Apples and people develop from their cores. But, unlike apples, our cores are invisible. While the cores of apples have seeds that grow more apples, our core has seeds, known as our internal beliefs, from which we grow in body, mind, and spirit, and from which we help others grow. “Getting to the Core of Happiness” explains how to find your core, its components, and how your core relates to your happiness.
Where We Find Our Core
Our core is also our innermost part. It is our primary brain, our spark of life, our soul. It originated when we originated, so is the core from which we develop and grow. Our core is spiritual. We cannot see it, but we see the world through it and other people see us through the way our core affects our attitudes, behaviors, and decisions. The basis of who we are lies in our core.
Our primary brain, the home of our core, develops less than a month after we are conceived. It develops at the top of the neural tube (spinal process) and continues to form during fetal development as brain tissue folds over itself, making an intricate pattern of layers.
The layers that form create the conscious part of our brain which develops over and around our primary brain. This places our primary brain deep within and below the conscious part. Therefore, we refer to this area of our brain as the subconscious. Our subconscious mind is the core of our existence.
Functions of the Subconscious Mind
Our subconscious mind controls our vital functions and much of what we do and believe. It is our memory warehouse and our alert system. When we sense danger, our alert system engages. Our natural instincts which include emotions of fear, anger, contempt, shame, and guilt arouse our mind and prime us for survival. We have more acute hearing and awareness as we position ourselves to fight, flight, or freeze. Our sympathetic nervous system readies our body for action by regulating our heart-rate, breathing digestion, and alertness so we can fight to defend ourselves or flight to save ourselves. There are times when we are so afraid, we just freeze. This is akin to playing possum.
While fear, shame, and guilt prevent us from doing things that could harm or kill us, we can use anger and contempt to dominate others into feeling afraid, ashamed, and guilty so we can secure our existence. These emotions are necessary for our survival, but do not give us joy, peace, and love we need for happiness.
If we lived solely at a subconscious level, we would live in the natural. We would live like animals following the laws of nature – survival of the fittest and might makes right. However, God gave us “complete authority” over the animals (Genesis 1:26). He gave us a thinking brain so we can reason, create, and problem solve. We have a more sophisticated brain than the animals so we can live well and be happy. God gave us a subconscious mind so we can exist and a conscious mind so we can live (happy).
Our subconscious mind is also our memory storehouse. While our instincts are inborn, the information stored in our subconscious mind come from our experiences. It stores everything that happens to us and especially remembers the dangerous events as a way of reminding us to not do it again so we can continue to exist. For example, we remember to not touch the hot stove.
The subconscious mind is our unawareness that directly affects the awareness of others. It determines how we behave and what we believe which can be obvious to others, but unknown to us. To be aware of our unawareness, we must be conscious of our thoughts and actions. Many times, other people will bring it to our attention, usually because we offended them. For example, my husband struggles with talking about emotions. When I start a conversation about feelings, he subtly winces and rubs the back of his neck. Is he subconsciously saying this is a “pain in the neck”?
When you are aware of your unawareness and understand your subconscious mind, you can better determine your happiness.
Understanding Your Own Core
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.
Active before birth Active after birth
Survival priority Living well priority
Source of emotion Source of reason and logic
Auto-store memory Manual memory
Never sleeps Routinely sleeps
• Active: In my previous post, I explained how quickly after we are conceived our subconscious mind develops. This primary brain is our spark of life, regulates our vital functions, and is dedicated to keeping us alive. Our conscious mind forms before we are born, but doesn’t become overtly active until after we are born. 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 experience any kind of threat, the subconscious mind is alerted. It readies our body for action and causes us to behave in ways that continue our existence. The subconscious mind’s priority is its owner. It doesn’t consider how the resulting behaviors affect other people or our relationships. Therefore, these behaviors make the owner look like he/she prioritizes himself over others, making him seem self-centered and 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 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. They make up the safety feature that preserves our existence. When over used, they are unreliable and cause emotional distress that leads to physical ailments. Clearly, they are not happy feelings.
Our conscious mind takes longer to develop and has a larger surface area than our subconscious mind. 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.
To store information in our conscious mind, we must be consciously aware and think about it. Many times we use associations, such as images, abbreviations, or mnemonics to help us remember the information.
• Sleep: If our subconscious mind slept, so would our vital functions and that would be the end for us. It sorts through information that was triggered by events of the day. Sounds, smells, tastes, touch, or sights we encounter during the day can activate certain subconscious information and cause us to have dreams or nightmares.
Even though our body is at rest, the threatening information alerts our body to respond as if the event were really happing. We unconsciously feel afraid and go into fight/flight mode. Our heart rate increases, we breathe faster, we sweat, yell, and tremble. We are startled awake. After we wake, our conscious mind reasons out the situation, assesses for danger, determines we are safe, and we can go back to sleep.
Sleep is necessary for us to heal, grow, and refresh. Using out conscious mind to clear our subconscious mind of bad information and keeping our natural emotions at rest gives us better sleep that contributes to healthier minds.
• Infinite/Finite: How do you measure imagination, creativity, emotions, and all the information we take in on a daily basis? You can’t. Our subconscious mind is as 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.
Balance Your Minds, Get to Core of Happiness
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!