The Subconscious Mind: Insights from Viktor Frankl

Viktor Frankl’s short book, Man’s Search for Meaning, has been described as ‘among the most influential works of psychiatric literature since Freud.’ He begins with an account of his experiences in Auschwitz and other concentration camps and then develops the insights from these experiences into a remarkable synthesis.

The book has been the inspiration for many other works, including Stephen Covey’s famous ‘Seven Habits.’ Frankl’s work has a great deal to say about many aspects of life. His insights on the role of the subconscious are particularly interesting.

“We know a case in which a violinist always tried to play as consciously as possible. From putting his violin in place on his shoulder to the most trifling technical detail, he wanted to do everything consciously, to perform in full self-reflection. This led to a complete artistic breakdown…. Treatment had to give back to the patient his trust in the unconscious, by having him realize how much more musical his unconscious was than his conscious.”

Know who is in control

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

First, we must realize that we are in the driving seat. This is what law of Attraction is all about – we must create consciously. Unlike Pavlov’s dogs or other animals who respond only by instinct, we humans have the power of choice. The Austrian psychiatrist and survivor of the holocaust Viktor Frankl wrote that between stimulus and response there is a gap, and inside that gap lies all of our experience. When we realize that this gap exists and that we can use it, we have tremendous power.

Most people have given that power away. They go straight from stimulus to response without a thought, reacting in the old, habitual way over and over again. It amazes me that people go through life running the same script for year after year, decade after decade, never seeming to realize that they have a choice. But this is the reality – you have free will, you are responsible for how you react, and you have the power to change ‘I must’ into ‘I choose.’ This is Law of Attraction.

It all starts in the mind

“Everything can be taken from a man or a woman but one thing: the last of human freedoms to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

The most important area in which we operate our freedom is our own mind. We are free to control our thoughts and change our own perception of things. This is a revelation to many people, who believe that thoughts happen to them. In reality, you generate your own thoughts all day long and you can be the master of them. Changing our beliefs is not instantaneous, but our beliefs do change throughout our lives and we can be active in controlling this process.

The way we act, of course, depends on what we believe. It makes sense that changing what we believe will alter the way we behave. Rich people tend naturally to think about money and abundance and so they tend to attract more money by naturally acting in accordance with their beliefs. Poor people often tend to think about lack, and so they attract this experience.

The inside-out

We create our own reality in two ways. One is our self-talk. We talk to ourselves all day long. You can often catch the moment shortly after you wake up when the script kicks in – for a short while after you wake up, your mind is blank; you-re not thinking anything in particular. But suddenly you will remember what happened to you yesterday or last week (good or bad) and your internal talk will begin. If you-re not very conscious about it, this script will just run in the background all day and you will react to situations in your usual conditioned manner. But if you can become aware that this is happening, you can start to replace to old script with a self-talk based on conscious choice.

The other is our visualization. We see ourselves in certain scenarios in our mind’s eye. Again, if you are conscious, you can replace the ‘default’ visualizations (of being a victim, being poor etc.) with new ones about abundance, happiness, confidence and control. Start visualizing what you want to achieve, how you want to feel and what sort of person you want to be.

The subconscious ensures that our images are translated into reality. A change in our mind will work its way out. Our subconscious mind ‘believes’ what it is told by the thinking, self-talking, visualizing mind and does not recognize any difference between a real experience and an imaginary one. So we need to be careful what we think about and talk to ourselves about, and what we see in our mind’s eye. These words and images will be turned into reality as sure as day follows night. In the end, we see the world as we are.

The role of action

“Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfilment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated, thus, everyone’s task is unique as his specific opportunity to implement it.”

When you do what you love, the whole world comes alive. It starts dancing to your tune – it becomes your puppet. When you are doing the thing you love, you will naturally draw the right people and resources towards yourself to ensure that you accomplish your goals.

Taking action is important – without it you will probably never achieve anything. But the action must be easy, effortless even. And action can only be effortless when you are ‘in the flow’ of the universal stream. To do a job you hate is to swim against the tide; to get up every day and go to a job you feel no enthusiasm for is a waste of life.

The way we are now is a result of our past thoughts, our self-talk and visualizations. But every moment is a new beginning. Our future depends on what we are thinking about right now. So to create the life we desire, we should dwell on thoughts about the things we love and trust the universe to take care of it.

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