I once took a long road trip with my college girlfriend. There was little that I didn’t like about her except for one irritating behavior. Whenever we took any kind of a long drive, she almost instantly fell asleep while I sat in silence listening to the radio.
It was spring break, and I happened to be in the middle of a very interesting psychology class where we were learning about the subconscious mind and how it affects our behavior. So, like any young, naive college kid trying to apply what he had learned, I decided to conduct an experiment.
I picked a random item –– in this case the color green –– turned down the radio, and softly whispered into her ear, “You HATE green. Green is EVIL. Green is BAD. Green causes PAIN.” I then turned the radio back up, waited a couple of minutes, and repeated the entire process.
After about thirty minutes, I changed the dialogue. “You DON’T LIKE green, green causes you immense PAIN, green is the favorite color of the DEVIL, green is UGLY.” Like before, this went on for about thirty minutes.
I then shifted the dialogue to something positive. I purposely picked a color I knew she would never pick on her own and probably didn’t even really know what it was––Indigo. “You LOVE the color indigo. Indigo is HAPPY. Indigo is SWEET. Indigo is PRETTY.” This went on until she awoke.
After giving her time to fully awaken, I decided to spark up a conversation. “Sweetie, when you were asleep, we drove by a ton of green grass.” She didn’t respond, but I could see a slight frown. I then followed by saying, “If you could pick any color for grass other than green, what would it be?” Without any hesitation and a smile, she responded, “Indigo.”
In my last post, Yellow is the New Blue, I discussed how conscious social influences affect decision-making and ultimately creativity. But what about something as simple as what enters your subconscious? When I asked why she chose that color, she had no idea why. My experiment, however twisted, was a success. I confirmed what I had learned in class––our subconscious never sleeps and picks up information 24/7.
Have you ever woken up to find someone standing over you who hadn’t made a sound in the process? If you consciously set your alarm to wake up the same time everyday, do you find yourself waking up on your own before the alarm sounds? Our subconscious serves as a protection mechanism. It’s aware of our internal clock. And it takes in information that affects our conscious thinking.
Have you ever been driving down the road listening to the radio, and a 20-year-old song comes on that sends you down memory lane? I believe our minds are like immense storage devices that retain everything –– every event, every smell, every sound, every feeling, everything. However, retention is not recall, and recalling past information can be a bit of a challenge.
Back when all of those events were taking place, odds are that particular song was frequently being played on the radio. Your subconscious connected the two, and the song became connected to the address in your brain where those memories are located. Those memories came flooding back because of the subconscious connection to the song.
While the subconscious can have an unintentional influence on our thinking, it can also be a powerful tool to recall information and solve problems. After spending time trying to solve a problem without success, have you ever moved on, only to have a random “Aha” experience about it later? That’s your 24/7 subconscious working the problem behind the scenes.
Proactively using our subconscious mind not only helps with memory, it can also help create solutions to problems that our conscious thinking can’t address. Even Albert Einstein once said, “Why is it I always get my best ideas while shaving?”
Practice Challenge: Your dreams are frequently the result of your subconscious trying to process both old and new information –– which is why the buzz of the alarm clock can be interpreted as a fire alarm in your dream. However, dreams also provide a place for great ideas to problems to come to the surface. To harness those ideas, try this: each morning when you awaken, immediately write down anything you can remember from your dreams. Over time –– and that time will vary among people –– you will train your mind to be able to freely recall the details of all the dreams and ideas you had the night before. It could be a game-changer for you.