Dr. Caroline Leaf – In this podcast (episode #418) and blog, I talk about our mental and physical warning signals, what they are, and why we need to listen to them. This podcast is part 3 of my series on the different parts of the mind.
As mentioned in my previous two podcasts on this topic, The Difference Between the Nonconscious, Subconscious & Conscious Mind (part 1) and How to Tap Into the Nonconscious Mind to Unwire Trauma & Toxic Thinking Habits (part 2), when you consciously engage the nonconscious mind through deliberate, intentional, strategic, and proactive deep thinking, you draw your thoughts, with their embedded memories, through the subconscious mind and into the conscious mind. When these thoughts arrive in the conscious mind, they’re in a malleable state, which means you can change them and reconceptualize them. You also tune in to the physical warning signals associated with how you feel, such as an increased heartrate, an adrenaline rush, a headache, or a stomachache. Next, you embrace any feelings, such as anxiety or depression, as an emotional warning signal that something is going on in your life. Instead of seeing these as negative, you see them as telling you something; you make them work for you and not against you. You do this in a celebratory way, not because you’re celebrating the painful memories, but because now you’re conscious of them, which means you can change them. Remember, you can change only what you are conscious of.
You have self-regulatory power when you are conscious, which is kind of like what famed neuroscientist Benjamin Libet famously called “veto power” over your thoughts. This power allows you to control your thoughts. You can literally capture them, and using your self-regulatory veto power, change them. As you do this, you override the force generated from the energy of the toxic thought, and choose to speak or act, or not, according to this thought. You can even evaluate the thought and decide if you want to change it, when to change it, and how to change it.
You don’t have to be driven by toxic ruminations and reactions from established negative thought patterns or traumas, because you have the power to veto them. This is a proactive way of approaching the mind and can save you a lot of heartache and anxiety! I’m sure you have already experienced this numerous times: you are just about to say or do something but stop yourself for some reason. Maybe you feel it’s the wrong timing, or that the person is already upset and it would only make matters worse. This is mind-management in action, and one of the many ways we can clean up the mental mess!
Essentially, you need to become a thought detective to find the source(s) of your mental distress. This starts with understanding the signals that the mind, brain, and body send you when you are going through something. These signals alert you TO protect you.
There are 4 main signals: your emotions, your behaviors, your physical symptoms, and your perspective/outlook. Some examples are:
- Feelings of irritability and/or hopelessness (an emotional warning signal)
- Ignoring calls, texts or emails (a behavioral warning signal)
- The world feels more negative (a perspective warning signal)
- Muscle aches and/or pains (a physical warning signal)
Let’s say you feel depressed. As an exercise to help you start managing these feelings of depression, try to categorize what signals you are experiencing into these 4 categories. Some other examples of signals from a post I shared on social media are:
- Feeling self-conscious or flat around people
- Your personal hygiene goes out the window
- Your thoughts make you sad
- Your room gets messy
- Your hobbies no longer make you happy
- Brain fog
- You stop missing people and isolation feels more comfortable
- Constant fatigue
As you gather awareness of your warning signals, ask yourself questions like:
- How do I feel emotionally? Physically?
- Are any of my behaviors bothering me?
- What is my outlook/worldview/perspective—how do I feel about my life/the world/etc.?
Write this down any way you wish to help you start organizing your thinking. Then, once you go through this exercise, you can start listening to what these signals are telling you, and work through how you feel to reconceptualize these thought patterns using a mind management system like the Neurocycle (for more on this see my app Neurocycle and book Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess). The goal is to learn how to listen to the nonconscious mind using your conscious mind, and then using what you have gathered to start changing how these thoughts are affecting your mental health and life.
It is important to remember that things like anxiety, depression, burnout, frustration, angst, anger and grief are emotional and physical warning signals, telling you that you need to face and deal with something that’s happened or is happening in your life.
The mental pain, which is very real, is a sign that something is wrong: you are in a state of disequilibrium. It’s not a sign of a defective brain! The brain is going through a process of reordering and reorganizing in response to your experience(s), which are processed through the different parts of the mind (as was discussed in part one and two of this podcast series).
It is also important to remember that the brain and mind are separate. The brain does not produce the mind; the brain responds to the mind. And you have the power to change your mind!
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