|The Biology of Belief is a groundbreaking work in the field of new biology, and it will forever change how you think about life. Using simple language, illustrations, humor, and everyday examples, Bruce Lipton demonstrates how the new science of Epigenetics is revolutionizing our understanding of the link between mind and matter and the profound effects it has on our personal lives and the collective life of our species.|
The evolution of higher mammals, including chimps, cetaceans and humans, brought forth a new level of awareness called “self-consciousness,” or, simply, the conscious mind. The newer conscious mind is an important evolutionary advance. The earlier, subconscious mind is our “autopilot”; the conscious mind is our manual control. For example, if a ball comes near your eye, the slower conscious mind may not have time to be aware of the threatening projectile. Yet the subconscious mind, which processes ~20,000,000 environmental stimuli per second vs. 40 environmental stimuli interpreted by the conscious mind in the same second, will cause the eye to blink. [Norretranders 1998] (See illustration below) The subconscious mind, one of the most powerful information processors known, specifically observes both the surrounding world and the body’s internal awareness, reads the environmental cues and immediately engages previously acquired (learned) behaviors—all without the help, supervision or even awareness of the conscious mind.
Visualizing the information-processing powers of the conscious and subconscious minds. Consider that the image of Machu Picchu above is comprised of 20,000,000 pixel dots, each representing a BIT of information received by the nervous system in one second. How much of that information enters the conscious mind? In the lower picture, the dot represents the total amount of information that is processed by the conscious mind. (Actually the dot is 10X more than enters consciousness, I had to enlarge it because it was barely visible.) In contrast, the powerful subconscious mind processes all the remaining incoming information (the black area) in the same second.
The two minds make a dynamic duo. Operating together, the conscious mind can use its resources to focus on some specific point, such as the party you are going to on Friday night. Simultaneously, your subconscious mind can be safely pushing the lawn mower around and successfully not cutting off your foot or running over the cat— even though you are not consciously paying attention to mowing the lawn.
The two minds also cooperate in acquiring very complex behaviors that can subsequently be unconsciously managed. Remember the first day you excitedly sat in the driver’s seat of a car, preparing to learn how to drive? The number of things that had to be dealt with by the conscious mind was staggering. While keeping your eyes on the road, you had to also watch the rear and side view mirrors, pay attention to the speedometer and other gauges, use two feet for the three pedals of a standard shift vehicle and try to be calm, cool and collected as you drove past observing peers. It took what seemed to be a long time before all these behaviors were “programmed” into your mind.
Today, you get in the car, turn the ignition on and consciously review your shopping list as the subconscious mind dutifully engages all the complex skills you need to successfully navigate through the city—without even once having to think about the mechanics of driving. I know I am not the only one out there who has experienced this. You are driving and having a delightful discussion with the passenger sitting next to you. In fact, your consciousness gets so caught up in the conversation, that somewhere down the road it dawns on you that you haven’t even paid attention to your driving for five minutes. After a momentary start, you realize that you are still on your side of the road and steadily moving along with the flow of traffic. A quick check of the rear view mirror reveals that you did not leave a wake of crumpled stop signs and smashed mailboxes. If you weren’t consciously driving the car during that time, then who was? The subconscious mind! And how well did it do? Although you didn’t observe its behavior, the subconscious mind apparently performed just as well as it was taught during your driver education experience.
In addition to facilitating subconscious habitual programs, the conscious mind also has the power to be spontaneously creative in its responses to environmental stimuli. In its self-reflective capacity, the conscious mind can observe behaviors as they’re being carried out. As a preprogrammed behavior is unfolding, the observing conscious mind can step in, stop the behavior and create a new response. Thus the conscious mind offers us free will, meaning we are not just victims of our programming. To pull that off however, you have to be fully conscious lest the programming take over, a difficult task, as anyone who’s tried will power can attest. Subconscious programming takes over the moment your conscious mind is not paying attention.
The conscious mind can also think forward and backward in time, while the subconscious mind is always operating in the present moment. When the conscious mind is busy daydreaming, creating future plans or reviewing past life experiences, the subconscious mind is always on duty, efficiently managing the behaviors required at the moment, without the need of conscious supervision.
The two minds are truly a phenomenal mechanism, but here is how it can go awry. The conscious mind is the “self,” the voice of our own thoughts. It can have great visions and plans for a future filled with love, health, happiness and prosperity. While we focus our consciousness on happy thoughts, who is running the show? The subconscious. How is the subconscious going to manage our affairs? Precisely the way it was programmed. The subconscious mind’s behaviors when we are not paying attention may not be of our own creation because most of our fundamental behaviors were downloaded without question from observing other people. Because subconscious-generated behaviors are not generally observed by the conscious mind, many people are stunned to hear that they are “just like their mom or their dad,” the people who programmed their subconscious minds.
The learned behaviors and beliefs acquired from other people, such as parents, peers and teachers, may not support the goals of our conscious mind. The biggest impediments to realizing the successes of which we dream are the limitations programmed into the subconscious. These limitations not only influence our behavior, they can also play a major role in determining our physiology and health. As we’ve seen earlier, the mind plays a powerful role in controlling the biological systems that keep us alive.
Nature did not intend the presence of the dual minds would be our Achille’s heel. In fact, this duality offers a wonderful advantage for our lives. Consider it this way: What if we had conscious parents and teachers who served as wonderful life models, always engaging in humane and win-win relations with everyone in the community? If our subconscious mind were programmed with such healthy behaviors, we could be totally successful in our lives without ever being conscious!