"Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will control your life!"
~ Carl Jung

The Most Powerful Part of the Brain is Unconscious!

As a psychologist and corporate trainer and coach, I consistently encounter people who report being stressed, frustrated, annoyed, and anxious due to the difficult people and situations in their lives. Unfortunately, it is just this perspective (that life is making them feel bad) that is the problem, because as long as they see themselves at the mercy of what is going on around them, they will have to change the people and situations in their life in order to change how they feel. And, often the situations, and certainly the people that seem to be triggering their negative reactions are not within their control.

Sadly, this leaves them in a further bind, because now they feel powerless and ineffective and they can eventually find themselves trapped in an ever-escalating cycle of stress and frustration. The way that I help is to give them new information on what is actually causing their negative reaction based upon the latest brain science, and then give them a model for change that is within their control.

This new information and model are part of a system that I have been working on for the last 30 years that I call “Life from the Top of the Mind.” In this system, in order to make the information easy to digest and implement, I look at the brain as having basically three parts, the top, middle, and lower brain. The lower brain is the brainstem which, in addition to regulating our blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing, also houses our fight-or-flight reactions of striking out or withdrawing. The middle brain is called the limbic system, and acts as a gatekeeper, or in today’s terminology, it acts as a scanner, a processor, and a router. This means that it scans incoming data, such as the situations and people we are dealing with, as well as, any thought that happens to pop into our heads, processes it or interprets it, and then either routes down to the lower brain, or up to the Top of the Mind The upper 80% of the brain is the neocortex (what I call the Top of the Mind) where we have access to our interpersonal skills, problem-solving skills, as well as, our clarity, confidence, creativity, and compassion.

Unfortunately, this middle brain isn’t very smart and is running on “old software,” meaning that it is still interpreting (or, to be more accurate, misinterpreting) the data it receives based upon its prime directive which, for as long as we have been on the planet, has been to keep us alive as a specie. In other words, while in the past, being stressed or anxious may have kept us alive, now it just throws us into the reactive part of the brain that is incapable of making good decisions. In addition, this powerful middle brain is unconscious, which means that we have no awareness of its workings, and, therefore, no influence over how it is making us think, feel, and react.

As Carl Jung said, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will control your life.” This means that if we want to have as much influence as possible over our experience of life, we must learn how to influence the way the middle brain interprets the data it receives. While this is certainly easier said than done, it is possible if we start with the awareness that our stress, frustration, anxiety, and/or anger isn’t simply the result of the difficult people or situations that we encounter but just data being sent to the wrong part of the brain.

In my books and seminars, I call this process understanding the “what, the “why,” and the “how.” “What” the real problem is (i.e., we are getting trapped in an ever-escalating cycle by seeing the difficult situations in our life as the cause of how we feel), “why” this is happening (the middle brain misinterpreting negative situations as dangerous and throwing us into the part of the brain designed to deal with danger), and “how” can we influence this process (by rewiring or reprogramming the middle brain to see life as an opportunity to define who we are in a way that we would teach or recommend to someone we love).

This is what I have the pleasure of going around the world teaching…how to have parts of the middle brain more connected to (and, thus, influenced by) the Top of the Mind, so that in the future, we are able to respond more purposefully versus just react, and as a result ,have more influence in how we experienced life. If this is something you feel would be beneficial to your and/or your organization, I suggest that you contact me, because until we make the unconscious conscious, we will be controlled by this unconscious middle brain, and as a result, will forever be at the mercy of our worries and fears.

~ All the best, Dr. Bill