How would you feel if you learned that 99% of your mind were completely inaccessible to you?
Well, that’s not just a hypothetical question. Research has shown that the vast majority of the human mind is hidden from our conscious awareness. Most of our mind is subconscious: it influences our behavior without our awareness.
The subconscious mind is difficult to understand because it operates without our knowledge. Yet, your subconscious mind is the source of many (if not most) of your thoughts, feelings, and actions. If you could tap into your subconscious mind, you would have the power to dramatically improve the quality of your life.
The subconscious mind is the culprit behind many of our personal struggles.
When I was 18, I couldn’t find a girlfriend. I told myself that I wasn’t good looking enough to attract women. But I never considered the possibility that I was single because I had a crippling fear of rejection.
I didn’t find a girlfriend until I was 20. Why? Because I wasn’t aware of my subconscious mind. If I had known the true reason I was single was my fear of rejection, I would have approached women and asked them on dates until I found a girlfriend.
See, the conscious mind tells us the story we want to hear, the subconscious mind holds the truth that we’re afraid to hear. I wanted to hear that I wasn’t attractive enough to find a girlfriend, because that gave me an excuse to avoid facing my fear of rejection.
It’s easy to believe that you’re overweight because of your genetics. It’s hard to believe that you’re overweight because you’ve been making poor health decisions for a long period of time.
It’s easy to believe that you’re poor because you came from a disadvantaged upbringing. It’s hard to believe you’re poor because you’re afraid of taking risks.
The voice in our head tells us what we want to hear. It allows us to keep making the same mistakes we’ve always made. It tells us that our problems aren’t our fault, and we like hearing that. As a result, we’re unlikely to argue with that story or look for an alternative explanation.
Yet, more often than not, our problems are solvable:
- We can get the relationships we want.
- We can get the career we want.
- We can become confident.
- We can become hard-working.
- We can become a positive influence on others.
To accomplish any of those things, we have to accept that the story we consciously tell ourselves isn’t the whole story; and the truth is often something that we’d rather not hear. In this article, you’re going learn how to leverage the power of your subconscious mind to transform your life.
How To Unlock The Power of Your Subconscious Mind
The subconscious mind is the cause of many of our problems. The first step to solving those problems is becoming aware of your subconscious.
But how do we actually do that?
By changing how we relate to our emotions.
Our emotions act as a bridge between the conscious and the subconscious mind: the subconscious mind communicates to us through emotions. We feel a desire to smoke a cigarette, we feel like we’ll never find a relationship, or we feel like we’ll never be successful. Then, we consciously tell ourselves a story based on those feelings.
When we think about the fact that we’re working at a dead-end job, that makes us feel shitty. The only way to feel less shitty is to tell ourselves that it’s not our fault and that we’ve been doing our best(1). By telling ourselves a story that frees of us responsibility, we can reduce our negative feelings. Unfortunately, feeling better doesn’t help us solve the underlying problem.
Whenever we experience negative emotions, we have a choice. We can avoid those feelings by creating a story that appeases our ego. Or, we can lean into those emotions, and thus gain the wisdom hidden in our subconscious mind.
Whatever changes you want to make in your life, your negative emotions are like a compass that points to true north. Our instinct is to avoid negative emotions because they’re painful, but if we can learn to treat our negative emotions with respect, they can guide us towards making changes that will bring us greater happiness and success.
Lean in To Negative Emotions
The first step to changing your relationship with negative emotion is to allow them to run their course instead of trying to avoid them. This means that if you feel lonely because you don’t have many friends, don’t avoid your feelings by scrolling through Facebook or making excuses for your predicament. Instead, be aware of those feelings, be aware of the thoughts you feel in response to those feelings, and let your feelings persist as long as they want to.
Imagine someone rings the doorbell. You open the door, and you see that it’s someone you hate, so you slam the door in their face. That’s how most of us treat negative emotions, we see them as an enemy. But negative emotions exist for a reason, they’re our subconscious mind’s way of telling us there’s a problem that needs to be solved.
If you avoid painful emotion, you’re not going to learn what the real problem is. You’ll address the symptom, but not the cause. Take procrastination for example. The symptom is a feeling of being overwhelmed. The easiest way to avoid the pain is to distract yourself with Netflix. But that doesn’t address the underlying problem. Our first instinct when we experience negative emotion is to get rid of it immediately, but our negative emotions are usually caused by things we can’t afford to avoid.
When you lean into your negative emotions, you can start to understand the problems in your life from a broader, less reactive perspective.
Remember, your emotions are like a bridge from the subconscious to the conscious. Avoiding your emotions is like burning that bridge. But if you embrace your emotions (especially the negative ones), your subconscious mind will have the opportunity to communicate with your conscious mind and thus, you will be able to find an effective solution to your problem.
If you’re skeptical of this process, I understand that. Just give this technique a try and see what happens. When you feel anxiety, stress, burnout, sadness, or any negative emotion, take at least 10 minutes to sit with those feelings. If you’re at home, it might be easier to practice this by laying on your bed with no distractions. The most important parts of this process are that you:
a. Don’t use your smartphone to avoid the negative emotions.
b. Observe the thoughts that run through your mind without assuming they are true.
C. Let the emotions exist even if they are intense.
Of course, this is easier said than done. It can be helpful to do this exercise as a meditative practice. To do so, take 10 minutes per day to sit and focus on your negative emotions using the process I outlined above. By practicing this as a daily meditation, you will start to naturally allow your emotions to run their course instead of avoiding them.
Not only will the practice of leaning into your negative emotions help you find solutions to the underlying problems that are causing those emotions, but it will also make your negative emotions less powerful. A lot of the reason that negative emotions are so painful is our resistance to them, the fact that we don’t want to feel them gives them more charge.
But, learning to intentionally embrace your negative emotions will make them less painful. It’s similar to how if you’ve never gone to the gym, lifting weights is extremely stressful and not at all enjoyable. But if you go to the gym dozens of times you’ll eventually learn to embrace and even enjoy the pain of it.
Learning to embrace negative emotion is a very counterintuitive process. Give it a try and you may be surprised find that changing your relationship with negative emotions helps you unlock your hidden potential.
1: To be clear, I’m not saying external circumstances don’t matter, they do, but we often exaggerate their importance to feel better about ourselves.
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