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In an article from the New Scientist 1st October 2016 ‘The Other You’, several neuroscientists share their views about things you can task the unconscious mind to do. In Cognitive hypnotherapy I see the unconscious mind as part of the problem as it perpetuates unhelpful habits and patterns e.g. anxiety.

At the same time as being part of the problem, it is definitely part of the solution and the article outlines other ways that can be used as a powerful approach to change work.

  1. Think while you sleep: the unconscious mind never sleeps, its always awake even at night as it has a protective function in case of danger. I find my best ideas come to me when I’m not consciously thinking about them. You can task your unconscious mind at night to solve a problem out of your awareness as the sleeping brain can continue to process. This skill makes evolutionary sense as monitoring the environment is crucial to survival at night.
  2. Make decisions– continuing to think about a problem when you get stuck can be counterproductive. When you distract yourself by doing something else, it can help to generate more solutions. The same principle can be applied at night when you sleep as the brain is more creative as it taps into the powerhouse of resources, the unconscious mind.
  3. First impressions count: we make up our minds about people in the first seconds of meeting them and this is completely unconscious. This can be useful and yet can result in profound prejudice as well. When you have a better relationship with yourself which is at the heart of cognitive hypnotherapy, you can learn to harness the best of this skill and filter out the worst.
  4. Run on autopilot– most of what we do doesn’t require conscious thought once we’ve learnt how to do it. Using cognitive hypnotherapy, once we’ve retrained the mind to respond differently to whatever triggers problem behaviour, this can become as automatic as any other positive habit.
  5. Predict the Future– at an evolutionary level, the brain exists to keep us alive and the imagination acts as a powerful vehicle to rehearse and predict the future. So the mind tries to do this automatically based on previous experiences. Again this can be a gift or a curse depending on whether the past reference point is a positive or a negative experience.

So how can these unconscious mind traits be useful to you?

A client experiences acute anxiety in social situations; an unconscious response to a danger the mind perceives. This is a problem as he is a senior executive and has to entertain a lot for his work. It turns out the client has a fear of being judged and being rejected by others. This has its roots in an experience he had as a 5 year old when he tripped in the Christmas play and the whole school laughed at him.

So we retrain the mind to decouple the emotions from the past so he responds differently in the next networking event and now he can begin to use his imagination to train the brain to anticipate a different future from now on. Once the problem has disappeared, the anxiety dissipates and the client harnesses the resources of the unconscious mind which enable him to build confidence and self belief in social situations. Instead of his first impressions being fear and anxiety, he cultivates the skill of curiosity and learning and begins to find himself enjoying new social situations again. The more that happens the more this expectation runs on autopilot and he manages these events far more successfully without any fear and he brings a lot more business in as a result.

The human mind is a very powerful 3lb blob of jelly between the ears. When it works with you, its a very solid ally. When it doesn’t it can create, mental, emotional and physical chaos that can really hinder our lives. Don’t wait too long to get rid of a limiting belief or a behaviour that doesn’t serve you well!

Jill Tonks

Jill Tonks