Many of the decisions we make, we make subconsciously. If we understand how the subconscious works, and often hinders us, we can use it to improve our safety behaviours.
How does the subconscious work?
- Our subconscious is like our own personal friendly giant that dedicates itself to our welfare. It continually scans our body to see if everything is working okay and scans our environment in micro-seconds (where ever we are – at work, at home in the nightclub or in a jungle, say) looking for signs of danger or pleasure. It then gives us signals to move away from the danger or towards the pleasure.
- Biologically, the subconscious works automatically. We don’t need to think about the heart beating or the kidneys filtering. If there is something wrong, it fixes it and we don’t even know about it. If it can’t fix it, it tells us – with pain. Psychologically it also works automatically sending us signals as bad or good feelings (“gut feelings”).
- The subconscious is “programmed” from an early age by everything (yes, everything) our parents, teachers and friends say and do. Our home surroundings and by the activities we’re involved in such as – sports, watching TV and playing computer games (and what we think and feel while we do those things). This is what we call “conditioning”. For most of us, most of our behaviour comes from our subconscious. We react and we don’t know why. But with a little thought, we can figure out what the subconscious triggers were that made us behave in a certain way.
- For all its marvelousness and power, the subconscious has at least four flaws. It: a) cannot distinguish real from imagined, b) it takes things personally c) it pays more attention to actions and feelings than words and d) it will sometimes give you what IT THINKS you want based on its conditioning – even if it’s bad for you. This means that the subconscious needs help from you to TELL it consciously and with feeling, over and over again, what you want.
In Safety Briefing 8 we’ll see how to use the subconscious to help us work even more safely.
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