By Sanah Thakur
Have you ever have had a thought and immediately bullied yourself into believing it was utterly atrocious for your brain to have conjured that thought? I mean seriously, ‘How could I even think of such a thing? I’ve looked at people who have annoyed me and painted a detail picture of the pain I could cause them after which I’ve disciplined myself for having thought of such a mean action. But it was me who thought these things, no matter how horrible or disturbing, random or weird, and there’s no point pretending they belong to a different part of me. The ‘subconscious’ thoughts we have are as equally ‘us’ as the conscious ones. Acknowledging thoughts that don’t feel like ‘us’ , tracing them back to their roots and dealing with their reality, actually has better consequences than the punishment we waste our time thinking about.
So how do you deal with these ‘subconscious’ thoughts? The secret lies in the way we react to them – in really not being shocked by your subconscious. There are layers to the shock that you have to address, with the main ones being:
a- ‘Subconscious’ is an excuse to detach ourselves from the ownership of the thoughts.
b- Good thoughts are not the only ones that should be acknowledged by the brain.
c- A thought is an electrical transmission between synapses, so any judgment of whether it’s good or bad is based on your own interpretation and biases.
d- Suppressing a thought causes anxiety.
To move forward from the last point, it’s important to realise the biological consequences of being shocked by your subconscious. Imagine a situation where you get angry with someone you love – like your parents, siblings or close friends. You love them but because of their behaviour in a specific situation you dislike them at that very moment. However, in the world we live in, saying we dislike people we love is not a statement we can shout out from our windows like a lover announcing a romantic epiphany. So instead, we convince ourselves we didn’t mean the angry statements we shouted at the loved one or the thoughts we had. We suppress our real thoughts about the situation to ensure we stay true to our ‘conscious’ personality. Now these deeper, subconscious thoughts float around, triggering and strengthening other thoughts that were suppressed, until the one day when we release this collection of thoughts. Soon we’ve dissociated ourselves from the voice that expressed the suppressed thoughts and excused it as a release of anxiety. Technically, it was a release of stress as the suppression did cause the biological response, but why wait for the build up?
Life would much simpler if every time we had a thought, we addressed it objectively. If we were intrigued by the thought rather than judgmental about its existence. Intrigue would lead to questioning and deeper thought which would eventually produce a solution. After all, if we stopped getting caught up in the emotion of a thought, we could spend more time dealing with the action it might trigger. For example, I just thought about how tired I am of writing. Now instead of being harsh on myself and saying things like “you’re not a true writer”, “you’re lazy”, “how can you be tired of something you love?” (which would then lead to me avoiding writing tasks, pressuring myself to always be happy when I write, etc) – I could trace the origin of this thought. I am tired because it’s late at night and I’ve been writing consistently for weeks. I am tired of writing because it causes me a significant amount of mental effort and exhaustion to carry the task out.
I am using the word tired in my head because I feel less energetic about approaching a writing task than I usually am. Instead of associating negative words with the term ‘tired’, I can focus on the situation in which I am using the word. I am physically and emotionally tired, but that doesn’t devalue how much I am passionate about something. As you can see, instead of letting my thoughts use the excuse of ‘the subconscious’, I can focus on the message underlying the thought rather than blaming it on the medium I supposedly believe it’s coming from.
Let’s make our lives simpler and stop judging our subconscious. Every layer of your brain belongs to you and is still you. After all, you can still be you with another person’s heart but not with someone else’s brain.
* The author can be contacted on Instagram @sincerelysanah