Now let’s consider the relationship between your conscious and subconscious mind.
With your conscious mind, you’re constantly thinking and talking to yourself. Your conscious mind monitors all incoming information through your senses. In addition, it monitors your internal thoughts and creates an interpretation of what is happening. For instance, close your eyes for a minute and identify three sounds that you can hear. When you resume reading, you will recognize that your conscious mind had already identified those sounds and knew they were nothing to be concerned about. Our conscious mind is constantly interpreting our world to our subconscious mind.
What is important to understand is that whatever the conscious mind says, the subconscious mind believes as absolute truth, even though sometimes we tell ourselves information that is just not true. Have you ever said to yourself, “I’ll die if I fail that exam”, or “It would be terrible if I miss that deadline”, or “Everyone will think I am an idiot”? In each case, when your conscious mind creates an uncomfortable scenario for your subconscious mind, your subconscious mind reacts as if the scenario is actually happening. You get a sinking feeling in your gut, your heart rate and blood pressure increase, and you might even break out in a sweat.
What you’re thinking and telling yourself is what your subconscious mind believes and reacts to. Your thinking creates your beliefs and your beliefs drive your feelings. When you change your thinking, you can change your feeling.
My friend Paul Huschilt wrote a wonderful, funny, book called The Reluctant Pilgrim: An Incomplete Guide to Walking the Camino de Santiago. When you read it, you would think that the words flowed from his brain onto the page. But he told me he had a struggle to set aside specific time for the book. Every morning he had a battle with himself to get started. His mind would say, “I don’t want to do this, I don’t feel like it, I can’t write a single word today.” Paul would feel frustrated and blue. Then he would tell himself, “You can do it, just get started and you will feel better, you will be glad when you’ve got this done.” He would feel better and get started. Within a few hours, he had completed work he was pleased with and he would enjoy the rest of the day. But the next morning, he would have the same battle between his conscious and subconscious mind.
The next time you find yourself getting very angry or anxious, take a deep breath and ask, “What am I telling myself right now?” Repeat what you are telling yourself and ask yourself, “How true and how helpful is that?” Then substitute a more helpful, realistic thought like:
- “I can handle this.”
- “I can get started.”
- “People behave badly sometimes, but I control my response.”
- “Life is not fair, but I have had some good breaks.”
Remember happiness is a choice and a skill.