Have you ever wondered why we tend to find ourselves repeating the same unwanted cycles of behavior, time and time again? If you’ve ever wanted to empower yourself to change that, below are some excellent tools that will help you!
During the process of socialization in our early lives, we developed a number of coping mechanisms that were eventually programmed into the subconscious mind. Originally, these coping programs were strategies to get our needs met when we felt threatened.
However, unless they are cleared, these programs become seemingly dormant until we are triggered by specific emotions or related situations (emotional memory) that re-activate them.
In many ways, the development of coping mechanisms is beneficial. But as we grow and our values shift, many of these programs become outdated, eventually providing more drawbacks than benefits to the present version of ourselves.
For example, it might be efficient to use anger as a strategy to get what you want as a child, but throwing a tantrum does not necessarily get your needs met in a business meeting.
While it can be difficult to “out-will” the subconscious mind, there are many creative ways to change behavior on both conscious and subconscious levels.
Autosuggestion is sort of like hacking the subconscious. It is ideally used in a relaxed state of mind (producing alpha or theta brainwaves), such as during meditation or while being out in nature. It is the act of lacing repetitive thoughts with strong emotion.
For example, you might want to practice self-love in substitution of harmful activities such as binge-eating junk food. In this case, your repetitive thoughts might be a mantra like “I love myself” and you would intentionally practice engaging the feeling of compassion and kindness towards yourself.
Interestingly enough, Napoleon Hill’s famous book Think and Grow Rich is essentially based off of the principle of autosuggestion. It is a way of programming the subconscious mind with conscious intention.
2. Ask Yourself What Benefits You’re Perceiving from Your Behavior and Substitute
What benefits are you currently receiving from the action that you’re taking? Write them down. For example, maybe when you get angry you are able to finally say what you’re otherwise afraid to. In that case, the benefit might be something like “open communication.”
Once you’ve discovered the core hidden benefits, decide what you can substitute the behaviour with instead. Maybe instead of yelling, you can write a letter to someone about how you feel, or you can give yourself time to sort through your thoughts before communicating emotionally. Without understanding the unconsciously perceived benefits of our actions, it can be challenging to create a more suitable approach.
3. Tie Your New Habits Into Your Highest Values
Renowned behavioral development specialist Dr. John DeMartini concluded that we all have a set of values that run our lives. These are largely subconscious, and are found in our behavior rather than our desires. When we want to implement new strategies in the place of old ones, we have to perceive these strategies as creating more support than challenge to our core values (Dr. DeMartini, The Values Factor).
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This is because chances are, we originally created our now “unwanted” behaviours because we once saw them as efficient strategies to get our values met. By writing down 10-15 reasons that a healthier behaviour supports our values even more, we create resonance, rather than dissonance, between the conscious and subconscious mind. Without doing this, we often automatically perceive new strategies as taking time away from our values, and we subconsciously self-sabotage the new habits in our lives.
4. Re-Write the Program in Presence
It is crucial to become aware of exactly what the program is. As in, what cycle of behavior do you want to change, and what do you want to change it to? To implement new behavior at a conscious level, the practice of presence is an absolute requirement.
When we begin to notice ourselves practicing unwanted behavior, it allows us to automatically anchor ourselves in the present moment. This “noticing yourself” is essentially consciousness becoming aware of itself. In the awareness of that moment, you have created space to practice a new, conscious (rather than subconscious) strategy. Once you’ve accomplished this, you can repeatedly work to implement the new strategy each time the old behavior surfaces. Since the subconscious mind is programmed through repetition, you will eventually re-write the program that previously existed.
Visualization falls under the same umbrella as autosuggestion, but engages more of the senses than the feelings. The trick to visualization is to focus on whatever it is that you want to manifest, as if you are actually there. What does it smell like in that moment? What do you hear? What do you see, in detail? Go through all of your senses and engage them. This is most effectively done in ten minute intervals at the start and end of your day.
6. Question the Thinking That Creates the Reaction
This sounds simple and self-explanatory, but it is often the most challenging for people to practice. Our fearful responses or behaviors usually stem from the perception that a threat exists. For example, if you are running late for work and get stuck in traffic, you might have thoughts like, “Everyone will think I’m lazy. They’ll think I don’t care about my job. My boss will hate me. What if he fires me?”
As you have these emotionally-fueled thoughts, you actually minimize your own ability to think rationally and make good decisions. This is because have moved your brain activity out of the neocortex (thinking, coping brain) and into the limbic system and reptilian brain (emotional brain and primitive response area). This results in a greater likelihood you will embody the emotional thoughts that you are believing.
Change gears and ask yourself, “Is this true? Can I know that what I’m believing and reacting to is real?” When you debunk the perceived threat, the reaction will automatically begin to dissipate.
Why This is Important
We all deserve to live an empowered life, with the ability to manifest our goals and desires into reality. With more self-awareness and understanding, we gain the ability to move more efficiently and effectively toward our dreams.
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