Photo of woman with outstretched hands
June 13, 2024

Our minds are amazing—and intellect doesn’t always help

By Lori Jo Marlia-Larsen

As a midwife, one of my greatest joys and challenges is to provide support to someone as they give birth, especially for the first time.

Birth awakens us to an immensity of physical power and strength exceeding all previously tested limits we have held for ourselves. The energy and focus exerted in this extreme athletic event is phenomenal and incomparable.

Yet so often in the very midst of demonstrating near-super-human abilities, many of us who have given birth are derailed by self-doubt and fear. We wrestle with trusting our ability to complete the task at hand.

And it makes sense, right?! Birthing something new into existence, whether it’s a person or a dream, obliterates in real time so much of what we have told ourselves is possible. The conscious mind uses past experiences to interpret the present and to predict the future.

There simply is nothing the conscious mind has experienced that compares with this powerful process. We’ve entered “undiscovered” territory. Fear, uncertainty, and self-doubt arise, and we tell ourselves (and anyone within earshot):

“This is not possible!”

“I can’t handle this!”

“This is more than I can take!”

Here we are, closer to our goal than ever before, on the precipice of our greatest physical feat. Each passing moment literally proves that we are indeed capable. We are handling it. Welcomed or not, this is a unique opportunity to experience just what we are capable of!

So while our conscious mind is greatly appreciated and irreplaceable, the process of giving birth to something new is best supported by the creative, imaginative unconscious mind.

Giving birth requires our bodies to expand to our maximum stretch point, powerfully squeezing and expelling new life from within us. And yes, it can feel like an impossible “ask.”

Yet around the world, nearly 400,000 babies are born every day. Not only is birthing a baby possible; it is also a regular occurrence! Our bodies were made to build and to birth without our conscious thoughts running interference.

Similarities abound between birthing a child and birthing a dream. Both involve conception, gestation, nourishment, anticipation, pain and sacrifice, and a support system.

When by conscious, deliberate choice we take the plunge and trust the process, there is a tangible shift in the room. We begin to breathe differently, to recover differently, to engage differently. We enter what many of us recognize as a “flow state.” We are present with the task at hand, body and mind connected, while the brilliance and potential of the unconscious mind supports us in accomplishing the extraordinary.

In all this, we are supported by quieting our intellect and trusting the unconscious mind to guide us.

In addition to serving as a certified nurse midwife, Lori Jo Marlia-Larsen is a facilitator for The Learning Well’s WellBeing workshop, the first in our core growth series.

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