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The Unconscious Mind

We are dual process thinkers. We have two interrelated systems running in our heads. One is slow, deliberate and arduous (our conscious reasoning). The other is fast, associative, automatic and supple (our unconscious pattern recognition). … Most of our thinking is below awareness.”

So says David Brooks on the opinion page in The New York Times on October 21, 2011.


And I might add—that most of our thinking, which is below conscious awareness, gets us in trouble.

How does this pertain to infertility? If we tend to be react with anger, insecurity, negativity, impatience, fear or judgment of ourselves, we are likely to react to challenges such as infertility with those same characteristics without realizing it. The unconscious mind will quickly fall into these familiar patterns and to boot, when under duress, we tend to become more of who we already are.

Since most of our thinking is below awareness, and since the stress of infertility will intensify our automatic reaction, bringing conscious, namely mindful awareness, to our behavior can only help.

You might want to consider two approaches to mindfulness. Both involve labeling:

1. You can stop and ask yourself if you are feeling the above-mentioned personality traits more intensely (anger, negativity, insecure, impatient, hard on yourself or afraid). If you are, sometimes, just labeling how you respond (mindful awareness) can curtail the impact of the automatic response. You may want to use the services of a therapist to help identify how these responses are contributing to your stress levels so you can temper them.

2. Much easier are these exercise options in which you use mindfulness to distract from the intensity of the stress:

Take your pick:

a.  You can take a walk with mindful attention, labeling the experience of each step.

b.  You can prepare your meal mindfully by saying, “now I’m washing the lettuce, now I’m slicing the cucumbers, etc. In other words, label everything that you’re doing so as to fill you mental awareness with the activity as opposed to obsessing over something that you cannot control.

c.  You can mindfully follow your breathing by labeling the inhalation and the exhalation.

Making the unconscious conscious is a sign of good mental health. It may seem like another “job” but in reality, it is just an invitation to take a look at who you and your conscious AND unconscious minds really are.

These things require being in the present moment—fully. It’s hard to make things worse when you can experience that you are okay in the present moment even if you do not have what you want.

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About the Author:

Helen Adrienne, LCSW general psychotherapist, clinical hypnotherapist, and practitioner of mind/body therapy with a specialty in infertility. New York City