The subconscious matters because most of our brain is made up of the “older” parts, the parts that developed first, thousands and thousands of years ago.
Our ancestors needed finely tuned automatic response to escape danger. If there was a bear, they needed to be able to get away–and get away fast. Being able to respond to danger was of paramount importance.
These days, we usually don’t have to respond to danger like our ancestors did, but we’re still stuck with their “old” brains. We still respond automatically to lots of situations. When someone asks us a question with a certain, mean look on their face, we still perceive danger. Our brain scans our past actions and experiences to generate the best response. A lot of this is outside of our control.
But all is not lost.
Because when you learn to make the subconscious conscious, you learn to change your behavior. This is a process that can take some time. In reality, it’s a lifelong process. We’re always trying to get the best of our brains, to become better and better over time.
This is what you can do if you feel you are stuck in automatic mode.
You can review the events of the day. Write down what happened to you. Write down the ways you responded. This could even take the form of an action / decision journal if that helps you. By writing down your actions and decisions, you begin to learn when you act automatically. Soon you’ll discover important lessons about yourself.
You can prepare for stressful situations. Stressful situations are when most people tend to act in automatic ways. Think about danger. Your ancestors left you with a brain that responds automatically to perceived threats, whether those threats are “real” or not. In human minds, perception is reality, so it all matters to us. But if you know you are heading into a situation that usually stresses you out, you can prepare beforehand. Mentally rehearse how you want to act. Think through a few ways you can respond based on what other people do. The benefit of this approach is that, even if you get stressed, you’ll be likely to remember the options that you reviewed beforehand. That will increase the odds that you don’t act out of fear. Instead, you will know that you have options you can try.
Start with these two strategies. See if either one works for you. Give it a few days. If they don’t work, discard them and try something else.
What you’re working toward is becoming more conscious of your behavior.
It’s when you make the unconscious conscious that you learn the most about yourself.