I end each post that I write here at Peace with Endo with a review of “the positive side” of the situation or topic at hand. Primarily because I feel like a positive outlook has helped on my healing journey.
But lately I’ve recognized that there are limitations to this. There is more involved than just positive thinking. There is a silent factor calling a lot of the shots without you even knowing: your subconscious mind.
This topic came up again in a recent conversation I had with an amazing endo sister, whose focus has been on the impacts of the subconscious mind and chronic pain.
These tugging messages have prompted me to write about the subconscious today, with acknowledgement that this could be an important overlooked piece.
Neuroscience has established that the subconscious mind shapes 95% or more of our life experiences! It’s developed early on in life and continues to play a crucial role in our health and healing.
The Divisions of Consciousness
So to break it down, there are two divisions of your mind: the conscious and subconscious. While termed “divisions” these two pieces are actually interdependent.
The conscious mind represents our personal identity and creative mind. This part sees the future, reviews the past and solves problems in our head. This part of our mind holds our desires and aspirations. It is the part of the mind that summons up “positive thoughts”.
The subconscious mind, on the other hand, is like a hard drive filled with data that coincides with stimulus-response behaviors. These behaviors are trained and ingrained from childhood.
When it comes down to sheer neurological processing abilities, the subconscious mind is more than a million times more powerful than the conscious mind.
– Dr. Bruce Lipton
So… the subconscious mind wins out. It is instinctual. It does its job without us knowing.
The problem comes into play when the learned behaviors and beliefs that we pick up as children from our parents, peers and teachers, does not support the desires of our conscious mind.
This is the biggest obstacle to experiencing our dreams. These subconscious limitations influence our behaviors and play a big role in determining our physiology and health.
You can think positive things in your conscious mind, but if your subconscious mind disagrees then you may not be able to harness control of your body and your life. You can repeat positive affirmations over and over but if you were fed with alternate messages as a child then they may not take.
Ingrained Uterine Beliefs
In her book The Uterine Health Companion, medical anthropologist, Eve Agee, goes into detail about the history of “The Stigma of the Uterus”.
At the birth of biomedicine, the uterus came to be considered a polluting factor for women’s health. The first physicians deemed the uterus unstable, citing it as the reason behind insanity or instability in their female patients. In fact, ‘hysteria’ (derived from hyster, the Greek term for uterus) was considered a condition in which a woman’s insanity was caused by her uterus.
– Eve Agee
Growing up, I developed the same belief that the uterus was naturally problematic. I watched my mother struggle with hers. Once painful menstruation arrived, my belief that the uterus was problematic was confirmed.
This was further confirmed by doctors along the way as they explained to me that cyclical pain and suffering are an innate and unavoidable part of being a woman. PMS symptoms were written off as normal and related back to the early “hysteria” references.
When things get real painful then doctors more often then not suggest hysterectomy: just cut it out. It’s problematic. Get rid of it.
Like the rest of our society, medical researchers and physicians have been indoctrinated to see uterine problems as natural or perhaps inevitable. From this view, our current uterine health crisis simply looks the way we have all been conditioned to think women’s health is meant to be – inconvenient, painful or embarrassing. We lack the passion that would spark research and technology to bring about a cure, because of our negative perspective that we in the West have of the uterus.
– Eve Agee
When I was younger I thought the same way. I can’t wait to get rid of my uterus. It’s a problem. Cut it out!
Menstruation: Celebration or Shame?
In her book, Eve goes on to explore the differences between Westernized cultures that hold these uterine stigmas and the related feelings of “shame” with menstruation.
The cultures that celebrate a woman’s first period and treat the uterus with respect and acknowledgement that this organ is truly powerful, have less uterine problems… less cases of endometriosis.
I thought this was quite interesting. As I look back to my early years of menstruation I remember those feelings of shame. For years I asked my mother to buy my menstrual pads for me because I was just so embarrassed! I didn’t want anyone to know that I was on my period.
I snuck my menstrual pads into the bathroom stalls and was so careful to quietly unwrap the wrapper. Heaven forbid someone knew I was on my period!
With my growing knowledge of the power of subconscious mind, I started to wonder how these stigmas and subconscious societal beliefs have shaped the way I’ve related to my uterus and menstruation.
I asked the question on Peace with Endo’s Facebook page last week: “Do you remember when you first started your period? Was it celebrated? Or did you feel a bit of shame?”
I was not surprised to see that many endo sisters felt shame… and pain.
On the Positive Side?
The good news is there are ways to alter the subconscious mind. The first big step is with awareness of the impacts of the subconscious mind and its silent motives affecting our behaviors that were ingrained from an early age.
The conscious mind has the power to change the response, if we are paying attention. Thus, we are not victims of our early programming.
One thing Dr. Lipton recommends is hypnosis. There are self-hypnosis apps/CDs for chronic pain that you can download and listen to while you sleep. Another thing he brings up is the power of habit. When we repeat behaviors or ideas over and over then eventually it becomes “programmed”.
I find the workings of the mind to be so fascinating. If you do too, then I suggest checking out Dr. Lipton’s interview where he shares ways to reprogram your subconscious mind.
Have you looked deeper into the role of your subconscious mind? I’d love to hear from you…