When asked to sum up his wisdom in one phrase, Socrates bluntly stated: “Know thyself.”
Oh, okay. Easy enough, right. I already know what I like. My favorite color is blue. My favorite song is…uhh, well I’m not completely sure on that one. But I definitely know myself better than anyone else. It’s not like I need to go to extensive therapy to know who I am or what I want.
Or do I? Socrates taught that:
The unexamined life is not worth living.
I completely resound with that statement. I can’t accept myself without knowing myself. I can’t make good decisions, decisions that are right for me, without knowing myself. But knowing myself is not as easy as I once thought.
The more I thought about it, the further self knowledge seemed to be from my grasp.Our subconscious mind is in control
The subconscious houses our beliefs, our presuppositions, and emotions. One of the best ways to know yourself is to understand your beliefs. The difficulty is that our beliefs are subconscious. We accept or beliefs before we critically examine them. The beliefs that we’ve accepted create our perception of reality.
What happens when those subconscious beliefs are in opposition to what you’re trying to accomplish? Or if those beliefs no longer serve you, or are stopping you from reaching your goals?
Think of it this way: our subconscious is like a bridge keeper. Between your conscious mind and your goals there’s a bridge. So, the bridge is between where you are now and where you’d like to go. On that bridge is the bridge keeper. This bridge keeper holds the key to the storage room that holds every memory and emotion. The bridge keeper is your subconscious mind. The bridge keeper’s one goal, his purpose for being on the bridge is to keep you safe throughout your life.
The problem is your bridge keeper only has the past memories and emotions as his frame of reference. So the bridge keeper uses the information out of your past to make sure you stay in what he believes is the safe zone, away from the chasm that could potentially harm you. The bridge keeper’s biggest fear is the unknown.
Whenever your conscious mind is telling you to grow, to move across the bridge towards the person you want to be, the bridge keeper is there throwing doubts and questions in your way because he believes you’re moving off the safety of the firm ground and close to the edge of the bridge.
You know what I’m talking about, you’ll be thinking about going to work out, but there’s these little voices in the back of your mind telling you it’s too much effort, or I went yesterday, or I’m just too tired.
This happens to me often when I know I need to sit down and write, my subconscious mind will throw a bunch of excuses towards the forefront of my mind. Come on…it’s so much more comfortable and easier to just watch one more YouTube video, and not put in the mental effort or research needed to write a new post.
The bridge keeper is the reason we sometimes feel like we’ve hit a wall. There’s a conscious desire to do something, but we can’t seem to break through, it’s because the bridge keeper has found a reason, deep inside our emotional perceptions, to walk down the bridge and inflict a stalemate.
The bridge keeper is the way to better knowing yourself. If you’re able to have an open connection and relationship between your conscious and subconscious mind, you will be able to know who you are and effectively use your emotional intelligence.
If you’re able to reprogram your subconscious mind to properly align with your goals and keep you on that bridge in the direction you want to go, that’s when the beauty of “Know Thyself” comes into fruition.
So, how do we keep our subconscious mind from seeing red flags in our goals that the conscious mind has decided upon? I’m still in the process of perfecting this skill myself, but here’s a few ways that I’ve found to be useful.Practicing Mindfulness
Mindfulness is an aspect of self-awareness. It’s cognitively and purposefully observing and thinking about what you see, so as to minimize mistakes and absorb experiences. Autopilot is a side effect of allowing just your subconscious to run the show. Mindfulness engages your conscious mind so you can stop allowing yourself to run on routine, absent-mindedness, and better embrace the world around you while noticing the full effect your experiences are having on you.Visualization
When I first heard of this concept, I thought it was silly. Some kind of childish game that wouldn’t really affect my course in life. The more I heard about it though, the more interested I became in it. Visualization is the practice of using your mind to burn a mental image of where you want to be in the future into your mind’s eye. Each morning I make it a habit to fully visualize where I want to be in the near future. Taking the time out of your day to clearly pinpoint the place across that bridge will allow your bridge keeper to realize that place isn’t as terrifying and fear-inspiring as he once thought it was.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once stated that
“the only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.”
Becoming in tune with your subconscious is the best step towards knowing yourself and becoming the person you are destined to be.