In What’s Your Story (part 1) I introduced (or reminded you of) the idea that we all are running subconscious (shadow) stories that affect how we think, act, and interact with people in our lives – from the person who cut you off on the freeway to your business partners to your friends and romantic partners. These stories are not always negative, but when they are, they feed us ideas that hold us back. No matter if the stories you tell yourself are negative or positive, they shape your world and the way you see it and experience it.
Our brains seek consistency and predictability so even if the story you’re telling yourself is utter bullshit, it’s at least familiar so you know how to handle its results. Our brains are busy. They are fully responsible for running our physical form from breathing to walking, swallowing to swimming. Like everything, they require energy to run at optimal levels. Evolutionarily speaking, our silly little lives in modern times are not that important – the brain exists to keep us alive. Survival is paramount (which, yeah, okay, fine, it has an important job). It has developed to run our complex biological systems efficiently and subconsciously (you don’t typically have to concentrate to breath, swallow, blink, digest, etc.). Less concentration equals less energy consumption. So the brain is totally fine running your old scripts that kept you feeling safe (IE surviving a dysfunctional family, difficult school years, or abusive relationship) because rewriting your story to move beyond mere survival takes a lot more focus, determination, and a whole set of new responses. Here’s the thing though, once you repeat the new responses and actions enough times you will re-pattern (rewire) your brain and the new responses will take less energy and become your new story. This task is commonly called neuroplasticity – the brain’s ability to modify, change, and adapt both structure and function throughout life and in response to experience (source).
If you have stories running that tell you your actions will never amount to anything of value (or that if you can't do something perfectly, you shouldn't bother at all), you may find it difficult to take action. Or, when you do take action and you achieve a smaller-than-desired level of success, you focus on the less-than aspect rather than the results you did achieve. This sense of ineffectiveness and disappointment is your norm; remember the brain isn’t here to help you thrive, just survive, so the standard experience is the cheapest, energetically. The good news is that not only can you reprogram your brain, with a small amount of effort you can trick it into doing what you want. Here is how to begin to Trick or Treat Your Brain. But there is something of a shortcut.
The shortcut is to speak more directly to your subconscious. Eliminate the middleman (your cerebral cortex) as much as possible – turn off your thinking brain to connect with the subconscious. Of course your brain is never totally turned off (except maybe when you’re neck deep in a doom scroll), so what you’re really looking for is when it’s subdued. This happens when you enter a trance-like state (think active meditation, shamanic journeying, or hypnosis). Trained practitioners are able to reach those states with relative ease, but for most people simply sitting still is hard enough, let alone quieting the mind for intentional focus. So what’s a normal person to do? It’s much easier than you’d think. When you are drifting off to sleep or just waking up, still groggy and not fully functioning, this is when you can start getting new messages to your subconscious mind. But you can’t just start feeding it statements like, “I live in a mansion” when you’re struggling in a studio and hope to move to a mansion (though when you release the how you manage to live in a mansion, you could get a staff job and have a closet-sized room but you would live in a mansion).
Phrasing matters. Specifics matter. Intentionality matters.
Our subconscious mind is like a computer; it doesn’t know if you’re being sarcastic or genuine, if you’re talking about the past or the future (when speaking in present tense), but it does know what it believes (and it does try to hold on to existing beliefs/stories). We can work with all of that.
In those groggy minutes you’ll need to read statements, new beliefs, written in your own handwriting that you want to embody. I recommend working with 3-5 statements at a time. You can write them in a journal or on a note card, whatever works for you. Keep them next to your bed so you can reach for them straight out of a dead sleep. Read each statement three times the moment you wake up and as you are about to drift off to sleep. Ideally you’ll read them aloud, it doesn’t have to be loud enough to wake someone near you, but clear enough that you can hear and understand your words. In doing this, you are hearing your own voice say things that are written in your own handwriting; the intake is happening on multiple subconscious levels.
So, what are you taking in? How do you craft an effective affirmation that will make it into your subconscious and begin changing the stories you tell yourself? There’s an art to it.
Remember, the subconscious wants to believe what it believes, so there is importance in step 3; you have to have done some work to recognize some sliver of truth in what you’re working toward. Let’s go back to the earlier example of a belief that your actions don’t amount to anything of value. You could use a statement like, Every time I take action I build confidence and step more into my full potential, or, Every time I try, regardless of outcome, I step more into my full potential. If your story has been stopping you from taking action, which eliminates any results, then these statements will help you take action which will achieve results. Full disclosure, there is a lot more to this process. When working with my coaching clients we look more closely at what their actual limiting beliefs are, what the true desired outcome is, and craft statements highly tailored to the individual.
Ultimately what you’re crafting are new beliefs. New beliefs allow you to interact with and experience the world differently than you have, and in ways that are expansive and exciting. Who doesn't want that?