Today was another day of waking up to a roll call of my failures and shortcomings. All before I even opened my eyes.
Sometimes, I stay paralyzed in this state for a good 15 min. while I get the shit beaten out of me.
At some point, another dude shows up and says, “C’mon now, it’s not that bad. I love you & we’re gonna be ok.” I have to hear this repeated over and over in order to release the physical paralysis and get up.
Tired Before I Get the Day Started
Needless to say, this is an extremely exhausting way to begin my day. Often it will take me until afternoon to start feeling ok. It makes it hard for me to focus on the things I set out to accomplish. Often, I’m too exhausted to do much else after just managing these assaults all day long. This, of course, folds back on itself creating “proof” that the asshole in my head just might be right after all.
Of Two Minds
Research shows that the conscious mind averages about 40 bits of information/second – approximately 1-3 events at a time. The subconscious mind however takes on an average of 4 BILLION bits of information/second – so literally THOUSANDS of events at a time!!!
If these two were in a fight to get the message across the fastest, who would you put your money on to win?? If you said the subconscious, congratulations…you’re a little richer.
If you are one of the many people out there, like myself, who have jumped on the “law of attraction / affirmation” bandwagon in order to feel better about your life, you may have also noticed that it’s not quite cutting the mustard. Why not? Well, I’m glad you asked 🙂
First, we read all these books or watch the videos and we “think” Aha! I’ve got the secret. Soon, after much practice…we say something like…wait a minute, it’s not working.
That’s where the gurus typically tell us that we are not trying hard enough and we are affirming our negativity.
I don’t know about you, but there is nothing more I hate than someone telling me I’m failing because I’m not “trying hard enough”, especially when I”m giving everything I’ve got.
I believe that’s both unfair and unhelpful. It gives you absolutely no insight whatsoever. To make some headway (pun intended hehehe), first you have to understand a little bit about the purpose of the conscious and the subconscious parts of the mind.
Conscious vs. Subconscious
Conscious – uses logic & reason, anything you CHOOSE to do, past & present, filter for your belief system (the judge/bouncer)
Subconscious – uses emotions, involuntary actions, always in the present, core of your belief system and memories
Let’s use an example. Based on my experience of being bitten by a big dog I trusted, my subconscious has stored a memory of the event and a belief that ALL big dogs are dangerous and I should stay away. When I see a big dog my conscious mind is alerted by the subconscious that there is danger and it logically chooses to avoid contact to keep me safe from perceived danger based on my belief system.
Now, let’s imagine you try to create a conscious affirmation that “ALL big dogs are safe” because you’re tired of being scared. Hmmm…it isn’t working. Well that’s because your conscious mind says these words and then dutifully checks in with the subconscious belief system and learns that the subconscious says…hell no. So basically, you can say all you want, but if the subconscious says bullshit, all bets are off. You are still afraid of big dogs.
The Powerless Feeling of Positive Thinking
In my own life, without realizing it, I’ve habitually and chronically adopted some beliefs deep down that prevent me from achieving what I say I want out of life. This is really demoralizing and depressing.
You start to get pissed at yourself because, you’ve tried to convince yourself to believe differently through affirmations and you’ve failed. You start to think well maybe I really am useless, messed up, broken, etc. So now you’re basically afraid AND feel like a failure. Cool. So much better. Thanks.
If this sounds familiar, first of all take a deep breath. You’re not the only one who has tried the power of positive thinking and felt at your wits end.
It is enormously helpful to understand that, you simply cannot consciously do what you subconsciously don’t believe without creating a moral dilemma.
That is the whole basis of the conflict, misery, and discontent you feel inside.
When these “two minds” are aligned we can be successful, when they are not we are in conflict with ourselves and others. PERIOD.
If you wonder why you say you want to do one thing, but seem to quit before you start, or half-way through, or lose it after you get it, this is why. It is almost impossible for us to achieve a goal if we hold subconscious beliefs that are in conflict with that goal. Your subconscious mind will find a way to sabotage you at some point in the process.
Any time the conscious is distracted or offline the subconscious takes over the reigns of control. So, that’s why I wake up to the jackhammering sound of my subconscious every morning for a while until my super slow conscious comes back online to get me up and going like a good project manager.
Your Head is Like an 8-Track Player with One Tape to Play
Most of us have heard about the “tapes” that play in our heads. This is another way to approach talking about the subconscious mind. Sometimes, it is really hard to tweeze out the messages that are constantly replaying in our minds because they play so quickly. If your’e lucky you have great positive messages playing, but for many of us, that’s not the case. Today, I wrote mine down immediately after my conscious mind got me up.
I’m going to share them with you because, I have a feeling you might think you’re the only one this is happening to and you’re cracking up. You’re not alone. I can’t promise that you’re not cracking up ;p
Here are the ramblings of my subconscious (my tapes) that I hear every morning and whenever I feel insecure and my conscious can’t keep it under control.
Why don’t you just kill yourself? You always take on more than you can handle. You know you are going to fail, so why do you even try? Sooner or later you’re going to be homeless and living on the street. Nobody loves you. Nobody cares about you. You are insignificant. Fucking loser. You can barely keep it together. Why do you even bother getting up day after day? You are not good enough. You are not smart enough. You’re a fraud. You suck with people. Nobody would ever want to be your friend. Everyone see that you are a problem. If they don’t see it yet, give it time.
Whew!! I read these aloud and began sobbing uncontrollably half-way through. Day after day of waking up to this barrage of abuse. Knowing it is lying just beneath the surface of my consciousness threatening to undo me with the right trigger, makes it damn hard to get much out of life.
What do your tapes play? See if you can write it down and then read it back to yourself. How did you feel?
Prolonged Exposure Therapy?
I recalled reading about a “prolonged exposure therapy” developed by U. Penn psychologist Edna Foa to help veterans with PTSD. It has been enormously successful, but it works contrary to the way most of us deal with trauma (by avoiding talking about it or discouraging survivors to dwell). Basically, this therapy encourages you to talk about it /tell your story over and over until it minimizes or eliminates the PTSD entirely. If we don’t talk about things, they don’t magically disappear. They fester.
Prolonged exposure therapy is now also being successfully used to help survivors of rape and sexual assault to deal with their PTSD. It has been shown to be more effective than conventional therapy. After exposure therapy, 83% of these girls no longer had the diagnosis of PTSD vs. 54% who received conventional supportive counselling. Even their depression and daily functioning improved significantly with exposure therapy.
It got me thinking about how the tapes we play in our heads operate in our lives in a very similar way as PTSD in that they both can take over your life and belief system to negative affect. Ultimately, in both situations a trauma has occurred that has affected your belief system AND is making life unmanageable.
Could a version of this “prolonged exposure therapy” help us to manage our crippling fears and beliefs that negatively impact our lives so that we may move past the trauma and towards creating the life we really want to live?
Experimenting with Conscious Exposure to Subconscious Tapes
Step 1: I decided to begin by recording myself saying all the messages I hear on my tapes in the same mean way I hear them everyday.
Step 2: Then, I played the recording over and over and over while I visualized someone outside of me saying these things to me/about me.
Step 3: Each time I listened, I rated my emotional reaction on a scale of 1 (least affected) – 10 (most distressed).
Step 4: When I need a break, I either go to a safe place in my mind or I get up and go to another room to create a sort of “environmental reset”.
My theory is that I “know” somewhere deep inside that the things on these tapes are bullshit….somewhere beneath the trauma and the entrenched belief system.
I hope that by courageously facing the fear of hearing those words and feeling the feelings that go with them head on, I can get to the point that I recognize it as false, reject it as untrue, and desensitize myself to the emotional terrorism I feel day after day so I can have my whole life back again with a much better belief system.
Then maybe we can talk affirmations 😉
– With love from aneternaltraveler 😉