7 things you need to know about your subconscious
Your mind operates with a powerful conscious and subconscious duel processing system. The subconscious mind is responsible for assessing the environment for potential danger and ensuring your safety. This happens beneath your conscious level of awareness, you have literally no idea it is going on. When it spots something potentially dangerous this is communicated to your conscious mind and you might notice something new, or experience an emotion to attract your attention to the danger. Most of these subconscious programs are written when we are children and don’t take into account an adult, rational perspective on reality.
Subconscious processing exceeds conscious processing
The processing capacity and speed of the subconscious mind is literally millions of times faster than the conscious mind. In terms of pure computing power the conscious mind processes data at a rate of just 40 to 60 bits per second. This is the rate you are able to ‘think’ at. But, the subconscious mind processes data at 10 to 40 million bits per second. That’s like comparing a mobile phone to a super computer. Your body alone sends 11 million bits of data per second to communicate the status of each cell. Imagine if you had to consciously think about the internal environment of every single cell and whether or not it had enough oxygen or glucose! Our conscious mind is only presented with a fraction (about 5%) of all the information our senses take in from our environment.
The mind is hyper-reactive to danger in the environment
The main function of the subconscious is to ensure our survival, at all costs. We evolved protective mental mechanisms to ensure we could stay alive long enough to pass our genes on to future generations. There would have been no point evolving art, music and maths if we had been eaten by wolves as we sat pondering the meaning of life. As children the same protective mechanisms are triggered by dangerous emotions, such as shame and fear of isolation, as these are social survival mechanisms. For our ancestors, isolation from the tribe meant almost certain death. Nowadays we still possess unchecked subconscious programs which are not only avoiding the real life wolves but also imaginary dangers which are not as threatening as we think.
We predict and estimate danger with our imagination
The subconscious mind works out how likely something is to endanger our lives by accessing a catalogue of past experiences. We take all the past data and imagine some future possibilities based on the potential of danger. This statistical modelling is skewed towards avoiding emotional and physical danger and was often programmed before the age of 7, when we lacked the conscious thinking capacity to fully understand our environment. If we felt embarrassed about being asked to speak in front of the class as a child, this can easily translate into a fear of public speaking or even avoiding social situations with lots of people where we might feel vulnerable when we’re adults.
Primitive brain regions perceive danger and make us freeze
External events re-trigger old memories which match the current situation. Being asked to do a presentation for work might re-trigger the fear and embarrassment of getting a sum wrong on the black-board at school. Rationally we know that the situation is completely different, but the subconscious is not rational. The threat of embarrassment is acknowledged by the subconscious mind and primitive brain regions which manage our survival responses are triggered. The ‘fight or flight’ response could be engaged, but often the even more primitive ‘freeze’ response is selected. We can’t fight the boss, we can’t run away, all we can do is ‘play dead.’ This most primitive of the ‘fight or flight’ responses manifests as procrastination, distraction and avoidance behaviours, including seeking out mental analgesics like alcohol and pleasurable foods.
We self-deceive to avoid feeling painful emotions
One of our human evolutionary adaptations was learning how to convince others about something we knew to be untrue. To do this we also had to learn to self-deceive so our facial features and body postures wouldn’t give away the truth. When threats are perceived by the subconscious, choosing what action to take isn’t a rational assessment; it’s more like a reflex-action which we make up an explanation for afterwards. Emotions, or avoiding them, drive our behaviour much more than we realise. When something triggers the ‘fear-reflex’ we are transported back in time to when that experience was stored in the subconscious. We mentally become a child again. The subconscious program might be “I’m scared nobody will want to be friends with me.” [Peter, age 6] But we retrofit a ‘logical’ excuse that we tell ourselves “I don’t have time to attend the party and it’s probably gonna be boring anyway.” [Peter, age 36].
The mind and body suffer as a result of ongoing stress
Our threat-avoidance systems evolved to cope with experiences that we could defeat and move on from. After being chased by a wild animal you either got killed or survived. Then the subconscious would look out for that specific threat in the future. But modern threats don’t tend to get resolved, they persist. We develop an immense cache of emotionally traumatic experiences that can trigger the danger response. The body is pushed into a constant state of ‘red alert’ and non-essential healing and rejuvenation is cancelled. Imagine trying to rest, relax and re-cooperate in a war zone. Would you stop to fix a few stitches in a hem while being chased by a lion? Chemical signals from the brain, like cortisol and adrenaline, keep us in a battle ready state. Over time the body wears out as the self-repair and immune protective functions never get turned on.
Mental Coaching unlocks past fear to free up the present
Emotional and logical retrofitting stops us looking at events that keep these stress responses active. But, what you most need to know can be found where you least want to look. The conscious mind acts like a gatekeeper, stopping you from accessing emotions stored in the past. Many psychotherapeutic techniques and talk therapies rely on working with the trauma from a conscious perspective, so you have to actively re-trigger it. Naturally this is upsetting to experience. But, what if you could simply ‘edit’ the subconscious program without having to examine it and let go of the challenging emotions attached to it. Matt’s coaching methods do just this. Rapid and dramatic shifts in conscious perspective are experienced by simply letting the subconscious self-heal and re-write its own programs from an adapted, adult perspective. Lifelong fears, phobias, and even chronic illness can be quickly dissolved when you tackle the root subconscious cause of the problems.
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What’s Your Allostatic Load?
Subconscious stress changes how you think, feel and act.
Imagine trying to walk uphill carrying a backpack full of bricks. You can manage for a little while, but eventually you get tired and need to take a break.
But, what if you can’t stop? What if there’s no time to rest?
What happens if you keep carrying the heavy load?
You get tired. You get irritated. Eventually, you burnout.
Chronic stress is much like that brick-filled backpack; it puts a constant additional strain on the body and drains emotional and physical energy reserves. Without rest the body gradually wears out. This is the allostatic load, how heavy is yours?
In a Gallup study 23% of employees report being ‘always’ burned out while 44% are burned out ‘sometimes’. That means two-thirds of full-time workers experience burnout on the job.
Burnout often leads to disengaged employees, who cost their employers 34% of their annual salary as a result.
Individuals and organisations face a burnout crisis; a downward spiral of damage to personal health and economic performance.
Matt Hudson has a BA (Hons) Education degree and his work is firmly grounded within this paradigm. Matt is a bestselling author with a passion for helping people to help themselves.
He is also an authority on Self-Sabotage, Non-Verbal Communication and is leading a remarkable scientific discovery into the root causes of many human psychological and physiological problems.
Are you feeling stuck or unwell? Afraid or confused? Fed up fighting your own mind and body? Would you like to know more about Matt’s mental training and coaching methods? Your brain is not broken, you’ve just not been taught how to train it effectively!