Unlocking the Power of Your Subconscious Mind

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Music Credits: The Sisters of Mercy, “Marian”

Understanding Your Subconscious Mind 

As a Denver Therapist and Online Personal Growth Expert, unlocking the power of your subconscious mind is a familiar topic that my clients experience growth and understanding through self exploration.

The rumors are true: The latest neuroscience research shows that only about 5% (or less) of our brain power is devoted to conscious, volitional thought. The rest of it is running the show behind the scenes. Not just keeping your body working, but thinking, solving problems, making associations, judging, and leading you to feel.

All of which then eventually leads to your taking action, having reactions, having feelings, or feeling compelled to do certain things…. without ever having made a conscious decision about it. Or, more commonly, your subconscious mind does all the hard work and then hands off the final, finished product to your conscious mind (who thinks they were in charge all along!).

Sometimes this all works out, but other times your subconscious mind can wreak havoc on your life, leading to:

  • Feeling frustrated that you can’t follow through with what you intend
  • You are experiencing unwanted patterns in your relationships or career 
  • Feeling badly and not really knowing why
  • You have reactions to people or situations that are creating issues (particularly in your relationships)
  • You seem to have hidden obstacles that are holding you back from creating positive change

Without understanding what’s happening to you subconsciously, it’s very difficult to create real and lasting change in your life. 

You can try to make changes, but if your subconscious mind has other motivations…. it’s going to win every time.

Understanding the Subconscious Mind

A core foundational piece of any high quality personal growth work begins with digging into the subconscious forces inside of you that are influencing the way you feel, think, and behave. Traditional talk therapy, while it does have limitations, is very good at helping you get insight into why you do the things you do. Giving a voice to things you don’t usually consciously consider (much less say out loud) can give you understanding of yourself, and self-awareness of your subconscious.

Often, what emerges is that people have deep-seated, subconscious rules, expectations, assumptions, value-judgments, and emotional triggers that they: 

  1. Have no idea they’re carrying 
  2. Are extremely powerful

It’s only by bringing these unseen forces out of the darkness and into your conscious mind that you begin to have power over them. [Learn more: Take our “What’s Holding You Back” online quiz]

Discovering Your Subconscious Mind

While developing this type of insight into yourself is essential if your goal is to create change, it’s not enough in and of itself. As I teach to all my therapy and life coaching clients, and in my online Happiness Class — insight alone is not enough to change your life. To make real and lasting change, insight must be coupled with intentional action designed to get you different results. (The domain of any life coach worth their salt!)

However, rushing into action without first understanding the other, deeper forces at work inside of you creates the dynamic where you try to make changes, and then fail. This all-action-insight-be-damned approach is common among many life coaches who do not have a background in counseling psychology.

But if you take the time and do the work to create self-awareness and insight into aspects of your subconscious mind that are creating problems for you, THEN you can very deliberately, consciously begin working to reprogram your brain, swap outdated ideas for new ones, talk yourself through challenging situations, implement different thinking styles, and support yourself through challenging emotions. [Learn more: Mind hacking: Learn how to reprogram your brain]

Does it take hard work to learn how to do this? Yes, it does. However, the level of control you have over your outcomes, the shift in the way you feel, and the impact it has on your relationships and your career are enormous and for most people, well worth it.

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Harnessing the Power of the Subconscious Mind

Another huge advantage of working to understand your subconscious mind and gaining self-awareness (and self-control) over what’s going on in there is that you develop a newfound sense of trust in your subconscious self.

Whether you know it or not, your beautiful brain is always, A L W A Y S, taking in information, making associations, thinking through problems, evaluating things, and putting things together. If you learn how to trust your subconscious mind, you tap into a wealth of information about the world — not to mention your inner wisdom.

Some call it “intuition,” and some call it “creativity.” I personally think of it as your mind doing what it was built to do: think. It’s just that not all thinking is conscious.

People who are creative or who have jobs that require them to solve problems, design systems, or come up with novel solutions find their work to become immensely more productive when they turn the reins over to their subconscious minds.

How to Unlock the Power of Your Subconscious Mind

Because all of the above is SO vital to anyone serious about personal growth, and creating positive change, I decided to devote a whole episode of the podcast to the subject of how to unlock the power of your subconscious brain. Listen and learn:

  1. Why high level “solutions” will not be effective until you understand your subconscious self
  2. Why your subconscious brain can sabotage your relationships and your outcomes
  3. How to get insight into your subconscious mind
  4. How to redirect yourself if you have subconscious forces that are causing problems for you
  5. Ways of harnessing and strengthening the problem-solving abilities of your subconscious
  6. When to listen to your subconscious…and when to do a “manual override”

All that and more on this edition of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast.

xoxo, Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

PS: I’ve been recording episodes of the show LIVE on Instagram and Youtube lately. I’m including both the video and the podcast version below for you. Join me next time! Jump in, (most) Mondays at 12pm MT, over on Instagram @drlisamariebobby.

PPS: Do you have questions about this topic? Or another topic for an upcoming show? Leave them in the comments below, or through this confidential form. I’m listening! LMB

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Unlocking the Power of Your Subconscious Mind

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Music Credits: The Sisters of Mercy, “Marian”

Free, Expert Advice — For You.

Subscribe To The Love, Happiness, and Success Podcast

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: This is Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby. And you’re listening to The Love, Happiness, and Success podcast.

Our musical inspiration for today’s episode comes from The Sisters of Mercy, an old goth band with the classic goth hit called Marian. I thought it was a good song to set us in the mood for our topic today. Because today, we are going to be, once again, driving this golf cart into the darkness together. And talking about the power of your subconscious mind and not just to understand it, but really for the purpose of using it and managing it. And also trusting it so that it doesn’t interfere with your ability to make decisions and create good outcomes for yourself and your life. But also for the purpose of learning how to trust it. 

Are you feeling powerless?

So that is what we’re doing today on the show just in time for Halloween. I wanted to address this topic specifically for a variety of reasons. But I think the biggest one is that, as you probably know, I get a lot of listener questions, people email and ask about all kinds of things. I welcome that. I mean, that’s really what this show is about is helping you in providing hopefully useful information that supports your journey of growth. So that’s really what I’m doing here. But I have found it interesting that lately, I have a lot of people getting in touch with me asking for advice. But for situations that are often much more complex, and that can’t really be resolved without a high degree of self-awareness and intentional effort. Also, there’s a certain quality to some of them that people feel very powerless. 

Let me give you a couple of examples. Here are a few recent questions that I’ve edited for clarity. A typical one is “Dr. Lisa, why am I having these really frustrating dynamics and communication patterns happening in my relationship over and over again?”, or “Dr. Lisa, how can I get my partner to behave differently?” That’s a fun one. “Dr. Lisa, why do I keep failing to attract and maintain relationships with people who love me back?”, or “Dr. Lisa, how can I stay motivated and on track towards my goals? I feel like I’m sabotaging myself, and I don’t know why.” I’ve also had people ask recently, various ways but the punchline is, “How can I feel better about myself? What’s going on with that?” 

Lastly, and this is starting to pop up more frequently as we approach the holidays. “Dr. Lisa, how can I keep my parents and or in-laws from making me absolutely insane?” People ask these questions, and if you have recently asked a question like that, first of all, thank you. I mean, thank you for getting in touch and letting me know what’s on your mind. But it’s interesting for me because these questions often end with, “Please tell me what to do to fix this love, XYZ.” 

There’s no fix-all cure, and that’s ok.

What I wanted to talk about on the show today, particularly as it relates to the subconscious mind, is the fact that in order to really make real and lasting change in any of these kinds of areas, it requires not buying into this myth that I think is very prevalent in our culture, that there is a thing that will change it, or a piece of advice, or one specific practice that is going to really change things for you on its own. 

I think that there is a lot of well-meaning, well-intentioned advice out there. I think I’ve probably been guilty of doing the same. “Three easy steps to create or change your relationship,” or something like that. I think there are a couple of pieces to this. On the one hand, it is absolutely true that doing things differently will give you different results in your relationships and the way that you feel about yourself and the goals that you’re able to attain. It does require action. However, whenever anyone is like, “Okay, I heard about this advice or I read the self-help book, and I’m going to do XYZ. It’s going to change everything for me!” They inevitably fail. 

The reason why is because when people go towards change or incorporating a new idea without doing the core work that’s really necessary on a deeper level, the work that really involves understanding who you are and the power of the subconscious forces inside of you, there are a lot of thoughts and feelings, core beliefs, and judgments that are always happening in a very much outside of our conscious awareness. I think that the real essence of high-quality personal growth work is putting you in contact with that. 

The reason why it’s important is that your subconscious mind is much, much, much more powerful than anything else when it comes to influencing your behavior. If you have not done the work of really understanding what’s going on inside of you subconsciously, and very deliberately get that into alignment with the change that you’re trying to achieve in your life, the change will be unsuccessful. It’s frustrating, and it’s confusing. 

Bringing your subconscious mind to the light.

Today, what I really wanted to talk about is that piece that I think often goes undiscussed when we’re talking about personal growth, or making changes in your life because that’s the part that will really move the needle. So let’s back up for just a second. Oh, and first of all, I forgot to mention that I am, also, once again, recording this podcast live on Instagram. I want to take a moment just to say hello to some of the people that have joined me online today. And I’m also streaming this live on Youtube, for better or for worse. So I am once again doing this at noon, Mountain Time on a Monday. 

If anybody would like to join me at any point in the future, I’m going to be doing this most Mondays, I think. Because I’ve really been enjoying the opportunity to talk with people and ask questions in real-time. If any of you guys have questions for me that I can answer, as we go through this today, feel free to jump in. So otherwise, let’s just dive right in to talk more about the subconscious mind and how to understand it, and how to make it work for you. 

So one of the biggest issues is really bringing what is going on inside of you, subconsciously most of the time, into the light. One thing that I think more traditional insight-oriented therapy has is a real advantage in that when people have the opportunity to talk through thoughts and feelings and perspectives and reactions, particularly an emotional nature or if they’re being asked questions about their formative years or experiences that impacted them. That is enormously helpful in bringing the subconscious to light. Because being able to put into words, and when you put things into words, you’re also bringing them into your consciousness about these things that are oftentimes going on inside of you. 

Insight oriented vs action oriented approaches.

The real beauty of traditional insight-oriented therapy is that through the experiences of talking about yourself to a therapist that’s also asking you questions and helping you think about different aspects of your experience that you hadn’t thought of before, it brings aspects of yourself into conscious awareness that you might not always think about. And that is fantastic. However, I think one of the reasons that I have moved away from that traditional therapy approach over the years is that oftentimes in therapy, that’s where it ends. The goal of therapy can be to develop insight, without then tying it to what to do with that. How do you use this information to create a change? And, as you know, I’m definitely more of an action-oriented person, which is why I’ve really pursued coaching over the last few years. 

However, a huge issue that I often have with typical coaches who do not have the background in psychotherapy and mental health is that they’re often very quick to rush into action. Let’s talk about solutions, and let’s talk about changes, right? They’re absolutely correct because all of the advised solutions and strategies will work if you applied them. But I think the limitation of coaching is that they’re often applying solutions and strategies without going into the foundation of understanding what’s going on inside of people subconsciously, first. When that happens, what is often created, and I think the reason for failure, is that they’re pulled in different directions. Your subconscious frequently has a different agenda for you than your conscious mind does. 

So without uncovering what’s going on subconsciously, in terms of your motivations, or your core needs, or your judgments, or your automatic beliefs, solutions that are advised that are not consistent with that subconscious mind will fail. And lead people to feel extremely frustrated in the process. Because they really feel like they’re doing everything that they can to change their lives and change their circumstances and relationships, but it doesn’t work. Sadly, oftentimes people end up blaming themselves, which is never ideal. 

Anyway, so today what we’re really going to dive into is threefold. First of all, I’d like to talk a little bit about what your subconscious mind actually is. So that you can just have that conceptual understanding of it. Then I’m going to give you a couple of really specific strategies. First of all, some tips and tricks to help make your subconscious mind more conscious. So you can gain that self-awareness that’s so crucial to making change. But we’re also going to be talking about how you can use your subconscious to really help you create change and solve problems and tap into your creative and intuitive mind more easily. Because there’s so much value in being able to do that. 

What is the subconscious mind?

So, first of all, most of your brain, believe it or not, is running the show behind the scenes. When you’re not actively thinking about things. I’ve heard various numbers thrown about over the years that 20% of your brain is your consciousness and 80% is doing things behind the scenes. I’ve heard it said, 10% of your mind is in your conscious control. Actually what more current research suggests is that it’s more like 5% of your brain, is the brain that we know, the brain that thinks conscious thoughts and makes decisions and has a running commentary that we’re aware of. That is a tiny bit of your brainpower. 

All the rest of it is happening behind the scenes, and it is alert, and it is active, and it’s very fast. For example, your subconscious brain will make judgments about things that you’re not even aware of. It will be kind of comparing your life experiences to the core beliefs that it holds. As a result, it will oftentimes have reactions to things, particularly, emotional reactions, like what we talked about last week but more tied into core values or beliefs that we’re not aware of. Once your subconscious mind is really quickly making those judgments, making decisions, having emotional reactions, then your conscious mind slowly grinds into action. And then it, honestly, usually acts to support whatever your subconscious mind has already decided. 

So in this way, because your subconscious mind is such a major player in the way that you feel and the way that you think, and the way that you rationalize different things that are going on in your mind, it’s really important to be aware of what’s happening. Because your subconscious mind without that awareness will really shape the way, not just like you react in the moment, but over time, it will shape the way that your entire life unfolds. Because your subconscious mind is such a key player in the way that we interact with other people, the way we react to things that happen in our lives, the way that we behave in the moment, and the way that we respond to different situations. Also, in the way that we go about our lives in terms of day-to-day habits. So much of that is controlled by our subconscious. 

Those practices, our reactions, or our behaviors, or habits, or our choices, those are the moments that build the outcomes of our lives. And so it can be kind of troubling to consider that all of that is happening, in some ways, outside of our conscious volition. But the good news is that by learning how to bring more of this into your conscious awareness, that you can have more control over the way that things turn out for you. So that’s the goal, it’s really to learn how to be more intentional, and less reactive. That’s when things can change in a real or lasting way. First of all, I promised a little bit of discussion about the way that your brain works. And this is an honor of not just my therapy and coaching clients, but I know my listeners tend to be very intellectual smarty-pants types, and that you guys value from just an informational, research-based approach. So as a card-carrying nerd, I’m your girl. 

The biology of subconscious

Let’s have a mini biology lesson for a second. So your brain, believe it or not, developed in layers. So at the very most basic, oldest part of your brain, in evolutionary terms, is your brain stem, and your hindbrain. That controls things like heartbeat and respiration, which goes on entirely outside of our mental control. Then after that came the midbrain. This is the part of our brains that we have in common with other mammals. This is really the seat of emotion, the part of your brain that feels things and has emotional reactions is a deeper part of your brain. Then the most recent development when it comes to brains is our cortex and neocortex. This part of your brain is the outermost layer and arguably what makes humans human. This is the part of you that thinks; it envisions, it plans into the future, and it forms thoughts. It puts those thoughts into language. This is the part of our brain that we’re most aware of. 

But in addition to just that, we also have left and right hemispheres of our brains that are equally powerful. But I think in our dominant Western culture, we’ve often prioritized the abilities of the left-hand side of our brain, which tends to be responsible for more analytical, reasoning-type functions, language, formulating coherent thoughts, and also tends to be more internally focused, “I think about what we’re thinking about.” Versus, our right-hand side of our brain, which is more visual, more auditory. It tends to think in pictures. It envisions things. It’s identified as the seat of creativity, a lot of times. It’s more externally focused; taking in information from the outside world. Compared to the left brain, which is more like a linear thought process, like, “if this, then that”. The right hemisphere of your brain tends to be more of a web thinker. So it can make connections between different things that aren’t always entirely logical or obvious, hence, creativity. 

There’s a lot going on inside of you, both in terms of different layers of your brain and the sides of your brain. I think that a lot of what we think of when it comes to the subconscious can be all of the information that your brain is currently storing in a dormant state. You don’t need access to all of it all at the same time. That would be terrible for us to be having flooded, getting flooded with all of that information all the time. So it selectively gives you what you need when you think about it, which is good. But it’s also generating ideas and holding on to core beliefs and comparing things and taking in information all the time, whether or not you are aware of it. 

Mastering your subconscious mind

So the key to mastery here is first of all, uncovering what is going on in your subconscious mind, so that you can then make decisions about whether or not what’s happening in there is to your benefit or not. Many of our unconscious beliefs and thoughts and ideas are really helpful to us. That’s not saying that what’s happening in your subconscious mind is necessarily bad. However, many people, when they begin this personal growth work, find that they have really outdated ideas that they are subconsciously holding on to. Perhaps things that were true for them in an earlier phase of their life are no longer true for them as adults. Or they might be holding on to rules or values that were true for their parents, perhaps, but are not actually true for them. Also, there can be just weird associations that have developed over the years that are back there that you don’t really know about until you begin intentionally pulling everything out and taking a look at what’s going on. 

From there, once you have that awareness, you can then perhaps decide to intentionally change some of those core beliefs from an empowered place, as opposed to letting them just kind of have their way with you. But the other piece of mastery here is once, I think, you’ve done that work, and gotten a sense of what’s going on in there in the first place, then you can decide what of that process you’d like to practice intentionally trusting and relying on exactly as it is. So there’s a lot here. 

Understanding the Subconscious

So, first of all, let’s talk a little bit about how to understand your subconscious brain. That’s where this all starts. And to be totally honest with you, it can be very, very challenging to tap into what is true for our subconscious selves. Because it is so ingrained inside of us. It feels so true. It just feels like who we are and what is actually happening to the degree that we’re not even aware that other people might have a different belief, or a different perception, or a different interpretation of reality than we do. So it’s like we’re all swimming in our own broth, to the degree that it’s just normal. It really requires feedback, or an outside perspective to even begin to consider that some of these things that just feel so engrained are actually volitional. 

What else is true is that most of the time, because it’s just like the air you breathe, really, in terms of what just is, that people do not actually begin to reflect on what is banging around inside of their heads. Or what is causing them to feel the way they feel, or react to the way they react until it begins causing problems. Either they’re feeling badly, or they are behaving in ways that they don’t really want to behave in. And they feel a little bit out of control, or they are aware that they’re having non-ideal outcomes in various aspects of their life; either in their relationships or their careers. 

Making the Subconscious Conscious

They often come into therapy or coaching to figure out what’s going on; either it’s “help me feel better, or help me behave better, or help me get better results in my life.” That’s the presenting issue. But that is like the doorway that we can then begin to unwind. What is actually going on inside of them that will ultimately give them the power to either feel better or create changes? And I think that that right there is the true transformational power of great therapy or coaching, which is just that agreement between two people who are working together, that we’re making the subconscious conscious, that they are invited to talk about things that they don’t usually talk about in a confidential space, where they are putting into words these things that often go unsaid or unconsidered altogether. 

And back in the day, what Freud, Jung, and those really old school psychoanalysts were on to. They had somebody lay down on the couch for an hour, five days a week, and just talk, stream of consciousness, whatever pops into your head. And while there is not actually a ton of research to support that, that in itself was helpful to people in a sense of changing their lives. What it was really good at is helping people just push out the contents of their brain in a very obvious way; that then made the patterns, or the way that they were thinking, or their core beliefs obvious. 

And again, a lot of times for that traditional insight-oriented psychotherapy, that’s where it stops. Like, “Okay, great. Now that we know, you feel this way because of this thing that happened to you when you were three. There we go.” I don’t think that it can end there. But I do think that just having the opportunity to talk through things is enormously helpful. Also, I think, to have a person who’s pointing out, that is a core belief, or that’s a value or that is a way of thinking that we might be able to modify is often very surprising for people to hear, particularly when it’s just such an ingrained way of being that they don’t think about it at all. Getting that feedback can be very illuminating for people. 

Subconscious Rules

When we do this with people, either in coaching or counseling, oftentimes the things that come up, that are the real culprits, that are creating problems for people subconsciously, take a number of different forms, but these are some of the usual suspects: either people are subconsciously making judgments about themselves or other people that lead them to feel unhappy with other people or with themselves, or feel frustrated with other people because they are not living up to these subconscious expectations or rules that they might be having subconsciously.

Also, sometimes we find that people can have very old core beliefs around their lack of competence. They will anticipate failure or other negative outcomes. That can be very inhibiting when it comes to trying new things or feeling like they can take positive action on their own behalf. So there’s almost like this frozen thing that goes on with people when that’s happening. Also, many times people have this subconscious anticipation of not even just rejection, but oftentimes hostility or hurt from other people. That can lead them to expect that other people aren’t going to treat them well. As a result, when they have that subconscious belief, they can interpret fairly neutral things as being hurtful, or rejecting, or painful in some way, and they respond to people like that. 

So it’s an extreme example, but somebody says, “Please pass the salt,” and person B, if they have a lot of subconscious thoughts and feelings about how other people are going to be mean to them, they will, “Get your own darn salt.” I mean, reacting to people in ways that are really damaging to relationships. So those are often very important to kind of unpeel and get to. So that having subconscious expectations of others, or subconscious anticipation of feeling attacked or persecuted. Oftentimes, though, people can also have not even specific thoughts or beliefs, but ways of thinking that are so ingrained, that they’re unconscious, but that they can result in a ton of even depression and anxiety. For example, if someone subconsciously engages in a lot of black and white thinking, like, “it’s either this or that”, they can feel very paralyzed and anxious when there’s only two pads in front of them, and neither of them are good. 

Subconscious Negativity

Also, people can, again, hold on to a lot of rules that they’re not even totally aware of. And oftentimes, if you encounter someone who seems very angry, or if you feel that way, sometimes in your relationship, there’s a good chance that there are subconscious rules that other people are violating, and it is really upsetting you. But the point is when we dive into the subconscious and bring these rules to light, then you can decide. “Why do I think that this is a rule? Is it actually reasonable? Did I expect that everybody in the world should do this like me?” Those kinds of things. 

Another thing that can be very damaging and destructive is when people are subconsciously engaging in a lot of negative self-talk. Believe it or not, and this is very common, it might even be true for you, that people are without even fully realizing it, having this running commentary towards themselves in their mind. It is like, “Yeah, that was crappy. You suck. That was awful. This isn’t going to end well. No, don’t do that. Why did you do that? That was so dumb.” This narrative, the stream of consciousness that is almost like a bully living inside of their own brain, contributes to a lot of self-doubt and feelings of anger, towards self-shame, even internalized shame.

Lastly, something that we’re all extremely vulnerable to, and there is an ocean of research around this from not just social psychology but marketing research, believe it or not, is that we are all vulnerable to subconscious priming. So that if you have an experience, or you’re exposed to a certain idea, it changes the way that you perceive what happens next, and the way that you react. So there is so much going on. And so I’ve just kind of given you an overview of the usual suspects of what’s not helpful when it comes to the subconscious mind. But there are also a lot of positive, oftentimes really affirming core beliefs and ways of thinking and expectations that are going on inside of you, too. 

Positive Subconscious Effects

The process of getting in touch with your subconscious is not in any way intended to be going into the darkness and wrestling all the bad stuff. But it’s just seeing what’s there, and what is valuable and useful to you. For example, old ideas about the fact that people are generally good, and have generally good intentions, and that most people are really just like you at the end of the day, and probably feel the same way that you do and want the same things that you do. Those types of ideas make it easier to have empathy for other people and to engage and respond to other people in a more helpful way. 

Core ideas and subconscious beliefs that you are fundamentally competent and able to solve problems and take action on your own behalf that you have control over your life and over your outcomes is really positive. Deep core beliefs that, “things are eventually going to be okay,” is enormously comforting. And also beliefs that people have a right to their own autonomy, that people have the right to their own thoughts and feelings and ways of doing things, even if they’re different from yours. Again, that leads to being more tolerant, and I think less reactive when it comes to managing interpersonal things. So again, all of these are good things. And there are many, many more when it comes to positive subconscious core beliefs. 

But the first clue that there is work to be done for any of us when it comes to engaging in our subconscious mind in a more explicit way is when you’re feeling bad, or when you’re getting frustrating results, or when the same kinds of patterns keep happening again and again in your life. That is an indication that there’s something going on subconsciously that is worth exploring. And there’s also a lot of research to back up the utility of doing this. 

One of the types of therapy that has the most evidence behind it to support its efficacy. And I think it also has some limitations but it’s something called cognitive therapy. And the whole point of this therapy is to focus on the way that you are thinking. And then making very specific changes in the way that you are thinking that lead to feeling better. And I think the reason that cognitive therapy has such a good track record and so much research behind it, is that it combines those two schools. There is obviously some insight that comes up when we understand how you’re thinking in the first place, but then it combines it with specific action around. “Okay, so now what do we do to change this?” 

Again, I think that the limit of cognitive therapy like any therapies is that it’s oftentimes very focused on maladaptive pathologized experiences. So it’s a treatment for depression, or anxiety or OCD, things that are issues for people. I don’t think that it’s oftentimes applied to the kinds of personal growth work that many people are really looking for. So there are limitations there too but at its core, it’s good. 

Cracking Into Your Subconscious

So let me tell you some ways that you might get more deeply in touch with your subconscious mind. I mean, one is what we’ve been discussing which is putting yourself into situations where you have the opportunity to give a voice to your feelings; counseling, coaching, even journaling can be helpful. Although with the journaling, you’re still in your own head. Other ways of bringing your conscious, subconscious mind rather, into your conscious awareness are through other activities like observing the way that you behave or the way that you react to situations, particularly when it doesn’t make a lot of sense. When we develop that observer mindset within ourselves, you can begin to understand the duality. This is often the case if you find yourself acting in ways that are different than how you intend or that are not totally congruent with the outcomes that you would like to achieve. 

Just developing that ability to think about yourself in a different way can give you a lot of really interesting insight into the way that your subconscious mind is showing up. It’s also true that going back and noticing the patterns that you may have experienced in your life, either in relationships or in the way that you behave. When you have ongoing patterns that have happened over and over again in your life, it can give you a lot of really valuable information when it comes to understanding how your subconscious mind could be influencing the things that you do. So I think oftentimes, almost putting together a timeline of, “These are things that have happened to me. These are some of the situations that seemed to be coming up over and over again,” it can be enormously valuable. 

This is one that I think can be harder to do for yourself, but I wanted to throw it out there anyway because it’s so powerful. It’s that when people engage in projective tests, you can get so much important information. And so when I say projective tests, this is actually a psychological testing tool that psychologists such as myself are taught. And it is a way of creating a space for people to literally project their subconscious thoughts in an outer setting so that the information becomes available. So a basic projective test is, “Tell me a story about XYZ.” So when doing psychological testing, there are projective test cards, where you hand someone a neutral scene, a family sitting at a dinner table, perhaps and tell me a story about this family. And then what, and then what. Through that kind of exploration, an enormous amount of information can be gathered about how that person feels, how they perceive others, how they react to other people. 

There are lots of ways of doing that. And you can do some of this with journaling. But again, it can be helpful to do this projective work with someone. But I will also tell you that another really powerful projective test that we often use in therapy or in coaching is the way that people react, even to us, as a therapist. I am pretty much the same person in most situations. When I am having a relationship with a client that treats me substantially differently than I usually experience with other people. That is a lot of information for me about how they are interpreting me through the lens of their subconscious beliefs and feelings and expectations. 

Again, in your own life to do this for yourself, I mean, if you think about, how do I usually feel with people, what kinds of reactions do I usually have to people, that is very indicative of you. Either the way that you are reacting to people or subconsciously the kind of people that you might be drawn into having relationships with. It’s for exactly these kinds of reasons why when people ask me some of the questions that I went over at the beginning of our time together because these things are so powerful and so hidden. 

My saying, say please and thank you to your wife instead of XYZ, those kinds of high-level advice kinds of tips. They will get blown away like a piece of tissue paper in a hurricane when someone has these really old, powerful core beliefs about others, about themselves, about relationships, about expectations, and without the opportunity to crack into that and understand that, people will just have the same kinds of experiences over and over and over again. So this work is extremely important. 

Other ways of cracking into your subconscious self, that can be really interesting and effective. So because so much of your mind is active when you’re not really thinking about it. But because day to day, our conscious brain is so powerful, we’re oftentimes very distracted about whatever we are consciously thinking about, or what is happening in front of us, or the situation at hand, or even what we’re thinking about on the inside. It doesn’t leave a lot of room for our subconscious brain to communicate to us. But there are these little cracks that can happen in your day that are different and different opportunities there. So things like being able to pay attention to what’s going on in your brain right before you fall asleep can actually be very instructive on that level. Furthermore, thinking about your dreams in a more conscious and coherent way can be really adaptive. 

So even something as simple as keeping a dream journal next to your bed. And recording the things that you dream about in a more explicit way can help give you some insight into what’s going on to your subconscious mind. Other times, and I think a lot of creative people can use this to their advantage, when you are doing things that don’t really take a whole lot of brain power. So your conscious brain is kind of turned off a little bit. So things like showering or walking or knitting, you might become aware that you have these little creative bursts or even intrusive thoughts almost, that are like these little messages from your subconscious brain. And these are often very illuminatory. Is that even a word? They illuminate what is happening in your subconscious brain in a very powerful way. So that can be really helpful. 

Other things that can help are simply starting to pay attention to it. And slowing down and being more reflective about what’s going on inside of you, especially during the times that you are having reactions to things that might not always make sense. Once you have done that type of personal growth work, you can then also begin, very deliberately, learning how to trust and rely on your subconscious mind to be walking by your side as you go through your day to really help you. 

This is really neat. We do a lot of this type of work with creative people. But I think that it can work for all of us. And the first thing is that it requires a new basic assumption, which is, “I am operating on a much deeper level that I know about consciously. And there are a lot of useful things happening in my brain, almost all the time, that I am not always fully aware of. And just having that thought, I think is super helpful because it gives you access to this part of your mind that I think a lot of times is not fully appreciated for what it really is.

Because what is true is that, in addition to being kind of the seat of core beliefs and judgments and feelings, your subconscious mind is very, very active. It is thinking on a subconscious level. It can solve problems and kind of put things together for you in a way that is oftentimes really staggering when you learn how to use this. You’re taking in information all of the time, whether or not you’re totally aware of it. On a deep level, your brain is synthesizing all of this and will present new ideas to you if you allow it to. A hallmark of this process is having a fully-formed thought just happen. That light bulb going off moment… Isaac Newton sitting under the apple tree and getting bumped on the head with an apple. There’s a good chance that he had been on some level, putting key ingredients into his subconscious mind that then just stated and gave birth to a fully formed idea that he was not totally aware of at the time. 

Information from Your Subconscious

Some creative people or people who do a lot of intellectual work, work that requires them to be solving problems, or coming up with innovative solutions or new ideas, learn how to harness this. I’ve worked with creative people who will actually, subconsciously, consciously rather ask their subconscious mind to solve a problem or come up with a new idea, and then stop thinking about it. They consciously stop thinking about it, knowing that sooner or later the answer will come. You can use this for a wide variety of applications. If you’re going through a difficult situation in your life, you can say, “Subconscious, I do not know what to do. So I’m going to let you think about this and bring me a few different options. I look forward to seeing what you come up with.” Stop thinking about it, and go about your life. 

It’s unusual that when people are really engaging with their subconscious selves in this way, that at least some valuable information doesn’t come to them sooner or later. A lot of creative people too, or people who have to think about things for a living will oftentimes create a practice where they simply make themselves available at certain times of the day. Stephen King, the writer, is a classic example. He describes having a very structured workday where he simply shows up in front of his computer at the same time every morning, ready to type. The writer and podcaster Melissa Gilbert describes a similar podcast where she just shows up at regularly scheduled intervals, ready to receive a transmission from “The Muse” or “creativity” or whatever you want to call it. But really, it’s her subconscious brain that has been active outside of her conscious awareness. And being able to tap into that is really, really powerful. 

And I think this also gives some understanding to the research that we see that supports this idea that the most intellectually difficult or creative or problem-solving types of activities are really enhanced when people back off from the work itself, and stop deliberately thinking about it, or trying to rationally solve a problem by two-plus-two-equals-four kinds of efforts. And instead, do something else; engaging activities that allows their subconscious mind the opportunity to just chug along and hammer around and think about different things and put things together and take things apart without consciously being aware of it. 

So you see a lot of enormously successful intellectual or creative types spending a lot of time doing things that are not directly related to their core work, like playing music, or doing sports, or knitting, or sleeping, or going on hikes, or being in nature or— So you have to give it some space and trust it to be able to work. Many of the ideas that come to people can feel very creative, but there’s also an argument that this is the true seat of our intuition itself. There are many things that people know, without consciously knowing, or that have not had an obvious path to understanding. Do you know what I mean? 

Learning when to trust intuition

These flashes of intuition or when things that are true for you… I don’t know. Maybe it could be something like a quasi-spiritual thing. But a more plausible reason is that your subconscious mind has really been right there by your side; taking in all the information and synthesizing things and making associations that you might not be consciously aware of, and coming up with the truth but by means of a different system, than your logical and conscious brain might come up with. And it’s often the correct answer, even though we don’t know why. And particularly, when it comes to things related to your basic security and survival. 

There is a marvelous book; it’s called The Gift of Fear. It’s an older book. Now, I can’t remember exactly when it came out but it’s called The Gift of Fear. And it documents the many, many, many examples of times that people have been in situations where on a subconscious level, their brain has been recording activity around them or paying attention to little details that they weren’t consciously aware of. And they were overwhelmed with feelings of fear, or like, “I need to get out of here.” And they acted on it, and it saved their lives. So particularly, if you find yourself feeling unusually freaked out or uncomfortable in a situation, it could be that you’re getting really important information from your subconscious mind that you should pay attention to. 

It can be a little bit challenging to learn when to trust this, and when to not… Like what we were talking about last week when it comes to understanding your emotions and becoming emotionally healthy. The prerequisite of this work is to do a really good job of ferreting out what you usually think about, and particularly the unhelpful core beliefs or associations, or old life experiences that lead to feeling fearful or getting in the way of positive outcomes. But then once you know that, it becomes easier and more obvious to pay attention to different, more unusual communications from your subconscious mind that you should listen to. 

I know that probably sounds a little bit confusing. But an example would be if you’ve lived through some really hard early experiences where you weren’t safe with people. You might feel unsafe with people currently, even in fairly neutral situations, and you might act like you’re unsafe. You might get combative or you might withdraw. This can be really disruptive to your relationships. 

But if you’ve done the work that I’m talking about, and you know this about yourself, you can really intentionally and deliberately practice the types of things that would help you feel safer in the present moment; either different core beliefs, or some present moment awareness skills, and do that really consciously. That can change the way you feel. And then you notice, as a result, change the way that you react, and your relationships will get better. 

But if you have done all of this work, and you’re really self-aware, you trust yourself to respond well to people. And you’re living in that stage of enlightenment I guess, for lack of a better way of saying it, then if you have an unusual occurrence, where you’re kind of out of the blue, like, “Wow, I do not like this person. And I’m feeling really intensely about that. I’m not totally sure why.” Or if you’re like lightning bolt of, “Ooh, I feel really unsafe right now, and I feel like I need to get out of here. But I can’t think of a good reason why.” Once you’re in that space, and you can identify your usual machinations from these really different unique experiences, that will really help you trust those times that you’re getting an important message from your subconscious that you should listen to. As opposed to kind of an artifact that you might need to override. 

So lots of information in this podcast, I hope that it gives you some direction for how to understand yourself and redirect yourself if necessary, and intentionally use the power of your subconscious for the purpose of all good things. I have to tell you, as I was putting together this podcast for today, recently, I became aware that my subconscious mind has been guiding my work lately and I almost laughed out loud because I wasn’t, I really did not literally think about what I was doing. But an ongoing intention for me personally, is to do things on this show that are going to be genuinely meaningful and helpful to you, to my listeners. That’s my basic intention. 

But what I just realized last week is that as I’ve been designing topics for the show and talking about different things, I’ve actually been walking everybody through an experience that’s organized similarly to the way that I organize the work that I do with my clients, which is, “First, we’re going to talk about self-awareness. And we’re going to talk about understanding yourself and having compassion for yourself. And then in the next few weeks, we’re going to be moving into other topics like how to understand relationships, starting with a relationship that you have with yourself. And then how to talk about and manage boundaries, or how to handle toxic relationships or particularly triggering relationships.” 

And I think subconsciously, I’ve started doing this in preparation for the holidays, which are often stressful from a relational point of view. And then after that, to kind of cruise into having a really successful New Year. So my subconscious mind has been organizing that for all of us. I hope that it’s been helpful for you. Not that any of this is in any way a substitute or even remotely similar to the type of experience you have in actual therapy or coaching. But it’s along the same lines. So I hope that it’s been good for you, too. 

Outro

So that’s it for our show today. I’ll be back in touch. Next time, when we’re going to be talking about how to have a healthy relationship with yourself. I’m excited about this topic. And in the meantime, thank you again for joining me, for listening today in the podcast, or joining me on Instagram or YouTube. I will be back again next Monday at 12pm, Mountain Time, if you’d like to do this again. And in the meantime, thank you for your questions. And also for sharing the show. I’ve heard from so many of you that you’ve shared the show or specific episodes to people in your lives who you think could benefit from hearing some of this information. And on behalf of them, thank you. And thank you, too, for rating or reviewing this show wherever you happen to listen to it because that small action on your part helps other people find the podcast in their moment of need and to help support their personal growth process. So on behalf of them, thank you for your support of the show, and we’ll talk again soon. All right. Take care.


Episode Highlights

  • Understanding the Subconscious Mind
  • It can be challenging to tap into our subconscious minds.
  • We rarely reflect on what goes on in our heads because it’s so natural to us.
  • Knowing how your subconscious works can make you feel better and improve your relationships.
  • Subconscious Rules
  • Our subconscious has rules that we are not aware of, unless we work to find these out.
  • These subconscious rules affect how we relate with others.
  • Subconscious Negativity
  • We are all too often engaged in our subconscious’s negativity, because of the subconscious rules.
  • Negative self-talk and negative self-esteem are rooted in this.
  • Cracking Into Your Subconscious
  • Being conscious of your subconscious can be valuable.
  • Engage in activities such as journaling, coaching, and counseling to have feedback from another person about your subconscious.
  • Be conscious of how you react to other people and situations.
  • Try to catch your thoughts before falling asleep, and think more into your dreams.
  • Information From Your Subconscious
  • Your subconscious is a good source of information.
  • You can tap into your subconscious for anything: creative prompts, solutions to problems, sometimes even gut-feel for situations when you feel unsafe.

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