Research Finds That You Can’t Not Think About It. Now What?
Research Finds That You 'Can't Not'
Think About It. Now What?
Usually I see new research findings and I think, 'Cool!' and then there are days when I read something and all I can think is, 'Well, duh'.
Today was one such day. What caused my forehead smack this morning?
This study from San Francisco State University that shows how our thoughts are impacted by our external environment. That our stream of consciousness can be controlled by the outside environment against our will.
All right. Let's break it down.
The researchers took test subjects and sat them down in front of photos of common objects. Really common object like the sun, a fox, a bicycle or a heart. There were 52 images.
They'd show them the image and say, "Now, don't sub-vocalize (think) the name of that object and whatever you do, don't count how many letters there are in the word."
On average, 73 percent subvocalized and 33 percent counted the letters.
Neat, right? I mean, they were told not to do it and they all did it – against their will.
So, why did I think, 'well, duh'?
Because it turns out that one of the primary assumptions of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), a system developed in the '70s, is that our unconscious mind cannot process a negative.
It literally doesn't hear them. This is not earth-shattering news.
The worst part is that it turns out that in the English language we use negatives ALL. THE. TIME.
Let's try it now. Ready? Okay. Now.
DON'T THINK OF A PINK ELEPHANT!
What happened? If you're lucky, you saw something as cute as this:
You see, our unconscious mind works in pictures, not in words. So it MUST take the words and make them into a picture. It MUST visualize them. And then try to negate that picture. Even when I've told you not to do it.
It just doesn't work.
Which means that we have to be VERY careful about the way we use our words in hypnotherapy and NLP and Coaching – and parenting, relationships, business, and everywhere else – to make sure we avoid creating strong pictures of what we don't want our clients and children and spouses to be thinking about.
For instance, if you tell your toddler:
'Don't drop that milk!', guess what picture you just put in their head.
Or 'don't forget to buy milk on the way home'. Guess what they're much more likely to do.
Or even worse, 'don't look at other women'. Boom! That sets off a neurological cascade in your man.
The way the unconscious mind works makes it clear that they must picture and act on what they see:
They can't help it.
How about this one?
'Don't eat that cookie. It'll make you fat!' Guess what happens…
If you want to change your life for the better, start changing your 'don'ts' and 'can'ts' into positive thoughts so that your unconscious mind is dwelling on success instead of failure.
Instead of saying, 'Don't forget the milk', say, 'please buy milk on the way home'. If you really feel into it, it even feels better in our bodies. Our mind likes positives – they make sense and they're easy. Negatives are hard and require all sorts of internal gymnastics.
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