How many affirmations have you said in your lifetime and how many of those have actually got you the result you wanted? Not so many I suspect, unless you recited them with a whole other set of significant criteria.
Before you go hurling your autographed copy of ‘You Can Heal Your Life” by Louise Hay at me, I recommend you read this entire article so you can learn about and get the most out of a very sexy and potent part of your brain.
Here’s the sticky on how affirmations can often be counter–productive and how to hack your brain using the Reticular Activating System (RAS).
First let’s take a look at the brain; that miraculous organ with all its cleverness and millions of untapped secrets that lives inside your cranium.
Inside your brain is the astonishing Reticular Activating System (RAS); a set of nuclei or neural connections that has the significant task of:
- Acting as a filtering system for the information that gets into your brain
- Acting as a messenger of information between your conscious and unconscious mind
- Being instrumental in the brain’s sleep-wake or sleep–alertness mechanisms.
This tiny collection of neurons can make a massive impact on your life
Without the RAS you would be constantly barraged with such excessive amounts of information that you would go into sensory overload and subsequent overwhelm. Fortunately with the help of the RAS that doesn’t happen as the RAS helps your brain to register what matters most to you, what is relevant to you based on your values, needs, interests and goals.
Have you ever thought about buying a new car, you decide on the make and model and then suddenly it seems like every second car on the road is like the one you intend to buy? Your clever RAS knows that information is important to you and like magic you start to notice more of what is relevant to you and in this case it’s a car.
What about waiting in line in a noisy cafe to get your double shot of decaf light soy no sugar take out, and over the noise of heavy traffic on the street and a cacophony of sound in the cafe you manage to hear your name and order called out. Thanks RAS for knowing how important the sound of my own name is, I love you.
Of course your optical nerve, olfactory system, hypothalamus and other parts of the brain are in action however I’m focussing on the RAS in this article so you can better understand its power and use it more efficiently for your benefit.
Back to affirmations and two (there are more) critical factors that can cause them to be counter-productive
You are what you believe
There is a considerable body of evidence that has shown that when we endeavour to override a strongly held belief with new information, an affirmation in this case, it conflicts with the existing belief and the brain will do what it can to hold on to the existing belief.
If what you are saying in your affirmation is incongruent with a deeply held negative or limiting belief, i.e. you are telling yourself that you are fit and healthy when you are overweight and struggle up the stairs; you are creating an in-congruency pattern. That pattern can result in an inner conflict that can cause psychological or emotional pain and tension in the body that can result in physical pain.
Mind your language
The second critical component is language. The language you use in your affirmations plays a significant role in how those words translate into sensory representations in your brain.
Many people who create and repeat affirmations actually use language that reinforces the very pattern they want to change. A common example that I have heard over the years is: “I am debt free.” I know that those individuals wanted financial security or financial freedom however they used language that focussed their mind on the debt. A more effective use of language for an affirmation in that case would be “I am financially secure” to focus the mind on what you want.
Do you want a more powerful, creative and effective approach than affirmations to get what you want through life?
- Develop a more intimate relationship with your RAS
- Rather than affirmations, ask yourself questions that start with “What specifically” “How specifically”, “When” and “Who specifically.”
What kind of outcomes could you achieve if you directed questions to your RAS for your unconscious mind to answer?
Remember the RAS acts as a messenger of information between your conscious and unconscious mind and it also loves to bring relevant information to your attention. Think reciprocity, send a clear and concise question and get a clear and concise answer back.
Notice I said “relevant information.”
This is the real kicker as when you ask a question you get an answer from within that is specifically tailor-made for you.
What if you want to be more successful at something in particular?
You could ask yourself, “What are 10 examples of me being successful?”
Your RAS leaps into action to pass the information in the form of a question down to your unconscious mind and your gorgeous unconscious mind conjures up all sorts of memories and representations of you being successful. Bingo you have high quality information with behaviours that you can now model to create success in another area of life. OR
You could ask yourself, “What specific resources do I need to be a more successful as film producer (teacher, designer, writer, professional golfer, musician etc)?”
As before your RAS leaps into action and your brilliant unconscious mind sends you the resource rich information that you need.
Your brain is most likely to be a little disappointed and bored that you haven’t yet fully embraced the RAS for it’s creative problem solving and manifesting capabilities in this way.
When I created The Mindset Genius ™ Guided, Dynamic Power Meditation for Goal Achievement MP3, I used specific language and the inclusion of resources to speak directly to your Reticular Activating System.
You are experiencing trouble sleeping?
Rather than boring yourself into more sleepless nights with the obvious affirmation “I sleep well” how about this question:
“How specifically can I improve my sleep?” or “What specifically do I need to do to improve my sleep?”
“Awesome” chimes in your RAS and off to the unconscious mind with the question and back with your relevant and resource rich answer.
Notice I do not give any “Why” based questions as examples. Forget the “why” with this as you will only get a “because” answer and that’s not what you are looking for. Why questions get a justification answer; a because reply i.e. “Why am I unfit” “Because you don’t exercise enough!” So what, you already knew that however a “What” or “how” question will give you a high value and relevant answer.
Follow this model and apply these principles, you’ll soon be in the pattern of expert question asking and getting high value answers to bring your attention to the resources and opportunities you need for solving challenges and manifesting your dreams.
P.S. My unconscious mind loves question time. Got a question? Ask Louise
rex sikes says
Nice article. Thanks for contributing.
I originated directed questions in 1980 and contributed it to NLP through live seminars and training and in my home study materials and articles. Here is an article I found recently chronically the history.
If you look into other works you will see my original examples and points of interest. Questions direct the brain and are extremely useful. We have been using them since we could speak. Enjoy learning how to direct you brain for positive change!
BTW why is a powerful question when used correctly and at the right times. All the best!
enjoy! use questions
Louise Crosby says
Thank you for your contribution to the field of NLP and to my original post here.
I am curious – How specifically did you decide that why is a powerful question when used “correctly” and at the “right” time.
I find that a why question generally elicits a justification response i.e. “because…” which is often not useful/resourceful in the process-orientated patterns for change with NLP. It is important to know how an individual has constructed or created if you like, a specific belief, pattern in thinking, behavior and emotion. If I ask myself a “why” question about a specific behaviour that I might want to change, I will generally get a conscious mind BS justification or excuse and go on doing the same old, same old.
Given that NLP is an Epistemology – “What is knowledge?”, “How is knowledge acquired?”, “What do people know?”, “How do we know what we know?”, I find asking clients questions such as “How did you decide that?” or “What do you want through that (behaviour)” effective in eliciting higher value information such as intention of behaviour etc. generating resourceful information and eventually desired outcomes i.e. pattern change and other specific desired outcomes for the client.
Then there is Epistemic justification.
correctly” and “right” – strong words and seem almost counter to language patterns that I would use as a practitioner of NLP.
Thanks again Rex – go well and be well.
I am trying to get my ras help me. A couple of nights ago I kept asking that what are the winning numbers in lotto next draw! I slept I had a dream of six numbers but I only could remember only 2 numbers when I woke up! I played those 2 numbers that I remembered and they came up!! My question is that was it a coincidence or the ras really working and helped me!! It’s really cool.
Louise Crosby says
Thank you for your comment and question.
I am not inside your neurology and nor am I a neuroscientist so I would wisely refrain from answering your question as to whether it was a coincidence or the RAS working for you. I do know that the RAS (Reticular Activating System) has many functions with the most important function being to regulate the shift between sleep and wakefulness and vice versa. The RAS is also active during our sleep and when we see dreams – this might be a clue for you. If you want to learn more about the Reticular Activating System I would recommend that you search Google for studies by neuroscientists on the subject. Keep on asking you never know what might happen…