Subconscious Mind and its Impact on Our Behaviour

Published on: July 18, 2012

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“Whatever we plant in our subconscious mind and nourish with repetition and emotion will one day become a reality.” – Earl Nightingale

I’m certain you would vouch for yourself: “I have self-control,” “I can control my behaviour.” Surprisingly, our actions remain under limited control given the driving force behind every action.

Implausible as it might be, I believe it to be true. Prior to taking action or deciding on something, you do so using your conscious mind. Yet our lives are replete with different actions at every moment. Those actions are not always a result of your conscious decisions, yet your subconscious mind plays a major role. Actions controlled by your subconscious mind are beyond your control.

The study of the subconscious mind and understanding of it can help improve our personal relationships and help you understand people better.

What Is The Subconscious Mind? 

Let us consider the example of driving a car. When you first learn to drive, your focus is directed to your car’s gear and clutch. You concentrate on the entire process. You notice every bump, every pothole and every obstacle. As you become skilled, your subconscious mind registers your actions and you drive without making conscious effort. You automatically avoid obstacles, change gears automatically while performing other actions at the same time such as listening to music, or talking on the phone. As your proficiency increases, the driving process becomes natural and your decisions are automatic.

Here is a practical experiment to experience the power of subconscious actions. Place your hand horizontally, with your palm facing upwards in front of you and imagine holding a lemon. Your mouth will salivate as a response to the thought. Your conscious mind knows no lemon is present – it is your imagination. The subconscious mind, however, is illogical and believes what the conscious mind thinks.

What Happens Inside Your Subconscious Mind?

Like driving a car on a winding road while evading potholes, your life’s journey represents many subconscious actions. There may have been potholes and obstacles presented to you and you crossed them with ease every time.

Whether your actions have negative or positive impact, important judgements are made regarding dos and don’ts, i.e. things you should and should not do. You assume your own judgements on life’s potholes and decide what should be done to avoid them.

You gather knowledge along the way and form vital knowledge. You judge the people around you and distinguish good from bad. Based on the way people look, you form certain conclusions. Since you met an unpleasant person who had grey eyes and a long nose, your child brain concludes people with grey eyes and long noses are bad.

If such experiences are repeated, your beliefs support your subconsciously thoughts: “I told you so. Didn’t I?” you tell yourself. Your judgements are reinforced. In many ways a great deal of learning from your child brain have been accepted by your subconscious mind.

The rules you assume may be illogical, but they are now firmly placed in your subconscious mind. When you look at a person with the traits you defined in your subconscious mind’s rule book, you automatically respond in a specific way and you wouldn’t even know you reacted that way.

Behaviour Is Driven by The Subconscious Mind

Tasks are performed via the conscious mind, but most actions depend on the subconscious mind. They are same as reflex actions in certain ways, but vary. As far as physical reflex actions are concerned, actions or disturbances in and around you arise, and before you realize, your body responds to the disturbance. Right after your reflex action, you realize how your body responded. Yet when the subconscious mind takes control, your conscious mind is unaware you responded to the subconscious stimuli.

Tasks are performed via the conscious mind, but most actions depend on the subconscious mind. Click To TweetThe conscious mind is analytical and logical whereas the subconscious mind is said to be irrational. Since your behaviour is governed by the subconscious mind, you envisage the likely outcome.

The Effect The Subconscious Mind Has on Your Behaviour

There is a list of items your subconscious mind deems you are “not ok” with. These items fall under two categories:

Things with which you are comfortable with and can say “It is not ok for me” or “I cannot do this” or “That is not meant for me”. You have no conscience about related to these things.

The second category relates to things you find complex, perhaps people that hurt you. These include hurt feelings concerning your short comings, thinking about your weaknesses while feeling ashamed to accept them.

This second category handles your abnormal and unnatural behaviour.

These relate to formed opinions of yourself (“I’m not ok”) in your childhood. These thoughts are reinforced in your subconscious mind. These relate to experiences when you were embarrassed, thus creating a “Not OK” opinion of yourself.

You naturally want to forget these things since they invoke unpleasant memories. Your conscious mind removes them but your subconscious mind has them stored. Such memories form your subconscious pain points.

You go through many experiences and incidents in life, but few incidents touch the pain points in your subconscious and you respond sorely. When you experience these pain points, you are overpowered and your response is without your control. These could be the same sensations you experienced when you went through an unpleasant incident as a child. Perhaps you tried to push it beneath the carpet and made efforts to expel it from your mind. In such situations, you become helpless in your actions. You then perform uncontrolled actions since your subconscious mind has allowed you to feel helpless.

We all have our “pain points” – we all have our idiosyncrasies. Whenever pain points are touched, we respond. Since the pain points vary from person to person, different people respond to the same stimuli in a different manner. Someone may not care regarding a comment in which the other person feels hurt.

We all have our “pain points” - we all have our idiosyncrasies. Whenever pain points are touched, we… Click To TweetThis illustrates the driven-ness of your behaviour – you are driven to take action and are powerless in these circumstances. You might not prefer to be under control, yet you function which your subconscious mind drives you to.

23 Responses to Subconscious Mind and its Impact on Our Behaviour

  1. Trisha Warman says:

    Tony, I have just come across your website almost by accident and find it all fascinating and it has given me some thought to my own problem,I have been a life long dieter, a couple of stone to lose, I do well at the beginning then almost sabotage my own hard work and I give up,is this connected to my past,why would anyone stop themselves from succeding,I would appreciate your thoughts and whether I should consider my subconscious is to blame !

    • Tony Fahkry says:

      Hi Trisha,

      Thanks for your comment. It would be unwise of me to diagnose your issue when I am unqualified to do so.

      However, as a general comment, we tend to sabotage our success because at an unconscious level it serves us not to achieve our goals. For example, becoming successful and rich might sound great on a conscious level, yet your unconscious might believe success will alienate you from friends and loved ones. So you unconsciously sabotage your efforts to remain comfortable all the while hoping for success.

      If you are interested in this area, there is a valuable book called “The Sedona Method” or Byron Katie’s “The Work.” Both are valuable tools that teach you how to overcome limiting beliefs.

      Good luck with it!

      Tony

  2. Marie S says:

    The fact that childhood experiences may cause our uncontrolled behaviors as an adult is highly interesting information, and actually explains some of my abnormal behaviors as an adult when I am upset. For example, there are times when I find myself lashing out verbally at people who stand too close to me, as fear they will touch me.

    Thank You for writing this article!

    • Tony Fahkry says:

      Hi Marie,

      Thanks for your comment. Yes childhood experiences have a big impact on our adult life. We carry any trauma from our early life into adulthood as memories. They are held in the mind and body and are activated when others trigger those memories. The key is to bring them in to our conscious mind and heal them with compassion.

      Best wishes

      Tony

  3. Vescent says:

    With increased focality the subconscious seems to be accessed further. It is up to the individual, whether you want to wander shallow, or with depth into who you really are. Deviations in personality such as ADHD and autism that clearly disrupt general patterns of focus, should also reveal variations in relation to their unaware – while staying on synchronized with the environment’s focality levels may be the recipe for social success, it is not necessarily optimal for other aspects of life.

    As for the philosophical question; reconciling with the subconscious – would you even want to? From my personal experiences as an autistic some may perceive you as a threat, for the fact that you tend to ruminate and dissolve protective clichés in the everyday. There are also hints in the west unwinding that we bring destruction and death; evil forces in culture are generally easier to identify with, as they challenge customs, though the genuine disrespect for those of opposing faction is pure conjecture; you don’t dislike them, you dislike what they do (most of the time, “good people” simplify, and therefore [to a greater extent] elude calculation). Perhaps this could explain why they cannot seem to swallow that we truly wish them well, albeit in the long-term.

    Ethereal superiority grants an increased chance at extreme success, but also direct failure. So, if you hate being a middleton- this is it. Traits of introversive narcissism concealed beneath? Yes, perhaps.

  4. MARC says:

    Concerning the final sentence in the next-to-last paragraph,
    [Someone may not care a damn about a comment over which the other person feels hurt.]
    I would rather read …care a bit… rather than soft profanity. We get enough harsh language daily in rap music, TV shows, and even news articles! I was simply surprised to find that comment in an erudite article.

  5. mikey says:

    hi tony,
    can you tell me so few people follow the directions of the subconscious mind? most people i know, is aware of something called a subconscious mind, but that is as far as they go, using it, sending it messages, listening to it, is all far away from them.

    • Tony Fahkry says:

      Hi

      If I’m not mistaken you’re asking why are there so few people who know how to direct their attention to the subconscious mind?

      If that is so, it is due to the fact that we are not taught about the mind at any stage of our life, unless we decide to learn about it for ourselves.

      Regardless, the subconscious mind is always listening in based on your surroundings – from the moment you were born until adulthood. What music you listen to, TV, radio, conversations, self-talk and more.

      Yes you are right not many people know what the subconscious mind is let alone are aware of it. That is why many people choose to live ‘automated’ lives without considering the impact of their thoughts and behaviours.

      There is power in choice and freedom in knowledge. As we acquire both, we liberate ourselves from a conditioned life forced upon us by the media, friends, family, teachers, governments etc.

      Best wishes

      Tony

  6. cinda aery says:

    How does one change their subconscious mind to support what their conscious mind wants?

    • Tony Fahkry says:

      Here are some brief points that will help:

      1. Keep a journal and note your beliefs (past and present). I have an Excel file. Download this worksheet and start doing the work on your childhood and adult beliefs by Byron Katie, http://www.thework.com/downloads/worksheets/onebelief_Eng.pdf

      This stuff is amazing and has worked wonders with clients and myself. Watch her clips on YouTube – search for ‘Byron Katie, The Work.’ Be consistent with the work and remember change takes a long time to manifest. Google – “The Change Cycle” and you’ll discover why.

      2. Notice your inner dialogue – what do you say to yourself all day every day? Your SM (subconscious mind) is ALWAYS listening.

      3. Self compassion – Read the work of Tara Brach or Kristin Neff, Ph.D. They both have wonderful books.

      Best of luck.

      Tony

      • Jessica says:

        Hello, I am just curious, if I had a very sheltered, controlled life as a child and my husband went through abandonment and divorce, that he was in the middle, very nasty, how is this affecting our relationship, he says Everything s my fault, talking about himself, and says thats all he hears from me and I think hes to controlling of me and our marriage, can we get through this with such childhoods as we had?Are we reliving our childhoods to find some kind of a resolution or a fealing of acceptance of our childhoods?

        • Tony Fahkry says:

          Hi Jessica,

          Whilst I cannot give you direct advice on marital issue with your husband, the following is general information in nature.

          If we have not healed or made peace with any aspect of our childhood, it is likely to play out in our adult lives. This can cause numerous problems in relationships, since we may often willingly or unwillingly reignite the ‘pain buttons’ of the other person.

          As we heal any issue within ourselves, then nothing outside of us can activate those pain buttons any longer. It takes courage to confront our inner demons, but it is well worth the effort in the long term if that means maintaining a healthy and loving relationship.

          You might want to do a search on ‘Byron Katie – The Work’ in which she helps people achieve powerful transformations by asking 4 simple, yet insightful questions. You can download those questions as a free PDF.

          All the best

          Tony

  7. Anjali B says:

    Hi Tony,

    I am a student i psychology and I feel your article is insightful and well written, it’s good to bring various ideas to the surface, and I agree that the subconscious mind plays a huge role in our lives. I must also bring up what James is saying, in that our actions are conscious.

    How do you feel about the idea that perhaps these negative habits like eating junk food, are continued because of the individuals’ belief system? Believing that eating this will fix their problems, simply because it always has worked in the past. It won’t of course fix their problem of needing to lose weight, but it fixes a greater and more meaningful problem which is perhaps stress or dealing with a traumatic event.
    And relating to your ideas, yes, the belief system could be a subconscious thing. So why must it remain there in the subconscious? Our belief system can certainly be brought into our consciousness and looked at logically, and then altered. When an individual sees that perhaps it is more important to them to deal with the immediate issue of stress than the long term goal of losing weight, then one can see that it makes complete sense why they keep eating this way. The individual is using a solution that is the quickest-fix for them to overcome their negative feelings. Even though like you have stated, eating poorly often results in feeling negatively afterwards, it seems for the short term that this bad habit it DOES solve a problem. The greater stress that they are dealing with.
    Perhaps only because the individual believes that their bad habits solve their daily problems. If someone has an old car that was working fine but suddenly keeps breaking down, then they may now believe that the negatives outweigh the positives, and they would change their situation and get a new car. We only do what we perceive brings us the most benefit, right?

    • Tony Fahkry says:

      Hi Anjali,

      Thanks for your message. I agree with your statement that negative habits are continued or even ‘reinforced’ by the overriding beliefs. I once heard a prominent psychologist refer to this process as ‘grooving’ in so far as it is carved into the mind which reinforces the destructive habit.

      My contention that beliefs are subconscious arises out of the fact that many of our beliefs are formed during our formative years (0-6) while we remain in a predominantly subconscious learning pattern. There is some great work by Eldon Taylor in the field of subliminal learning which I urge to you read that has produced some powerful results in overriding these subconscious habits. Here’s a brief biography:

      Eldon Taylor is a New York Times best-selling author and is considered to be an expert in the field of subconscious learning. He has made a lifelong study of the human mind and has earned doctoral degrees in psychology and metaphysics. He is a Fellow with the American Psychotherapy Association (APA) and a nondenominational minister. Eldon has served as an expert witness in court cases involving hypnosis and subliminal communication.

      Eldon was a practising criminalist for over ten years specializing in lie detection and forensic hypnosis. Today he is president and director of Progressive Awareness Research, Inc. Since 1984 his books, audio programs, lectures, radio and television appearances have approached personal empowerment from the cornerstone perspective of forgiveness, gratitude, self-responsibility and service.

      Best wishes

      Tony

  8. Katelyn says:

    Hello Tony, I find this topic so fascinating and interesting. I think the subconscious mind has a lot to do with multiple personality disorder and the content of your dreams at night. I think this would be a good idea for a science fair project, ‘How the subconscious mind affects feelings and behaviour.’ What do you think about it? Your feedback would be most appreciated.

    Thanks, Katelyn

    • Tony Fahkry says:

      Hi Ketelyn, yes you’re right about the subconscious mind being fascinating. I am particular interested in the role our minds play in terms of performance, health, consciousness, insights and knowledge. I am particularly drawn to ‘subliminal learning’ these days, i.e. training the subconscious mind to receive the right stimuli through repeated subconscious learning models. Yes it would make for an interesting science fair to look into how the subconscious mind affects feelings and behaviour. Most of our childhood programs and learning’s are captured deep within the mind. There is a great deal of information and knowledge that we are still discovering about this aspect of the mind – I feel in the coming years we’ll have more information in order to harness the full potential of our brains. Thanks for your email – best wishes!

  9. james says:

    ok , after a second look , its an interesting theory , whilst I agree that the subconscious mind and our belief systems do have a major influence on how we behave . I feel that it is extreme to say that we ‘have no control’ over our behavior , we all make CONSCIOUS decisions on a daily basis prior to acting in a certain manner .

    • Tony Fahkry says:

      Hi James, in my line of work I’ve continually seen evidence of one’s subconscious mind overpowering their conscious will. Take for example the notion of food, diet and nutrition. Many people knowingly and consciously admit that eating junk food does not aid weight-loss and long term health, yet repeatedly make what I believe ‘unconscious’ food choices on a daily basis. Whilst their better self knows this self defeating habit does not serve them (and in many instances they chastise themselves after consuming the offending food item) they are loathed to overcome their habit.

      There is a great deal of evidence and literature positing the dominance of the unconscious mind in our everyday choices. One need only turn to the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud’s work on repressed unconscious thought to see evidence of its interplay between the conscious and unconscious mind.

      Thanks for your comment.

      Best wishes

      Tony

  10. Michael James says:

    Interesting perspective on how our subconscious affects our behaviour. Looks like I need to take the wheel and start controlling my behaviour and actions.

  11. Emma-Lee says:

    actually this is interesting – but does my subconscious mind really have that much power over me??

    I’ll put this to the test next time I’m driving!

    • Tony Fahkry says:

      An emphatic YES it does! Is it the co-pilot which continually receives instruction yet does not question the validity of those instructions. Thanks for dropping in again Emma-Lee

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