Inner Sanctum

Your subconscious mind rules your behavior

By Barbara Pierce

subconscious“Tall, slender, clean cut, clean shaven, a classy professional.”

That was how I described the man of my dreams. I was single and searching. I’d been told that the first step to find the man of my dreams was to describe him.

Shorter than I, overweight (but buff), high school dropout, beard, tattoo, think “biker.” That describes the man I fell in love with. Diametrically opposed to the description in my mind.

This is because our rational mind does not make the decision of whom we are attracted to.

Our subconscious mind actually makes our decisions for us. Decisions about whom we love, how we behave, how we respond to people and to situations.

Yes, it’s a proven fact: Your subconscious mind runs your life, makes you behave the way you do, is responsible for how you react.

“There is our conscious mind that thinks freely. Then there is our subconscious mind, which is basically a super computer loaded with a database of programmed behaviors, most of which we acquired before age 6,” said Bruce Lipton online at

The subconscious mind automatically reacts to situations. “Our brains begin to prepare for action just over a third of a second before we consciously decide to act,” said Lipton. In other words, even when we think we are conscious, it is our subconscious mind that is making decisions for us.

Lipton also says that our subconscious mind operates at 40 million bits of data per second, while our conscious mind processes at only 40 bits per second.

So our subconscious mind is much more powerful, and it is our subconscious mind that shapes how we live our life. It powerfully influences our behavior, making us do things without knowing why. Most of our decisions, actions, emotions and behavior depend on the 95 percent of the brain activity that is beyond our conscious awareness.

In one research study, college students bumped into a woman holding textbooks, papers and a cup of either hot or iced coffee. She asked for a hand with the cup.

The students who held the cup of iced coffee rated the woman as being colder, less social and more selfish than did the students who held the hot cup.

Findings like this are many: People tidy up better when there’s a tang of cleaning liquid in the air; they become more competitive if there’s a briefcase in sight, or more cooperative if they glimpse words like “dependable” and “support.”

People marry people with the same last name. We tend to be unconsciously biased in favor of traits similar to our own, even meaningless traits like our names.

Appealing to subconscious

In restaurants, flowery modifiers lead people to rate those foods as tasting better than the identical foods with only a generic listing. Crispy cucumber, velvety mashed potatoes, slow-roasted beets on a bed of argulula. The description of a dish influences our feeling of how its tastes.

In study after study, people are strongly influenced by irrelevant factors — the ones that speak to our unconscious desires and motivations. When asked about the reasons for their decisions, the subjects were completely unaware that those factors had influenced them.

We judge products by their boxes, books by their covers. Marketing is everything.

Also, when you hear results of polls where they ask people things like the reason they support or don’t support the president, the reasons they like or dislike their job, spouse, etc., take the results with a grain of salt. Their rational answer is pretty meaningless and they don’t really even know.

We make judgments, we act influenced by factors we aren’t aware of.

We form instant assessments when we meet a new person. In seven seconds, we’ve decided if we like this person or not, about the time it took you to read this paragraph.

If you are a doctor, the tone of your voice can have an impact — not only on your patient’s assessment of you, but whether they sue you if anything goes wrong. If you are a salesperson, your degree of eye contact influences whether you make the sale.

We don’t realize how quickly we judge others. Our subconscious mind makes snap judgments. It’s how we are genetically wired.

First impressions do matter. They matter because we continue to believe them. Even when we get subsequent information that shows we were wrong, we ignore the subsequent information. We stick with our initial impression.

Knowing that our subconscious is running the show, shaping our behavior, and has all the power, what are we to do?

Treat it with respect, suggests Matt James online. Your subconscious has important roles to play. It has a wisdom of its own that should be honored. Be aware of it. Respect your instincts. Work with your subconscious rather than trying to browbeat it into submission or ignoring it.

• Barbara Pierce is a retired licensed clinical social worker with many years of experience helping people. If you would like to purchase a copy of her book, “When You Come to the Edge: Aging” or if you have questions for her, contact her at