Be Careful About What You Tell Yourself

31 Mar

In his book “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking”, Malcolm Gladwell describes interesting experiments that illustrate the power of suggestibility and unintentional setting of expectations.

In one experiment, two groups of students were given the same standardized test. The difference between the two groups was that one group was asked to self-identify their ethnic background right before they started the test, while the other group was not asked about their ethnicity. Researchers found that, as a whole, “minorities” in the group of students who were asked about their ethnicity did significantly worse on the test.

This can be related to hypnosis because it shows that real-world outcomes can be altered merely by subtle suggestions that are not even explicitly stated; just having low expectations in your subconscious mind is enough to make a difference.

But when people actively suggest negative things to themselves in their own mind or out loud, the effects are even worse.

In working with clients, this is seen all the time:
Procrastinators declaring “I’m so lazy”.
Smokers saying “I’m addicted to nicotine, it’s so hard to quit”.
Overweight people saying “I just can’t stop eating that whole pint of ice cream”.

If you talk like this to yourself, you are not just stating a fact that describes your current situation. You are reinforcing your current situation and making it your reality.

If you are trying to overcome a certain fear, just imagine what would happen if you walked up to a small child, grabbed him or her by their little shoulders, and said “Don’t be nervous! Don’t be scared about what’s about to happen!” The poor kid would start bawling. Similarly, if you think in terms of trying to convince yourself not to get nervous about an upcoming presentation or speech, guess what will happen?

Negative self-talk is one of the major obstacles that people create for themselves. This is why when we do hypnosis together, the suggestions are framed in a positive way; but even outside of hypnosis sessions, people should be mindful of what they are telling themselves about themselves.


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