If it was important as a child for you to always finish your meal before you left the table so you would not be harshly reprimanded by a commanding parent, you may find yourself having a difficult time leaving food on your plate as an adult. As a young child, a part of you created a survival plan that would ensure that you always eat all the food on your plate so that you do not displease the people that are keeping you safe. This survival plan created by you as a small child becomes part of your unconscious memories. As an adult, being unaware of this unconscious survival plan, you may find it quite frustrating when your belly feels satisfied after eating a good portion of your meal, and yet you continue to eat everything on your plate. You may even become angry at yourself for not having more control. Survival plans set up by us as children remain active into adulthood. The subconscious mind does not know time and does not know true or false, it only records the information and plays it back to you 24 hours a day. Since you are not consciously aware of the information that is being played back to you, you have a difficult time making changes in behavior because your behavior is automatic based on what the subconscious mind is repeating to you over and over again.
As independent thinking adults, on a conscious level, we may not admire some of our behaviors, yet find it quite difficult to change. The reason for this is, on an unconscious level, we are keeping ourselves safe by continuing to use the same tactics we used as a child to ensure our survival. Another example is a young boy adapting to the empty feeling of being cared for by a distant unemotional mother. As an adult, he finds himself unconsciously attracted to women of similar character, while becoming more and more baffled as to why he cannot meet a caring affectionate woman. He unconsciously clings onto that empty feeling he learned to adapt to as a child because he didn’t want to believe his mother didn’t love him. If he allows himself to become intimate with a woman that is attentive and affectionate towards him, he will most likely jump into survival mode and flee this unfamiliar territory.
Many of the unwanted behaviors that are difficult to change stem from underlying fears based on survival needs. Without knowing what fears are driving this behavior, it becomes difficult to change the unhealthy patterns that have been created and reinforced over time. Children adapt to the world because they have to. As a responsible intelligent adult, having difficulty changing something that on the surface seems easily changeable can cause someone to believe there is something inherently wrong with them, that they have no control over their lives and all attempts to change are a losing battle. Each time an underlying survival fear surfaces, you are reinforcing a brain pattern to keep you in survival.
There is nothing wrong with anyone for clinging to those parts of them that make them feel safe. Survival strategies are necessary, however, the outdated ones cause more harm than good. As adults, those active but outdated strategies cause internal conflicts as your adult self seeks to find happiness in an uncertain world. In order to find your peace, you will need to resolve the conflicts that are causing internal stress. It is necessary for you to learn how to move out of your primary survival brain and to live more fully from your cognitive brain and higher consciousness. This takes commitment and courage. Most importantly it takes self-compassion and the awareness that you are doing the best you can with your current understanding. To heal fully from a conditioned past that keeps you in survival mode, it is necessary to learn how to heal the underlying fears of survival. Living with constant fear that you may not be good enough, that you are being judged for your imperfections or that you cannot trust others to authentically care about you, then you are living in survival mode on a daily basis which causes severe stress on your body. You are always on guard, staying diligent in your watch over your environment, causing your body to contract inward so has to protect yourself from harm. Eventually the immune system starts to weaken from your inability to relax the body and release your need to control everything in your life out of fear that you will become vulnerable.
Science is now linking together the healing modalities of ancient history with new discoveries about the brain. At one time it was thought that the brain was fixed in its patterns and could not be changed. New science is now discovering that the brain can be changed through focused attention, concentration and diligent practice of inviting new information into the brain, which is now referred to as neuroplasticity (derived from the root words neuron and plastic). Neuroplasticity refers to the potential that the brain has to reorganize by creating new neural pathways to adapt, as it needs, to new information. If you focus on new information, like it’s OK to not finish all the food on your plate or a loving relationship brings happiness and feelings of safety, over time the neurons in the brain will make new neural connections allowing you to take action based on the new information without interference from outdated survival strategies. The more you focus on the desirable outcome, the easier it will be to learn a new behavior or overcome an obstacle that prevents you making changes.
Science is now finding tremendous benefit in modalities like meditation and hypnosis where focused attention and deep relaxation work together in order to allow new information into the subconscious mind, thereby changing the patterns in the brain. When using these types of modalities, you are allowing that cognitive part of your brain to relax, thereby allowing you to bypass the critical thinking part of your brain, and just let the information go directly into the part of the mind that is clinging to old beliefs. Once your brain starts accepting new beneficial information, you start to let go of old fears that are causing internal stress on your body. A good daily practice of self-hypnosis or meditation will not only give you relief on a mental and emotional level, but your physical body will stop contracting inward and the nervous system can relax, allowing the immune system to do its job of keeping you healthy and in a natural balanced state.
The Power of the Subconscious Mind
Kelly Tallaksen is a
Board Certified Hypnotist and Life Coach, Teacher, Speaker and Blogger.