“This iceberg,” my professor said to my classmates and I, “is like your mind.” I can still recall being in the college lecture hall, as a psychology major, looking up at the picture of the iceberg on the overhead projector. I was struck by how much of the iceberg was below the water lever.
“That which is above,” he continued, “is your conscious mind; what you are aware of. All of this below is your subconscious mind; what you are not aware of.” His well-timed pause allowed us to soak up what he was saying. “Breathe!” he yelled suddenly. A few of us jumped in surprise.
“Ah! You see what happened just now?” he said excitedly, “A few seconds ago, your breathing was in your subconsciousness. You were not paying attention to it. Your body was taking care of it for you. However, as soon as I said the word ‘breathe’ you suddenly became aware of your breathing, didn’t you? I was able to bring something up from your subconscious mind into your awareness, into your consciousness. And you can do this too.”
My instructor was pacing back and forth with excitement, enthusiastically hoping that we grasped the gravity of what he was telling us. “It’s all about being aware,” he said as he stopped and gazed over his audience, “and repitition. And if you repeat the right questions, your brain will find you the right answers. And that, my friends, is how to program your brain!”
I don’t think I fully comprehended what my professor was telling us at the time, however I could sense that there was something very important in his words and this memory has been tattooed in my brain ever since. Slowly, as I began to pay more attention to the workings of my mind and what was going on around me, I began to piece together a greater understanding of what he was referring to.
Your Brain on Auto-Pilot
The idea that our brain learns through repetition is widely accepted. Once something is repeated enough, your brain will put it on auto-pilot.
A child learning to walk provides a good example. At first, a child is very aware of their attempts at walking. All of their attention is on how to stand up, how to balance, placing one foot in front of the other and all of the mechanics and coordination necessary to put it all together. Slowly, we become better at walking and can devote less attention to it. Soon, we can walk and play at the same time. We can walk and talk simultaneously. Eventually, walking becomes automatic; we no longer need to pay any attention to how we walk. Walking has been put on auto-pilot, meaning that it has been taken over by the subconscious mind.
If you want, you can become conscious of your walking, but for the most part, your brain intelligently takes care of this for us, so that we can use our limited focus elsewhere. Your brain figured out the pattern of walking and automated the process so that we could use our precious consciousness for other more important activities.
The fact that repetition can shape your subconscious mind is certainly no secret. This is why advertisers pay so much money to get their products in front of you again and again. They understand this. They know that if they bombard you with something, your brain will accept it as fact, as long as you don’t think too carefully about it. They know that they can program your subconscious mind, if only they can get enough exposure to it.
If we experience the same thing over and over, your brain eventually says, “Ok, I’ve seen this repeatedly, clearly there is something to it and I should just accept this as fact.” It then puts it on auto-pilot. Unless, you put it under the microscope of your mind.
Brain Programming 101
It is important to note that not everything is automatically accepted into our subconscious mind. We have consciousness and can analyze something and decide whether to accept it or reject it. You are a flashlight on your subconscious mind.
For example, if your parents repeatedly tell you all throughout your childhood that “green people are evil”, your brain will, after hearing it enough, file this away in the subconscious mind as a fact. And you will automatically be affected by this “fact” throughout your life; you will always be suspicious of green people.
However, let’s say that one day when you are an adult, a green person is very kind to you. At first, your brain may try to rationalize this and say that it was fluke, or perhaps that person is only half-green. But if it happens again and again, your brain cannot ignore it and slowly you (and your brain) will begin to question this “fact” you were taught. When a green person is kind to you yet again, you may slump down in a chair, and say to yourself, “You know what? Maybe I was wrong all along. Maybe green people aren’t so bad after all. In fact, they seem pretty nice.”
Here’s a recap, just to drill this home to you (remember repitition is how we learn!), of what just happened. Your brain was programmed to believe that “green people are evil” and because you were young, you really couldn’t reflect on this and analyze it yourself and, therefore it was accepted as a truth by your brain and put on auto-pilot so you didn’t have to spend your precious consciousness on this “obvious fact”.
However, when something happened which went counter to this truth (a green person was nice to you), your brain said, “Wait…what?” Then, when it happened again and again, your brain began to take notice and you became aware that green people might not be so bad after all. You began to feel conflicted because previously you knew green people were evil. However, now your brain is requesting that this idea be re-assessed.
When you became aware of this conflict, you re-programmed your subconscious mind; you “changed your mind” about green people. But, if this “truth” was left alone in your subconscious, it would probably continue to affect you and color your thoughts and actions for the rest of your life. It is by paying attention to something, by bringing it up out of our subconscious mind, that we can then look at it and decide whether or not we want it to continue to be a part of ourselves.
Looking Under the Iceberg
So, if you spend your life distracted, constantly watching tv, listening to music, looking at your phone, your brain will program you by default, and you may not like how it does so. Remember, your brain places things on auto-pilot because it is trying to help you. It says, “This keeps happening, therefore it is clearly true, so I will just go ahead and file it away so that it becomes automatic. Now we can use our attention for other more pressing matters.” Fortunately, however, you have the gift of consciousness: the ability to decide if you want to re-program your brain.
Therefore, as far as I can tell, there are few things more crucial in life than to take some time to look within. Pay attention to your thoughts so that you can become aware of what is driving you, what is shaping your life. When you become aware, something amazing happens: you realize that you can re-program your brain.
Our brains learn by repetition, therefore, bombard your mind with positivity, success, love, generosity and you will become happy, successful, loving and generous. Guide your mind and you direct your life.
Brain! How Do I Re-Program You?
One of the most effective ways to re-program your brain is to use questions. Your brain hates unanswered questions.
Think about the following experience. You are about to say something but you suddenly get interrupted or distracted. Then, when you try to return to that thought, you just can’t seem to recall what you wanted to say. You ask yourself again and again, “What was I was gonna say?!” yet it just doesn’t come to you. Later that night as you doze off to sleep, or the following day as you’re going about your business, you suddenly remember it!
All along your brain was working, digging through the filing cabinets of your mind trying to find the answer for you and, when it finally found it, ran up to you and screamed, “I’ve got it! I’ve got the information you were looking for!”
Your brain will try its utmost to answer the questions you ask it. If you constantly ask yourself, “Why am I so stupid?” your brain will find the answer. It will find evidence of your stupidity. If you ask yourself, “How did I get to be so intelligent?” your brain will also find you the answer. The answers to the questions you ask, as long as you expect an answer from your brain, will certainly come to you. Therefore, ask yourself questions which will strengthen you, make you confident, grateful and happy. Here are some examples of empowering questions.
Remember, repetition creates automated thoughts. Automated thoughts become habits. Habits form your character; who you are. Therefore, take up your post as intelligent programmer of your mind and use your immensely powerful brain to help you design the life you want.