The legendary Dr. Dave Dobson once spoke about the belief systems that we all have on an other than conscious level. He mentioned how critical they are in determining our emotions, behaviors, and overall level of functioning.
At the same time because they mainly are at a subconscious level, it can be very very difficult to recognize just what they are! We can easily see whats in the box, but seeing what the box itself is made out of can be near impossible.
Then the good doctor revealed the secret to uncovering subconscious belief systems. Whenever you find yourself getting defensive and emotional about something, you know that a belief system of yours had been challenged.
Often we get too involved in our defensiveness and our emotions to realize just what a golden opportunity our subconscious mind is presenting us with! And this is happening while we are being given the secret keys to our very own minds!
Dr. Dobson then said that it might be a good idea to stop the next time we find ourselves getting defensive, and examine just what that says about our belief systems. With some wisdom and self compassion we can then go and reformulate those beliefs so that we can create the life we deserve.
Wise words from a wise man.
Let’s examine for a moment why we get defensive when we have our beliefs challenged and see if we can’t get a bit of a deeper understanding into the inner workings of the subconscious mind.
It all starts with emotions.
Among the many things the subconscious mind does, there is one job that it has that is key. That job is to keep us safe and alive. The prime way the subconscious accomplishes this goal is by using emotions. Emotions are signals from our subconscious mind to take action so that we can be safe. Here is a small list of some common emotions and what they signal:
Fear is the primary emotion. It comes when your subconscious thinks you might be in danger. The action you need to take is fight or flight.
Anxiety is when your subconscious thinks you are not well enough prepared for something. The action you need to take is to prepare yourself.
Anger is when your subconscious thinks you have been treated unfairly. The action you need to take is to even up the score.
Guilt is when your subconscious thinks you have acted unfairly and against your morals. The action you need to take is to right the wrong.
Sadness is when your subconscious thinks you have lost something of value. The action you need to take is to get it back or replace it.
Frustration is when your subconscious thinks that what you’re doing isn’t working. The action you need to take is to try a different way or to give up the project.
The key word in all the above descriptions is “thinks”. The reality matters very little, it is what your subconscious thinks is reality that makes the emotion.
This is the whole basis for REBT, which focuses on changing your beliefs and basing them more firmly in reality so that your subconscious doesn’t have these thoughts that often. If your subconscious doesn’t think there is a problem, it won’t need to generate an emotion to try to get you to take action to fix the problem.
For reasons I will explain in a later post, the first and most important skill in staying safe is knowing what is real and what is not. The subconscious will do pretty much anything to make sure that a person stays true to reality. Threaten a persons sense of reality, and you will get an emotion quicker than anything else you can do.
And that’s why when we find our beliefs challenged we get so emotional. When our beliefs are challenged, we are in essence being told ‘your reality is not reality, something else is reality’. That to our subconscious, is a very dangerous message.
So long as the subconscious believes that we do have the correct reality, then anything trying to get us to believe otherwise is trying to get us to believe in fantasy. And as we will talk about in the next post, thinking that fantasy is reality can be fatal.
And so with that in mind, take the good doctors words to heart and enjoy finding yourself afraid, anxious, and riled up. Thats when you get to find out what you truly believe so you can do some deep and powerful work to change your beliefs and reality and live a richer and more satisfying life.