Our good days are so good! My children and I are in sync, kind of like a well-oiled machine. We get along, communicating easily and agreeably. No one is arguing and we are having a playful time together. We are cooperating and there is an air of affection, and love, and laughter.
And yet all of this can come to a screeching halt if my child acts in a way that triggers me. Maybe my child, in excitement or frustration, yells in a high pitch. Maybe my child is not listening to my reasonable request the first, second, or even fifth time. Maybe my child is dawdling when I was ready to move out the door 10 minutes ago! In these moments, I just lose it. My face gets flushed, I feel overheated and overemotional. I react without thinking, usually by yelling or counting down from 3. I really blow up! I flip my lid! And all my best intentions go right out the door. I can see it in their little eyes. They are confused by my behavior and there has been a break in trust.
Why does this keep happening to me?
I try to be a conscious parent and raise my children with gentle discipline and unconditional love. Why then, am I consistently undoing what I have worked so hard to build? Well, I found some of the answers in Bruce Lipton’s book, The Biology of Belief. It was here that I encountered the idea that we are literally of two minds: the conscious mind and the subconscious mind. The conscious mind is the creative mind—the source of our personal identity—which holds the wishes, desires and aspirations for our lives. This is where my best parenting intentions sit.
In contrast, the subconscious mind is fundamentally habitual. It was programmed primarily in our first six years of life by our caregivers like a track on a CD (I was going to say cassette tape but THAT would have dated me!) It plays the same responses to life’s signals over and over again. This is where my unwanted responses, my triggers, flare from. My worst parenting happens here.
So, here’s the bad news – studies in neuroscience have determined that the conscious mind is only in control 5 percent of the time.
Yikes! That means that my subconscious mind is truly making my everyday decisions for me. And that all my wishes, hopes, and desires are not enough to actually effect change in my life. I could read 100 parenting books that inspire me to be a better parent, but in the heat of the moment with my kids, I am destined to react in some predetermined way. Or am I?
Well, here’s the good news—in addition to the conscious mind, humans have an area of the brain called the pre-frontal cortex, a “self-conscious” mind. This self-conscious mind is powerful. It has the ability to access my long-term memory and take my past into account when I am consciously planning my future. And with this ability to be reflective, my self-conscious mind can observe the behavior I am engaged in, evaluate the behavior, and consciously decide to change my reaction. This is my free will.
But, here’s the rub. In order to exercise my free will—to act with intention in my parenting , and not merely as a victim of my programming—I must deal with my subconscious mind, particularly my self-limiting beliefs.
We’ll talk about how to get rid of our limiting beliefs and replace them with new empowering beliefs in my next post. Until then!
Practice Makes Progress!