How Self-Tracking Can Make You Happier

January 30, 2013 Katharina Lochner

Hacking Your Subconscious Mind

Last year, we discussed the question whether free will was an illusion or not. The background for this were studies that have found that half a second before we consciously decide to do something (e.g. move a finger), our neurons already fire and prepare the movement. Thus, our subconscious seems to control our conscious. This certainly entails important discussions on ethics, but it may as well imply the question: why don’t we make the subconscious conscious?

This is what software developer Adi Andrei who used to work for NASA engages in. He argues that our conscious mind makes us believe that it is in charge of our decisions, but in fact before we actually make a decision, something happens in our mind subconsciously. The subconscious (or the “I”) makes the decision, the conscious (or the “me”) becomes aware of it half a second later. In his opinion, a lot of problems in our lives (e.g. mental or physical health problems) we can’t explain come from the simple fact that I and me are not in accordance. On the other hand, when the two actually are in accordance, we experience happiness and well-being. He concludes that for this reason we have to understand our subconscious. In a video, he explains his ideas in more detail. Hacking the Unconscious Mind from Ken Snyder on Vimeo.

The question is: how do you enter the subconscious? According to Adi Andrei, we don’t need a psychiatrist nor do we need any medication, but rather, we can use everyday life events, e.g. when something disturbing happens. He sees our reaction to the event as the entry point for understanding our subconscious, simply by becoming aware of the disturbance and observing it. He suggests using technology to guide us through a dialogue with the purpose of finding a way to express the energy contained in the disturbance to such an extent that our conscious can accept it.

With a co-worker, he designed an app one can use for looking at one’s dreams. It helps interpret them. For doing so, it guides the user by asking questions and has them interpret their own symbols. It tracks these interpretations and thus builds up a database. It also helps the user integrate what they dream of into their daily life.

There is a whole movement, the “Quantified Self”, with the purpose of connecting people interested in self-tracking. There are users as well as tool makers in it who collaborate online, but also meet or blog. It is a rather interesting movement that somehow tries to bring us back to ourselves taking advantage of the modern technology we usually use for multi-tasking and for being available for anyone at any time, the tools that speed up our lives in such an incredible way, the devices that often take us far away from ourselves and from the present moment.

About the Author

Katharina Lochner

Dr Katharina Lochner is the former research director for the cut-e Group which was acquired by Aon in 2017. Katharina is now a researcher and lecturer at the University of Applied Sciences Europe in Iserlohn, Germany. In her role at cut-e, she applied the research in organizational and work psychology to real-world assessment practice. She has a strong expertise in the construction and evaluation of online psychometric tools.

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