More limitations of the conscious mind 7+-2

Here is another quirky difference between your conscious and your unconscious mind. At any given moment in time your conscious mind can only be aware of between 5 and 9 pieces of information. It’s also called the 7 plus / minus 2 rule. Anything more than that overwhelms your conscious mind. However, you always have a vast amount of information streaming in through your five senses.

If you were consciously aware of all that data you’d be in constant overwhelm. To stop that from happening you automatically block out certain bits of data. You do it unconsciously which is why you are not aware of it.

While you have been reading this... You may have completely forgotten to notice what your hand feels like…. Or you may have completely forgotten to notice what your feet feel like….

Now that I mentioned it, part of your conscious awareness switched. And you are now consciously aware of it again.

That information has always been available to you. It just wasn’t deemed to be important at this moment and hence you filtered iy out.

To make this super clear. Your unconscious mind is aware of everything that is happening around you. At any given moment in time.

Maybe you hadn’t noticed certain sounds around you…

And now once again your attention has switched to those and you are now aware of them…

Why is this important for you? Firstly, so called reality.... It’s always useful to know that we are very limited in our ability to perceive and interpret so called reality. Be aware that lots of information always gets filtered out. Hence what gets through into our conscious awareness is a tiny slither. What gets through depends on the values, beliefs and other unconscious rules of the individual.

When seven different people watch the same accident you get seven different explanations about what happened. Conversation along the lines of: “I was there, that is not at all what happened” are utterly pointless. Because as humans, the best we can do is try and create a big picture out of our 5 to 9 pieces of the puzzle.

Assume you have team meeting and someone doesn’t seem to be paying attention. It could well be that their conscious mind is overloaded with thoughts. On the inside they are too busy doing: “What if they ask me something and I don’t know the answer?” “If they ask this… I’ll say that… but what if they ask me that…? Oh, my heart is pounding…”. That person can not pay attention to you anymore. Because their conscious mind is already busy tracking 5 to 9 bits of data. You know those meetings where everyone has to stand up and introduce themselves and what they do? Newest research shows that up to 75% of the population have a fear of public speaking! This means: three quarters of the people are paying ZERO attention to what is being said by the others!

They are too busy trying to mange their internal state in the only way they know how to, at this moment in time. Obviously everyone can learn to be calm and at ease in those situations.

When I hear the neighbours dog barking its poor neglected little head off, I have a choice. For one I have already reframed it, because I am sorry for him.

And the rest is: 5-9 bits of data. As soon as I start to focus, really focus on 5 - 9 other bits of data I can no longer pay any attention to him. So I focus on my writing and what I am wanting to say. ..

Conscious & Unconscious processes

When you are aware of what you're doing... That's your conscious processes at work. Like logic and rational thinking

Your unconscious processes are the things that mostly happen outside your conscious awareness, you know the stuff that happens automatically whether you think about it or not. Like when you let go of a hot frying pan. Or your head just moved out of the way of a ball flying past. You didn't decide that, it just happened. Well it didn't just happen, your unconscious processes, who's job is to keep you safe, made you move. You just weren't consciously aware of it...

Your unconscious is always at work in the best way it has learned up till now... Which is not necessarily the very best way, it’s just the best way it has learned. So it might simply be time to upgrade your software…
Your unconscious loves learning, especially in a fun and memorable way. Which is why hypnosis works so well!

Water-jugs, stress, overwhelm..

Overwhelm, anxiety, stress are all in the same ballpark and one of the main issues I help clients with on a daily basis.

When stressed the body is tipping out way too much adrenaline and cortisol. That was really useful when we were running away from a saber-toothed tiger. Back then we really wanted our brains to direct all our energy into running and through running we used up all the stress hormones.

These days we just end up with a lot of useless hormones running around in our body creating havoc… Plus many people engage in overeating, smoking, drinking and other not so resourceful habits in an attempt to cope with stress. Needless to say that prolonged stress can have serious implications for our health.

So learning to deal with it can only be useful. 

People often say: “But you can’t change my situation!” That’s right. I can’t! However there is a lot I can help you with… So read on.

So what is stress?

It’s like when you have a jug of water and a number of glasses you need to fill. This water jug represents all your coping mechanisms, understanding, skills and resources… 

Normally you are filling the glasses just fine. Let’s say the glasses represent job, finances, health, fitness, kids, partner, family etc… 

And then more and more glasses keep popping up. These glasses could be things like low self esteem, lack of confidence, a promotion with new responsibilities or a sick loved one, loss of a job or a loved one, an unforeseen big bill, an injury or illness, grief etc… 

And all of a sudden you just have nothing left in the jug. No matter how much you shake the jug, it’s simply just empty. 

You really only have three options: 

  1. Check if you may be able to get rid of some of the glasses ( => Values) 

  2. Determine which glasses are actually your job to fill, often some glasses can be handed over ( => Boundaries)

  3. Get a bigger jug (Hence more resources, skills and coping mechanisms => Resilience) 

Values, boundaries and resilience are all unconscious behaviours which can be learned. Experience shows that learning happens easily when done subconsciously.