All my life I have had dinner by 7:30 in the evening, by this time the sun sets in summers and of course in winters as well in India (at least in my hometown). Daylight hours work differently in Berlin. In winters, the sun sets by 4:30 P.M. and in summers, the sun sets by 10:30 P.M. I was enjoying the usual three meals a day in winters in Berlin as well, but I started skipping dinner as the summer arrived. I just didn’t feel hungry at the usual dinner time even when I had an empty stomach for 9 hours.
How do you know that you’re hungry?
An empty stomach signals the brain when you’re hungry, but that’s not all. The body is just a slave of the mind. By reinforcement, the subconscious mind has learned that dinner is associated with night and night is associated with no sunlight. The function of your subconscious mind is to store data and retrieve it on call of the conscious mind but unconsciously. So when there is sunlight the subconscious mind looks into its database and sends the corresponding not dinner time message to the conscious mind that suppresses signals from the empty stomach which in turn decreases the activity of the hunger-causing nerve cells and increases the activity of hunger-inhibiting cells.
. . . and that’s where the discrimination starts
Subconscious mind learns through reinforcement, gathering data day and night without applying logic. When watching or listening to something, we might think that it is for momentary pleasure, and we are conscious enough to not consume it, the subconscious mind has already stored the information. One can think of conscious mind as the RAM and subconscious mind as the storage, conscious mind’s memory/learning will be erased and it will eventually turn to subconscious mind’s storage which will define your actions.
No one says or feels, since she is a girl, let’s discriminate against her, but through years of reinforcement we have labelled things which women are supposed to do and things which men are supposed to do and that’s where the discrimination starts. If your dad says, “Let your sister stay and you pick up groceries in the night”, it’s his subconscious mind speaking through the conscious mind. This statement of his, upon reinforcement, will settle in your subconscious mind which your conscious mind can interpret in any possible way, one of them being girls are not supposed to go out in the night, and some other guy may interpret it like I will trouble her since she is out at night when she is not supposed to. Almost all the world’s discrimination problems are a result of the unconscious bias.
If we don’t reinforce things enough in our subconscious mind, our actions won’t change, our words or opinions may change.
How to reinforce?
You might think that watching a film for pleasure won’t affect you, but the visuals and meaning will settle in your subconscious mind and will define your actions/choices later. By just watching, reading or listening to things repeatedly that you should and ignoring things that you should not can do the trick. In this world of social media and the internet, it might not be easy to do it, but it isn’t that difficult too.
Though the random switch to new activities won’t give you the same amount of pleasure, and you will tend to move back where you came from, for the switch to work you need to do Dopamine Detox so that the activities that you have been doing till now don’t release Dopamine in your brain and in turn you don’t find pleasure in them and find pleasure in activities that might be boring initially but will give the right information to your senses and hence subconscious mind.
One of my friends quit Netflix, Social Media, Bollywood for two years and when she came back she was unable to find pleasure in them, all of it felt like trash to her. In those two years, because of reinforcement her subconscious mind unlearned information provided by these sources and learned to release dopamine and hence feel pleasure in activities namely reading, meditating, listening to positive affirmations etc.
I recently quit Instagram and Facebook and have realized the trash I was filling my mind with while scrolling. Even if you think a post that went by didn’t register in your mind since you chose to ignore it, your subconscious mind will register that information on seeing multiple instances of similar posts.
The power of the conscious mind is its ability to feed data in the subconscious mind so that when the conscious mind refers to the subconscious mind in the future there is useful information in it. The subconscious mind isn’t creative, it doesn’t understand jokes, and it can remember everything you have ever done, said or witnessed without your conscious mind realizing it. So even when you think you can consciously choose to watch/listen to/do things but not register them, it doesn’t happen that way.
Placebo effect is a typical example of the power of the subconscious and conscious mind.
Why are memes toxic?
Let’s say there is a movie you know about which explicitly supports racism so you consciously chose to not watch the movie. Well done! You took the best decision for your subconscious mind.
But memes work differently, they present you with ideas funnily, so your conscious mind thinks that you are just scrolling memes for pleasure, and laughter of that moment but you will not consume that information, in the back, your subconscious mind will register that information which will lead to unconscious bias.
The subconscious mind is dumb but has the ability to remember everything, your conscious mind cannot remember everything but can logically choose what data should be fed to your subconscious mind for referencing later.
Having said it is not possible to choose what you consume all the time but at least try to choose whenever and wherever possible. It’s not about a drop in the ocean but about filling an ocean drop by drop.
Dopamine Detox can do the trick. Give it a try.
Like how you care about what you feed your stomach, do care about what you feed your mind.
The cover photo was taken in Durmitor National Park, Montenegro.