I believe our subconscious mind wants one thing above everything else.
Our minds wants to live for ever!
By mind, I mean the combination of brain, thoughts and personality we call "me", some psychologists call it the "ego" and exactly what it encompasses is not clearly defined. This post is not meant to be scientifically rigorous so let's go with "mind". Below I attempt to explain how this priority drives how we think and act every day.
The genetic mind knows it cannot live forever but procreation has been quite successful at keeping the genetic mind alive. This is directive 2. It gets interesting when the mind realizes it is more than just a physical being, so directive 2 aim to procreate both the physical and mental form. The physical procreation is well known and based on evolutionary history. The mental procreation relate to the "memes" that are our thought patterns and processes. These memes are passed to future generations through teaching and communication.
In addition the mind came to believe (or was made to believe) that there may be another way to live forever which is by becoming a spiritual being that lives on even when the body ends, this is directive 3. Note that directive 2 is much stronger than directive 3 because directive 2 is experienced by our genetics while directive 3 is a belief of the mind only.
Both directive 2 and 3 depend on the body’s existence to be extended for as long as possible. This leads us to directive 4, namely to survive in the current body as long as possible.
These directives form a dependency tree, each directive lower on the tree is meant to support the higher directives:
Continuing this analysis, the dependency tree can go many layers deep, up to the point where we consider individual decisions, like should I exercise or eat that chocolate?
Choose! But every choice may support and also obstruct a directive. According to the subconscious mind’s evolutionary knowledge sugar and fat is in short supply and to protect the physical body it must be eaten whenever possible, e.g. support directive 4. However the higher functioning educated mind knows that chocolate is not in short supply and eating it may actually cause damage to the body, e.g. against directive 4. Unfortunately the subconscious mind is in charge of emotions and your will. Your conscious mind can fight for a little while but eventually it will lose. Does this mean that we are doomed?
Not necessarily, once we understand what part of the mind is in charge of our emotions and why, we can start to guide it by training it in certain ways.
Sometimes the mind cannot identify whether an action is helping or hindering and this is where the internal struggle creates anxiety which may eventually lead to depression.
The subconscious mind is more protective than it is motivating, i.e. it will protect you against danger by using fear, it seldomly motivates you to do something.
Instead of fighting against the subconscious mind, one should help it make the right decisions. This can be done by rephrasing the decision against higher order directives and imagining exaggerated consequences for the decision. For example, I can tell myself that:
If a decision is phrased to support these directives the mind will encourage action, if it seem to place the directives at risk it will discourage action.
(Hayes, Strosahl, Wilson 1999) as cited by Shawn T. Smith 2011, "The User's Guide to the Human Mind: Why Our Brains Make Us Unhappy, Anxious, and Neurotic and What We Can Do about It"