The power of the subconscious mind: two quick examples from the hospital

Yesterday my father had an accident. We went to the hospital to see him.

While we were waiting, a person (another emergency patient) approached us. He said that we should give up hope to be seen in time. He said he would probably loose a leg, due to some wound which had to be operated on ASAP. All this while holding a bag of tobacco in his left hand.

We intervened a bit on his behalf, possibly he was seen quicker. Later, when we left, we saw him sitting outside. I believe he went outside to smoke, although I can’t be certain of it.

Smoking causes blood vessels to tighten, and blood supply to tissues to worsen. Which is the last thing you want when you’re afraid of losing a leg. Apparently this person still could not stop smoking even in such an emergency situation.

Or – there was a learned reflex (programmed in his subconscious mind!) – of smoking as his go-to tool for nervous system regulation.

The equation, in this case would simply be: “when upset, smoke a cigarette to calm down”. Even if smoking the cigarette is the thing which IS causing being upset (the threat of losing a leg intensifies with smoking! Or was possibly brought on by smoking).

“The conscious can’t outwill or overpower the subconscious for prolonged stretches of time”

Thais Gibson

Meanwhile, my mother and me got to see my father. He had been in a car accident – another driver had slammed into his car sideways. The airbags had protected his neck and brain. His only problem was his left hand – probably some blood vessels had ruptured in it, and led to a hematoma. He said he also had trouble moving his left hand fully – it was painful.

The doctor at the hospital advised my father to stay. They would do a CT on his hand the next day, and would monitor him for compartment syndrome, a severe complication of his condition. The doctor advised him that there was a risk – a small risk, but a risk – of losing his entire hand.

I advised him to stay, and argued that a little discomfort would buy some additional safety. I said if this was me, that I would stay overnight. From my perspective, getting the CT done on the next day would be a convenient way to get additional diagnostics done, and to ensure that there was no need to operate on the hand. I argued that the hand is an important tool, and as such no unnecessary risks need to be taken with it. I argued that we would need some time to go from our home to the hospital, and that public transportation connections would be bad at night. Also everyone knew that it takes quite some time to be seen by a doctor at night, even in an emergency ward!

My father finally made the decision to go home, because “he didn’t want to occupy the emergency beds which other patients might need”. I knew from experience that it was quite useless to argue with him, if he had made up his mind about something.

Or had he? I think it’s not his rational mind which was taking the decision at this point. I feel that subconscious fears drove him to do it – he has a hospital phobia, negative associations to it – due to his father (my grandfather) also having an aversion to hospitals.

This diffuse fear is what probably drove him to take a risk. To sign a release form, “against the doctor’s recommendation”.

Such is the power of the subconscious mind. It drives us to do self-defeating behavior, if the programming is such. I might write about procrastination in the future, which is a self-defeating behavior I am working on dissolving within me.

Photo by Arun Anoop on Unsplash

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