There is a common myth out there in the law of attraction community that the subconscious mind, or the Universe itself, literally can’t understand the word “don’t” or “no”.
Therefore, if you say, “I don’t want to be poor,” the subconscious mind only hears, “I want to be poor,” and that’s what you get.
Is this really true? Find out in today’s video.
- The Scientific Answer
- Two Types of Motivations
- Sometimes You Have to Use the Away From Orientation
- It Comes Down to Feelings
- Feel Free to Play Around with Your Goal Statement
Hey everyone! This is Brandon Olivares from Co-Creation Coaching. And I’m here with another Readers Questions video.
Every week I take a question from one of our readers, and I try to give as detailed of an answer as I can for that question.
So if you would like to ask a question for Readers Questions, you can go to returningtozero.org/ask, and I always appreciate all the questions that I receive.
So today we have a question about the subconscious mind, which is one of my favorite topics.
So our reader asks:
A lot of LOA teachers have said it’s dangerous to say things like “I don’t want to be poor”, “I don’t want cancer”, “I don’t want to get hurt” because the subconscious mind can’t process the “don’t” and will instead take the suggestion as “I want to get cancer” “I want to be poor” etc. This sounds kind of ridiculous, and I was wondering your thoughts?
And she goes on to ask about a specific teacher who kind of compares the subconscious mind to a small child, and says if you tell a child not to go jump in that puddle or something, they’re going to immediately go and do that, because you brought it to their attention. So that is sort of the assertion of why people tend to say this.
So I’m actually glad I got this question, because this is a very common myth out there that a lot of teachers talk about, that the subconscious mind basically doesn’t know the word “don’t”. I’m sure some of you have probably heard it out there before. They say never to word your goal in a way that’s negative—in a way that says, “I don’t want this,” and so on.
And there are some good points to it, and I’ll discuss that later. But, overall, it is a myth, and I think that it deserves a bit of understanding to really get why it is that people say this, and how it might be true, or how it might not be true. So that’s what I want to do today.
The Scientific Answer
So first of all, I was doing a bit of research before this video, just to see what kind of scientific research might be out there about this, and I did find a scientific article. And I’ll link to that article in the description for this video, and on the blog on returningtozero.org.
But basically in this article, they were talking about a study that had been done about whether the brain can process negative words, because that’s really the assertion: the brain can’t process negative words, and so it just kind of skips over them.
So they took participants and measured—they’ll give a lot more detail in the article—but did various measurements with their brains, and gave them two types of different statements.
The two types of statements that were given were what they called pragmatically licensed, or pragmatically unlicensed.
The pragmatically licensed statements are statements that did contain a negative word, but were natural to read, and didn’t really cause any issues when you were reading it. It’s something that you would expect to hear on an everyday basis.
So the pragmatically licensed statement they gave an example of was, “In moderation, drinking red wine isn’t bad for health.”
And you can see that’s a pretty natural statement. It doesn’t really cause any problems when you’re reading it. You don’t have to try to parse out what they means.
And the study concluded that, indeed, the brain was able to parse out what that sentence meant, and it didn’t cause it to think that, because it had the word “isn’t”, that that means that red wine is bad for your health, because it doesn’t know the word “isn’t”.
That’s not what happened. What happened was that the brain was able to parse that out, and say, “Okay, red wine isn’t bad for your health.”
A pragmatically unlicensed statement is one that is unnatural and not helpful. When you read it, you sort of have to think about, what are they trying to say? What does that mean?
The example they gave for that was, “Vitamins and proteins aren’t very bad for your health.” “Vitamins and proteins aren’t very bad for your health.”
That right away, I know as I say it, I think, “Wait, aren’t very bad?” So the image I get is being bad, and that’s not the intention of the statement, but it’s worded in sort of an awkward way that you would think that that’s what it meant. Or it’s hard to understand—it’s hard to parse it out, without you having to think about it.
Those sorts of statements, the brain has a harder time understanding.
So it’s not just about whether a word is negative. It’s about how the sentence is structured, and whether it’s natural or not.
So that’s really what you have to pay attention to, and I think that it’s a great article that can explain how this all works.
And this all applies—they did it for how the brain processes words or sentences, but this is for the subconscious, or for the law of attraction in general, too. Because the fear is that the subconscious, or the Universe, doesn’t understand the word “don’t,” or “isn’t,” or any kind of negative like that. And scientifically speaking, from the studies they did, that’s just not true.
Two Types of Motivations
Now from a more psychological perspective, especially NLP, which is my background specifically, I want to talk about two types of motivations that you’ll see out there. And these motivations are the motivation away from, and the motivation towards something.
It’s pretty basic. We call these meta programs. Meta programs ;are basically, how do you structure your internal world, and how you see the world. And it’s just, they’re filters more or less. And one of the meta programs is towards or away.
And so from this perspective, in general, it’s more useful to have a towards goal than an away from goal, when it comes to the law of attraction. That much is true.
So when you say something like, “I want to quit my job,” what kind of meta program do you think that is? Do you think that’s towards or away?
Obviously that’s away from, because you want to get away from a situation.
Now if you say, “I want to get a job that has this feature, and that feature, and that feature,” that is a toward filter—meta program—because you’re wanting to move towards something.
Now in my experience with the law of attraction, it is more useful in most cases to focus on what you want to move towards, rather than on what you want to move away from. So that’s one way of understanding it.
Sometimes You Have to Use the Away From Orientation
But some things aren’t that simple.
For example, if you want to quit smoking, I challenge you to find a linguistically reasonable, sensible way of saying, “I want to quit smoking,” without an away from orientation. I can’t do it. [laugh]
People say, “Well I want to live a healthy life.” Yeah, but that’s so general and vague. I can’t really get on board with that, and excited about it.
Even, “I want to live a smoke-free life”: that’s still away from. You’re still using the word that you’re trying to get away from—a “smoke-free life”.
I can’t think of one way of wording that sentence that’s a towards orientation.
So some things aren’t going to be so easily cut and dry, that you can always do a towards orientation. Some things are going to be more natural, and more exciting to you, with an away from orientation. And that’s okay.
It Comes Down to Feelings
So to me it comes down to feelings, as it often does with the law of attraction. How do you feel when you say this statement?
When you say, “I want to quit my job,” do you get images of how horrible the job is in your mind, and it feels awful, and you just don’t feel good about it?
Or, do you get images of a life without that job, that you really feel great, and you feel relieved?
The former case is going to be not so good, because it’s going to keep reminding you of what you don’t want, and the latter case is going to be much more preferable, because it’s going to remind you of what you do want.
So both of those, I mean it could go either way, depending on who you are and how you see it, but the statement itself is objectively-speaking an away from oriented statement. “I want to quit my job,” you’re wanting to get away from the job.
But if when you say that, you feel really good, like, “Oh, I can’t wait to have a life where I don’t have that,” then that’s something you can move towards. That’s something that you can motivate yourself with.
So it’s not just black and white, where it’s like, “Well, this is always good, and that’s always bad.” The subconscious mind does understand the word “don’t”, or does understand negatives. But it really depends on what it makes you think of—what it evokes in you—and you want to create a statement that creates the highest, most joyful emotional state possible.
And so you’ll want to play around with that statement a little bit, and it might be in the end, it’s an away from statement, and that’s okay. If that’s really what gets you excited about the goal, then that’s what gets you excited about the goal.
Feel Free to Play Around with Your Goal Statement
So I don’t want you to take it quite so literally—take it like, “Oh my gosh. If I say I don’t want this job,” for example, “then my subconscious mind will get, ‘I want this job,’ because it literally cannot parse out that word.”
That’s not how it is, at all. That’s not how it is.
It’s just based on emotions. It’s nothing else. It’s just, how does this statement make you feel?
If good, then great! If not so good, then play around with it—try out some different orientations. If you were doing a towards orientation, try an away from. If you were doing an away from orientation, try a towards.
It’s just seeing what motivates you the most. What feels the best to you, and that will get you the best results.
So I hope that this makes sense. I know this is a very common issue, like I said, out there. So I really wanted to answer this in detail. So I hope that it does that for you, and that you can go out and evaluate your goal statements, and see how they measure up against the advice in this video.
So again, if you would like to ask a question for Readers Questions, you can go to returningtozero.org/ask, and you can find it there.
If you would like to see the transcript for this question, or leave a comment, you can go to returningtozero.org/rq5.
And if you would like to see more videos like this, you can subscribe to my YouTube channel, and that would be wonderful!
Or if you want to get notifications about any of my blog posts, you can go to returningtozero.org, and subscribe to my mailing list, where you can get my free checklist, Ten Reasons You Aren’t Getting Results with the Law of Attraction.
Once again, I’m Brandon Olivares. And I hope that everyone has a wonderful day.
As always, anything is possible!
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