Imagine a 14 year-old girl, a 40 year-old woman and a 70 year-old woman, all sitting at different tables in a café.
A man walks in to the café.
The teenager sees him and immediately feels anxious because he looks like her father who she doesn’t speak to anymore.
The 40 year-old woman sits up a bit straighter in her chair because she sees an attractive man and instinctively wants to look her best.
The 70 year-old woman beams happily because that man is her son and has come to have lunch with her.
The man doesn’t understand why he reacts so strongly, but he notices the teenager and thinks, ‘Why have teenage girls these days got so much attitude?’
He sees the 40 year-old woman and instantly feels attracted to her- she reminds him of his high-school girlfriend.
These responses happen within milliseconds until he finds his mother, smiles with love, and feels that all is well in the world.
In each moment, we are all constantly constructing our reality based on our subconscious mind. It is also known as the unconscious mind because we are unaware of it. 95% of our thoughts are programmed by our subconscious mind. Most of our interaction happens subconsciously, through subtle movements, expressions, and almost imperceptible changes in our demeanour. We all read the subconscious fluently.
Without becoming aware of this undercurrent of communication, we can feel bombarded by it. It is as if we are furiously paddling upstream, trying to feel positive and happy while the currents of communication and other peoples’ behaviour push up back downstream. In the chaos of picking up on all these subtle cues, we start to take everything personally, as though we are responsible for the thoughts and actions of others. When we feel bombarded by life, we simply revert to old patterns of relating and fall back on childhood narratives. And, when you consider that our neural pathways were mostly constructed by the time we were five, we effectively have children running our lives. We therefore live out our lives based on a movie that is just playing over and over again.
For example, the teenaged girl in the scenario above is angry at her father because he abandons her emotionally. She will project her anger and vulnerability onto every man she encounters until she becomes conscious of this pattern. And every man that is responsive to her will take her anger personally.
The 40 year-old woman has always been insecure about how she looks. She was always praised for being cute and then beautiful, but it always felt like a precarious platform on which to base her identity. As she ages she feels desperate for male attention to reinforce her worth. Men pick up on this and feel empowered to make a judgement of her. Almost in the first few seconds, she places her worth in their hands and asks them to rate her. They initially feel strong and invincible with this kind of power, but over time they resent her for it and despise her neediness.
Like these men and women, most of us are always reacting to life events, rather than creating them. We are living like balls in a pinball machine, always thrown around by the circumstances of our lives. Same movie, different characters. Unless we get conscious.
My book, Get Conscious, talks about how we can transform from being the balls in the pinball machine to actually becoming the player with our hands on the controls. This doesn’t mean that we control every detail of our life, but it means that we are living more from intention and less from reaction.