I attended a Meetup group yesterday on emotions and our subconscious beliefs and it really resonated and made me think about the topic for quite some time. Over the years I’ve grown to learn about my subconscious and the meetup yesterday validated what I’ve been learning and it was an enlightening discussion that raised more awareness inside of me.
Growing up, I often heard these phrases echoing repeatedly from those who abused me: my dad, mom, uncles, aunts, brother, sister and high school bullies.
- “You can’t do that!”
- “Shut up and do as you’re told!”
- “You’re useless!”
- “You’re so fucking ugly!”
- “Keep quiet and stop playing! All you ever do is play!”
- “Be good or you’ll be punished!”
- “You deserved that!”
- “You’re the worst one of the kids!”
- “You’re too emotional!”
- “Stop being a baby…stop your crying! Boys don’t cry!”
- “Get over it!”
- “Shame on you!”
- “That’s stupid!”
- “You look stupid!”
Our belief system is made up from our experiences growing up. If our family believed in talking and using compassion to resolve issues, our beliefs and behaviors as adults are replicated. However growing up in my household, anger, threats, shaming, arguing, shouting, shoving and beatings were the default settings for conflict resolution led by my dad and mom. As a result, my subconscious belief was that ultimately I was inadequate therefore as an adult, my behaviors (anger, shaming, abuse) echoed the methods of my caregivers.
“…my subconscious belief was that ultimately I was inadequate…”
A good metaphor to use is the iceberg. On the surface we see a big chunk of ice floating on top of the water which represents our conscious beliefs. However, underneath is a massive piece of ice that eclipses the top surface in size and is unseen. That bottom piece of ice is just like our subconscious beliefs. Some examples of our subconscious beliefs might be “I’m not worthy”, “I’m not good enough” or “No one’s going to accept or like me”.
When we have the capacity within ourselves to begin to look at our subconscious (I realize this is a bit of a paradox), only then can we begin the true change in ourselves. Our thought patterns are made up from our belief system for example:
“Your friend is going to meet you for coffee at 8:30 am at a local coffee shop. You get there at 8:25 am and sit and wait. However, your friend texts you at 8:40 am and apologizes that he isn’t able to make it after all.”
My initial thoughts might be,
- what the fuck? What a waste of my time!
- I’m so fuckn’ pissed off at him for making me wait.
- He’s got some issues…he’s always late, he’s always disrespectful and he always does this.
- I’m never hanging out with him again.
As you can see, I externalize my thoughts and behaviors. I lash out and blame others for my feelings of disappointment. My unprocessed subconscious takes the form of anger and shame.
If I dig deeper, my subconscious beliefs (the bottom ice berg) was probably telling me:
- I’m not worth his time.
- I’m not likeable.
- He found other/better plans than me.
- I deserved that.
- I feel ashamed.
However, what if my belief system was different. What if I was raised in a household filled with love and understanding? It might look like this:
My initial thoughts might be,
- I hope he’s ok.
- I wonder if there’s anything I can do to help.
- That’s ok, we’ll hang out another time.
- I’ll just enjoy my coffee and newspaper now.
My subconscious was probably telling me:
- I feel good enough about myself. This isn’t about me.
- I don’t know why he cancelled. I’m sure he had his reasons and I won’t take it personally.
- I like this time with myself right now anyway.
The point is for us to identify what our subconscious is telling us and to address it. Until we can reshift the subconscious messages our brains have been programmed to know, we can not experience real change. My ex girlfriend use to say things like, “fake it til you make it” or “I need to be a more loving person and not criticize so much” – these are all great intentions, but these intentions will be short-lived without true change until we can find at its core what’s preventing that change. Then we need to acknowledge, understand and process the subconscious beliefs. Therapists define “processed” as the point when the painful memories that created the subconscious beliefs are now just memories and we can talk about them without feeling residual pain or discomfort. We are no longer stuck in the child’s mind fearing the effects but rather moved forward in the adult state of mind. Thus, there’s a difference between “being” and “acting” our beliefs.
Take some time to reflect upon your childhood. Ask yourself about your upbringing, your parents/caregivers and what belief systems they used to raise you. Did they believe in their way only? Did they have an open mind? Were you taught to listen only and not speak? Did they listen and value your opinions? Did they put you down and yell at you to get their message across? Or did they speak to you with respect and kindness?
If they did speak to you in ways that were heavy and harsh, you might justify them by saying “oh, that’s because we didn’t have a lot money” or “oh, that’s because I was a real bad kid”. If you do, please stop that. There is no justification to it. We all need to learn to speak to our children in healthier and more compassionate ways to help build a stronger foundation for their subconscious beliefs. I know this because I am a parent to a teenage son and I have raised him both ways. In his earlier years, I was responsible for the negative and shaming ways of raising him but in the last few years, I’m shifting to a healthier approach in hopes that it’s not too late for him.
Reframing our subconscious beliefs is challenging and daunting and may take a lifetime which is my personal goal to untangle what I learned growing up. It takes courage, bravery and strength to openly talk about it and take accountability for my shortcomings. It also takes work with professional therapists and plenty of self-reflection with acceptance and without blame. However daunting it may be, I feel more liberated today understanding more about my subconscious and that my true self is starting to form where love, compassion and understanding can take the steering wheel in my life.