How much do you really know about your unconscious mind?
The chances are, if like me you tend to get on with things and simply let your unconscious do its own thing, you don’t really sit up and listen to it. Instead, we tend to just accept our thoughts, beliefs and instincts without really challenging them.
We can think about our unconscious mind in the same way as Jiminy Cricket, the little guy in Pinocchio who sits and imparts advice and warnings to the puppet when he gets himself in to scrapes. Our conscious mind is the place in our brains where we think things through, make decisions, frame conversations and digest information.
On the other hand, our unconscious mind is where we store all of our memories, knowledge, and experiences on a deeper level which is harder to access.
How our unconscious mind rules our thought patterns
The problem with this system is that sometimes, ideas, feelings or knowledge buried in our unconscious mind can have an immense influence on our actions, responses and behaviours, making it difficult to understand why we act in a certain way when it comes to habits, phobias, prejudices or fears.
Let’s use an example. I recently supported a women with an intense dread of moths.
Her phobia was so great that she felt anxious going out in the evening in case she encountered one of these benign little creatures. When I asked her why she was afraid of them, she responded quickly – “I have absolutely no idea!” This gave me a strong indication that her phobia was rooted deeply within her unconscious mind, rather than stemming from a genuine fear.
Influencing our rational, sensible side
Moths are harmless, rather beautiful in their own way, and a bit silly. They are a very unlikely thing to create abject fear and panic in a large Human Being capable of walking away from them after every encounter, completely unscathed.
Through hypnosis, I soon discovered that the reason why my client was so terrified of moths was because her mother had been. And probably, her grandmother before that. And so, the client had simply learned from her mother, who had a hand in shaping her unconscious responses, that moths were something to be terribly afraid of. Every time my client came near a moth, her unconscious mind told her to panic, run away or scream. In truth, she wasn’t actually afraid of the little things – she was simply responding to her unconscious mind which had learned a conditioned response at an early age, from someone whom she loved and respected!
Putting the client back in control
In just two sessions, we were able to work together with hypnosis to access the ‘rules’ around moths (they are dangerous, scary and need to be avoided at all costs) and replace them with new rules (moths are harmless, I’m just experiencing panic right now because my Mum did!) and my client left phobia-free.
While the unconscious mind is usually a little more complex to unravel than this, but it serves as a great example of how a simple idea lodged in that area of our brain can exert huge power over us. It stands to reason then, that if we can hold such a strong idea over years, then our unconscious mind can also be a force for good, guiding our decisions (“I want to lose weight through healthy eating“, or “I am a confident and engaging presenter when I stand up in front of a group of people at work”).
Really, we should look at our unconscious mind sometimes as a little bit of a misguided kid, who has some odd ideas that need challenging. This kid is also very powerful, though, as through hypnosis he or she can be taught to work really positively as a force for confidence, willpower, resolve and support.