Thursday, July 14, 2011

Pink Elephants, Garbage and the Unconscious Mind Part 13

In my previous posting I discussed several mental stimuli that may help us to energize our minds to higher levels of success and achievement. In this posting I will focus on the unconscious mind.

Working through Think and Grow Rich, it is clear that Napoleon Hill regards the unconscious mind as a very important part of his philosophy for attaining wealth.  Hill argues in chapter 12 that the unconscious mind works to 'transmute' desire into its physical equivalent.    

Lets consider some principles of the unconscious mind. 

Psychologists tell us that the unconscious mind refers to all the cognitive and emotional activity that occurs below the level of conscious awareness.

We aren't aware of this, but the unconscious mind registers much more information than our conscious mind is able to attend to (a process called monitoring).  

Exactly how the unconscious mind works is still being disputed.  Psychologists are pretty certain that the unconscious mind registers volumes of information below awareness. Such as the smell of your local fast food restaurant when walking past it.  

I will briefly highlight some things that we do know about the unconscious mind.  I will then relate that to Napoleon Hill's perspective in Think and Grow Rich.      

The unconscious mind frees up space for conscious processing

To start, recognize that the unconscious mind controls activities such as breathing, heartbeat, digestion, and bodily temperature. If we had to control these functions consciously, we would have had time for little else.  The reality is that the conscious mind can only work with a limited volume of information at a time.  

Those of us who are able to ride a car, motorcycle, or skateboard well often do so without giving the action much conscious thought.  Trough practice we are able to do certain things automatically.  This shows how our mind becomes programmed through practice and learning, to perform certain actions automatically on an unconscious level (a process called automaticity).

The mind is always working

Kathleen Galotti, a cognitive psychologist, tells us that unconscious mental processing happens in the 'background' of our mind; outside of conscious awareness. Just because you aren't aware of it, does not mean that you mind is not processing volumes and volumes of information. Did I mention the smell of fast food.  

This may explain why some creative people often receive the solutions to a problem, 'out of the blue', while not actively thinking about the problem.  Some may call this 'inspiration'.  Their mind has delivered a solution to the problem from the unconscious, while processing the problem in the 'background'.

Our minds are always working ... most of the mental activity of the mind occurs on an unconscious level. Your mind is continuously scanning the environment, picking up information, evaluating it, and storing massive amounts of data.

Some people think that what you 'perceive' unconsciously may affect and even direct your behaviour (a scenario called subliminal perception). I tend to think this is plausible, at least in certain situations.

Most of us can recall a situation where you have met someone and immediately felt uneasy about the person.  Explaining why you felt that way is difficult, since you probable just formed the impression without giving it much thought (having a 'gut feel'). 

What is clear is that your mind picked up information on a unconscious level and you RESPONDED to it.

How does it work? 

How the unconscious mind works is open to debate. Psychoanalysts, such as Sigmund Freud regarded the unconscious mind as a cesspool of irrational, repressed thoughts and illicit desires.  Psychological responses and internal defenses against such thoughts and desires were said, by Freud, to greatly affect the person's development and functioning.  Freud proposed an irrational unconscious mind. 

Modern cognitive psychologists take a less radical view.  They regard the unconscious mind mainly as mental processing occurring in the background of the mind; outside of conscious awareness.  Such processing is regarded as logical and in line with the normal working of conscious thoughts,  in contrast to Freud's perspective.

It is important to realize that we have an unconscious mind, and that the unconscious mind affects our behaviour and responses to the events of life.

Unconscious responses to environmental cues

It is logical that our mind responds to the events of life in line with our previous experience.  Lets call that mental programming.  The array of life experiences program our unconscious mind to respond in specific ways to specific events.  Recall how you typically respond to an unknown noise after watching a really scary movie. Yikes ! 

In their text, Psychologists Wilhelm and Jackie Jordaan, suggests that when our senses are stimulated, the mind tends to evaluate the incoming information (e.g. the load noise) according to five questions:

What has just happened?
Has it happened before?
If it has happened before; was the outcome of the event pleasant or unpleasant?
Should I pay attention to the occurrence?
How should I respond?

Note that the mind answers these questions on an unconscious level.  How you'll respond, depends on the 'programming' of past experiences in similar situations. Our past experiences create a mental state of readiness to respond to events in specific ways. Such reactions may work for or against you.

If you ever had bad experiences associated with public speaking (as I had many many years ago), you may know that the moment you are standing in front of your audience, your logical conscious mind seems to leave the building, and you may be flooded by unexplained feelings of terror,  seemingly coming from nowhere.

In reaction to events, such as the load scary noise, your mind will activate associated mental schemas (loosely defined as related thought constructs) along with associated emotions and accompanying physiological reactions (including the 'fight or flight reaction').  All which lie dormant in the unconscious mind until activated.

The unconscious mind is value neutral

Thus, we see that the unconscious mind has the ability to dramatically affect our reactions to life's events. Also important to note is that the unconscious mind is value neutral.  It appears that all our moral and ethical judgments are made on the conscious rational level of thought, as is suggested by Michael Armour.    

Armour explains this best in his article

"The unconscious mind ... makes no logical, moral, or ethical judgments about the objects of its thought [and] about thoughts themselves. It leaves that role to the conscious mind. ... the unconscious mind is largely uncritical of throughput from the conscious mind".

This is very important to consider. Referring to Hill's work, Hill also argues that the unconscious mind is neutral about the information it receives.  It appears that positive or negative thoughts, emotions, and information will all go into the unconscious mind. The unconscious will use it as material and work with the material to 'create' its associated outcome in your life.  

That is why the rule of 'garbage in, garbage out' really also applies to the human mind as well. 

Napoleon Hill tells us that rich people think rich thoughts and poor people think poor thoughts, a controversial view - I know. This is a central tenet of Hill's philosophy for wealth accumulation; the need to cultivate a wealth mentality. Importantly, Hill maintains this mentality is not purely rational.  The philosophy has to take root in the unconscious mind.  

Hill tells us that in order to cultivate a wealth mindset; we have to provide your unconscious mind with pictures of the wealth we desire.  I know this sounds esoteric, but bear with me.  In the second chapter of Think and Grow Rich Hill told us to compile a verbal statement (an affirmation) of the wealth we desire.   

In a later chapter, of Hill's book, we were told to mix the verbal statement with positive emotion and positive mental images.  We were to visualize the wealth, to see it as if it actually existed.  We had to feel the emotions we would feel if we actually possessed the wealth.   

We were to keep repeating the process of affirmation until our unconscious mind received the picture of the desired wealth, and delivered the wealth into our physical reality.  Feel like coffee? I use the word wealth in a general term as wealth means different things to different people.  

The preceding paragraphs on the unconscious mind should explain why Hill suggests this method of visualization and affirmation.  We have to cultivate unconscious reactions that permit success and those do not happen by default.  

For example if a baseball player is focused on not missing the ball, his unconscious mind may create a picture of him actually missing the ball.  Why? Because the unconscious mind is value neutral remember. It does not understand the 'not' in front of 'missing the ball'.  If I tell you not to think about a pink elephant with red toe nails, you are in all probability going to think about exactly that.  

Hill suggests that same thing happens when one is focused on not becoming poor

A sport psychologist working with our baseball player may tell him to see himself hitting the ball out of the park.  Picture the player with such a mental focus. What does his body language reflect? Success or failure In the same way Hill tells us to focus on becoming wealthy, instead of trying to avoid poverty.   

This concludes a lengthy post on the unconscious mind. This chapter really challenged me to think positively, and to become more success conscious.  

Thank you for reading, I am looking forward to hearing your comments and insights.  

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