[reprinted from my former site How to Tune a Human, May 1, 2007]
The ‘Non-Conscious’ mind can regulate your body in a thousand ways (all normally below your consciousness), and the ‘Non-Conscious’ mind can automatically serve up learned actions like a tennis-serve or automatically serve up your opinion of the President or automatically make you feel anxious on a date. Some of this is swell, and some of this is occasionally awful, but the Non-Conscious mind is looking out for you as best it can, and everything it does is automatic.
Think of the President. There’s your opinion … automatically.
Go out on a date. There’s your usual feeling … automatically.
Decide to tie your shoe. There go your hands … automatically tying your shoe.
But what if you’d like to do something … different … for a change?
MAKING A CHANGE
You might formulate a plan, like going on a diet, but your usual responses are going to be served up automatically. Just the *thought* of a meal will automatically trigger your usual response to have more pie. Your non-conscious mind trying to help you, just like you trained it to do, by repetition. That’s how it learns.
But let’s use going on a date as an example. Let’s say that it has been your habit to be up-tight, anxious, and worried. For our purposes, it doesn’t matter how this got started or whether your parents were good people or what your astrology sign is. Let’s just say that uptight, anxious, and worried has become your habit.
And maybe you think this isn’t the best way to enjoy your next date.
Now, just supposing you have that thought, thinking about going on your next date, most likely already your non-conscious mind starts serving up your usual feelings, so quite likely you may begin to feel uptight, anxious, and worried … and you haven’t even gone out on the date yet!
How then can you make a change?
CREATING SYNTHETIC EXPERIENCES
One way is to mentally “rehearse,” using your ability to chose which thoughts to think. You can mentally rehearse the date, and you can choose to imagine success, and all sorts of things going right. And the way your body will react to these thoughts and images of success is by giving you a bunch of good feelings.
If you are persistent, and will rehearse and rehearse, then you can build up an amount of positive “experience” which becomes a habitual way of thinking and feeling, just as your old pattern was a negative experience which became a habitual way of thinking and feeling. If you persist, eventually you’ll have more positive “experience” than negative experience, and you will discover your dates being more enjoyable.
Of course, doing it once, and saying, “Cool!” won’t do the job.
There are some other ways, such as using hypnotic or Neuro-Linguistic Programming methods, but simple mental rehearsal gives a clear model of what works.
COMMUNICATING DIRECTLY WITH YOUR NON-CONSCIOUS MIND
As you formulate your new plan for making a change, you can also “talk” with your Non-conscious Mind. By doing this, you can discover ahead of time how your non-conscious mind will automatically *help* you, and how your non-conscious mind will automatically *block* your new plan.
If you can know these things, then usually you can modify your new plan so as not to automatically invoke a lot of blockage, and in fact you can often modify your new plan so that automatic behaviors that will be served up by the non-conscious mind will assist your new plan.
So the question is: How do you talk with a Non-conscious Mind?
It doesn’t speak you know. It doesn’t even have self-consciousness as you and I know do. It’s not an actual entity as you and I seem to be. But it *acts* like an entity. It *acts* like a different, and autonomous, part of you. Because it is.
IT RESPONDS TO YOUR THOUGHTS
Here’s the answer: Although it cannot talk, it does have the habit of automatically generating the habitual thoughts and feelings you’ve entrained it to store, by your repeated thinking, feeling, or performing habitual actions.
So here’s what you do. Let’s say your new plan is to be more relaxed on your next date, and to have more fun.
So you sit down, and though you can do this just mentally, it will be easier to learn if you first try it with pencil and paper. So you start writing down your plan, with a lot of details. And as you write, pay careful attention, with every word that you write, what feelings and thoughts are popping into your awareness.
These feelings and thoughts are the responses of your non-conscious mind to your plan, word by word, and bit by bit.
For example if you write (or say), “I’m going to go out,” you might have a vague feeling of questioning. (That’s your non-conscious mind’s automatic reaction to the idea of your going on an excursion.)
And you then continue, writing (or saying), “on a date,” and immediately you notice a gentle feeling of unease. So right there you could react, and try some different words, like “I mean, to go get some dinner,” now you get a feeling of relaxation and ease.
And you continue, “with Sally,” and you notice that there’s no feeling of uneasiness. You just saw that your thinking “go out” and especially thinking “go on a date” are triggering the unwanted, automatic responses entrained into your non-conscious mind, but that “going to get some dinner … with Sally,” doesn’t trigger any automatic unpleasant stuff at all.
HOW TO USE WHAT YOU DISCOVER
Well for one thing, pay attention to your thoughts. If you feel uneasy, did you just think thoughts about dating? If so, reframe them differently. In this way you are retraining the non-conscious mind as you go.
You might discover, for example, that your non-conscious mind is going to produce a lot of automatic negative stuff if you plan a trip to the bowling alley, but no automatic negative stuff if you go golfing, and that it will generate warm and pleasant feelings if you’ll take a picnic to the museum.
Then, for certain, take more picnics at the museum, and for those other places like the bowling alley, visit the bowling alley on your own and meditate there or listen to music that always puts you in a good mood, or do something in those places that create more confort for you in those places.
A SIMPLE EXAMPLE
Recently, I’ve been engaged in the process of buying a house, and I knew I had to go to the Title Company, because that’s part of the process. I’d never been to a Title Company before, and when I thought about the mysterious ‘Title Company,’ I felt a discomfort and an uneasy feeling. So, before the day that I had to go there with the seller of the house, I went to the Title Company on my own.
I walked in, and the first thing I did was to “locate” myself in the place. That is, I made a point to look at the space and the things in it. I looked at the carpet and its color, and the way the sunlight fell through the window on the floor. I looked at the desks, and the walls, and the chairs. And then I looked at the several people in the room.
I picked one of them, and was invited to sit down. I sat down and felt the chair, and examined the person across from me. And then I asked a half a dozen questions about the process, which both told me something about the process, and also told me something about the people who work there. I then thanked the lady and left, noticing the furniture and fixtures as I did so.
In short, I familiarized my senses with the place, the process, and the people.
Then, the next day when I returned there with the seller of the house, guess who was relaxed and comfortable in that place? That’s right. My disquiet (automatic reaction from the non-conscious mind) was gone, replaced with a feeling of calm familiarity.
In the same way, you can familiarize yourself with unknown places and situations, and you can de-sensitize yourself from upsets that occurred in the past in certain locations. It’s not a perfect system, but it does work.
HOW THE NON-CONSCIOUS MIND SPEAKS “NEW” IDEAS TO YOU
So far, we’ve discussed how you speak to your non-conscious mind, and how you can perceive its reactions to what you say. However, as you engage in this practice — and at many other times, once you tune in to this process — you will begin to discover that your non-conscious also initiates communications to you, and these can be new ideas. They are probably triggered by things you say and do, but these new communications, to you, represent new and additional thoughts.
This is the process we see anytime you are “brainstorming,” which is listening to all the (wild and wacky) ideas that spring up as you consider a problem. During our daily life, as humans we learn to “tune out” all these associations. We have to do so in order to concentrate on the task at hand. But when you “brainstorm,” you pay attention to all these ideas as they arise. Although many do seem irrelevant, often wondrous gems can be found. And sometimes, behind an idea which seems loco, will be found a useful idea that is completely “outside the box.”
KEEPING THE FLOW GOING
The key in brainstorming, to keep the useful flow a-flowing, is to write down every single idea, no matter how “useless” or “silly.” That is, you permit no criticalness to intrude. (If criticalness or judging ideas is permitted, then very quickly you go back into “daily tasks” mode where non-fitting ideas are squelched, and the flow dries up. Put another way, your non-conscious mind quickly gets the message that you aren’t interested, and stops bothering to send you this rich trove of ideas.)
When you are having your “conversation” with your non-conscious mind, and feeling its reactions to what you are saying, it will also offer up new ideas. These are ideas that just “pop” into consciousness. Hopefully you are listening, and being non-critical and non-judgmental during this process, because these “offered-up” communications seemingly originated by your non-conscious mind are often creative solutions to the project you are considering.
In our dating example, you might discover as you consider taking Suzie to miniature golf, that you suddenly get an image of some female relative from the past or an old girlfriend or a childhood friend. Where did that come from? You guessed it.
Why? That’s the interesting question. When you look, you may suddenly have an “Aha!” when you realize that Suzie is triggering this old similar situation and maybe that’s where some of the worry or anxiety is coming from. Sometimes, when you spot old connections like this, just the process of spotting it is enough to disconnect or weaken the automatic response. Much of conventional therapy is in hopes of attaining enough of these new awarenesses so as to improve your usual operation.
Or, it might be that you get that image of some female relative from the past or an old girlfriend, and you ponder it, and then you think, “Aha!” because you just remembered that Aunt Bessie or old girlfriend Lucy used to really enjoy baking gingerbread cookies, and you wonder if your new date might — radical thought, outside the box — you wonder if your new date might enjoy (as a “date”) the two of you baking some gingerbread cookies, and then you carry them in a picnic basket with a thermos of milk to this really secluded place in the park for a romantic date of cookies and milk? Here, your non-conscious mind had handed you a creative and different idea for a date, that might be lots of fun.
IT WILL FIND THINGS FOR YOU
We’ve all had the experience of searching for a word and can’t immediately grasp it. You’ve probably also had the experience that you are suddenly reminded of something, but you can’t quite remember what. Or you want to recall the past, and you know it’s in there but not floating to the surface.
Your non-conscious mind is already in contact with that information. That’s why you have the “feeling” that you know that word, or why you have the “feeling” of being reminded, or you have the “feeling” that you know it’s there.
If you just ask your non-conscious mind to fetch it for you, then at some later time — maybe two minutes and maybe two hours — as you are doing something else, suddenly the missing word, or the missing memory, or the missing information will “pop” into your mind. Your non-conscious mind, having been given the task, has been working on it, and has found a route to present it to you.
This is also related to the process of handing a task to your non-conscious mind, such thinking of a problem as you go to sleep, and awakening with the solution. But that’s another whole thing. And, the better you and your non-conscious mind can get along, and the better the two of you are communicating, the better it can serve you. Remember, it’s looking out for you in every way that it can, as best it knows how. And when you operate in conformity with its activities, you become more integrated and more effective. And, generally, happier.
CHANGING YOUR MIND
The Non-conscious Mind cannot speak, but it can automatically issue feelings and thoughts. That’s what it does. So if you’ll speak (or write), paying close attention to the feelings and thought automatically arising as you do so, you’ll be carrying on a dialogue with your own non-conscious mind.
You can discover where it will automatically help you, and where it will automatically block you. And so knowing, you can choose your path so that it will help you, and you can also find ways to change some of those ‘automatic blocks’ into more useful habitual reactions.
And, so doing, you are changing your mind.
For the better.