Much of our thinking, up to 95%, is on a subconscious level. It helps us navigate the world in form of habit, automatic thinking, processed memories and how those fit into our paradigm. Some automatic thinking is good. Our fight or flight response is based on this as well as learning capacity. From subconscious thinking, we form habits that run our routines and rituals. It can also be destructive when our automatic thinking turns on us to create a negative image. Much of this rigid, inflexible automatic thinking about ourselves is rooted in childhood and our interaction with parents and other significant people. When a child feels or is made to feel uncertain or pessimistic (this can be just subtle inferences), it strives to become pleasing to the parents. Normal striving for approval becomes a craving and children become extremely sensitive to messages concerning their self worth. If a child is given the message, directly or indirectly that it is of little value, it will organize its beliefs around that concept. These beliefs will look for redemption from the parents in a desperate attempt to make the parents approve and love. Thereafter, a schema of worthlessness is carried forward and affects all thinking and interaction with others. This cycle of redemption and worthlessness keeps the child focussed on the parent as it seeks to understand. This becomes a model for later relationships as the pattern continues. It is also the basis for low self esteem and the feeling of unlovability. This feeling of “I am unloveable, worthless” create a poor image of self and creates a cycle of relationships that are unsatisfying and probably abusive. The thinking here is based on a blueprint formed in childhood due to unhealthy, untrue messages being given to the child. The subsequent, triggered adult is still using this schema to find redemption from that.
Conscious thinking, on the other hand, is higher thinking and takes more effort. It is where we can, theoretically change automatic thinking and habit and takes more effort. When we engage conscious thinking and we can stay present to the moment, we can:
- Examine and test evidence and the obvious
- Understand what is driving behavior and thinking
- Be more aware of ourselves and the people around us
- Be more aware of our circumstances
- Be in Self mode, meaning we can counter the critical voices in our head and take leadership
- Devise a functional action plan devoid of influences from the past and an imagined future
- Avoid rumination and analysis paralysis
In Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory of personality, the conscious mind consists of everything inside of our awareness. This is the aspect of our mental processing that we can think and talk about in a rational way. It is here, we can make a difference. The conscious mind has four known functions. Identifying incoming information through the senses, comparison, analysis and decision are seen as the main ones and we can usually only deal with one issue at a time. When this issue is processed, it is usually subdued into our subconscious. The way we process this information is crucial to our view of the world and our selves. Your conscious mind functions very much like a binary computer, it accepts or rejects data in making choices and decisions. This is why the positive thinking movement promote affirmations and visualization. This is why we are capable of changing our thinking about ourselves.
Many people tap into their conscious minds through meditation, through sharp focus, described in sports as “tunnel vision” or “being in the zone”. Some force themselves to be totally aware of their surroundings and use such tools as breaking the stimulus-response cycle. In relationships, effective listening can keep you present in the moment. However conscious thinking is attained, it is essential to tap into our true reality and change what we can and accept what we cannot, including ourselves.
Considerations for Conscious Thinking
Living consciously is a mindset and a choice. It is deciding that the blueprint or map given to us in childhood is incorrect. It is accepting our reality. It is a pledge to work on the issues in our awareness that we can influence and to accept that there are issues that we cannot (unconscious escape). There are a number of ways of doing this and I will mention one or two here.
Sentence Completion. A powerful method of utilizing conscious thinking. For example:
Living consciously means to me…….
If I bring 10 or 20 or 30 percent more awareness to acceptance of my reality……
If I chose to be more conscious about……
If I chose to be honest about my reality, what could/would I do differently…….
If I pay more attention to my strengths…….
If I am more accepting of my body, strengths, weaknesses………..
If the above is true, it would be helpful if I……
Making A Pledge And Take Action. Much of the effect of unconscious thinking lies in inaction and being stuck. Accepting that nothing can be done. We use the word can’t, when we mean won’t, mostly due to fear of change and the blueprint described above. Making a firm decision to look at the world and ourselves in a different way is not only functional but freeing and can be made in a second. Make a pledge to be honest with yourself and others. Be compassionate with yourself and others, practice self-care.
Practice Conscious Thinking On A Daily Basis. Become more aware of you and your environment. This means countering your minds natural tendency to wander into unconscious rumination. Focus more on your surroundings, practice meditation. Journal about your day. Write down three things per day that were positive and some things you forgive yourself for and constantly challenge your belief system.
Practice Self Improvement, Achieve And Face Fears. One of the best ways of increasing self esteem is to constantly prove to yourself that fears held are surmountable. Once in the habit of conscious thinking, the doors to your new reality will open based on honesty, compassion and healthy striving.