September 16, 2012

Rewriting Your Code

I am involved in a private discussion group on Facebook that has as its topic the exploration of dreams. The group is an outgrowth of Nicole Rushin's Dream-Speak.

The dream group has a lot of writers in it. Issues that are significant to writers trying to make a living tend to come up in our dreams and in the discussion. Recently, someone suggested that we focus some attention on the problem of aligning one's creativity with the need to have an income. As is so common with creative people, many of us in the group have a disconnect between our creativity and our ability to sustain an adequate income. So some of us agreed to put some common focus on the following question:

"Show me what I need to work through to align my creative work with money."
This question is addressed to our subconscious mind, and held in our awareness throughout the day, written down before bed, and contemplated as we fall asleep and awaken. This is a process of "dream incubation" that is intended to trigger insights, through dreams specifically, but really by whatever mechanism our intuitive mind chooses.


As I was contemplating this question, the answers came to me directly—not in dreams, not in symbols. I have done a lot of work over the years to get aquainted with my intuitive mind, and to create a safe, non-analytical space for it to express itself without the threat of scrutiny from my more analytical, critical monkey brain. (I have written about monkey brain before.) I have found that my intuitive mind is far more powerful and yet far less assertive than my monkey brain. Too much input and control freak analysis from the monkey brain sends my intuition underground to hide.

The insight that came to me on this question was that I grew up in a family that didn't have a good relationship to money. There was little of it when I was a kid, and my schemes and dreams tended to remain in fantasy space. First and foremost, my parents were Baptist church workers. But out of necessity they had other jobs as well since, in California, unlike the deep south, Baptist church workers tended to be part-time and underpaid. My dad also taught in a public school and my mom was a transcriptionist for a local doctor and a piano teacher. There was never money to spare, and allowances were pretty small and erratic. Most of my ideas were elaborate and would have cost some money to consummate. So I dreamed of building model rockets, and go-carts and all that stuff boys do, but was resigned to the reality that none of it was going to happen. Throughout my childhood and adolescent years, I lived out the expectation that money would be tight and dreams would be deferred indefinitely. As an adult, my employment history was dominated by somewhat underpaid jobs, periods of unemployment, and a couple of marginally successful stints in the world of self employment. The pattern was clear. And the story of Windhook's construction woes has not deviated from that pattern. That dream, like all the really good ones, has been stuck on high center for the past four years. Deferred indefinitely.

My mother never missed an opportunity to affirm my intelligence and creativity. I can't count the times she told me how smart and capable I was. I grew up with the belief that I could do anything I set my mind to. But while I was getting this conscious message from my mom loud and clear, I was also getting a different message about how money would fit into the equation. The composite message that ended up written in the deep subconscious layers of my mind was that I could do anything I set my mind to, and do it well, but would not see monetary rewards in any consistent way.

Enter Bruce Lipton

If you're not familiar with the work of biologist Bruce Lipton, this would be a good time to go off and watch a quick video.

I won't give you the full rundown on Lipton's background and ideas, but we do need to talk about him a bit here. Lipton has constructed a coherent framework in which he demostrates that our biology is a complex system of receptors for the field of consciousness. He describes in detail how the expression of genes in organisms supports this hypothesis. In his framework, the subconscious mind is different from my understanding, and is in fact a subset of what I see the subconscious mind to be.

In my framework, the subconscious mind is all the stuff that's not under the control of the monkey brain. This includes a whole range of intuition and hidden thoughts and unexamined belief structures that influence us constantly just below the level of awareness.

Lipton's discussion of the subconscious mind is focused on the role of the subconscious mind as a recorder that has captured a set of beliefs from experience, beginning very far back, and which operates without scrutiny from our consciousness. The messages we got about life in the very early days of childhood, and perhaps beyond, are the most powerful and deeply embedded aspects of Lipton's subconscious mind. From a very early age we begin to act on these beliefs, and by the time we are adults they are the unexamined operational code that we base our actions and decisions upon. Our conscious mind is constantly taking in new ideas and insights, but regardless of how good and enlightened these new elements are, if they contradict the subconscious codes they don't stand a chance to change how we live in really lasting and profound ways. It's the reason that willpower for things like diets, and budgets, and all forms of turning over a new leaf generally don't work. It's the reason that some of us are not on good terms with money. Once these deep beliefs take hold, the subconscious mind follows them, regardless of what rationality and the conscious will would do differently.

This is the core significance of the insight I had on the dream group's question. Regardless of how good my ideas are, regardless of how inspired my creativity is, if I have a core belief that my creativity will not see money, there will be no lasting and sustained success around money in my creative endeavors. The subconscious mind very effectively goes about proving its beliefs to be true. The new brain, the monkey brain, is helpless to will its way out of this situation. The only effective solution, according to Lipton, is to rewrite the recordings in the subconscious mind.

What Fires Together Wires Together

This concept is widely understood in neuroscience. When neural synapses fire in certain patterns, they create new nerve tissue. This amounts to new code, if you want to use a computer analogy. The more often you exercise a neural path, the stronger and more developed it becomes. Conversely, the less often you exercise a neural path, the weaker it becomes. You can see this in things like learning a language or a musical instrument. The neural paths for the unexamined belief structures of the subconscious mind are old and well exercised. We just fire off the synapses whenever a situation arises and they are reinforced once again. But these belief structures are no different from the structures we create around skills like language or music or bike riding or welding or anything else that we practice to stay good at. They require practice, and our subconscious minds make sure that they get lots of it.

Since the patterns of our lives are constantly being reinforced or weakened by experience and practice, we can actually rewrite the recordings in the subconscious mind. Lipton suggests that these recordings will fade when we put focused and frequent time and energy into thinking in a different way on a regular and consistent basis. This is simply a matter of creating a new, and intentional message and acting upon it often. It also involves neglecting the old and undesirable messages. Whenever you find the old messages creeping into your thinking, stop and replace them consciously with the new messages. Take actions that support the new messages whenever possible. You won't do this perfectly, and you don't have to. Just keep at it whenever you remember to. The new patterns benefit from every single time you exercise them, and as you do so, they will grow stronger.

Seeing Your Own Code

The first step to rewriting your own subconscious code is to learn what is in it now. In my case, there are a mixture of desireable and undesirable components. This is undoubtedly true for all of us. Some have a very positive and productive belief system around money and finance. For others, money is a curse. Some, like me, have an unstoppable optimisim about their own creative potential and ability. Some have an extraordinary level of self confidence, while others are plagued with insecurities or a sense of being an imposter or a fraud, contrary to obvious indications of our skill and competence. For each of us the mix will be different. It's important to spend some time getting to the deeper layers. The subconscious is not unconscious. In fact, you probably already know what some of the big issues are in your subconscious code. Look at the issues that you struggle with on a consistent, regular basis. The key to this is patterns. A single bad or good experience is not a pattern, but when you see something that happens over and over, listen to the unspoken reaction inside you. As you learn to listen, you will begin to hear the stories your subconscious tells you. As these messages begin to become conscious, you can begin to rewrite them in ways that are more rewarding and productive.

The negative messages in your subconscious code are simple. They tend to be things like:

"I'm not as good as people think I am."
"I won't be adequately conpensated for my efforts."
"I'm not as important as others."
"No one will understand or appreciate my efforts."
There are many variations of these negative messages. They are almost always deep and old. Usually they go way back into childhood experience. And they tend to prove themselves true over and over as we set ourselves up to fall into their clutches time after time. As you spend time with your own experience, studying your reactions to the recurring patterns of your life, you will begin to get a sense of your own code. Take time with this and don't be too quick to jump to fixing it. It's important to give yourself space to explore all of this before you turn to designing a solution.

The Rewrite

When you have a clear sense of where the problems are in your own personal subconscious code, the first, most important step is acceptance. This code is how you operate. It's got a lot of history. It's not going to change overnight just because you have uncovered it. That's ok. You might also begin to uncover resentments and frustrations with parents or others who participated in writing these negative messages in your sensitive heart as a child. If so, let these things surface, and give them space to be what they are. Don't justify or excuse. be angry or hurt if you need to. But in all of that, find the place where you can allow the past to be what it is and turn forward into the present. I once heard forgiveness defined as the ability to allow the past to be what it is. Forgiveness of yourself and others is step one of the rewrite. You probably won't make a lot of progress if you skip this.

Once you commit not to be hard on yourself for the patterns that are so persistent and destructive, you can choose new, healthier messages to replace them with. Keep these simple and make sure they correct the faulty messages that you want to replace. You don't need a lot of these new messages. You will probably find one or two really big beliefs that need to be addressed, and that all the little stuff falls out from. Correct and practice with these and that's all you need. In my case, I found two negative beliefs that dominated my life. The first was that my needs would not be met in my most deeply significant relationships, and that as a result I would always ultimately end up abandoned. I successfully have overwritten this one over the past 14 years. It's just completely gone now. My second destructive belief was that my creativity and talents would never be adequately compensated with money. This is the one I am working on now. A clear understanding of it, and how it has always impacted my life is new to me now. This illustrates the fact that this process is a bit like peeling an onion. Some layers cannot be seen all at once. Sometimes you need time to focus and work through one thing before another becomes apparent.


This rewriting process takes time. You have strengthened your patterns for a whole lifetime. They are powerful and deep. You will not uproot and replace them overnight. It's a good idea to give yourself time. When I saw my patterns around money and creativity, I decided to define and practice a new belief system around this, and to give myself three years to begin to see it make a difference. That gives me permission to be persistent, but not to beat myself up if the results don't flood in the first weeks or months. That process is ongoing for me now.

A Call to Action for Our Readers

For the past couple of weeks we have been talking about the new venture that we have embarked upon with Guy Rathbun on PRX Radio. You will be hearing a lot about this, since we are working with Guy to coordinate our interviews with his new show, Designing a Creative Life. But now it's time to do a little more than just listening.

We need your help. Guy's programs are on, where anyone can find and listen to them for free. But is more than just a free website with great content for listeners. It's a professional clearing house for public radio stations and independent radio producers to connect. Guy is creating these programs to sell to radio stations. One of the most effective ways to get the attention of radio program directors on is to have lots of positive comments from web site visitors for the programs you post there.

What We Need from You

It would be immensely helpful if you would go to the page for Guy's first program and post a comment there. There is no one who understands what this show is all about better than the subscribers to Outside the Lines, and if you guys will post your positive comments and ratings it will be extremely helpful to Guy and to us since our interviews are the focus of the shows. So far, only a couple of our subscribers have posted on the show page, and while we appreciate it, we need lots more!It only takes a minute or two.

And if you are feeling really motivated and ambitious, you could always call your favorite NPR station and ask them to pick up the shows!

Contact Us
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