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Published on April 9, 2020

How to Hack Your Unconscious Mind and Untap Your Potential

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

Reference

More by this author

Sarah Browne

Sarah is a writer, speaker and activist who promotes the end of stigma for mental health.

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Last Updated on June 2, 2020

10 Ways to Keep Going When the Going Gets Tough

10 Ways to Keep Going When the Going Gets Tough

Whenever you hit a rough patch in life, it can seem like the problems you’re confronting are unique to you and that the whole world is closing in. It might be that you are struggling to find a way out and just can’t see the light of hope anywhere when the going gets tough.

Thankfully, although you might not see it, there is always hope. Nothing lasts forever—not even bad times—and doing things like remembering why you started in the first place and practicing using your courage muscle are just a couple of things that can shorten the difficult times.

If you could find a way to not only survive but thrive when the going gets tough, how would your life change for the better?

Here are ten ways you can do to make that happen today.

1. Realize How Far You Have Come

Whenever you get discouraged on the path to wherever you want to go, it is usually because you are only looking forward, not around you or behind you. Your journey through life will last until your final day, so it is no wonder that you still see a long and sometimes daunting path ahead.

To keep going despite this, it’s important to take a moment or two to look around. Look at where you are standing now compared to when you first started. Look at how far you have come since you first began. Look at how many obstacles and challenges are behind you that you managed to overcome successfully.

The benefits of reflective practice are also extensive, and it is little wonder why.[1]

Looking back at how far you have come is usually the fire you need to keep on burning brightly into the future.

2. Remember Why You Started

When the going gets tough, you need something to cling to in order to keep your grit and remind yourself why you started doing something in the first place. Without this all-important “why, you will be quick to wander from your path.

Whenever things are at their worst, your number one reason for doing the thing is going to be what pulls you through.

As ex-Navy Seal and motivation master David Goggins puts it:

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“‘Why am I here?’ If you know that moment is coming and have your answer ready, you will be equipped to make the split-second decision to ignore your weakened mind and keep moving. Know why you’re in the fight to stay in the fight!”

Sometimes, life can be a bit of a fight, especially within yourself. So, having your reasons for continuing will always help pull you out when times are tough. Try writing these down and posting them in places you look at every day to help them have even more impact.

3. Make It a Habit to Move Forward

Habits are some of the strongest behavioral predictors that we have. Most of our habits happen in our subconscious and are triggered by external or internal cues.

The great thing about habits is that they can be formed through conscious, repeated behaviors, and when practiced enough, they can eventually take their place in the subconscious and guide your life.

Of course, you want good habits to be guiding your life in the background, not bad ones. That’s why it’s a good idea to make it a habit to always move forward.

Contrary to what most people say, moving forward doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to be better every single day for the rest of your life. There are going to be slip-ups, bad days, and circumstances that blow you off course.

Moving forward is all about getting back on track as fast as possible. If you can make that a habit, you can always get closer to where you want to go.

4. Use ‘If-Then’ Planning

When the going gets tough in your life, one of the most effective frameworks that you can put into place is called the ‘if-then’ planning.

This is the simplified version of something called Implementation Intention, a concept created by psychologist Peter Gollwitzer in the mid-’90s.[2] It helps you to make sense of confusing situations and to be able to take action when you are really struggling.

The simplified process is as follows:

“If x happens, I will do y.”

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For example:

“If I start to have negative thoughts, I will take ten seconds to just breathe.”

“If I feel extremely stressed for three days in a row, I will take the fourth day off to recover and reset.”

If-then planning puts a strategy in place for when times are tough. It takes away the element of thinking, planning, and worrying as you already know exactly what you need to do in each situation.

The beauty of using if-then is that you can change the if and then for different situations based on whatever works best for you at any given moment.

5. Find Some Mentors

With the internet becoming more expansive and accessible as it has ever been, there are so many ways to get a peek into the world’s top minds and see what they do in their own lives when the going gets tough.

Most successful people have had to overcome some serious struggles to get to where they are. Do a simple search online, and you will no doubt find out about all of the challenges that your favorite people have had to overcome.

Because of this, you should try to take inspiration from these people and find your own mentors. It’s worth recognizing that nobody trying to live their best life can ever get through it without their fair share of challenges to overcome. That’s just part of the hero’s journey.

6. Get out of Your Head

Sometimes, all of the reasoning, thinking, planning, and ruminating in the world doesn’t get you anywhere. In fact, for the serial thinkers and problem-solvers out there, it is oftentimes that too much time in your head results in even more struggle rather than a release of it.

Yes, some things can be solved by thinking. But when the going gets really tough, it is usually just pure heart, emotion, and grit that are going to carry you through. Your mind can become a tyrant, and it is worth being aware of this.

When you feel your own thoughts weighing you down and can’t stop the incessant thinking and worrying about the past, present, and/or future, it is time to step out of your mind for a little while and get into your body. Lift some weights, go for a run, or take a pleasant walk.

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The mind and body are much more connected than most people think—especially when it comes to emotions and fears and doing something beneficial for the body often benefits the unsettled mind as well.[3]

7. Ruthlessly Forgive Yourself

One of the worst things you can do when the going gets tough is to come down hard on yourself. Everyone has these external and internal struggles, and the harder you are on yourself for having them, the more difficult and traumatic the episodes will be when you inevitably slip up.

A lot of people are far harder on themselves than they are on other people, and to keep going in tough times, you need to be just as empathetic with yourself as you would be with your best friend.

Made a mistake? Forgive. Are you still giving yourself a hard time? Forgive. Are you still getting angry over small things “even though we talked about this”? Forgive.

The hard times are much easier to get through when you are at peace with yourself. You will be astonished by how much less pressure you feel when this happens.

8. Take Smaller Steps

It is common for people to stumble in life because they are simply taking on too much at once. Whether it be too much ambition, unrealistic expectations of themselves or others, or some extra curveballs, big steps can sometimes be too much to take.

The truth about big steps is that they are rare, disruptive, and difficult to keep up without crumbling. The big steps—the real life-changing goals and dreams that you have—can often be broken into much smaller steps that are more manageable and that will get you to the same place.

If the going is getting particularly tough, it might be the case that you are simply trying to do too much at once. Try taking smaller, more manageable steps, and see if obstacles and difficulties become easier to navigate.

9. Use Twenty Seconds of Insane Courage

Everyone will agree that the courage we have stored within ourselves is often finite and difficult to sustain for long periods. We tend to think that making a big change in our life and getting out of a rut requires courage for long periods that we simply cannot manage.

The good news is that this isn’t true. Most of the pivotal moments of change in your life—including pulling yourself out of a hole when the going gets tough—come from small, courageous decisions in short, precise moments.

Quite often, using twenty seconds of insane courage when it is needed is enough to completely change the trajectory of our lives. Whether it be asking for that promotion, deciding to go to the gym for the first time in months, or having the courage to break through your insecurities and ask someone out, most of these only require a few seconds of insane courage.

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Standing up and walking into your boss’s office, getting the gym kit on, picking up the phone or sending the text—you only have to be courageous in these few moments, and then you can relax and let life unfold.

Twenty seconds? You can do that, easily.

10. Accept That Your Motivation Will Wane

One of the main reasons that people get discouraged and struggle to keep going in hard times is that they never expected their motivation to dip.

When we start a project or enter a relationship or take something new and exciting on in our lives, our motivation is high, and we are in a mindset of excitement. We start thinking about all of the positives that could come from these things.

However, as time wears on, motivation levels inevitably drop, and you start to focus on the negatives of what’s happening or the added responsibility that you forgot to consider.

When this happens, you have two choices:

  1. You can put on your rose-colored glasses of the past and falsely remember how perfect everything was;
  2. Or you can put on your realistic glasses, face the difficulties, and keep moving forward into something better.

The true test of character comes when you hit a dip, motivation wanes, and you just don’t feel like doing stuff anymore. The secret is to realize that all of this is temporary and that you don’t need motivation to act.

It’s nice to have motivation, but the true test of character comes when motivation inevitably wanes. In those moments, will you keep going?

Final Thoughts

So there you have it. Each of these ten ideas for how to keep going when the going gets tough is versatile enough to be applied to almost any difficult situation that you find yourself in.

Life is going to present many difficulties. This isn’t something to fear but something to embrace. With these steps, you can navigate these stormy waters a little easier.

More Inspirations to Help You Stay Strong

Featured photo credit: Gaelle Marcel via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Psychology Today: What Is Self-Reflection and Why It Matters For Wellness
[2] American Psychologist: Implementation Intentions: Strong Effects of Simple Plans
[3] The International Journal of Psychoanalysis: Emotional Processing: The Mind-Body Connection

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