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So Much of Life is Uncovering the Automatic

Why are you reading this? What happened to lead you to this point? Can you recall the exact chain of
So Much of Life is Uncovering the Automatic
Why are you reading this?
What happened to lead you to this point?
Can you recall the exact chain of events?
The problem with this line of thinking is that, if you really think about it, you will be recalling events going back several years.
And most of those events?
Well, a lot of your responses to them would be automatic.
Are you following me so far?
What I mean is that we don’t always have as much control as we think.
And that can cause problems.
Fortunately, you are not like everyone else.
Because you are looking for new ways to think.
And I’m about to share one with you.

It's Automatic!
I got a request the other day. A reader asked me to write about “the subsconscious.” Also commonly referred to as “the unconscious,” I had an automatic response when I read the request.
I thought, I can’t do that!
I didn’t even think about it, which is strange. See, my goal here is to break down mental health topics into accessible, meaningful lessons about life. That request seemed too difficult. I automatically thought I wouldn’t be able to do it.
How often do you have an automatic reaction to something you read, or to something someone says to you?
If I’m being honest, it happens to me all the time.
But the more I thought about it, the more I brought my subconscious reaction to conscious awareness, which is something I talk about quite a bit with this newsletter. I realized that I don’t need to provide the deeply technical and inaccessible response that is already plastered all over the Internet. I can just write about what I know, and if it helps others, well, that’s great.
Why the Subconscious Matters
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.
I hope this wasn’t too technical. I do want to respond to reader requests in a thoughtful way without boring people to death. Let me know what you thought!

Automatically yours,

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Jordan Brown - Mental Health Writer, Poet, and Advocate

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