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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 July 10, 2020

How to Live Your Best Life Starting Today

How to Live Your Best Life Starting Today

As human beings, one of our deepest-rooted desires is to have a meaningful and happy existence. You’ve probably heard of the saying, “Live your best life.” It’s good advice.

We all want to feel connected to both ourselves and others. We want to feel that we’re part of something important and that we’re making a difference in the world.

We want to look back at our lives and our achievements and be proud. In short, we want what the saying says: to live our best lives.

But what does it really mean to live your best life?

You are a unique individual, so living your best life is exclusive to you. Your best life will reflect your true values. It will be made up of what makes you happy and will be colored by what making a difference means to you.

What Stops You From Living Your Best Life?

While living your best life is all about you, what other people think can have an impact on your quest to live your best life.

Social media, for example, puts us under a lot of pressure. There are specific expectations of what “happy” looks like, and we’re under pressure to conform to what society expects.

For example, we are pressured to look a certain way, wear the “right” clothes, have exciting adventures with eye-catching friends, eat ethical and healthy food, and do charity work.

These are only a few of society’s expectations. It’s a long list.

Social media claims to connect us, but often it can do the opposite.

We can spend so much time worrying about what other people are doing, trying to live the life that society expects of us, that it can be easy to lose track of what makes us happy and what our best life actually looks like.

Start the Journey

What does it look like to live your best life? The following are some practical tips and tools to move from living your current life to living your best life.

1. Be the Best Version of Yourself

To live your best life, you must be the best version of yourself. Don’t try to be something or someone else. Don’t try to be what other people want you to be.

Focus on who you want to be. Play to your strengths and be proud of what makes you different. You are brilliant.

Gretchen Rubin, in her book Happiness Project, created her own commandments. The first one was “Be Gretchen.” This gave her permission to follow her gut feeling and make up her own rules.

For example, she stopped forcing herself to enjoy parties, cocktails, and fashion just because that’s what she thought society expected.

So, inspired by Gretchen, create your own commandment: “Be more YOU,” and remind yourself of this every day, unapologetically.

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2. Observe Yourself

To work out what the best you looks like, you must get to know yourself better. It’s your best life after all – not anyone else’s.

Start to notice how you respond to various situations. What are your habits? What makes you happy? What frustrates you? How do you behave under pressure? What gives you energy? What drains you?

Spend a week simply noticing. Write your observations down so you remember.

3. Identify Your Bad Habits

As part of your observations, start to notice your bad habits. Consider the things that don’t ultimately make you feel good.

Does scrolling mindlessly through Instagram make you happy? For 5 minutes, perhaps, but for longer?

That last glass of wine was delicious, but do you pay the price later?

That chocolate was enjoyable at the moment, but now that the sugar high is over, are you feeling regretful?

Observe yourself first. Then, start to deliberately do more of the things that make you happy and give you energy.

At the same time, work on reducing then eliminating the habits that squander your time, drain your energy, and ultimately don’t make you happy.

Need help conquering your bad habits? Read How to Break Bad Habits Once and For All.

4. Set Intentions

After having thought about what makes you happy and what drains your energy, focus on what living the best life looks like for you.

One of the keys to this is being intentional about it. When you deliberately set intentions, you are more likely to act with purpose and drive.

Setting intentions is different from setting goals. Goals are your list of things you want to achieve. You can set them daily, monthly, yearly, or a combination.

A common practice is to define goals and write them down. This makes them more tangible and makes you more accountable, therefore, making the goals more likely to happen.

The subtle yet important difference between goals and intentions is that when setting intentions, you decide what kind of positive feelings and emotions you are seeking.

For example, “This week, my intention is to approach my admin tasks with gusto in order to complete them more quickly.”

Intentions can be more motivating than goals because if you don’t achieve your goal, it can feel like a failure and can ultimately hold you back.

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If you don’t achieve your intention to approach something in a specific way, you can more easily regroup and have another try.

Write down your intentions every month, week, or day, using whichever time frame works best for you.

For example, “I intend to enjoy going swimming three times this week” or “I intend to assertively build my network in my local area this month.”

Setting intentions gives you something to focus on, and it also helps to manage the feeling of being overwhelmed that often happens when we set ourselves goals.

5. Visualize Living Your Best Life

Visualization can help you to cement your intentions. It involves visualizing how it would feel to live your best life once you achieve it.

It can help you to further establish what you want and allow you to settle into a positive mindset.

To visualize, first choose your focus. Choose a specific intention and how you will feel once it is accomplished. Then, take the time to daydream and allow your imagination to wander.

For example, if your intention is going swimming three times a week, imagine what you will look and feel like:

  • What will you wear?
  • How do you get there?
  • What time of day do you go?
  • How do you feel when you’re in the water?
  • How do you feel afterward?

Ask yourself these little questions and allow yourself to feel the same feelings you would feel if you were currently fulfilling your intention.

10 Ways to Live Your Best Life

Now that you’ve decided and visualized what your best life looks like, let’s look at some more practical steps you can take to achieve it.

1. Focus

Whatever you do, focus. If you swim, swim. If you study, study. Multitasking is a myth. It’s not possible to do more than one thing at a time well. Focused work is the least tiresome and the most productive type of work.

Michael LeBouf, the author of The Millionaire in You, said,

“Winners focus, losers spray.”

2. Take Responsibility for Taking Action

Taking action can feel scary. We fear failure, but we can also fear success. It can be easy to feel too busy to achieve your intentions.

However, you have the choice to take action and live your best life or stay the same. It’s up to you, so take responsibility to take action.

3. Live in the Present

Every day is a new opportunity to live your best life. We so often get stuck because we put things off.

We can think, “When I’ve lost 10 lbs I’ll go swimming,” or “When I feel more confident I’ll look for a new job,” or “When I get my new running shoes I’ll start running.”

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How about starting from where you are? How about using what you already have?

We often put off taking action until we have the newest phone/camera/game/course/book/shoes as if they are the keys to happiness. In the process, we forget about what we already have.

Grab the camera that you have, put on your old running shoes. Go and do something interesting today with what you’ve got. Fancier gadgets, better clothes, or a slimmer body won’t make you better.

Action will.

4. Declutter

This applies to the environment you live in as well as the people you spend time with. Use Marie Kondo’s decluttering method of asking, “Does it bring you joy?”[1]

If your answer is yes, you keep the item. If you hesitate or say no, you donate it or throw it out. Simple.

This also applies to people. If there are people in your life that make you feel bad, drain your energy, and don’t bring you joy, let go of them.

Instead, spend time with the people and activities that give you energy and make you feel good.

5. Relish the Simple Things

When we’re busy, we can forget to appreciate what we have. Take time to focus on the simple things. Even when you’re feeling low, there’s always something to be grateful for.

In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness.[2] Be deliberate in being grateful for what you do have, rather than resentful of what you don’t.

6. Journaling

Journaling

is simply writing your thoughts down.

According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, writing your thoughts and feelings down on paper not only helps you get your thoughts in order, but it can also help ease symptoms of depression and manage stress and anxiety.[3]

In the chaos of life, it is easy to overthink, feel anxious, or not appreciate what you do have. Journaling can help you manage your thoughts and feelings and productively cope with life.

Be curious and keep learning. Ask more questions and keep pushing yourself to step outside of your comfort zone and learn.

What are you interested in or curious about? Perhaps it’s learning more about where you live, or reading up on a particular topic? Maybe it’s traveling to a new town or country?

According to Dan Pink’s research, learning is a key motivator.[4] Whether you feel like you’ve gotten stuck in a boring routine or you’re stressed by the tasks of daily life, learning something new is a way to step outside yourself and your comfort zone.

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Create a bucket list of all the things you’d like to do and learn and the places you’d like to go to, and start ticking them off.

7. Make Someone’s Day

Being kind to others makes them feel good, and it also releases chemicals in your body that make you feel good. Think about a time you gave someone a gift that they loved. How did you feel?

You don’t have to start giving people gifts to make someone’s day. Think about small, thoughtful gestures: a genuine compliment, opening the door, offering to help someone.

All these things can make a big difference in someone’s day.

8. Look After Your Body

Eat what nourishes you, including plenty of vegetables and fruit and food that’s natural and unprocessed. Drink plenty of water.

Exercise because you like it, not because you’re supposed to go to the gym.

Reject the idea that you have to push yourself really hard at exercise, and instead try out a variety of things – for example, walking the dog, gardening, yoga, swimming, or dancing.

Find what you enjoy. When you enjoy something, you’ll be motivated to do it more.

Get good rest! We’re all different in terms of the amount of sleep that we need. However, most adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep.

If you’re not getting that much, then check out healthy sleep tips from the Sleep Foundation.[5]

More tips for staying healthy: Powerful Daily Routine Examples for a Healthy and High-Achieving You.

9. Manage Your Inner Critic

Most people have an inner critic that tells them they are not good enough, that they’re a fraud, and that they are going to be found out.

This happens especially when we step out of our comfort zone and change things. If you are living your best life, your inner critic likes to jeopardize that.

The next time it appears, acknowledge what’s happening and call it out. Whatever it is telling you, list all the reasons it’s wrong.

10. Be Prepared to Change the Plan

You may have set intentions to live your best life. However, life is not linear, nor does it work in lists. You must expect to be flexible and change the plan as life throws things at you.

The end game remains the same: to live your best life. It’s just the route to get there that will inevitably change.

Conclusion

Live each day like it counts, and remember, it’s your choice. Your best life is unique to you. Don’t compare yourself to others – focus on living your best life, and enjoy the learning, exploration, and experiences along the way.

More Tips on How You Can Live Your Best Life

Featured photo credit: Juliana Malta via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Kon Mari: Tidy your space, transform your life
[2] Harvard Health Publishing: In Praise of Gratitude
[3] University of Rochester Medical Center: Journaling for Mental Health
[4] Daniel H. Pink: Dan Pink on Motivation
[5] Sleep Foundation: Healthy Sleep Tips

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