‘You are what you think’ – but what are you thinking?

The ‘self’?

If you were to describe yourself to someone, would you give your height, weight and eye colour? An entirely materialistic explanation seems improbable. Perhaps a more natural response would be to describe your occupation, where you live and your hobbies. Yet, this also appears an unsatisfactory answer to what really constitutes you. The speed and custom of society leaves little space for answering such a question in depth. Also, perhaps more worrying, is the fact that the majority of people, even if they did have time, simply could not answer the question of what makes you you. We shall explore the issues that arise from the uncertainty of the self and the positive effects of self-reflection.

‘You are what you think’, but what do you think?

The brain operates on two planes: the one conscious, and the other subconscious. The subconscious processes continue flawlessly, without our slightest grasp of the modus operandi, yet it is these unknown procedures that allow the body to function. The subconscious accounts for 95% of the brain activity; it is our memory storehouse, our ability to walk whilst raising an arm and is where our emotions stem from. In this sense, our subconscious is the essence of what it means to behave as we do. However, we seem to have lost touch with these subconscious processes that sustain our lives. How often have you thanked your body (if ever), for the fact that we cannot stop our heart beating, nor our circulation, or growth? Have you ever simply pondered over what makes you function and sustains your day-to-day existence?

At this point it is worth clarifying the significance of engaging with our inner self. It is not
only to be impressed by the human, although our design is mightily impressive, but it allows
us to move beyond existing, into flourishing. Carl Jung pointed out that ‘until you make the
unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.’ It seems that we are
given a choice; we can either be moulded by the sub-conscious, or we can choose how the
sub-conscious directs us and therefore determine our own reality.

Mind Making Matter

Our thoughts are not simply mental energy that can either uplift or drain us. Every thought we have creates a chemical reaction in the brain which then triggers an emotion. As we engage with this thought, it creates a new circuit that sends a signal to the body, making us react in a certain way. The more we repeat this pattern, the more it seeps into our mind and becomes a habit. For instance, if we are constantly judging ourselves, or others, this negativity literally filters into our body. The thought in isolation is of little significance, however the attention given to the thought creates the neural pathways which then evolves into habits. A University of Michigan study found that 73% of adults between the ages of 25 and 35 overthink, as do 52% of 45- to 55- year-olds (http://ns.umich.edu/Releases/2003/Feb03/r020403c.html). If I were to hedge my bets, I would presume this overthinking is not self-love and positivity, but persistent condemnation or stress. The content of our mental activity moulds our day-to- day reality, therefore we need to be in touch with our sub-conscious, know our thoughts and then we can change them. We become aware.

What energy do we want to feed our body?

Just as negativity can pollute our bodies, positivity can cultivate a life of contentment. The self, the sub-conscious and the influence of our thoughts are like an intertwined web that determines how we live. Self-reflection cannot change your situation, but the mind can alter the way you experience the same thing. Instead of being a prisoner to our subconscious, we can notice its influence and thus alter our neural pathways and decide what thoughts will enrich our lives.


The subconscious mind, like a benevolent stranger, works and makes provisions for our benefit, pouring only the mature fruit into our lap. If we examine this mature fruit, we can gain insight into the inner workings of our subconscious realm- the dwelling place of trauma and self-identity. Self-reflection will not only help decipher what the self is, but enable us to re-programme our consciousness, as we become WOULD YOU FEEL COMFORTABLE SERVING OTHERS WHAT YOU SERVE YOURSELF? aware of it. It will facilitate us to respond, rather than react- awareness gives us choice in our response. It is important to note that self-reflection is not synonymous with self- critique. It is simply recognising what is shaping your life, thus allowing us to alter these influences. Awareness is power, in fact it is the waking up the tools we innately acquire; once we are attentive to our thoughts, we can actively aim to avoid giving energy to the ones that do not help our existence. Perhaps you did not know that you have a choice on the way you nourish yourself; it isn’t just food that determines nourishes our being. Self- reflection is the key to appreciate the inner dwellings of yourself and therefore unlock our inbuilt ability to feed our body positivity and gratitude. There are many ways to reflect on the self, yet they will all aid a happier existence, as we try to swap negativity for positivity, both in the emotional and physical.

Author: Grace Maden

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