Do you continue to say that there is something you would like to change, and it is within your physical power to do so? Is there something that others appear to have taken control of, but you apparently cannot?
If this so, then I have good news. The good news is that you can transform your habits or behaviors which slow or stop you from accomplishing what you want to accomplish. But the bad news is you may be lying to yourself. Now prior to you experiencing a knee jerk reaction of denial or even anger at my words, allow me to speak in my defense. Well…. I may be lying to myself too – and so may everyone else you know. You, your family, your friends, your neighbors, all of us may all be liars, but for a reason.
It is related to each of us having two minds, our conscious and unconscious. Our conscious mind is occupied for the fulfillment of our unconscious mind and our unconscious mind does not believe we need to consciously know something. It is content to keep everything, including all details, and parts working behind the scenes, leaving the conscious mind unaware of the specifics of how various aspects of the show are run.
Actually your mind is doing it at present as you read this. Right now you are feeling a certain way in your legs. Actually it’s lower than that – in your foot or, to be more precise, in your toes. Specifically in that one toe, the one that you can now begin to notice is feeling a little different than the other ones. Have you figured out which one it is yet? Stop, take a deep breath and really notice each toe individually, until you can figure out which one it is that feels a little different. Now do you notice it? Good. The more you notice it, the more noticeable that different feeling will become.
It’s actually been feeling that way since before you took notice of it, but your conscious mind was unaware of it, unless that feeling was of your toe catching on fire. See evolution did not design us to be aware every moment of our conscious experience.
Evolution designed our brains to work in a very specific way, a way that promotes survival. And the fact that you are here today reading this, shows that this design works and works well, at least, for most things.
We evolved to survive in environments that were uninviting and dangerous, at a time when starvation was a universal event and death remained at every turn. Due to this, we developed an advanced thinking device which sits within our own heads, yes, our brain.
Our brains were designed to learn rapidly, adapt quickly, and to collect more knowledge than any other species before us. However there was and is a problem with too much thinking. When threatened by a saber tooth tiger, there was not a moment to spare to review everything one has learned about large cats and add to that what large teeth meant. There was only seconds to decide to do something; fight, flee, or if neither were done, be eaten. Now the individuals whose brains chose “neither” did not get a second chance to experience then review “let’s think of all the consequences of a confronting a tiger.” On the other hand, the other brains that were hardwired to “fight or flight”, within their conscious thinking, lived on, and distributed their genes to the next generation and the next generation then onto us today.
So how were those primitive humans capable of responding so rapidly to danger? They were capable of doing it because their unconscious mind, the primitive brain, could bypass their conscious brain’s thinking response, and send the body automatically into the fight or flight response. This was a fantastic strategy on the African grasslands where our descendants were struggling to survive. They were hardwired to consume whatever scarce food they could locate, particularly those very rare items containing fat or fruits with essential vitamins. Early man or woman would respond instantaneously to a mere hint of danger present. They would then receive an immediate dose of adrenalin which caused an increase in heart rate, blood pressure and breathing in order to survive the threat. It appeared this was a very effective way to program the brain for learning.
Modern human beings with the Cro-Magnon brains
Our brains evolved quickly and dramatically. But the evolution of our technology has been hundreds of thousands times faster. Now let us fast forward to today. We live in a world different from our previous history. Food is plentiful and available. Those same fats and sugars which were once rare are now part of everything we eat. And this is why obesity and its related health problems are a widespread in our country today. That same adrenalin dose, which worked great for survival in Cro-Magnon time, when the conflict was a matter of life and death, now, occurs more often in the average traffic jam. An overabundance of those response stresses the body’s systems until breakdown occurs – in the form of a high blood pressure, colitis, insomnia, anxiety and other stress related conditions. Those initial abilities from Cro-Magnon time to associate a traumatic experience with the fight or flight reaction is where all our fears and phobias were initiated.
That same learning is why we could be lying to ourselves. Whether it is losing weight, changing a habit, learning to relax and decrease stress or everything else that involves your thought processes – if you say you want to change your responses, but you do not do it – it’s because of learning. When you were a child this was the response which was programmed into your brain. The response was the “unwanted” behavior was good, valuable, pleasurable – and in the end, essential to your survival.
You may consciously, with all the cognitive skills you possess; your logic, your reason, and your willpower, really believe it when you say you want to change. But until you can get the more primitive unconscious brain to understand why the change is necessary, you are spouting more nonsense than a Washington politician in an election press conference. You really are lying to yourself and everyone else, because the part of you that causes the reaction wants to keep you reacting exactly the same way.
But you can assist yourself. In fact the part of you, which is, at present, so strongly keeping you from reaching your goals, is really not trying to mess you up. Your unconscious responses were literally programmed into you at a very young age, an age in which you did not yet have the ability to critically think about new information placed upon you, prior to you accepting it as being real. You made it part of your unconscious response repertoire. Your unconscious mind, the part of your brain that responds without thought, is literally like a child. And it is doing the best it can with a child’s limited ability to understand its world. And here is the reason you can change. Because you cannot teach an old dog new tricks, but you can teach a child new things, and give them new understandings.
And when you give your unconscious response system new understandings on how and why it would be better to react differently to something (whether food, cigarettes, stress, your boss, or anything else) then it changes its reaction automatically, and in fact much more easily than you ever thought possible.
I will elaborate more about this in writing. But for now, simply know that you can change those things you have been trying so hard to change, if you are ready to help your unconscious change its understandings. For some people that idea might be a little scary at first.