Beliefs: The programs of the subconscious mind

By Hanan Parvez

Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate. 
- Carl Jung
Even if you know nothing about psychology and human behavior, understanding the concept of beliefs will be sufficient to enable you to grasp the very essence of mind mechanics. Beliefs that are stored in our subconscious mind are the most important factors that shape our behavior.

Think of the subconscious mind as a storage device that contains all the data, all the information that you ever got exposed to in your life from the time you were born up until now. This information includes all your past memories, experiences and ideas. Now what does the subconscious mind do with all this data? Obviously, there has to be some purpose behind it.

Your subconscious mind uses all this information to form beliefs and then stores those beliefs. These beliefs can be likened to computer software programs that determine how the computer will operate. Similarly, the beliefs that are stored in your subconscious mind determine to a great extent how you will operate (i.e. behave) in various life situations. So, what exactly are these beliefs?

Beliefs

Beliefs are ideas that we believe to be true and the types of beliefs that affect our behavior are those that we believe to be true about ourselves. For instance, if a person believes that he is confident, we can say that he has the belief “I am confident” stored somewhere in his subconscious mind. How do you think such a guy would behave? Of course, he will behave confidently.

Thing is, we always act in ways that are consistent with our belief systems. Since beliefs are very powerful in shaping our behaviors, it makes a lot of sense to understand how they get formed.

Formation of beliefs

To understand how beliefs get formed, imagine your subconscious mind to be a garden, then your beliefs are the plants that grow in that garden. A belief gets formed in the subconscious mind in the same way as a plant grows in a garden.

Firstly, to grow a plant, a seed is sown in the soil. To do that you have to dig the soil a bit so that the seed is placed in its proper position inside the soil. This seed is the idea, any idea that you get exposed to. For example, if a teacher told you “you are stupid” it can be considered as a seed. The soil on the ground surface is your conscious mind that filters information to decide what to accept and what to reject.

It decides which ideas can pass on into the subconscious mind and which can’t. It acts as a sort of gatekeeper. If somehow the conscious filters are turned off or removed (digging the soil) the idea (seed) then penetrates into the subconscious mind (the soil below) and gets stored as a belief.

The conscious filters may be turned off or bypassed by:-

Trusted sources/authority figures

If you receive ideas from the sources that you trust or authority figures such as parents, friends, teachers, family members, experts, etc. you automatically turn your conscious filters off and let the info pass easily into your subconscious mind, leading to the formation of beliefs.

Try understanding it like this- your mind wants to be efficient and save energy therefore it avoids the hectic task of processing any info that comes from a trusted source just because it trusts the source. So it's like "why bother analyzing and filtering it"!

Repetition

When you receive an idea repeatedly, the conscious mind gets kind of tired filtering the same info again and again, eventually deciding that filtering may not be required for this idea at all! As a result, the idea leaks into your subconscious mind if you get exposed to it enough number of times, where it turns into a belief.

Continuing with the above analogy, if your teacher (a trusted source) called you stupid (an idea) again and again (repetition), you might eventually form a belief that you are stupid! Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? But it ain't over yet. There’s more to the story. It usually gets worse from here on.

After the seed is sown it grows into a plant, a small plant. If you water it, it will grow bigger and bigger. Once a belief gets formed in the subconscious mind, it tries to hold on to it as tightly as it can. This is done by finding evidences or clues in support of this belief, which make the belief stronger and stronger just like a plant requires water to grow bigger and bigger. So how exactly does the subconscious mind water its beliefs?
           
Self-reinforcing cycle

Once you start believing that you are stupid, you behave more and more like a stupid person because we always tend to act according to our beliefs. Since your subconscious is continually recording your life experiences, it will register your stupid act as ‘evidence’ that you are indeed stupid- just to match its pre-existing belief and it will ignore everything else.

This means that even if you did something very smart, your subconscious mind will turn a blind eye to it because of the presence of a contradicting belief ("you are stupid"). It will go on collecting more ‘evidences’- false and real- making the belief stronger and stronger…forming a vicious self-reinforcing cycle.

Breaking the cycle

The way to get out of this mess is to challenge your belief by asking yourself questions such as

“Am I really that stupid?”
“Haven’t I ever done anything smart?”

Once you start questioning your beliefs, they will start to shake. Next step would be to perform actions that prove to your subconscious mind that the belief that it is holding on to is wrong. Remember, actions are the most powerful ways to re-program the subconscious mind. Nothing works better.

Once you give your subconscious mind enough proofs that you are smart, your subconscious mind will have no other option but to give up its previously held false belief that you aren't smart.

Okay, so now you are starting to believe that you are actually smart. The more evidences you provide (watering the plant) to strengthen this new belief the weaker its contradictory belief will become, ultimately disappearing. How easily a belief can be changed depends on for how long the subconscious mind has been holding on to that belief.

That’s why our childhood beliefs that we have been holding on to for a long time are harder to alter (but not impossible) as compared to those that we form later on in life. It’s easier to uproot a plant than a tree!

Conclusion

What kind of plants are growing in the garden of your mind?
Who planted them and do you want them there?
If not, start planting the ones you want!

plant in soil
Happy gardening!

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