The Impostor Syndrome: The Conscious Mind
Each of us have two separate and distinct minds. They do different things and sometimes they have a hard time interrelating and communicating with each other. The way I think of them is to imagine that you have an outer-mind and an inner-mind. The outer-mind is the conscious-mind that you think, analyze and rationalize with. The conscious mind is where we spend most of our time.
What I have been taught is that the conscious mind can be divided into four parts: Analysis, Short-term Memory, Will Power and Rationalization.
The first thing the mind does is analyze. Typically, it quickly compares what it is experiencing with what it has experienced in the past. This part of the mind analyzes problems for us and tries to help us solve them. The analytical portion of your mind makes hundreds of decisions each day from the most mundane, like what shoes to wear, to the more critical, like how to pay for college for your kids.
The next part is our short-term memory. This is the memory that helps you find your keys (most of the time), or what your dog’s name is and what is your address. These short-term memories help us get through each day.
The next part of the conscious mind is will power. Will power has a tough job to do and sometimes it just doesn’t get it done. If you have ever tried to “will” yourself to stop smoking, over eating, start exercising, stop drinking too much, you have discovered the limits of will power.
Will power is important, but it may be more important to understand what breaks it down. In recovery programs, they use the acronym H.A.L.T. to help patients stay vigilant about the fragile nature of will power. Each letter stands for a physical or mental state you do not allow yourself to get into. In this state, your will power is far more apt to crumble.
Hungry: Nothing sends a diet packing faster than hunger. If someone has not yet altered their patterns of thought and behavior on food, they will not have the strategies in place to deal with hunger while on a diet. They will typically relapse into getting the fastest food in them possible, which is often the least healthy. If you have ever been shopping while hungry, you understand how this could happen.
Angry: When people get angry they act impulsively. When someone is angry, they may use that anger as an excuse for relapsing back into bad behavior. My friend Dr. Wil Horton says this is the, “I’ll show you! I’ll kill me!” Syndrome.
Lonely: Like anger, this sad state weakens will power and can provide a false excuse for abandoning will power.
Tired: When you are tired, you don’t think straight. When you are tired, you make mistakes. The very nature of will power is the strength to resist an urge and your strength is weakened when you are tired.
The fourth task of the conscious mind is rationalization. I bet we know all about this one. I call it the excuse maker. Overweight people say they eat because they are bored. Smokers say they smoke because they need to relax. Whatever it is that you are trying not to do you find an excuse to do it, “because…” That is rationalization and it can be destructive to your growth if you let it because none of it is true. It’s just a rationalization.
Your inner-mind is the subconscious mind. The prime directive of the subconscious mind is to preserve and protect the body.” However, how it goes about accomplishing this is not always rational. Phobias and other irrational fears are an example. For instance, the fear of swimming in the ocean is not usually a fear of the water it’s of the creatures in the water.
Irrational fear often occurs when the relationship between respect and fear get out of balance. There is a difference between respecting the power of the ocean and its creatures and fearing them. Most of us respect the power of the ocean and are careful about how we work and play in or around it. When that respect crosses over into fear, we’re moving further from rational respect into irrational fear.