Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Selective Listening

(This blog was originally posted on March 2, 2016)

“Winning is habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.” – Vince Lombardi

Photo by Rick Hustead

Winning. Losing. Some people do a lot of one; others do a lot of the other. No matter what you do, the more you practice (repeat) a behavior, the more likely it is to become a habit. And as many of us know, it can be very difficult to change an unwanted behavior because, well, change is hard.

As I explained in a previous blog titled Traditions: It’s All in the Family, the subconscious part of the mind likes and wants to do what is familiar (known), because this sense of familiarity represents “safety” and comfort. Hypnosis Motivation Institute founder John Kappas, Ph.D. proposed that human behavior is based on the subconscious mental scripts that we create during early childhood. During this time the subconscious mind is accumulating and storing various message units that will ultimately comprise the subconscious life script. We will behave and even think in ways that are consistent with it even when the script does not facilitate achievement of our personal goals. Each message is ultimately categorized as a positive (pleasure) or negative (pain) experience, and anything that the subconscious mind does not recognize falls under the category of “pain.” Even if the conscious mind questions the behavior, its logic/reasoning/will-power/decision-making faculties will be no match for the unspoken acceptance of that action, in the subconscious mind. 

Fortunately, it is possible to change or get rid of an unwanted habit. This change starts in the conscious mind, where logic, reasoning, decision-making and reasoning faculties hold court. This is the area of the mind where we notice that this particular behavior isn’t working and is even making life more challenging for us. Noticing and deciding that you want to make this change is the first positive step to making it happen. However, the real change happens in the subconscious mind. This is the area of the mind where the subconscious mental script was originally written and continues to be carefully, lovingly nurtured to keep us comfortable. Or so we think.

Because each of us is most suggestible to ourselves, when we feel discouraged or sad or unhappy or are even hungry, we may be more likely to not only hear but also listen to those negative messages. The more down on ourselves we become, the more we subconsciously behave in ways that reinforce the feedback we give ourselves. For example, consider the individuals who are running for President right now. Pay attention to the language they are using in their campaign: “If I become President” versus “When I become President.” Have you noticed a trend whereby the individuals who say when seem to be doing better in the polls and in recent elections? Of course there are other issues at stake and to consider, but it is striking how many more candidates who seem less confident about being electable are not doing so well or have suspended their campaigns.

For example, a John Grisham novel called Gray Mountain features a protagonist who recently been furloughed from a well-paying, high-status job as a lawyer. It is 2008, right before the recession. As a condition of her unemployment, she can keep her health-care benefits and a chance to get her job back if she does the volunteer work at one of the small law firms her P.R. department has recommended. After she receives nine rejections in one day while applying for pro bono (unpaid) work, she decides (conscious decision) that she does not want to get a tenth one, so she makes a conscious effort to change her negative attitude about her situation. Yes, the prospective firm is tiny by comparison, located in a tiny town and she will have to practice the kind of law she hasn’t done since she was in law school. She tries to be more optimistic and enthusiastic about the opportunity to practice real law for “real” clients, as time passes she discovers that she really enjoys and values the work she is doing at this tiny law firm, compared to the corporate law that she has become used to. She is finally doing the work that she (her subconscious mind and subconscious mental script) believes is truly worthwhile and meaningful for clients who really need her. The more she believes her work is valuable and valued, the harder she works to do the right thing for her clients. And the harder she works for her clients, the more they appreciate her and what she is doing for them. (Well, most of them. This is a thriller, after all.) The important thing to remember in this instance is that the protagonist’s subconscious mental script identifies with those ideals she originally held when she decided to become a lawyer. The idea and ideal of actually helping people resonates with what she must do to fulfill the conditions of her furlough.

At the end of the day, each one of us behaves in way(s) that fulfill our subconscious goals. Whenever we make a conscious decision to change a behavior, the success of that decision is largely dependent upon our subconscious mind facilitating that change. Remember: the conscious messages you pay attention to the most that reinforce which subconscious messages and which mental script most resonates with you. The more you listen to and believe the negative messages, the more you reinforce those negative beliefs. Conversely, the more attention you pay to and believe the positive messages, the more you reinforce those beliefs. Ultimately, the subconscious mental script and the extent to which your subconscious mind accepts these goals determine whether your desired behavior change can and will occur. 

If you want to achieve a desired goal, pay attention to what messages you’re listening to!

Sara R. Fogan, C.Ht. is a certified hypnotherapist based in Southern California. She graduated with honors from the Hypnosis Motivation Institute in 2005. For more information about Calminsense Hypnotherapy® and to set up an appointment, please visit http://www.calminsensehypnotherapy.com/.
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