Friday, May 14, 2010

Conscious Pregnancy Begins with the Unconscious Mind

Below is a circle. Or at least an attempt at one. For our purpose it is going to represent your mind.

When we come into the world, our minds are much like this circle, and open blank slate. We are born without any fears (some people believe that babies are born with a fear of falling and loud noise—but even that is being proven wrong by some studies). We have one innate instinct and that is the Fight/Flight/Freeze mechanism—think survival. We call the part of the mind that operates the fight/flight response, the primitive mind.

From conception to about age 8, everything we learn by seeing, hearing, touching, etc., gets written onto that big blank page of the mind. Some things we learn might be positive, some are negative. For example you may learn to like chocolate cake and dislike spinach—or the reverse. You may learn to love dogs or fear them depending on what experiences you have.

So, your mind begins to look like this:

From 0-8 all information gets accepted by your unconscious mind—regardless of the source or quality of information. Around 8 years old is when the conscious mind and critical minds form (see picture below). The critical mind is very important. It is a protective filter through which all information must pass before it can get to the unconscious mind. Prior to 8 years old, if a person told you that you were stupid, it went right into the unconscious mind. At around 8, when the critical mind forms, all information gets evaluated first. The critical mind might say something like, “Wait a minute. My mom says I’m smart, and I get all A’s in school, so I am not going to accept that statement.” It then vents out that message unit because it doesn’t find anything to match it in the unconscious mind.

We estimate that the conscious mind makes up about 10-12% of your mind (although I think that is generous) and that the unconscious mind makes up about 88% of your mind. The unconscious runs most of your systems (nervous, circulatory, respiratory, etc.) and most behavioral processes (i.e. driving, walking. Once you pass the learning period, it becomes unconscious).

The conscious mind is where reason and logic live. It is what you are using right now to evaluate whether what I am telling you makes sense or not. It is what you use to make decisions, and also where your will power resides. Have you ever noticed that will power doesn’t work when you want it to? For example, let’s say you are trying to stop eating so much chocolate. You may know consciously that eating a big piece of chocolate cake isn’t going to make you feel better later and it will blow your diet and maybe make your nursing baby cranky, but you do it anyway, almost as if you had no will power at all. Almost as if it wasn't your choice. Have you ever wondered why that is? Or have you just felt guilty and tried harder? Still didn't work? I'll tell you why. It is because in your unconscious mind there is a huge plus sign around chocolate and when 88% and 12% take a vote, 88% is always going to win.

The unconscious mind is driving your truck. Frustration comes when they are at odds. But the unconscious is not trying to thwart you. The unconscious mind does not actually think. It identifies, associates, and responds according to its script.

Here is an example: If a dog walks into a room with two people who have opposite unconscious scripting, one person might run up and start to hug the dog and wrestle with it. The other will back away slowly and look for the nearest exit. Neither party thought through his or her response to the dog, they just responded. This is why it feels as if you have no free will when it comes to breaking a habit or trying to form a better one. Even though you may consciously, intelligently understand what makes better sense, intelligence has very little to do with behavior, as history shows.

So what does this mean if you want to live or birth consciously?

I once defined conscious pregnancy as consciously thinking about what you do before you do it, rather than letting the fears, beliefs, and ideas that are your unconscious script dictate how you will birth and mother. But according to the Theory of Mind, as I just presented it, this would be impossible.

Luckily, there is more the Theory of Mind. If God truly give us free agency, there must be a way to change unconscious scripting. And there is. Accessing the unconscious mind and rewriting or adding new information to the unconscious is actually quite simple. In fact, it happens all the time without your knowing it. But often times, what is getting in at those times is negative.

Remember that that the critical mind is a filter. If you have ever used any sort of filter, you know that it only works so long as the flow coming through it is consistent and manageable. If the filter gets overloaded everything begins to spill over the sides. Your mind is that same way. When your conscious mind gets overloaded with message units (lets say it has been a particularly stressful day), it opens that filter, and everything starts to get it. We call this anxiety state hyper-suggestibility. And if you get overloaded enough, the flight mechanism (primitive mind) is triggered and you escape into a hypnotic state.

Most people experience the hypnotic state several times a day. If you have ever been driving on the freeway and spaced out and missed your exit, that is hypnosis. If you have ever been to a movie and suspended your reality and got so into the movie that you laughed or cried or felt scared, even though you knew there was no danger to you, that is hypnosis. When you wake up in the morning and you are awake enough to know you are not asleep and you could get up if you want to, but you don’t. That is a hypnotic state. Thirty minutes before bedtime is also a naturally hypnotic time.

Becoming more aware of when you are hyper-suggestible is the first step in blocking negatives from getting in. That’s why you should never watch the news before bed. I also tell all my yoga students to avoid listening to birth horror stories. In fact, as much as you can, remove all negative influences from your life while you are pregnant. Most pregnant women are hyper-suggestible all the time because of all the extra message units coming from inside their body.

The Pain/ Pleasure Principle

Blocking negatives is the first step. The next step is changing negatives that are already in there into positives. This is tricky. The unconscious mind only wants one thing, and that is to stay the same. This is because of the "pain/pleasure principle." This is not the pain/pleasure principle as you know it. To the unconscious mind, all knowns (the pluses and minuses) are pleasure. And all unknowns are pain.

Lets say that one of your knowns (minuses) is emotional abuse. Being emotionally abused may not be pleasurable, but to the unconscious mind, it is a known and therefore, pleasure. That is why many people repeat the same patterns, in relationships even though they consciously don't want to.

Having a painful, traumatic birth might not be pleasurable, but if that is all you have ever witnessed or believed in, your unconscious mind views this as pleasure and will reject the idea of a peaceful, gentle, birth as pain.

We have plenty of examples of this and also the reverse. Several of the most famous stories come from Grantly Dick-Reed’s Childbirth Without Fear. Dick-Reed was a physician in London in the early part of 1900’s and saw a lot of upper class London women crying and screaming and begging for the drugs they had at the time. Later, when he was serving as a military physician in the World War, he attended a couple of births by poor country women who showed no signs of discomfort or pain. When he asked them why they hadn’t asked for pain medication, one responded, “It didn’t hurt. Was it supposed to?”

You have to hand it to your unconscious mind for trying to protect you from “pain.” In fact, as a hypnotherapist, I often thank the unconscious for its positive intention, before I attempt to go in and change those negatives to positives, (or positives to negatives in the case of smoking or another bad habit).

I have just mentioned hetero-hypnosis, which is one very effective tool for behavior change—I highly recommend it for everyone—but it is not the only way to reprogram the unconscious. There is another way, and it is something that every modern prophet, and plenty of ancient ones, has counseled us to do: meditate.
“We pay too little attention to the value of meditation, a principle of devotion. In our worship there are two elements: One is spiritual communion arising from our own meditation; the other, instruction from others, particularly from those who have authority to guide and instruct us. Of the two, the more profitable…is the meditation.” ---President David O. McKay

Simply speaking, meditation is seeking the spirit of the Lord, with an intention, and there is no right or wrong way to do this, so long as it achieves that purpose, however, there are several elements that mediation should include in order to be successful at reprogramming your unconscious script.

And this is where I leave you hanging until my next post on meditation.


  1. Thank you for this very clear explanation! The part about how the 88% beats the 12% makes total sense. It's interesting, because I recently posted on my own blog about how I made the mistake with my first birth of thinking comfortable childbirth would just happen, but this explains that part of why it didn't work was that I hadn't gotten past the critical mind with that idea. With my second birth, I prepared with hypnosis, which made really "changing my mind" possible.

    It's also interesting that the critical mind develops around age 8...hmm...

  2. Great information here! I look forward to more on Meditation, as this has been on my mind lately.
    I definitely lack willpower, and it sucks. Will meditation help change this?

  3. Thanks for your comments. Yes, Sycamore Girl, Meditation can help with that, by aligning your conscious and unconscious minds. Obviously, it depends on what your will is--but it can help.

  4. I actually disagree with the whole fear thing (no fears when born). I believe the fears we have/experience are well hidden (the veil and all), but that they are somehow impressed in our unconscious. I don't have a really specific way to describe why I believe this, but I have pondered on fear a great deal and I have come to understand that before we came to earth, we worried about things we didn't think we would be good at in our mortal shell. Those become the fears hidden well. Anyway, that's what I think.

    I really enjoy how you write! Love your blog.

  5. Thanks for the comment, Tori. I have actually been thinking about this lately. Not about worries before we came but about worries after. I have been wondering about people who leave this life and are in the spirit world watching their posterity struggle or make bad choices. I have been wondering about heartache in the next life. We may be restored to perfect health and form, but I don't know that heartache will be eliminated.... We know that God himself was wracked with torment watching what His son had to go through.

    So I guess if we can have heart ache after this life then we might also have it before. Although I wouldn't call it worry. To me worry implies lack of trust. But we trusted God enough to come to this earth.

    Good discussion.

    There is also the concept of epigenetic imprinting, which happens in the womb and early years of of life. I think I wrote about it in an early post. You can do a search for it. (I read about it in The Female Brain.) It is basically when a mother that has high levels of stress, anxiety or mistrust during pregnancy thereafter and imprints this personality onto her unborn or forming child. So it's not genetic, but it seems so because it happens so early.



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