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Last Updated on December 14, 2020

How to Hack Your Unconscious Mind and Untap Your Potential

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How to Hack Your Unconscious Mind and Untap Your Potential

The unconscious mind is something of great interest and yet remains a mystery.

“The unconscious mind of man sees correctly even when conscious reason is blind and impotent.” –– Carl Jung

What does it consist of? Can it affect your thoughts? How can thoughts affect reality? Can you control your unconscious mind?

Although he was not the one who came up with it, Freud popularized the term “unconscious mind.” He compared the mind to an iceberg with the conscious mind being on top and the unconscious mind being the most prominent part of the mind, under the surface.

We can easily access the conscious mind, but not the unconscious mind. However, they are connected to our conditioning.

Psychology Today says that:[1]

“The conscious mind contains all the thoughts, feelings, cognitions, and memories we acknowledge, while the unconscious consists of deeper mental processes not readily available to the conscious mind.”

Why is the unconscious mind so important?

Because it drives most of what we do. But the point of it being “unconscious” is that we are not always actively aware of why we are doing it.

As we delve deeper into the unconscious mind, what is underneath can also be the most problematic or painful for us. It can hold our feelings, our fears, our secrets, our repression, and our insecurities. And yet we can walk around not even knowing certain things about ourselves because it exists the way it does.

It can control our being and how we conduct ourselves; it can also help us unleash our potential once we learn how to tap into it.

The unconscious mind can come out in different ways. It can be the reason you are acting a certain way or how you make a decision. The unconscious can come out in what you say, showing true nature and desire such as through what we call a “Freudian slip.”

We do not always know what motivates us initially, but there are ways to hack our unconscious mind and tap our potential.

How to Hack Your Conscious Mind and Tap Your Potential

There are five ways we can unlock our unconscious.

1. Understand How the Brain Works

In a study conducted by the Mind Science Foundation, researcher Heather Berlin describes how she seeks to understand how the brain creates subjective feelings when it is largely seen as an “info processing machine.”[2]

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She asks: What is the neural basis of consciousness?

They tested people by showing stimuli very subtly so that they are not conscious of the stimuli. This serves to analyze subliminal processing versus conscious processing. Berlin seeks to track the neural basis of perception but without the brain analysis of how it makes meaning.

Berlin says that the “consciousness has a limited capacity . . . the unconscious is virtually limitless. . ..” Most of what you do and why you do them come from the unconscious because if your conscious mind tracked it all, it would go into overload.

This is why the unconscious exists. If subliminal stimuli come to consciousness, there is whole-brain activation. Whereas, if stimuli remain in the unconscious, there is less brain activity.

There is also something called the PB3 signal which is “evidence of complex, sustained, unconscious brain activity.”

She further explained that Freud, while not all his theories were correct, was correct on some things in regards to the unconscious brain. Namely, that the brain acts in a defense mechanism to unwanted stimuli through suppression (conscious defense), repression (unconscious defense) and even dissociation.

Consciousness has evolved to untangle the mess of motives made by the unconscious.

Consciousness Corrects the Unconscious

Neuroscientist Eliezer Sternberg’s “. . . way of delineating brain activity suggests one reason we may have evolved consciousness: to shoot down illogical stories concocted by the unconscious – which he calls an ‘egocentric storyteller’ – that can get things wrong when the neural circuitry goes haywire.”[3]

In other words, the conscious can correct the wrongs of the unconscious.

The conscious is there as a babysitter to bad behavior; a filter towards feelings and a way in which we can rewire the functioning of the unconscious. In this perception, the brain acts as a rewiring tool by constantly fixing our mental states or exasperating them. In this way, we can learn to choose our thoughts.

We learn to create associations with things that we give attention to. We learn more about ourselves. But that attention can be difficult to ignite when we are always balancing between the conscious and unconscious mind in an integrated web.

It all works together, so, we must pay attention to what affects us and why.

2. Address Troublesome Thoughts and Feelings First

To most people, the unconscious holds things we do not wish to think about. We judge these thoughts without any compassion for ourselves. But if we are compassionate towards ourselves, we can rewrite the traumatic memory or unpleasant thoughts with reassurances of safety and security.

We also are split between rationality versus emotional distress.

Emotional distress is your brain’s way of telling you that something is unresolved, whether it be trauma, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or unpleasant thoughts or feelings. However, we can ease emotional distress by acknowledging it and comforting our mental state.

The two ways to do this are to gain awareness of your triggers (i.e. what causes memories flashbacks or unpleasant thoughts) and to utilize compassionate attention, which we seek from the earliest years of development including birth and do not always get.

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The Unconscious Mind as an Adaptation

As human beings, we have evolved and adapted ways to survive. The unconscious mind is part of that adaptation – of repression and of what we do not want to deal with at the present.

However, if we want to survive, we have to heal the damage that these trauma or unpleasant thoughts and feelings have caused. If we do not, the unconscious mind can continue to control our actions and disrupt our lives.

Most of what the unconscious mind is doing is telling our brain to relive trauma or repressed memories for us to finally face them. This could easily come from simply not enough care when you were an infant, to a lack of emotional support as you grew to be an adult.

Once you know you are safe, however, you can start to heal the brain’s urges to tell you over and over again that you are unsafe. What we experienced as a child lives on in our brains as adults. What we experience as adults we can learn to continually repress if never unlearn this cycle. Unlearning is why we focus on the unconscious mind and how we recover.

3. Use Free Association

Freud decided to use free association to reveal what lay within the unconscious mind. According to Very Well Mind, Freud “asked patients to relax and say whatever came to mind without any consideration of how trivial, irrelevant, or embarrassing it might be.”[4]

If it is repressed, then free association or stream of consciousness in therapy can help unlock troubled thoughts. You can ask a therapist to help you with this, or you can try blind dictation as Synecticsworld suggests.

The key is to find a safe space to release these thoughts. When it gets difficult, you can play it by “challenge by choice” mentality. Free association is explored in many avenues, but ultimately, you can regain control over your thoughts when you understand them. Analyzing associations help you to do that.

Mindfulness Helps

You can also engage your unconscious mind and free association via mindfulness. Mindfulness leads to mind wandering and the surfacing of unconscious associations.

Frontiers in Psychology mentions that:

“It has been speculated that mind wandering facilitates creativity by stimulating unconscious associative processes that can lead to a sudden insight (Baird et al., 2012).”[5]

This improves creativity and problem solving overall. It can help us regain control of our intent and actions. It can help us to figure out what is going on inside of us that needs attention. What drives or motivates us can come to the surface simply by observing thoughts.

It starts with shifting to noticing your thoughts as you focus on the present moment. Notice and practice acceptance of them, whether they are pleasant or not. Through taking an observer mentality towards one’s thoughts, see what connections are made.

This is where the association starts to surface. See what comes up. This will link repression to the root of why you are struggling with being in control of your thoughts and behaviors.

4. Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Reality

While there are many theories on whether we can change reality with our thoughts, one thing is certain: You can change your EXPERIENCE of reality with your thoughts.

The brain fills in the gaps of perception, and we can unconsciously and consciously create meaning. However, the mind can get in the way of itself by doing so. That is why understanding what affects you and your unconscious mind is one way to challenge any distortions.

You may have heard the statement, “Feelings are not facts” in many Psychology and self-help resources. It is because we do not always see reality for what it is.

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Our feelings can alter our experience and acceptance of reality. When our perceptions are limited, we fall into patterns that affect our experience of reality. These patterns may be repeating the same mistakes or finding yourself in the same situations.

Quantum Mechanics Perspective on Reality

In quantum mechanics, few theories attempt to explain reality:[6]

  • Copenhagen Interpretation: Some things exist because we observe it.
  • De Broglie-Bohm/Pilot Wave Interpretation: This is deterministic. Things exist whether we observe them to be or not
  • Many Worlds Theory: “Every possibility is real and manifests across infinite universes.”
  • Ensemble Theory: “All things are possible, but only one outcome shall manifest.”

Depending on what theory of reality you subscribe to, one thing is clear: our experience of reality can be subjective, can be changed, and can be examined. The brain filters these alterations in our perceptions, and our thoughts influence them through our associations with our unconscious minds.

When we think of something, do we ask ourselves why we think of it? Do we challenge it?

We can do this through therapies, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, where one challenges an irrational thought with a rational one and analyzes where it comes from.

Human Consciousness and Protons

Huffington Post compares human consciousness to a photon:

“The one difference between us and a photon is that we can think, we are conscious. As such, we can choose which of the possibilities before us to collapse our wave function. But more than that, since we are entangled with our environment we can affect that as well and influence randomness, just as it can influence us.”[7]

This means that if we have consciousness, we can impact our surroundings. The higher our consciousness or the more we are self-aware, the bigger our impact.

It starts with you – with the thoughts you think. Think negatively and your experience of reality will be negative. Ignore the happenings of the unconscious mind, and your experience of reality will suffer.

Think positively, and you will find good things around you. Pull them into YOUR existence and your well-being will improve.

5. Untap Your Potential

You have potential, but how can you tap into it with your unconscious mind?

Your brain has evolved in many ways, but one way remains fundamental: survival. Your brain reacts and reassesses your survival all the time, largely through the unconscious mind.

What you think of creates your reality or your experience of it. When you react to something, the first thing your brain asks is “Will I survive?” and acts accordingly.

This awareness changes your destiny. You can suddenly control how you think, which alters your experience of reality. This can unleash your potential.

When you are aware of what makes you tick, you stand taller. You feel more empowered to change your life.

Your unconscious may pull you back because it thinks of survival. It thinks of stopping you from acting on a good idea maybe because of bad past experiences. It is programmed to ensure you make it. So, even if you are not in danger, it will react as if you are due to the associations your brain makes with prior events.

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But you can control this by reassessing your purpose and what you want to do. This allows you to evaluate how you can rise rather than continue to repress negative thoughts and emotions.

In a way, you are powering through it – teaching your brain to calm down. When you give it new information, you give yourself a new identity. Your identity is based on what you think about and how you respond to life. When you can control your thoughts, you can start to see a difference in the world around you. It sounds easy, but that is not always the case.

Behavioral Analysis

Emotional trauma can trick us into thinking that we are somebody who we are not. This is a hard thing to reverse, but it is possible.

It starts in behavioral analysis. When you do something that seems counterintuitive to you you are, make a log of those times and the triggers. Ask for input from a trusted professional. Note the times you have done free association and the trauma that is triggered.

What does it all mean? How does it all come together?

That is how you find the depths of you. You uncover what you are meant to be. And you learn that how you have responded in the past may not have been necessary.

You can do something even though you had failed at it before. You can open up again even if you have been ignored in the past. All these patterns can change.

Final Thoughts

You can control unconscious thought when you understand how the brain works, address troublesome thoughts and feelings first, use free association, change thoughts to change reality and tap your potential. If you pay attention to your triggers, you will learn how to handle the associations that arise.

There is still much to explore in the field of consciousness and human behavior, but in that mysterious nature of the unconscious mind, you can also take control.

You can find your footing. You can learn how to unlearn your ego and past mistakes and understandings of yourself and the world. You can challenge thoughts once you learn they have no power over you.

You can make the unconscious conscious by how you pay attention to it because it is you who creates YOUR reality.

When you change your perceptions, reality also changes. You make better decisions that are based on truth rather than fear. You stop settling, and you learn to live again.

You can become anyone you choose when you realize the power your thoughts have, and you can understand how the unconscious mind can be utilized to find the truth.

Learn More About How to Unleash Your Potential:

Featured photo credit: Alex Blăjan via unsplash.com

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Sarah Browne

Sarah is a speaker, writer and activist

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Last Updated on October 7, 2021

How to Make a Change With the Four Quadrants of Change

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How to Make a Change With the Four Quadrants of Change

Quitting smoking is the easiest thing in the world. Some people quit smoking a thousand times in their lives! Everyone knows someone with this mindset.

But this type of change is superficial. It doesn’t last. For real, lasting change to take place, we need to consider the quadrants of change.

Real change, the change that is fundamental, consistent, and longitudinal (lasting over time) has to happen in four quadrants of your life.

It doesn’t have to be quitting smoking; it can be any habit you want to break — drinking, biting your nails, overeating, playing video games, shopping, and more.

Most experts focus on only one area of change, some focus on two areas, but almost none focus on all four quadrants of change. That’s why much of change management fails.

Whether it is in the personal life of a single individual through actions and habits, or in a corporate environment, regarding the way they conduct their business, current change management strategies are lacking.

It all stems from ignoring at least one part of the equation.

So, today, we will cover all four quadrants of change and learn the formula for how to change fundamentally and never go back to your “old self.”

A word of warning: this is simple to do, but it’s not easy. Anyone who tells you that change is easy is either trying to sell you something, or they have no idea what they’re talking about.

Those who want an overnight solution have left the article now, so that leaves you, me, and the real process of change.

The Four Quadrants of Change

There are four areas, or quadrants, in which you need to make a change in order for it to stick. If you miss or ignore a single one of these, your change won’t stick, and you will go back to your previous behavior.

The four quadrants are:

  1. Internal individual – mindset
  2. External individual – behavior
  3. Internal collective – culture/support system
  4. External collective – laws, rules, regulations, teams, systems, states

All four of these quadrants of change may sound like they could carry change all by themselves, but they can’t. So, be sure to implement your change in all four quadrants. Otherwise, it will all be in vain.

First Quadrant — Internal Individual

This quadrant focuses on the internal world of an individual, and it concerns itself with the mindset of a person.

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Our actions stem from our thoughts (most of the time), and if we change our mindset toward something, we will begin to process of changing the way we act.

People who use the law of attraction fall into this category, where they’ve recognized the strength of thoughts and how they make us change ourselves.

Even Lao Tzu had a great saying regarding this:

“Watch your thoughts. They become words. Watch your words. They become deeds. Watch your deeds. They become habits. Watch your habits. They become character. Character is everything.” [1]

One of the most impactful ways you can make a change in this quadrant is to implement what James Clear calls identity-based habits. [2]

Instead of prioritizing the outcome of a change (ex.: I want to lose 20 pounds), you prioritize your identity as a person (I want to become/remain a healthy person).

Here are a couple of examples for you to see the strength of this kind of resolution:

I want to watch many movies = I am a cinema lover
I want to clean my apartment = I am a clean person
I want to harvest my crops = I am a harvester (farmer)
I want to swim = I am a swimmer

This quadrant is about changing the identity you attach to a certain action. Once you re-frame your thinking in this way, you will have completed the first of the quadrants of change.

Second Quadrant — External Individual

This quadrant focuses on the external world of an individual and concerns itself with the behavior of a person.

This is where people like Darren Hardy, the author of the Compound Effect reside. Hardy is about doing small, consistent actions that will create change in the long run (the compound effect).

You want to lose 30 pounds? Start by eating just 150 calories (approximately two slices of bread) less a day, and in two and a half years, you will have lost 30 pounds.

The same rules apply to business, investing, sports, and multiple other areas. Small, consistent actions can create big changes.

This works — I’ve read 20 extra pages a day for the past two years, and it accumulated into 90 books read in two years. [3]

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Here, you have two ways of dealing with change behaviorally: negative environmental design and positive environmental design.

Negative Environmental Design

This is when you eliminate the things from your environment that revert you to the old behavior. If you want to stop eating ice cream, you don’t keep it in your freezer.

If you want to stop watching TV, you remove the batteries from the remote and put them on the other side of the house (it works!).

Positive Environmental Design

This is when you put the things that you want to do withing reach — literally!

You want to learn how to play guitar? Put your guitar right next to your sofa. You want to head to the gym? Put the gym clothes in a backpack and put it on top of your shoes.

You want to read more books? Have a book on your nightstand, your kitchen table, and on the sofa.

You can even combine this last trick with my early advice about removing the batteries from your remote control, combining the negative and positive environmental designs for maximum effect.

Two Sides of the Same Coin

If you just change your behavior and leave your intentions (thoughts) intact, your discipline will fail you and the real change won’t happen.

You will simply revert back to the previous behavior because you haven’t changed the fundamental root of why this problem occurs in the first place.

That is why you need to create change both in the first quadrant (internal individual — mindset) and the second quadrant (external individual — behavior). These quadrants of change are two sides of the same coin.

Most change management would stop here, and that’s why most change management fails.

No matter how much you focus on yourself, there are things that affect our lives that are happening outside of us. That is the focus of the two remaining quadrants.

Third Quadrant — Internal Collective

This quadrant focuses on the internal world of the collective where the individual resides, and it concerns itself with the culture of that collective.

There are two different distinctions here: the Inner Ring and the Outer Ring.

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The Inner Ring

These are your friends and your family. The Inner Ring is the place where the social and cultural norms of your friends and family rule.

So, if everyone in your family is overweight and every lunch is 1,000 calories per person, then you can say goodbye to your idea of becoming healthy.

In this case, the culture of your group, the inner norms that guide the decisions, actions, thoughts, ideas, and patterns of behaviors are all focused on eating as much as possible. [4]

You need to have the support of your Inner Ring if you want to achieve change. If you don’t have this support, the the best way to proceed is by either changing your entire Inner Ring or distancing yourself from it.

Beware — most Inner Rings won’t accept the fact that you want to change and will undermine you on many occasions — some out of habit, some due to jealousy, and some because supporting you would mean that they have to change, too.

You don’t have to cut ties with people, but you can consciously decide to spend less time with them.

The Outer Ring

The Outer Ring consists of the culture of your company, community, county, region, and country. For example, it’s quite hard to be an open-minded person in North Nigeria, no matter how you, your friends, and your family think.

The Outer Ring is the reason why young people move to the places that share their value systems instead of staying in their current city, county, or country.

Sometimes, you need to change your Outer Ring as well because its culture is preventing you from changing.

I see this every single day in my country, where the culture can be so toxic that it doesn’t matter how great of a job you have or how great your life currently looks — the culture will change you, inch by inch, until you become like it.

Fourth Quadrant — External Collective

This quadrant focuses on the external world of the collective where the individual resides, and it concerns itself with the systems, teams, laws, and rules of that collective.

This quadrant is about the external manifestations of the collective culture. If the majority of the environment thinks in a certain way, they will create institutions that will implement that way of thinking.

The same rules apply to companies.

One example for companies would be those managers who think that employees are lazy, lack responsibility, and need constant supervision (or what is called Theory X in management).

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Then, those managers implement systems that reflect that kind of culture– no flexible work hours, strict rules about logging work, no remote work, etc.

Your thoughts, however, may be different. You might believe that people want responsibility, that they are capable of self-direction, that they can make good decisions, and that managers don’t need to stand on their necks if they want something done (this is called Theory Y in management).

Then, you would want to have flexible working hours, different ways of measuring your productivity (for example, not time on the job but work produced), and remote work, if possible for your profession.

This is when you enter into a conflict with the external collective quadrant. Here, you have four options: leave, persevere, neglect, and voice.

Leave

You can simply leave the company/organization/community/country and go to a different place. Most people decide to do this.

Persevere

This is when you see that the situation isn’t good, but you decide to stick at it and wait for the perfect time (or position) where you can implement change.

Neglect

This is where you give up on the change you want to see and just go with the flow, doing the minimal work necessary to keep the status quo.

These are the people who are disengaged at work and are doing just the bare minimum necessary (which, in the U.S. is around 65% of the workforce).

I did this only once, and it’s probably the only thing I regret doing in my life.

Voice

This is where you actively work on changing the situation, and the people in charge know that you want to create a change.

It doesn’t matter if it’s your company, community, or your country; you are actively calling for a change and will not stop until it’s implemented.

Putting It All Together

When you take it all into account, change is simple, in theory, but it isn’t easy to execute. It takes work in all four quadrants:

  1. Internal individual — mindset
  2. External individual — behavior
  3. Internal collective — culture/support system
  4. External collective — laws, rules, regulations, teams, systems, states

Some will require more work, some less, but you will need to create a change in all four of them.

But don’t let that discourage you because change is possible, and many people have done this. The best time to start changing was yesterday, but the second best time is today.

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Featured photo credit: Djim Loic via unsplash.com

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