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May 3, 2024

Small Comments As Unconscious Triggers

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Last week I was finishing up a run and as I was walking up to my house my neighbor was outside. He saw me dripping in sweat and panting after a good workout and jokingly said “Pick up the pace next time, will ya?”

I laughed it off and we had some witty banter back and forth, but when I got inside and sat down I had a huge realization that touches on a massive concept in personal development.

There was no part of me that felt threatened by my neighbor’s comments, and I believe that’s because I have such a strong identity about my fitness.

I have always been in really good physical shape and exercised consistently. I also know that I’m a good runner. So I had a mountain of evidence to believe that there wasn’t any truth in my neighbor’s jab at me for not being in good shape, and therefore it didn’t trigger any kind of emotional response.

However, oftentimes a comment like that could bring to light something else that we don’t have so much confidence in, that hits us more personally, and it could lead to a different result. 

Let’s say instead my neighbor made a joke and it triggered something I was more insecure about, like “What, you can’t afford nicer running shoes than that?”

My money mindset and confidence in my ability to provide for my family isn’t as strong. And I probably would’ve been able to joke it off all the same. But it would’ve left a different psychological imprint.

The comment would filter through my belief system and unconsciously bring to light a weakness about me. In an effort to protect myself, my mind would deflect attention away from this weakness and influence a different output. It could have led to me getting defensive and jabbing back about his old car, feeling embarrassed and flustered, or it could have caused me to shut down and not say anything at all. 

We don’t realize it but constantly we face stimuli that kick off unconscious processing. This processing than influences our logical thinking in ways we don’t even realize. And as long as this all stays unconscious there’s nothing we can do about it and it will continue to cause issues behind the scenes. 

There are two things you can do to gain consciousness and therefore, begin to offset the impacts of unconscious mind.

First is to journal and reflect on a daily basis. Get curious on the times where something might have triggered you into an emotional response. Second is, while experiencing a temporary emotional response, getting into the habit of attempting to understand it and what caused it.

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