Thoughts about Our Thoughts and Our Subconscious
Imagine rummaging through the attic and coming across an old, wooden chest. Not recognizing it, you pry open the heavy lid. After clouds of dust scatter, you peer into the chest. You’re puzzled by what you see: seeds. Thousands and thousands of seeds of every imaginable type. Some smaller than a grain of sand, others larger than a coconut. Seeds designed to be carried by the wind, or to be entangled in the fur of passing creatures, or to be transported by brooks and streams, or to be carried in the bellies of birds. Seeds that germinate into multicolored flowers and lofty trees or poisonous plants and destructive weeds. Seeds that grow into plants that provide oxygen, food, beauty, shelter, and shade. Others that develop into plants that devour, poison, ensnare, and injure living creatures. As you close the lid, your hands tingle; you can almost feel the enormous potential contained in the chest. You realize this simple container can easily become a treasure chest or a Pandora’s Box, depending on the types of seeds it holds.
Yes, the chest represents our mind, and the seeds, our thoughts. You see, our thoughts germinate and create the garden of our life. Thousands of thoughts stream through our minds each day. We seem to think of everything, except our thoughts themselves and the role they play in shaping our lives.
As a young man, Liberace was no different. He, too, didn’t pay much attention to his thoughts. That is, until he read The Magic of Believing by Claude M. Bristol. The book changed his life and transformed Liberace into “Mr. Showmanship,” one of the biggest draws in Las Vegas and the world’s highest paid musician and pianist. Claude M. Bristol had a simple message: “Every person is the creation of himself, the image of his own THINKING and believing. As individuals THINK and believe, so they are.” Two thousand five hundred years earlier, Buddha delivered a similar message: “We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world. . . . What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow: Our life is the creation of our mind.”
We are born with an empty chest (mind), but when we reach five or six years old, it contains thousands of seeds, which have been placed there by our caretakers. If a child is unfortunate, most of the seeds may look like this: “You’re a naughty child. Mommy doesn’t like you. You’re so clumsy. That’s a stupid thing to say. Go away now. No, I don’t have time to play with you. If you don’t go to bed right away, I’m going to spank you. Don’t touch yourself. Didn’t I tell you to stop sucking your thumb? Go in your room and study your alphabet. Sit in the corner until you learn how to behave. . . .” With seeds like that, what kind of world does the child live in? Is it a warm and cozy garden or a dark and dreary jungle?
As adults, we can operate our minds like aircraft, either manually or on autopilot. When we run our minds on autopilot, our thoughts control us. But when we use our minds manually, we control our thoughts. And when we control our thoughts, we control their outcomes, or as Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.”
So, how do we “reap a destiny?” How do we escape from the threatening jungle we live in and arrive at the Garden of Eden? How do we change our Pandora’s Box into a treasure chest? How do we control our thoughts? You may be surprised to learn that it is not difficult. If we follow a simple plan, which I will describe shortly, we will start on an exciting adventure. On the other hand, if we don’t follow the plan, the chariot we’re riding in will either crash or not get very far because the wild stallions (our thoughts and emotions) are pulling it in different directions! However, once we tame and control the stallions, we can take our chariot to the destination of our choice. Have you ever wondered why you exist? You are here not because of what you are, but because of what you can become.
The life we now lead was created by our thoughts. If we would like to improve our life, we will have to improve our thoughts. Or, as James Allen wrote, “He who would be useful, strong, and happy must cease to be a passive receptacle for the negative, beggarly, and impure streams of thought; and as a wise householder commands his servants and invites his guests, so must he learn to command his desires and to say, with authority, what thoughts he shall admit into the mansion of his soul.”
In other words, if we are to improve, we must become aware of our thoughts and control them, rather than having our thoughts control us. How do we do that? One way is by following the procedure outlined below.
1. Get a cheap pad of paper or a notebook. Spend 15 minutes, longer if necessary, to analyze your average day. What you are looking for is one hour of wasted time each day. Once you have found it, plan to use that time to work on controlling your thoughts, their outcomes, and your life.
2. Did you set aside one hour each day? If so, you are ready to begin opening the chest (your mind) and examining the seeds (your thoughts). You will need your notepad and at least an hour a day for one week. On the first day, write on the top of page one, “What do I think of myself?” Next, carefully and neatly list everything that comes to mind. For example: “I am attractive. I am overweight. I am shy. I am too sensitive. I am a good parent. I am lazy.” And so on. You have set aside an hour, so use it. List everything that comes to mind. Try to come up with a list of 150 items or more. If you can’t do it in one hour, complete the list the following day.
Once the list is complete, add a plus sign next to every positive statement and a minus sign next to every negative statement. “I am intelligent” would be a positive statement and “I am lazy” would be a negative statement. As you are not in the habit of examining your thoughts, this exercise will help reveal the contents of your mind. Suppose you discover 75% of your thoughts are negative, that would suggest you are losing at least 75% of your potential! Before you can control your thoughts, you must become aware of them, which is just what this exercise is designed to help you do.
3. On the second or third day return to your list. Every statement that includes the verb “to be” is inaccurate and needs to be corrected. For example, if you wrote “I am lazy,” that is wrong. Why? Because the verb “to be” means to have the essence of, or to equal. Thus, “I am lazy” means “I = lazy.” Which is not true. What you mean to say is, “I sometimes behave in a lazy manner.” There is a big difference in those two thoughts, and the difference affects your self-esteem. Don’t allow the verb “to be” to cloud your thoughts. Get in the habit of precise thinking. Even where other verbs are used, you need to reevaluate what you wrote and make it more accurate. For instance, “I lack confidence” is not accurate enough; what you mean to say is, “In my opinion, I lack confidence at this time.” By focusing on the truth, it helps you realize that your negative thought is only an opinion, and opinions can be changed!
4. On the next day, return to your list and dig deeper into your mind by asking the questions who, what, where, when, how, and why. Thus, if you wrote, “I sometimes behave in a lazy manner,” WHEN do you do so? WHY do you do so? HOW do you do so? You get the idea. This exercise is designed to help you better understand yourself. Answer these questions for as many of the statements on your list as possible. True, it is a big project, but it has a big payoff; mainly, a new, better you.
5. Over the next following days, add new questions and make new lists. Questions such as, “What do I think of life? What do I think of my family? What do I think of my job?” If you diligently follow these exercises, you will get a clear view of your present state of mind. After a week of focusing on the contents of your mind, awareness of your thoughts should automatically appear at other times of the day. When this begins to happen, encourage it by pausing and taking control. Let’s say you’re at work and suddenly catch yourself thinking, “Darn it! This guy gets on my nerves!” All right, you caught the thought, now STOP. Label the thought. Is it good? Is it going to help to make your life better? The answer is no. So, CHANGE THE THOUGHT. For example, change it to, “How can I better understand this person and grow to appreciate him or her more?” This new way of looking at things can lead to better understanding, harmony in the workplace, and a new friend. In other words, you can create a better life, a better you, by taking charge of your thoughts.
As you practice being aware of your thoughts, you will grow more and more skillful. Whenever you find yourself harboring a negative thought, imagine it is a weed; pluck it out of your mind and immediately replace it with a positive thought. A bar of iron costs $5, made into horseshoes it’s worth $12, made into needles it’s worth $3,500, made into balance springs for watches, it’s worth $300,000. Similarly, a person made into someone who has control over their thoughts has immeasurable value and infinite potential. All it takes is a pad of paper and a pencil to begin!
Our Thoughts and Our Subconscious
Everybody knows what’s wrong with them, but few know about the powerful resource that can change everything for the better. What resource is that? Our subconscious! At this point some readers will be tempted to say, “Oh, that’s nothing new. I know all about the subconscious.” Well, let me ask a question. If you know all about it, how come you still have problems? You see, being aware of the subconscious may make interesting dinner conversation, but mere familiarity with it is far from enough to change your life.
To harness the power of your subconscious, you will need to go beyond knowing ABOUT it and actually get to know it. That is, you’ll need to be aware of its purpose, understand how it works, and then apply what you know to bring about the changes you would like to see in your life. This may appear overwhelming, but the truth is it’s fairly easy to do. It’s no more difficult than exercising 20 minutes a day. True, many people don’t exercise, but not because it’s difficult, but because they lack discipline and commitment. It’s no different in training your subconscious to work for you rather than against you. All it takes is a decision to start, a commitment to continue, and perseverance to achieve the life of your dreams.
Getting Acquainted with Your Subconscious
Your subconscious is a miraculous mechanism that operates 24 hours a day. It keeps your heart beating, your lungs breathing, and your body temperature steady. It is an elaborate multifunctional system that performs thousands of tasks, but here I will focus on its role to grant us whatever we wish from life. But before it can serve us, it needs to be told what we want.
Unless told otherwise, your subconscious assumes that everything you say to yourself and others, and everything you daydream about is what you want. After all, if you don’t want something why would you spend your time thinking, talking, and daydreaming about it? So, it monitors your thoughts, speech, and daydreams, and then works feverishly to make what you think and talk about come true.
You have heard the expression, “Be careful what you wish for because it may come true.” Well, when discussing the subconscious, it would be more accurate to say, “Be careful what you think and talk about because it WILL come true!” Pardon me as I repeat myself, but for your success and happiness, it is essential that you understand that as far as your subconscious is concerned, everything you say to yourself or others is what you wish for, and as its purpose is to give you what you wish for, you will get what you think, talk, and daydream about.
Let’s look at an example. Mary often thinks “Life is so unfair. Why don’t I have enough money? I never have enough money. No matter what I do, I’ll always be poor!” When a friend calls Mary and asks her if she would like to go to the coffee shop, Mary replies, Oh, no, I can’t afford it. I don’t have any money.” Since poverty is all Mary thinks about, poverty is what her subconscious repeatedly delivers. In other words, by endlessly dwelling on her poverty, Mary perpetuates it.
But how different her situation would be if she changed her thoughts! For example, she could have thought as follows, “I don’t like being short of money. What can I do to improve my finances?” Such thinking is solution oriented, for when we look for solutions we will find them. Now, at times, we may not be able to consciously find a solution to our problem, but as long as we think and talk about what we want, rather than what we don’t want, that message will get to our subconscious.
And here is the wonderful news; we don’t have to know how to reach our goal. As long as our subconscious knows what we want, it will work all hours of the day to figure out how to grant our wish. And as it works on solving your problem, you will find yourself spontaneously doing things differently. And you will delightfully find yourself getting closer and closer to your dream, until you finally reach it. In other words, if you don’t know how to get there, not to worry, for your subconscious will figure it out, take you by the hand, and lead you there.
To benefit from the power of our subconscious all we have to remember is “we get what we think, talk, and daydream about.” But here is another way of looking at it. What we talk about is what we believe. What we believe is what we expect. And the role of the subconscious is to deliver what we expect. A powerful example of this is the well-known placebo effect. That is, when a patient takes a dummy pill, expecting it to work, it will often bring about the same physiological changes that a real pill will. Such is the power of the subconscious; it can also be a tool for self-healing!
If a medication or form of treatment works 100% of the time, how often can we expect a placebo to work? Well, according to the founder of the Mind/Body Medical Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Dr. Herbert Benson, a placebo can be just as effective as actual treatment in up to 90% of cases! How effective a placebo is depends on HOW it is administered. For example, when patients were told they were being given A POTENT NEW DRUG to heal their bleeding ulcers, the placebo had a success rate of 70%, but when they were told they were getting AN EXPERIMENTAL DRUG, the success rate dropped to 30%.
After extensive testing, here are other facts that were discovered about placebos. Big pills are more effective than small ones; colored ones, more effective than white ones; bitter ones, more effective than tasteless ones; injections, more effective than pills; placebos given by doctors more effective than those given by nurses, and doctors in white coats more effective than those dressed in ordinary clothes. So, by combining several beliefs (expectations) we can generate an extremely effective placebo. For instance, to heal a patient of bleeding ulcers with a placebo, have a doctor in a white coat inject the patient with “a new potent drug!” Although I may have deviated slightly from our original subject, the reason I brought up placebos was to impress upon your mind the power of your subconscious.
Eight Steps To Harnessing The Power Of Your Subconscious
1. You cannot harness the power of your subconscious until you become aware of its existence. This article can help you get started, but for maximum results, do further study. Check the references section of this article for suggested reading.
2. Because of the importance of your thoughts, think about what you are thinking about! How can we change self-defeating thoughts if we don’t even know we’re thinking them? So, regularly stop and analyze what you are saying to yourself and others. What do your thoughts reveal about your beliefs? What needs to be changed? Let’s look at an example.
After surveying the devastation that surrounded them, some survivors of the Haitian and Chilean earthquakes said to themselves and others, “I am crushed, completely destroyed. I’ve lost everything. I have no reason to go on living.” Yet, at the same time, others were saying, “Although I have been dealt an incomprehensively severe blow, I will survive! Thankfully, I’m still alive. Let me help my neighbors and together we can rebuild our lives.” Some of the survivors were gripped by despair, others clung to hope. Some programmed themselves for failure, others for success. The words we say to ourselves and others are as powerful as the earthquakes that struck Haiti and Chile. Those words can cause upheaval in our lives or lead us to Shangri-La.
3. It is always easier to see weakness in others than in ourselves. For this reason, listen carefully how others speak about themselves and life in general. Are they programming themselves for success or failure? Happiness or misery? The purpose of this exercise is not to give advice to others, but to develop your own skills in recognizing how we defeat ourselves by the words we use. Once you acquire this skill, you will be ready to observe yourself and start changing what you say.
4. What are you unhappy about and what do you wish were different? Write it down and then study your words to uncover your beliefs and self-defeating statements. Then ask yourself what thoughts should I be thinking instead and when will I start thinking them?
5. The best way to change your negative programming is by taking action. Look at how clear Vincent van Gogh makes this point: “If you hear a voice within you saying, You are not a painter, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.” James R. Cook said something similar, “Do just once what others say you can’t do, and you will never pay attention to their limitations again.”
6. We all daydream. Normally we just drift into daydreaming without planning to do so. And when that happens, the subject of our daydream is usually negative. That is, we focus on problems, worries, and whatever is causing stress at the moment. But as we daydream, we are unwittingly instructing our subconscious to bring more of the same. The moral is, it is essential that you catch yourself daydreaming and then take charge of it. Don’t stop daydreaming, but change its direction. Daydream about what you want in life, rather than what you don’t. Daydreaming about what you want is a powerful way to win the support of your subconscious.
7. Knowledge of the subconscious, interesting as it is, is not useful unless we apply what we learn and act on it. And the time to act is now, but before you can develop a do-it-now attitude, you’ll have to understand the nature of time. It is inelastic, limited, and essential. That is, we can’t stretch it, borrow it, or steal it. We have to work with what we have, and what we have is limited. We use it or lose it. Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever. And it’s essential, for without it we cannot get anything done. With this understanding, avoid whiling away time, but put it to work for you.
8. Expect your subconscious to work for you. It is already doing so, but you haven’t been paying much attention to it, so it’s trying it’s best to understand what you want by analyzing what you spend your time thinking and talking about. From this moment, focus only on what you want, and you will find your subconscious grow from foe to friend, to partner, to champion of your dreams.
If you’re going to change something in your life, you’ve got to change something in your life. And by now it should be clear that what needs to be changed are our thoughts and speech. Madam Roland wrote, “The feeble tremble before opinion, the foolish defy it, the wise judge it, the skillful direct it.” If we are to overcome the opinions of limitation and weakness, let’s direct our thoughts, enlisting the aid of our subconscious to rise above it all.
- Overcoming Unwanted Intrusive Thoughts: A CBT-Based Guide to Getting Over Frightening, Obsessive, or Disturbing Thoughts by Sally M. Winston PsyD and Martin N. Seif PhD
- One Thought Changes Everything by Mara Gleason
- The Inside-Out Revolution: The Only Thing You Need to Know to Change Your Life Forever By Michael Neill
- A Mind at Home with Itself: How Asking Four Questions Can Free Your Mind, Open Your Heart, and Turn Your World Around by Byron Katie and Stephen Mitchell
- Designing Your Life: Unlocking the infinite possibilities of the subconscious mind By Dennis M Postema
- The Genie Within: Your Subconscious Mind–How It Works and How to Use It by Harry W Carpenter
- Isaac Lidsky: What reality are you creating for yourself?
- Leonard Mlodinow: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior
- Danna Pycher: Healing illness with the subconscious mind
- Marisa Peer: To reach beyond your limits by training your mind
Free Audio Book
- The Magic of Believing by Claude Bristol, Full Audiobook