The subconscious mind is something that we all have, but few people are aware of. It does not just exist in our brains though; it also exists in the body and spirit. Have you experienced feelings before you know why? This can be attributed to the subconscious mind's ability to sense things before they happen. Let's explore how your subconscious mind works and how it is tied to your intuition - the feelings and insights you receive. You will also learn how you can use your own intuition to make better decisions for yourself!
Your brain is bigger than you think!
When you hear "brain", do you just think of the squishy matter in your skull? Turns out there's more to this! Neuroscience research has shown that we each actually have three fully functioning brains. That's right, and they're all operating at the same time- which is one reason why it can so hard to focus sometimes. Let's explore the three nervous systems: cephalic (brain), cardiac (heart), and enteric (gut).
- Cephalic Nervous System: The first system is called the cephalic, or brain system. This nervous system makes up most of what we think of as "our" brains: our cortex, cerebellum, and brain stem.
- Cardiac Nervous System: The second system is the cardiac, or heart system. This can be thought of as the "heart" of your nervous system- it is made up of neurons in your brain (specifically in the hypothalamus) and in your heart. The cardiac nerves help control things like blood pressure, heart rate, our response to stress, and more.
- Enteric Nervous System: The third system is called the enteric, or gut system. This nervous system is what controls digestion- that means it regulates things like how fast food moves through your intestines, how often you need to go to the bathroom, when you feel hungry and when you are satisfied after a meal, etc.
The brain and heart communicate with the enteric or gut through the bloodstream. This means that the subconscious filters out these messages from other parts of the body, and in turn sends different sensations to them. For example, when a person is upset, he/she might experience physical reactions without knowing why they are feeling this way.
Meanwhile, the enteric or gut communicates with the heart via nerve pathways that help regulate digestion and keep blood pressure levels stable. The enteric nervous system also sends signals through to all other organs because it controls muscle contractions throughout your whole body! Our brains interpret these muscular messages, which is how we might feel butterflies in our stomach before a test.
Brain =/= Mind
The brain is an organ that contains the nerves and cells responsible for processing information, which is what becomes thoughts, feelings, memories and the like. The mind on the other hand consists of our beliefs and perceptions about things in our world. Realizing this difference can allow someone to consider more thoughtfully what their mind might be telling them so they can make more balanced decisions in their life.
Let's use a pop-culture example. In "The Matrix," a person's brain was plugged into a machine that would provide signals mimicking sensory input from their surroundings, fooling their mind into thinking what they perceive is real. When Neo chose the red pill, his experiences - and thus perception of reality - went beyond what The Matrix fed to him. This awareness of the difference between his body and mind empowered him to break the "rules" of the world around him. While we may not be able to jump across buildings or stop bullets, learning how our subconscious works can help us shape our internal and external realities.
Then what is our subconscious?
How does this all fit together? The subconscious mind is the part of the mind which communicates messages to the cephalic (brain), cardiac (heart), and enteric (gut) systems. We receive a LOT of data through our senses - approximately 11 million bits per second. However, our conscious mind can only process approximately 50 bits of data per second (~5 words). How do we handle the rest of what's thrown at us? The subconscious mind runs interference and gathers all this information and sends out messages that the rest of the body. In much simpler terms, our brains, hearts, and guts all receive signals from our subconscious that they interpret in a way our conscious minds may not understand.
This helps to explain how a person can experience feelings before even knowing why they are having them in each case! For example - imagine driving in rush hour traffic and someone cuts you off. The muscles in your body tense up or tighten for defense purposes. The stress from this situation might lead to muscles tensing up, sweating, teeth clenching etc. Even though your conscious mind logically assesses the situation and concludes the threat (a bad driver) is gone; your subconscious mind has told your body to prepare for danger.
How does intuition play a part in this?
Intuition is the way our subconscious mind communicates to the conscious. Intuition, or your gut feelings, are messages from our subconscious that we rationalize and decide to trust.
This connection between intuition and our subconscious can be helpful for making decisions in difficult situations where it can be difficult to decide how you feel about something. It is not always easy to know what your instincts are telling you and in these cases, it's important to think about what your intuition might be trying to tell you.
When to trust your gut
In day to day life, it can be difficult to use our intuition to guide our decisions. Here are a couple of examples of times when I learned how to trust my intuition more:
When you are having a hard time deciding on something
Let's say for example that you are having trouble deciding what new car to buy! It could be because, even though one of the cars seems really appealing on the surface, it doesn't actually suit your needs - no matter how much better it may appear than the other option.
I had this happen to me in autumn 2018 when I needed to buy a new car for myself. My husband and I researched three vehicles in our price range, and after checking out those cars, I still felt "meh". We had a fourth vehicle on our list - a 2016 Dodge Dart - that was just outside of my budget. Even though I kept telling myself that the car was out of my price range, I felt tingles run down my spine as soon as I sat in the driver's seat and held onto the steering wheel - both heated. I imagined driving comfortably during a Minnesota winter. I imagined how safe I would feel. The dealer showed how the back seats folded down, and I thought of how I could load my canopy, table, and other gear for outdoor Tarot reading events. And then it hit me: the car was perfect for what I needed.
The rational mind nagged in the back of my head, "What about the price though?" I felt the tension in my gut for only a moment, only for it to subside. But then it hit me: if I worked harder on my business and had faith, I would be able to make payments. You see, I grew up in a household that struggled with money, and that affected my inner narratives around finances. It wasn't until almost twenty years after I moved out that I realized how much of an impact my childhood experiences still had on me. I needed to listen to my intuition and see what was possible rather than relive old narratives around money.
Hindsight being 20-20, I could not have picked a better time to purchase that car. That winter was when I became intimately aware of the term "polar vortex". Even when the thermostat read -15 degrees (yes, Fahrenheit!) outside, when I was in my vehicle I was toasty warm. Also, my gut was right - my business improved to where I could comfortably cover my car payments.
When you know that something is wrong for you
This example won't be as long-winded, I swear!
Have you ever had a gut feeling that the job you're in may be a bad fit for you? Sure, you like your co-workers and the pay is decent, but there's an inner nagging voice that's telling you that you need to do something different.
I had this happen to me several times over my past two decades in the corporate world. I worked as a financial advisor, paraplanner, and insurance wholesaler; each time reaching a point where the job didn't feel like it fit anymore. However, I was raised with a "don't quit" attitude, so I kept going. It wasn't until the stress impacted my home life that I realized I needed to let go and find something different. Each time I finally accepted my intuition's message of "it's time to move on", my next job opportunity appeared, almost like magic. I recognize now that my intuition would have guided me to the next right job all along, but I was too busy trying so hard that I wasn't being open.
When something doesn't feel right
We know when something doesn't feel right. Whether it's a feeling of dread, unease, or outright fear, we have an instinctual response to danger and can immediately tell if there is any present.
When I was eight years old, I remember talking with my mom before going to bed. Deep down I knew something was wrong and she needed help, but didn't know what exactly was wrong. As I headed to my room, I told my dad what I felt, admitting I knew my feelings didn't make sense. He assured me that he would keep an eye on mom while I slept. I did not expect to wake up to the sound of paramedics in our house. It turns out that my mother had a medical emergency that night, and because I had trusted my gut feelings enough to tell my dad, he was nearby and able to call for an ambulance just in time.
When you know that something is wrong for you, it's usually because your intuition and subconscious are speaking to you. It may be telling you that this job isn't what you want or need, the relationship just ended, or any number of other possibilities. When we listen to our instincts and take action on them without hesitation - rather than fighting against them - they can lead us down a path of serendipitous opportunities. Trust yourself enough to follow through with these messages from within; don't let fear dictate where your life goes next!