There is a rumour that perpetuates the hypnosis and NLP circles that the subconscious mind is unable to process negatives. Often ‘don’t think about a pink elephant’ is used to demonstrate the point, as rather unusual image of a pink elephant quickly comes to mind.
However, does this opinion really make sense? Does it always hold true? Of course not! Common sense tells us this is nonsense and stage hypnosis gives us the proof.
Most therapy and coaching approaches aim to release clients from the negative thought, behaviour and emotions holding them back. If the subconscious cannot understand negatives, then how does one explain how negative beliefs, thoughts, behaviour programmes and emotions got in there in the first instance?
Stage hypnosis proves it
Stage hypnosis, whilst not a therapeutic discipline, is a fascinating phenomena that demonstrates some interesting information on how the mind works. If it were true that the mind cannot process negatives, the stage hypnotist would not be able to put on a show.
For example if the hypnotist suggested “you are stuck in the chair and no matter how hard you try, you will not be able to get up” and the participant stood up, the hypnotist would lose all credibility and his audience. (If you want to see this demonstrate for yourself, I strongly recommend you check out the excellent Jerry Valley online, or go to a stage hypnosis show).
Keep it positive most of the time
The mind works like a computer and you get what you program. If you’re programming in negativity, then that is exactly what you will get. If you continuously ‘feed’ your mind with negative stories, words and images, your mind does not ‘automatically’ delete the negatives, but amplifies them.
What the therapist/coach/NLP practitioner is looking to do is replace a negative program with the correct one for the desired outcome. Generally this means directing the mind with instructions for a positive outcome, which means that in most circumstances negatives are inappropriate.
When negatives can be helpful in therapy
However in some instances, such as for smoking cessation, negatives can be beneficial. The addition of aversion, which by its very nature is negative, is an essential part of the stop smoking hypnotherapy technique I personally use in practice for stop smoking cessation and a contributory factor to its very high success rate. The powerful and compact stop smoking therapy comprises of ten different techniques. Omit the aversion (negative suggestion) would be similar to taking an ingredient from a tried and tested recipe, and would therefore compromise the success rate.
What can the pink elephant teach us?
So why do people think about the pink elephant, despite being told not to? A pink elephant is an unusual image that peaks curiosity, or perhaps the rebel within does not like being told what to do? Either way, a ‘part of the mind’ is getting some satisfaction or benefit to overriding the suggestion not to think about it. The ability or inability to accept negative suggestions is irrelevant.
However, the point the pink elephant is trying to make is about focussing the mind on positive imagery and thoughts. The mind simply follows its programming, therefore if you want to make positive changes in your life; it makes sense to feed your mind with positive thoughts and feelings. But be mindful, that contrary to some schools of thought, the subconscious does accept negatives, so be careful what you ‘feed’ your mind with.
Could hypnosis help you?
If you would like to find out more about how hypnosis and advanced hypnotherapy could help you contact Katie Glen on 020 8712 5981 for a free 15 minute no-obligation consultation.