What we learned about ourselves as a child doesn’t necessarily reflect who we are as an adult. Unfortunately, many of us are carrying around the old childhood messages.
How many of us were told we were “clumsy” so we still, as an adult, won’t take a dance, yoga or martial arts class? How many of us were told our hair was too difficult to deal with as a child so we still wear our hair short? How many of us comforted ourselves as children with food so we still think that’s the way to ease anxiety or emotional hurt? How many of us heard the constant message that we weren’t good enough to be an artist, musician, engineer, astronaut, or fireman when we were young, so that now as adults, we are afraid to try?
There is a constant litany that plays in our heads, all about who we were conditioned to be as children by our parents, teachers, and the other adults in our lives. These messages have become part of our subconscious programming and remain there in the subconscious, silently dictating much of our adult behavior and emotional responses. Consciously we may have outgrown, rejected, or updated how we think of ourselves but the subconscious programming remains — influencing and shaping our lives.
The subconscious mind doesn’t filter in the same way as our conscious mind. Our conscious mind can discern what is true or false, right or wrong, by using logic. For example, it can understand that the person behind us in line at the grocery store just snarled at us due to their own impatience or bad mood, not because of anything we had done to them. But our subconscious mind cannot so easily dismiss the nasty comment, especially if we were subjected to verbal abuse as a child. The feelings of being at fault or inadequate that are buried in our subconscious can get triggered by the random snarling person because the subconscious doesn’t use logic to process. The subconscious is pure emotion and habit driven – if it absorbs the same message repeatedly, particularly early in life and under emotional duress, it imprints that particular thought/emotional pattern. The subconscious then holds onto that thought/emotional pattern into adulthood.
So… how can we change our subconscious patterning? There are several ways to do this. First, we must become aware of our subconscious patterns. Sometimes these habits are so engrained that it is hard to even recognize them. Self-observation, talk therapy, review of past relationships, life choices, and recognizing repetitive emotional reactions all help us to become more aware of the underlying emotional blueprint that is hidden in our subconscious. Perhaps a trusted friend or family member can see and then share what is hard for us to identify.
Once the main emotional habits have been identified, the next step is to rewrite those patterns to reflect what is true for you now as an adult. This requires a deliberate effort to establish a new habit, as it is much easier to rewrite a negative habit when you have a new habit to replace it with. Timothy A. Pychyl, Ph.D., Associate Professor at Carleton University, Ottawa has said:
“Breaking a habit really means establishing a new habit, a new pre-potent response. The old habit or pattern of responding is still there (a pattern of neuron responses in the brain), but it is less dominant (less potent).” 1
Toni Berhard, J.D., Former Law Professor and Dean of Students, University of California, Davis School of Law, elaborates on this same topic:
“We’re learning from neuroscientists that the mind is malleable; this is good news because it means you can change your bad habits. How long it takes to break a habit depends on your willingness to make the effort. The key is to start small. Every time you make an effort to break a negative habit, you’re laying down a new groove in your mind. Even a small groove makes it easier to break the negative habit the next time. As you do this over and over, the groove gets deeper and deeper until you’ve truly changed the way your mind reacts.” 1
Creating a new habit of emotional thinking in the subconscious takes repetition of the new replacement habit many times over. When you catch yourself playing out the old pattern, you need to immediately interrupt that train of thought or emotional reaction and replace it with the new paradigm of thinking/feeling. It takes practice and, then, more practice! Changing habits and patterns can be reinforced by creating a written statement or story that reframes the old childhood stories in a way that reflects the truth about you in your present life as an adult. Perhaps memorable childhood incidents can be reframed and rewritten from your now more logical, less vulnerable adult perspective. Can you see that as a child you were not at fault, not inadequate, not innately “clumsy”? These were labels imposed on you by unskilled or damaged parents. As an adult, can you now see that those labels were not based on reality? As has been said, “Perception is reality.” Thus, by changing our subconscious perceptions, we can literally change our reality.
Changing a habit takes time. There have been a number of studies that claim changes can be made in 21 days but it actually depends on the individual, what the habit is, how motivated the individual is to change, and how effective the new replacement habit is. If you have been holding strong negative subconscious habits towards yourself for 50 years, it will take longer than trying to break a habit of several weeks. Patience, self-compassion, and having varied ways to support yourself through this journey are essential.
People often find that an energetic/spiritual practice supports making these types of subconscious changes. Meditation, yoga, being out in nature, gardening, and energy medicine have all been found to be helpful. Along with rewriting the subconscious mind, the body’s biofield (aura) requires re-balancing to reflect the new pattern of thought/feeling in the subconscious. The new habit needs to be integrated throughout the body’s fields.
It is vitally important to be kind to yourself during this re-patterning process. Give yourself the time you need to fully integrate the new habit.
© 2016 by Sheila Peters. All rights reserved.
Sheila Peters is a certified Eden Energy Medicine Practitioner, Reiki Practitioner, wingWave©Coach, and also teaches Stretch/Energy classes. For re-balancing and re-patterning support, email Sheila at: firstname.lastname@example.org.