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Your mind isn’t designed to make you happy. It developed circuits over millions of years designed to keep you alive, and safe from hurt. As a byproduct, and because of some false belief circuits it builds, it can distort things and make you miserable. When you understand the mind better you can change the thoughts and beliefs circuits so that it doesn’t create so much negativity and cause misery. A helpful step to reducing this misery is understanding why the mind would create anxiety, depression, frustrations, and fears to produce such misery in the first place. Understanding what it is doing will help guide you on a path to properly changing your mind and emotions.
Your mind is on a mission with two major goals. Goal number one is that it is trying to keep you alive and has been for millions of years. Goal number two for your mind is to prevent or minimize pain. If you have, or had, issues with anxiety or depression, this might not make sense since the mind can generate an inordinate amount of thoughts, and catastrophic scenarios that cause pain. Here is the conundrum. The mind ends up creating emotional, and physical pain even though it is trying to avoid it. Here is how it works.
The Mind Has Memory of Pain
I will use the simple example of being burned by something hot on a stove. The mind remembers this by storing a record in memory. It has an association to a stove, and the connection to pain. The next time we walk into the kitchen and see the stove the mind makes the association between the stove and pain. In distorted shorthand way it is telling us what to avoid so that we don’t get hurt again. When that memory replays, our neural pathways fire recreating the experience of that pain in order to remind us. We remember the event by replaying it. We also remember by replaying and “re-feeling” the emotional pain and the physical sensation as those neural pathways fire. It may not be exactly the same, as memory changes over time, but it will be similar.
Your mind might replay the visual images, sound track, emotional and physical, experience of the past event. Your mind also might project an image of us doing something in present time, or in the future that would create the same pain. In this case, going up to the stove, touching it, and getting burned. It is taking past events of pain and projecting them into our present moment. You experience the emotional or physical pain through your neural pathways firing even though you aren’t physically touching anything.
You probably have no plans to touch any of the hot elements of the stove, but your unconscious mind isn’t aware of your conscious intent. Your unconscious mind is a simple self-protection program. It is taking a painful memory and projecting to you a scenario to avoid in the present, or future. As a byproduct of this reminder you experience a version of that pain again, if not consciously, then at a smaller dose unconsciously. This is a good safety program for not touching a hot stove as interacting with a stove is simple. However, if you have experienced being criticized, judged, or rejected by other humans, you mind might go into overdrive generating painful scenarios due to the complexity and differing number of human interactions. How many times can you imagine a beak up or being rejected without it happening?
Use this example as a kind of template to apply to any number of painful incidents you experienced in our life. Since your mind can transfer lessons, you will also have developed a circuit in your brain to avoid painful experiences that you observed others having, without having lived them yourself. If you watch some kid at school being shamed or ridiculed by other students, you learn to be fearful and avoid the behavior you saw as the cause. Your mind will remember it in a way to avoid that emotional pain yourself as if you had lived it. However, in doing so, you will imagine and create a neural pathway that generates pain. Here is a brief list of some of the painful things you may have experienced or witnessed that reside in your memory that the mind uses to generate misery over later. I’m intentionally making most of this list about emotional pain. Add to it anything that you recall painful from your past.
- Self Criticism – Rejection and Unworthiness
- Embarrassed in in class in front of others
- Public Speaking – Embarrassment or Shame
- Lost Money – feeling of failure.
- Bullied Got – Humiliation. Whether it is physical or just emotional.
- Giving the wrong answer – Shame, feeling of being stupid or unworthy.
- Been turned down for a date – Feeling of Rejection
- Broken hearted from a break up – Feeling of Rejection – Something is Wrong with me
- Cheated on or Infidelity- Feeling Less than – Rejection
- Physical or Sexual Assault – Powerless – Shame, Humiliation
- Being criticized by others – Rejection and unworthiness
These are experiences you have likely had by the time you are an adult so we are all susceptible to them. Your mind will have collected a number of these painful memories and can be stressed about avoiding them in the future. It is this “stress” circuit attempting to avoid pain that can create misery.
The Automatic of the Unconscious Mind
The mind likes to create patterns for simplicity and then offload those patterns to the unconscious mind. It is like a Robot operating a simple program without thinking. This “protecting” process turns into an automatic routine for the Robot . The sub-conscious circuits in the mind to “avoid pain” memory are giving a small nudge for you to “be careful”. The painful memory may not be noticeable in this instance, but you might just have a small feeling or idea of pain or stress. However, in any given moment, the Robot may throw out a big “warning” for protection.
Each time the Robot is reminding you to avoid something that was painful in the past it is replaying the painful memory, and the neural pathways that create pain fire again and again. In your conscious awareness you might notice the thought, the tension or stress in your body, both or neither depending on where your attention is focused.
Your Robot circuit can do these painful warnings in loud or subtle ways. Because you are busy and not paying attention to your emotions you are living in stress, low levels of pain, or even high levels but haven’t noticed. This might go on for years. Then something happens. There is a tipping point. You become more aware of your emotions or your physical body and you realize that there is a lot of pain there. It may be emotional or it may be physical. Your Robot mind has been sending painful or stress reminders for years and you have been ignoring them. A lot of this pain can be in the form of tight muscles, emotional knots or stored emotions.
The Unconscious Mind is Unaware of What It Is Doing
If you asked the Robot why it is creating pain, your unconscious mind would tell you that it is doing this to protect you. It is reminding you what to avoid in order to be safe. The unconscious Robot circuit is not aware that it is creating the very feeling it says it is trying to avoid.
False Beliefs in the Unconscious
Imagine that you are in a relationship and it is going great. But you had a painful break up in the past, or a past partner cheated on you. Your Protector Robot is going to remind you of that past pain. It might not be obvious. It might be subtle feelings, tightness in the body, or a fearful thought about your current partner that seems out of place. Your Protector Robot is bad at communicating exactly what the past memory is and so you get scattered messages. Your Protector Robot is sending unclear signals confusing signals that your current relationship will turn out like that previous painful experience. These scenarios can generate emotional and or physical pain, stress, and anxiety in your nervous system. If you continue the relationship, the Protector Robot might get anxious that you haven’t ended the relationship even though it has warned you about the oncoming pain. It begins to be louder in its signaling and pain generation. It is possible that the more serious you are about the relationship, the more it becomes anxious. Depending on your experience, you can substitute a public speaking scenario, going on a date, starting your own business, or leaving a bad relationship or any other event.
If you were to ask the Robot why it is creating painful scenarios it would say that it is protecting you from future pain. Its only job is to warn, and does that impulsively. It is a Robot, but not a very smart robot. It is there to “replay the pain and project it into the present moment” and that is all. Other parts of the brain are there for checking facts, and whether something is a real threat or not. As far as the Robot is concerned the stove is always hot, and you will always get burned, and partners “always cheat,” you will “always” get dumped, and public speaking efforts will “always” turn out terrible. The unconscious mind’s Robot’s circuits have no capability for discernment of the real world as it draws its information from memories.
It is a simple and automatic response, but it can push a lot of thoughts, emotions, and visual images through your neural pathways and pain through your body. Unconsciously, in the background of your day it is there adding stress and worries about what might happen. All of this takes a toll on your emotions during the day.
Big False Beliefs in the Unconscious
If you were to look and really account for the number of false alarms and painful scenarios that the Protector Robot cycles you would see that it is wrong most of the time. It can project a horrific scenario 100 or 1000 times before something bad happens, or never happens. The problem here is that you experienced that emotional and nervous system pain 100 – 1000 times through the warning system when that event never occurred.
If you ask the Protector Robot if it knows that it is making things 100-1000 times more painful than reality, the Protector would tell you that it doesn’t care. Your unconscious mind does not care that it is causing you emotional pain. For you to change how you feel you will need to address it consciously. The mind will not fix this problem itself.
A major false belief to identify is that this Robot believes it is protecting you. The opposite is true. Once you become aware of what it is doing, why, and the false beliefs it is operating by, you can begin to re-write this operating program.
For Change Awareness is the Key.
Awareness or conscious observation of this circuitry allows for re-programming the mind.
Much of the time we might not remember all the painful stuff from our past. Yet the unconscious mind can be projecting it, which causes our emotions, feelings, nervous system, and stress responses.
Begin to be aware that the body, mind, and emotions can be driven by unconscious robot like protocols that have been operating in the background. By becoming aware of these unconscious belief systems, and specifically how they are false, you begin to create new neural pathways to operate in those situations. The idea of becoming aware is abstract and is not enough. You will need to develop specific skills with your attention, and new habits in your awareness to change these false beliefs. The Self Mastery Course, and other courses will give you the guidance and exercises to make these changes and build new neural pathways.3