Very often when we're dealing with mental illness, emotional challenges and behavioral issues, we've fallen into patterns of behavior that we aren't conscious of, that we haven't given thought to, and that we aren't aware of yet. We're functioning as if on auto-pilot. We do things without thinking about them, without thinking about all the potential risks and consequences, without thinking about how we'll be impacting our lives and the lives of those around us. Where do our behaviors come from then, if we're not consciously choosing them? For many of us, our behaviors are the result of the negative subconscious programming we've absorbed and have been practicing thinking repeatedly, for much of our lives. Where does this programming come from, and how does it impact our behavior? How can we reprogram ourselves to think and behave differently?

Our Thought Patterns

Before we develop higher consciousness around ourselves and our healing, most of us are constantly repeating statements in our minds, but we're not thinking about them, we're not actively choosing which ones to think, and we're not being careful about which ones we allow to dominate our thinking. The statements we repeat are usually very negative and coming from a place of fear. We're constantly programming ourselves and our lives with these negative, fearful statements, and this programming becomes ingrained in our subconscious minds. Our subconscious minds govern the majority of our daily actions, thoughts and emotions, so if we are subconsciously programmed in a certain way, that is how we will behave, think and feel. We can start the healing process by becoming more conscious of how we think and what things we're repeatedly saying to ourselves. What limiting beliefs have you developed? What thought patterns are you constantly repeating? What fears are fueling your thought patterns and beliefs? Where do those fears come from?

For example, if we're always feeling as though we're not good enough, our thought patterns of insecurity are usually coming from a fear of inadequacy, which for many of us is often the result of a traumatic experience we haven't made peace with yet, such as a painful loss. We can practice developing more consciousness around the ways in which we think and feel. We can look at when, where and how some of our subconscious programming began to take root. Was it after a particularly traumatic incident, such as a break-up, injury, or death in the family? Is it the result of childhood insecurities that you never healed from? The first step in changing our behaviors is becoming more mindful of the negative thought patterns and programming we've been operating from.

Our Surroundings

We want to take a closer look at where our negative programming may have originated from. It can come from our families, our communities and the media we're exposed to. The behaviors we witness in other people are often the same ones we often we will go on to emulate and develop for ourselves. When we see family members constantly fighting with each other, for example, we can absorb that behavioral programming for ourselves. We're being programmed, often without realizing it, to act reactively, to be defensive, to be harsh and unkind. We aren't being programmed to use healthy communication or to learn effective conflict resolution skills. We aren't being programmed to listen mindfully, to speak lovingly, or to be respectful. Our programming can come directly from the different things we witness and experience, and we absorb them energetically. They then go on to impact our thoughts, emotions, behaviors and choices.

Our Self-Destructive Programming

One of the most common things we absorb that can impact our behavioral programming is the subconscious self-destructiveness that so many of us grew up witnessing. We see older family members using drugs, harming themselves and staying in abusive relationships. We see reckless drug use glamorized and normalized in television, music and movies. We learn early on that it's cool to be free, nonchalant risk-takers. We often don't realize that our impulses to be careless with our safety and to self-harm come from an instinct toward self-destruction. We aren't necessarily taught to love and value ourselves. We might have been overly judged and criticized, causing us to feel a deep sense of self-rejection. We have a hard time accepting and embracing ourselves for who we are. Our self-hatred makes us want to hurt ourselves, abandon ourselves and endanger ourselves. We're compounding our negative programming and reinforcing it in our psyches, every time we engage in another self-harming behavior, every time we tell ourselves we're failures, every time we look down on ourselves. We repeat family patterns of drug and alcohol abuse. We find ourselves in toxic relationships, just like the ones we grew up watching. Our behavioral patterns can unconsciously perpetuate the same patterns we've witnessed and absorbed, because our programming has been one of self-destructiveness.

The Process of Reprogramming Ourselves

Once we've started the self-exploration part of our recovery work, and once we gain more clarity around our negative programming, we can begin to shift our thinking, our belief systems, and therefore our behavioral patterns. When we think differently, we behave differently. When we are carrying beliefs of self-love and self-worth, we start to behave in more self-loving, self-affirming, self-supportive ways. We begin to value ourselves more. We make healthier choices and leave behind self-harming, self-destructive behaviors. One of the best ways to shift our negative programming is through reprogramming our subconscious minds. We can do this by repeating positive affirmations while envisioning ourselves embodying those affirmations. An example to shift our negative, self-destructive programming would be to envision ourselves as happy, healthy and at peace, while also repeating affirmations that are self-loving, self-nurturing and self-protective. “I am at peace within myself. I create happiness and health for myself. I love myself. I take good care of myself. I protect myself and my well-being.” The more we practice this reprogramming technique, the more we believe in ourselves, the more we shift our behaviors from being negative and self-destructive to being empowering and self-affirming.

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About the Author:
Josh Nelson
Josh Nelson

Roots Intensives Director

Josh Nelson has a deep, and extensive background in...

Josh Nelson has a deep, and extensive background in wilderness therapy, having grown up around some of the very first wilderness...