then most of our own behaviour is invisible to us!
For example, consider you know someone intimately; you also know his or her parent. From your perspective you see that your friend’s behaviour closely resembles her parent. Then one day you make a casual remark to your friend. something like, “You know Mary, you’re just like your mom.”
Back away! In disbelief and perhaps shock, Mary is likely to respond with, “How can you say that!” The cosmic joke is that everyone else can see that Mary’s behaviour resembles her mom’s except Mary. Why? Simply because when Mary is engaging the subconscious behavioural programs she downloaded in her youth from observing her mom, her self-conscious mind is not paying attention. At those moments [when she’s behaving like her mom], her automatic subconscious programmes operate without observation.
Consequently, when life does not work out as planned, we rarely recognise that we were very likely contributing to our own disappointments. Since we are generally unaware of the influence of our own subconscious behaviours, we naturally perceive of ourselves as victims of outside forces.
Unfortunately, assuming the role of victim means that we assume we are powerless in manifesting our intentions. Nothing is further from the truth! The primary determinant in shaping the fate of our lives is the database of perceptions and beliefs programmed in our minds.
It’s up to you
We have all been shackled with emotional chains wrought by dysfunctional behaviours programmed by the stories of the past. However, the next time you are “talking to yourself” with the hope of changing sabotaging subconscious programmes, it is important to realise the following information.
Using reason to communicate with your subconscious in an effort to change its behaviour would essentially have the same influence as trying to change a programme on a cassette tape by talking to the tape player. In neither case is there an entity in the mechanism that will respond to your dialogue.
Subconscious programmes are not fixed, unchangeable behaviours. We have the ability to rewrite our limiting beliefs and in the process take control of our lives. However, to change subconscious programs requires the activation of a process other than just engaging in a running dialogue with the subconscious mind. There are a large variety of effective processes to reprogram limiting beliefs, which include clinical hypnotherapy, Buddhist mindfulness and a number of newly developed and very powerful modalities collectively referred to as energy psychology.
Learning how to harness our minds to promote growth is the secret of life, which is why I refer to the new science as The Biology of Belief. As we become more conscious and rely less on subconscious automated programs, we become the masters of our fates rather than the “victims” of our programs.
In this way, we can rewrite old, limiting perceptions and actively transform the character of our lives so that they are filled with the love, health, and prosperity that are our true birthrights.