We might not recognise it, but everything we do in life is controlled by our subconscious; Involuntary bodily functions, emotions, thoughts, behaviour and habits can all be tracked back to it.
What is The Subconscious?
Your subconscious is the part of your mind that you have no awareness of. It starts being programmed from birth. From the very moment that we enter the world, we begin to receive messages about the way the world works, about relationships and about ourselves. These messages become internalised and eventually form our rules for life, they become the core of our very being. We receive many ‘rules’ and core beliefs throughout childhood which we carry with us into adulthood.
This is where problems can occur. These old beliefs and behavioural patterns can be out-of-tune with our conscious, adult selves. This means they can become counterproductive, destructive and lead us to self-sabotaging emotions and behaviours.
Conscious Vs. Subconscious
It can be relatively easy to identify the conscious limits that our mind sets for us; the fear of the unknown which stops you from taking that chance on a new idea; feeling unable to make that extra kilometre that you wanted to achieve on your morning run; eating that bar of chocolate (despite being on a diet) because you’re feeling fed up… I’m sure you would be able to find many conscious blocks that get in the way of your success if you spent some time observing your thoughts, feelings and behavioural patterns.
However, the unconscious limits and self-sabotaging behaviours are the ones that need some extra special attention, and probably even some professional support to begin the unravelling process. These are extremely deep-rooted beliefs about ourselves, about relationships and about the world that drive us in ways that we might not be able to see, or even believe, therefore they take a lot of work to pin down, and even more work to change.
Adults who suffered a challenging, traumatic, neglectful or abusive childhood may find it even more difficult to access parts of their subconscious. This is due to the clever nature of the human mind; often it will repress, suppress, deny and bury any hurtful or harmful memories and emotions in order to protect it’s self. The process of uncovering the unconscious can be very uncomfortable, painful even.
“There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own soul.” – Carl Jung, Psychologist
But, I believe, until we move through this painful barrier, we will only continue to live the same patterns, to come up against the same blocks in varying guises, to make the same mistakes, over and over. We will continue to keep ourselves small and unfulfilled, we will constantly fail to reach our full potential, and most frightening of all: we will continue to pass those negative, limiting beliefs and ‘rules’ of life on to our children, breeding generation upon generation of self-limiting individuals that will never find their true self.
How Our Unconscious Mind Controls Our Lives
The Effects of My Unconscious Beliefs
Having studied psychology at degree level, I had a fairly good understanding of how we develop psychologically, but I’d never before looked at my inner view of the world so closely until a series of events at work (I was a primary teacher, for those of you that don’t know!) threw up a lot of personal ‘stuff’ that I’d been previously blissfully unaware of. I began to scrutinise many of my own unconscious beliefs during therapy, through reading and through working with a life coach.
I soon came to realise that what was bothering me most about the situation that I was in, was that I was unable and unqualified to provide the help that a child in my class needed. This doesn’t seem that much of a big deal, right? Why would knowing that you’re not qualified to give someone what they need be an issue?
Well, after some digging, I began to understand the issue. I had an unconscious belief that it was my job to fix everything for everyone else, that it was my job to make everything right again, to give them what they needed to thrive. But my conscious mind knew that I had already done everything I could for this little one, and that it was now out of my hands, and that’s where the problems began.
I found myself in a spiral of anxiety and depression, I truly felt like I had failed, that I was no longer doing a good enough job as a teacher, that I’d not only let myself down but that I’d let this little individual and the rest of my class down. I couldn’t cope with the day to day things, let alone being the fantastic teacher I had always been. I didn’t believe in myself anymore. I just felt generally not good enough. I believed that I had no value if I couldn’t fix things for other people. So I began to withdraw from everything in my life, because, after all, what was the point in it all if I couldn’t do the thing that I was ‘supposed’ to do?
This one single unconscious belief controlled and effected me so much, driving me to the point of being unable to return to work, and eventually causing me to resign from the job that I was actually extremely good at, and that I had worked so hard for over the last few years.
Even writing this story down is still painful and uncomfortable for me. My subconscious has tried to protect me from it over and over again during the last week, since I first had the idea for this post. I knew I wanted to write it, I knew I needed to share it to demonstrate the strange control that our unconscious mind has over us, but things kept ‘coming up’ which meant that *I didn’t have the time* for it.
* The truth is, I did have time, I could have prioritised writing this post over many, many other things. But, my subconscious protected me from confronting this internal limiting belief by making me feel and think that I needed to do other things first. I have taken walks, done the gardening, seen family, done the housework, napped, exercised, practised lots of self care, spent time doing nice things for my partner… anything and everything was more important than writing, despite how much my conscious brain protested and knew it not to be the truth.*
I know that in confronting this belief, that in making the unconscious conscious, I open myself up to being vulnerable. It means that I have to feel the emotions that arise when I unpick it, but I do that willingly now. It’s okay to feel sad, angry, guilty, let down, a failure, lost, unsure of myself… because by moving through all of this I am able to challenge what I once believed about myself. I am able to rationalise it all and comfort myself with the fact that it all stemmed from a belief that was given to me, one that doesn’t need to be kept, that doesn’t need to be true anymore. It is, in itself, a freeing process.
I am not responsible for making everyone else’s lives better. I do not have to fix everything. I can help, sure, but I do so now from a place of conscious thought, all the while understanding that it is not my job, but a choice I make. If I can’t help, that’s okay too. It doesn’t lessen my worth if I can’t.
I now understand that this is going to take time to change, and there will likely be times that these feelings and behaviours come back to me, but in being aware of the unconscious belief that drives them, I able to continue challenging them. I’m able to keep moving forward. They no longer have the control over me that they once did.
This is only one example of how uncovering my unconscious beliefs is helping me to make changes in my life. I will write separate posts about some of the others!
But for now dear reader, I ask you, what patterns are keeping you stuck? What blocks get in your way of success time and time again? What might be the underlying limiting belief that you hold deep within you which causes these blocks?
I’d love to hear how you get on with identifying your subconscious beliefs. Leave a comment, contact me via email or message me directly with any thoughts, feedback or questions about this post.
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