By age thirty-five, 95-99% of our thoughts and actions originate from the subconscious mind's habitual programming. We are born partially programmed (nature); the rest of the programming happens from ages 0-6 when we absorb our environmental influences, good and bad, like a sponge (nurture).1
The subconscious mind functions as a combination of memorised behaviours, emotional reactions, beliefs and perceptions, that runs in the background like an app on your computer or smartphone.
Brain scientists report that we think between 12,000-60,000 thoughts per day; 98% of them are identical to yesterday's thoughts, and that 80% of your subconscious thoughts tend to be negative.1 We become aware of some of these thoughts when they reach a conscious level, but most remain hidden from our awareness.
The moment we go into rumination mode and start worrying about the past or the future, we are operating from flawed subconscious programming— and that does not support us — not when 80% of our ruminating thoughts are negative.1
We have to learn how to interact with our thoughts and control them in real-time. Becoming mindful of the impact of our flawed subconscious programming is the first step. Our subconscious minds are continually trying to deceive or fool us, resulting in faulty judgments and opinions often causing negative emotions (such as anxiety and depression) and behaviours. Daniel Kahneman's excellent book, Thinking Fast and Slow,2 provides clear descriptions and examples of how we are all prone to 'fast thinking errors', many of which are particularly relevant in our current circumstances.
It is important to engage the conscious mind to override our flawed subconscious programming with reason and logic.
Unfortunately, life is busy, and our minds are too full to sit in quiet reflection and realise the significance of our thoughts and our subconscious programming. As such, the Stoic philosophy recommends taking a literal view of what is going on around us (externals), withholding what are likely to be flawed subconscious judgments and opinions and instead, accepting externals at face value with detachment.3,4 This approach limits the potentially negative emotional impact of external situations and experiences, allowing us to focus on what we can control, our response to the externals.
Our considered and rational thought responses to externals, products of our conscious minds, can also positively signal our genes.5 Our thoughts, therefore, have an epigenetic function that can positively determine the expression of our genes and thereby influence health and longevity. This is a topic to explore further in another blog perhaps.
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay