One of the key roles of our subconscious mind is to keep us safe by keeping us part of our tribe. In primitive times if we stayed with our tribe there would be more chance of danger being spotted and our survival chances would improve. That primitive need can create anxiety when we feel excluded or disconnected from our social group.
Fast forward to the present day and we still feel that powerful need for belonging and connection. Our subconscious works hard to keep us in line with the expected behavior and habits of our friends, family and colleagues. For the most part this works well. It helps us build connections, relationships and empathy. All areas which are important to our sense of well-being and mental health. It also works well for communities and governments where certain ways of thinking and behaving are preferred.
However, our powerful subconscious mind does not always know when to stop. It certainly does not know to stop when those deep ingrained needs start to become unhelpful or detrimental to our lives.
This can have several impacts. If any of you have teenagers or even younger children you will see it playing out. So many of them, especially girls, feel they have to conform to a specific look or image. The same brows, the same hairstyles, the same bodyshape. Any variation can cause huge anxiety, lonlieness and eating disorders. As a parent you may say “embrace your uniqueness”, “your freckles, curls, (etc) make you even more beautiful” and lots of similar reassuring phrases.
BUT – are you practicing what you preach? Are you a victim of the same drive to conform? Are your children seeing you conform even when it is not good for your own well-being? Are they subconsciously learning from you that they need to conform? Do you know when your subconscious mind is driving you to do things to make you fit in?
As adults we can face the same social challenges as our children with the resulting anxieties, lonliness and other issues. The beliefs we picked up as children are continually carried forward and reinforced in our adult life. Additionally. The beliefs our parents, grandparents, family and friends picked up are also subconsciously carried forward by us. This can present all sorts of additional challenges.
Take for example losing weight. I see many ladies who struggle to stick to a healthy eating lifestyle even when they know exactly how to do it. They may have studied nutrition plans, attended slimming clubs and know the calorie count of hundreds of products and still they reach for the crisps or chocolate. Once we dig down into their hidden thoughts and beliefs we find they not only believe they are “addicted to chocolate”, “can’t lost weight”, they also have a hidden fear of losing their friends, or upsetting their families because they will no longer be the same person or have the same role within their tribe. Letting go of their old identity and “place” in their group of friends takes bravery and commitment but can be the key to unlocking their weight management success.
Another example is ladies who are experiencing perimenopause symptoms and associated anxiety. Even ladies who have dealt with incredible difficulties or succeeded in demanding careers can find themselves floored by menopause symptoms. Interestingly, there are a few studies which indicate that women in different countries, e.g., Japan, don’t experience the same symptoms, even though we all have exactly the same biology. So what is going on? Again, while everyone will have different physical symptoms which can vary in severity, the expectation of symptoms can also have a massive impact. So, if women in a specific family have suffered from menopause symptoms in the past, the expectation can be passed onto the new generations. The same can happen within communities, groups of women and also across entire countries. Uncovering beliefs about the type of menopause a woman is expecting to have can unlock new ways to tackle the symptoms and overcome them with a change of mindset. For example, a 2015 study found that hypnosis is one of the most effective ways to reduce hot flushes. This is effectively changing thinking and expectations.
Taking the brave step to be a “black sheep”, to not fit in with the norm can release us from a whole range of unnecessary and out dated negative beliefs and will absolutely show our children that they can do it to, knowing that they are enough, just as they are. The most important factor in doing this is self-love, once we have that we can gain the confidence to move out of limiting circles of expectation and categorization.
Sign up to my newsletter HERE for hints and tips on how to overcome hidden negative beliefs and replace them with positive self talk and habits.
This blog was inspired by Dr Christiane Northrup and her book The Wisdom of Menopause. The book is a fabulous manual for women on how to look after themselves. Find out more about her work at www.drnorthrup.com