In addition to my regular blogs, I am starting a mini-series called Stories from the Subconscious. It’s a collection of stories from myself and people I have met who, while working on their mindset and self-development, discover the stories that were created in their subconscious many, many years ago, that have been holding them back throughout their lives.

So what exactly is our subconscious? We hear the term bandied around, but not all of us know what it really means. For those of you who aren’t sure, your subconscious is your “survival” brain. You may have heard it be called your “reptilian” brain, your “lizard” brain, your unconscious or subconscious brain. It is located at the base of your brain at the back and it is like the hard-drive of your life.

Essentially, your subconscious brain is like a complex, but at the same time primitive, computer, that programs and permanently stores all of life’s data, memories, thoughts, actions, habits, events, highs, lows, positives, negatives and everything in between. It also acts as our ‘Safety Officer’.

It stores and retrieves all of our life’s data. It is exceptional at storing the data, but something wonky happens in the retrieval process and often the information is either not retrieved (forgotten) or just not quite right (i.e. misinterpreted or not recalled correctly).

The power of our subconscious mind is limitless and while it may often seem out of our control, you might be surprised by just how much control we can have over it’s programming.  The function of our subconscious is to respond to life in the exact way that we are programmed and that everything you do is consistent with your ‘identity’.

Our subconscious brain has essential functions for keeping us alive, such as breathing, keeping the heart rate steady, maintaining balance in your nervous system, which are all things that ‘just happen’, without us having a single conscious thought about them, because they are basically on auto-pilot. Similarly our subconscious is also in charge of keeping us safe. As cave-people we had three basic instincts – avoid pain, seek pleasure and minimise our physical efforts to conserve energy. The first instinct of avoiding pain was all about staying safe, not being attacked by wildebeests and dinosaurs and getting through each day in one piece.

Our subconscious minds cause us to feel emotionally and physically uncomfortable when we attempt to something new or different or make changes to our established patterns of behaviour. This sense of fear and discomfort are signs that your subconscious brain has been activated and we then need to use our conscious brains to over-ride the behaviour and thoughts that we are trying to banish, but I will cover more on that in another article.

Our modern-day subconscious brain has evolved somewhat, but keeping us safe is still very much hard-wired in there. Only today, it tries to keep us safe from things that are not actual threats to us.

Like the time I was about 7 years old and doing swimming lessons for the first time with my Grade 2 class at the school swimming pool. We had just moved to Townsville in Far North Queensland (hello hot tropics!) from Adelaide down south where no one had a pool. All the other kids in my class could already swim and at that point in my life, I had probably only waded in up to my knees at Glenelg Beach. I had no idea how to swim. Clearly the teachers were not prepared for an absolute beginner, so they stuck me in the corner of the shallow end with some plastic milk bottles for floaties and I was left to my own devices, while all the other kids did real swimming lessons up the deep end.  I know that I have always had a fear of the water (or at least putting my head under water) and to this day, I do not know if that fear was from that day, or prior. But, what I do know is that I grew up not actually learning how to swim, because I was too afraid of it and even as an adult now swimming isn’t my thing, but I do enjoy a bit of a splash around and I am drown-proof, because I have this uncanny ability to learn how to do things simply by watching someone else, so I learned how to swim from the TV! (yes, the TV – it didn’t involve putting my head in the water!).

That day in the pool, back in Grade 2, my subconscious brain got a very clear message “Swimming is not for me; I do not belong; If I go back in the pool, kids will laugh at me; I cannot swim.” So, from that day forward, my subconscious brain, which firmly believed those things to be true, kept me safe by keeping me out of the pool and away from those situations. Which it did by self-sabotaging any prospect of me even thinking about going into a swimming pool, or at the very least, putting my head under the water.

And so a lifetime of limiting beliefs surrounding my fear of water began. It also became my identity, that I was not a swimmer, which became it’s own self-fulfilling prophecy. I am not a swimmer, therefore I don’t swim and I don’t swim, because I am not a swimmer. Whatever we identify with is what determines our thoughts, feelings and actions. I identified as a non-swimmer, therefore, I did not swim, I could not swim, I feared swimming and simply did not want to do it. All because my subconscious brain was protecting me from a life of ridicule and shame at being the only kid who couldn’t swim and wasn’t worthy of being taught.

Does this mean though that I am destined to a life of never, ever taking a dip, snorkelling the wonderous Great Barrier Reef or winning gold at the Olympics for diving or a 100m freestyle? No, it absolutely does not, because even though our subconscious brains are programmed with memories and stories forever, we can change that programming. (And you can just see me on the diving board at the next Olympics, can’t you 😉 ??)

Which means if we can change that programming, we can get over the fear of doing anything! Which means we can pretty much achieve whatever the hell we want in life!!

We can change, we can get unstuck, we can get out of our damned comfort zones that have kept us trapped for years! We can change lifelong habits and create new healthier, more productive, more worthwhile habits.

It is all just programming and just like a computer, it too can be re-programmed, by taking the charge out of the old limiting belief and replacing them with positive, empowering beliefs, thoughts and affirmations.  

As a Transformational Life Coach, I take great delight in helping people to uncover and overcome their limiting beliefs and subconscious stories.

And it all starts with one simple Question: “What happened to you?”.