The Subconscious; the Dark Matter of our Psychology
Something I do when I’m on the treadmill is read on my Kindle or watch documentaries. I recently finished Quark Science on Amazon and the episode on dark matter grabbed my attention because it reminded me of something from psychology.
What is this mysterious thing scientists call dark matter? According to Dictionary.com it is, “Unseen matter that may make up more than ninety percent of the universe. As the name implies, dark matter does not interact with light or other electromagnetic radiation, so it cannot be seen directly, but it can be detected by measuring its gravitational effects.”
As I watched I thought about the dark matter of our minds – our subconscious.
More than 90% of the Universe and Your Being
Dark matter is thought to make up more than 90% of our universe. If it makes up so much you’d think you’d readily see it. If you can’t see it, you may think perhaps it doesn’t really exist. Our subconscious is very similar.
In Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy author Martin Lindstrom looks at the buying habits of people as they pertain to thought, feelings and emotions. Lindstrom contends that 85% of our decisions and/or actions are driven by the subconscious. Leonard Mlodinow puts that number at 95% in his book Subliminal: How Your Subconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior.
Let’s split the difference and call it 90%. That means 9 out of every 10 of your thoughts and/or actions are driven by something you’re completely unaware of, something you cannot readily access.
Cannot Be Seen But Can Be Measured
In much the same way that dark matter cannot be seen, neither is your subconscious “seen” in the sense that it’s not accessible to the conscious mind. If it were, then we’d call it your conscious mind.
But we know we have a subconscious even though most of the time we’re completely unaware of it. That’s because we see the effects of our subconscious on what we think, how we feel and what we do.
A Dark Matter Personal Story
Have you ever had someone confront you about something you were completely unaware of? If so, you may have resisted what they had to say. That happened go me and it wasn’t until decades later that I could finally see it.
When I was a junior in high school I was suspended for three days for swearing at a teacher. We had a confrontation in the library and she told me if I didn’t like what she had to say I could leave. A 17-year-old full of testosterone I blurted out, “Fine! I don’t give a damn, I’m gonna get the hell out of here!” I stormed out and she caught me in the hallway. To her credit, she gave me every opportunity to apologize but I was angry and refused. Next came the punishment.
If you would have told me my uncharacteristic angry outburst had to do with my parents going through a divorce I would have denied it. I would have insisted with every fiber in my being that the teacher was the problem and it had nothing to do with my parents. Looking back, I now know divorce has a huge impact on kids, whether or not they realize it at the time.
The moral of the story is simply this; I was unaware of what was driving my emotions and behavior. Based on my understanding of psychology I know I’m not alone.
Most people don’t know why they think, feel and do what they do because seldom do they have time for self-reflection. If asked about their thoughts, feelings and actions, they will come up with a reason – a rationalization – but most of the time it’s not completely accurate because they are unaware of the dark matter that actually drives them.
To Do This Week
Maybe you’re like the millions of self-quarantined people who have a little more time on hand than usual. Take some of that time to do some self-reflection. Occasionally pause and ask yourself:
- Why do I think that?
- How come I feel this way?
- Why did I do that?
Ben Franklin said, “Three things are extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one’s self.” I think knowing yourself is the most valuable of the three.
Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An author, international trainer, coach and consultant, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the planet on the science of ethical influence.
Brian’s book, Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical, was a top 10 selling Amazon book in several insurance categories and top 50 in sales & selling. His LinkedIn Learning courses on sales and coaching have been viewed by more than 100,000 people around the world!