#5 Getting to the Core of Happiness

Apples develop from their cores. After they mature, the flesh around the core is used, and the core is discarded, except for its seeds that can be used to produce future fruit. While we can’t compare apples to oranges or humans, we do have something in common – a core.

Our core is also our innermost part. It is our primary brain, our spark of life, our soul. Instead of our core finding its way to a compost heap, it remains deep beneath our flesh (our outward appearance and behaviors) and the seeds from it, our beliefs and behaviors, produce future fruit (attitudes, actions, and people).

We know that the first area of our brain, our primary brain, develops less than a month after we are conceived forming at the top of our spinal process. During fetal development, our brain forms by tissue folding over itself forming a convoluted pattern of layers. The conscious part of our brain develops over and around our primary brain making our primary brain sub-conscious and the core of our existence.  It controls our vital functions and a lot of what we do and believe. It is the center for our natural instincts, which are linked to our emotions of fear, anger, contempt, shame, and guilt. These life preserving emotions prevent us from doing things that could harm or kill us and can be used to dominate others and secure our existence.

Our instincts and these emotions are animalistic, but God gave us “complete authority” over the animals. He gave us a thinking brain so we can reason, create, and problem solve; so we can live well. He gave us a subconscious mind so we can exist eternal and a conscious mind so we can exist our way into eternity. He gave us both so we can have pleasure and be happy.

To get to the core of happiness, you must first understand your own core. Let’s take a closer look at the core of our being by comparing our subconscious and conscious minds and how each contributes to our happiness.

                      Subconscious                      Conscious
                Active before birth                Active after birth
                Survival priority                     Living well priority
                Reacts                                     Responds
                Source of emotion                Source of reason and logic
                Auto-store memory             Manual memory
                Never sleeps                          Routinely sleeps
                Infinite                                     Finite

  Active:  In my previous post, I explained how our subconscious mind develops soon after we are conceived. It is our spark of life and is dedicated to keeping us alive. After we are born, our conscious mind becomes overtly active. By age 4, we develop conscious memory and our subconscious mind takes on a more covert role. It remains active, but gets fed by the information our conscious mind puts in it. Our subconscious mind does not mature much further after age 4. Therefore, it is like us at age 4; our inner child, who has no concept of time, believes what it is told to be truth and reality, and interprets communication very literally. 

  Priority:  Once you have something you really like, you don’t want to give it up. We like existing and our subconscious mind’s priority is for us to do just that. When we are threatened in any way, the subconscious mind is alerted, readies our bodies for action, and causes us to behave in ways that allow us to survive. It does not consider how these behaviors affect other people and our relationships. Since the subconscious mind is focused only on its owner, these actions to survive can make the owner look like he/she is being selfish.

While our subconscious mind’s priority is for us to exist, our conscious mind gives us the ability to figure out how to live well and make life enjoyable. We problem solve, create new ideas, and reason out issues with our conscious mind. It gives us the ability to gather information so we can make better decisions and allows us to filter through information so we can be understanding, accepting, and patient with others, giving us the ability to form happier relationships.

  React/Respond:  To stay alive, we must be quick to react. But, to live well and long, we must learn to respond to certain conditions. When we are threatened, our subconscious mind reacts. But, our conscious mind has us think about possible outcomes and effects so we can determine a better course of action.

We typically associate reactions with something negative and responses with something positive, e.g., “He had a bad reaction to the bug bite.” “He responded well to the treatment.” When we react, we base our decisions on emotions and usually regret the outcome. When we respond, we think through the situation and are more often happier with the outcome.

•   Emotion/Logic:  Our gut instincts that come from our subconscious mind are linked to emotions that cannot be explained. These natural emotions are fear, anger, contempt, shame, and guilt. Everyone knows these, but they are difficult to describe. We have them to preserve our existence. Clearly, they are not happy feelings.

Our conscious mind takes longer to develop, but has a larger surface area. Therefore, we have a greater capacity to think. Our ability to think gives us the freedom to make choices (free will). We can choose how to behave, what to have, and how to feel. We can choose to be happy.

  Memory storage:  Our subconscious mind has auto-save and takes in every bit of information it encounters. Because it is our alert system, it takes in information through sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. If the information is non-threatening, it’s filed away so we can call it up if we need it. If the information is interpreted as painful or a threat, it’s kept readily on hand as a reminder and means to avoid pain. Childbirth is an exception to this. If women remembered the pain of childbirth, they wouldn’t continue to have children, and we would become extinct.

Storing information happens before we are born. Since this information is stored before our conscious mind develops, it is subconscious memory. Did you ever know something and not know how you knew it? Most likely, you took in the information before you were born or consciously aware. I will talk more about subconscious memory in future posts since much of what is stored in our subconscious mind has a direct effect on our happiness.

To save information in our conscious mind, we must think about it. Many times we use associations, such as images, abbreviations, or mnemonics to help us remember the facts.

•   Sleep:  If our subconscious mind slept, so would our vital functions and that would be the end for us. Therefore, it never sleeps. When we sleep, we are unconscious, meaning the conscious part of our brain is resting, but information continues to be transmitted by the subconscious mind – we dream. When we dream, our subconscious mind reacts to the information it stores. If the information is threatening (a nightmare about a dangerous experience we had), the subconscious alerts our body to react for survival. We will unconsciously feel afraid and go into fight/flight mode. Our heart rate and breathing will get faster and we’ll sweat (the reaction our bodies have when we fight or flee). After we wake, our conscious mind can reason out the situation, assess for danger, and we can go back to sleep.

  Infinite/Finite:  How do you measure imagination, creativity, emotions, all the information we take in on a daily basis? You can’t. Our subconscious mind is infinite as our soul is eternal. It has capacity beyond our awareness. Our conscious mind, however, can only comprehend so much information. We have a finite degree of comprehension and intellect. We can quantify our level of intelligence, but we cannot quantify the senses of our subconscious mind.

It is in both our subconscious and conscious minds we find the means to and core of our happiness. We must maintain a good balance and a good relationship between them in order to maintain a good level of happiness.

My next post shows you how to see what’s in your core and how it determines your direction for happiness. Stay tuned!