THE POTENCY OF OUR SUBCONSCIOUS BELIEFS ABOUT OURSELVES.
Putting a USB connector into its corresponding slot, I get it wrong 95% of the time and have to then flip it over so it will go in. Why? My understanding of probability — albeit limited — is perpetually blown to shreds when this happens. I don’t spend any time thinking about it and simply flip the plug over. In it goes and I move on with whatever task required the connection. But wait. Why did that happen? Why does it happen most of the time? I’ve tested it and, yup, I’m usually wrong. It’s based on our subconscious beliefs.
I’VE ACTUALLY NOW STARTED EMPLOYING A WORKAROUND.
I delude myself that I’m going to put the plug into the slot correctly up to the last millisecond. At the last possible moment when the plug is only a couple centimeters away from the slot, I spring. I turn the tables on my subconscious and flip the plug over before it can realize what I’m doing. Hah! Got you, you little bugger! That works a surprising (and disheartening) amount of the time. Not allowing for my perverse little mind game, why does this happen? To arrive at an explanation that incorporates my belief that I, as a man, am in integrity and accountable for my actions, I have to lay out my options and really look hard at them.
IS IT JUST PHYSICS?
One option includes that the plug, slot or some other physical aspect of the scenario is somehow influencing the outcome. This would be similar to the Buttered Toast Experiment that says that when buttered toast falls, it will usually, if not always, fall buttered side down. It’s an explanation that is wholly focused on the physics of the event. If the butter on one side of the toast did affect how the toast falls through the atmosphere, that dynamical asymmetry would explain why the buttered toast falls butter side down.
IT’S NOT PHYSICS.
This was ultimately disproved by Robert A J Matthews in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Computer Science in the University of Aston, Birmingham in his famous 1995 experiment. In our USB problem, there is no physical influence. Thus this Bayesian view is ultimately not helpful in our USB problem. It is limited and therefore we have to dismiss it here.
IS IT SPOOKY WOO-WOO FROM A DISTANCE?
Another option is that the event is controlled by some mysterious force yet unknown. Spirits, universal energies, God, and Thor are just a few examples within the voluminous list of mechanisms we’ve devised to explain that which we don’t understand yet. I don’t ascribe these kinds of happenings to the workings of my spiritual beliefs. It just doesn’t make sense to me so I’m going to discard it as an option here. If you choose, you may stop here at the door of confusion and assign the improbable to your belief of choice. It’s not enough for me. So, if you’re still reading, let’s move on.
IS IT MURPHY’S LAW?
Next, let’s consider the idea that shit just goes wrong. This expands on the “laws” of Sod, Finagle, and his majesty, Murphy that state that in general, if something can go wrong, it will. These laws are the result of flawed conventional wisdom. Not always wrong but usually. Mr. Matthews states it well: “Such estimates lend credibility to the widespread ‘orthodox’ answer to the tumbling toast question: that it is essentially a coin-tossing process in which only the bad outcomes are remembered.” (That last word explains so much. So satisfying.) I don’t think this explains it though and the pessimism inherent in the proposition that shit just goes wrong isn’t satisfying.
IT’S ME … ALL ME.
Finally, after looking at the above as well as other options I don’t feel apply, we arrive at an option that incorporates physics, optimism, accountability, integrity, and human neurology. This option sounds well integrated.
LET’S UNPACK IT!
We need to understand our subconscious beliefs about ourselves and how we as men affect outcomes in ways we aren’t aware of. Outcomes that affect something small like our USB example or outcomes that emanate out from our personal experience on grand scales, and everything in between. If I sabotage my conscious goal of getting the plug in the slot correctly, then it’s possible I sabotage myself in an argument or frustrating situation, or even the vector of my whole life and my baseline happiness.
OPTIMISM AND INTEGRITY ARE THE POTENTIOMETERS.
Optimism is the way we see opportunity in difficult situations or problem-solving. It’s one way of looking at the world that allows for enthusiasm, creative problem solving, engagement, and purpose. Optimism also is built into, and encouraged by, integrity. If I am in integrity, I have control. If I have control, I can change my experience (for good or bad), If I can change my experience, there is hope, and if that is all true, I am more optimistic. Optimism and integrity have an integral relationship.
WE HAVE MORE THAN ONE GOAL.
If we understand that there is more than one goal, if what we think we want is not the only want we have, then understanding our subconscious beliefs, exactly what that hidden want is and how to bring it into our awareness is key. At the times when we habitually just let the program run in the background, is when we might be helped by bringing those hidden wants into our awareness and adapting to make better decisions consciously. These decisions might be those that make us healthier, happier, more engaged, and better prepared to cope with adversity. The benefit of self-awareness can’t be understated.
THOSE HIDDEN LITTLE BUGGERS WILL GET US EVERY TIME.
This hidden want that’s created by our subconscious beliefs is far more effective at actuating goals than the higher consciousness. All the things we’ve experienced have shaped and programmed the lower consciousness to create patterns, habits, and behaviors that are designed to keep us safe. That’s a good thing. Where problems arise is when those hidden programs no longer suite our needs and in fact, are counter to our overall happiness and effectiveness.
Previously Published on Men’s Group Talk