So how can attitudes be changed if we inherit them in childhood and they take root in our subconscious mind?
They are not easily shifted when they take root because they become habitual attitudes. But it is possible to replace them. One way to do this is to use the power of imagery to displace those negative thoughts that we have lived out of for many years.
Imagery Is a Powerful Tool
Doctors are now using imagery as a healing resource. At the M.D. Anderson Hospital in Houston, Texas young cancer patients are using video games to visualise how the body’s natural immune cells can knock-out cancer cells.
The patients play the game using a video screen and gain confidence in their ability to take on the cancer cells. Although it is too early to draw widespread conclusions from the results, the mean survival rate of cancer patients using symbolic imagery is double the normal survival time of those who are not using imagery as part of their treatment (Simonton et al. 1980).
Given that attitude and imagery can play such a powerful role in our day to day life why is it that we so often forget to use it? Is it because we feel it robs us of the unknown by putting an element of predictability into our schedule? Is it due to laziness? Or does the clutter of the everyday rob us of the time for personal reflection and inner-planning?
Perhaps all of these factors, and more beside, contribute to our inconsistency. Maybe we sometimes feel the need for a mediocre day, or even a day of disruption so that we can put our psychic energies against the challenges that such days bring. Days such as this can often be fun and occasionally sensational. I suppose there is an inbuilt tendency to explore the unknown and indeed such territory can be fertile ground for creative discovery.
Attitudes That Damage Our Mental and Physical Health
Over time we can accumulate attitudes that are damaging to our mental and physical health and these entrenched cognitions are hard to move. If you are accustomed to waking up feeling miserable and depressed then it could be due to some inherited biochemical dysfunction or it may be a conditioned expectation that has taken root over a long period of time.
Attitudes such as these can be changed but they require effort to shift. Deeply ingrained attitudes can’t usually be changed overnight. Psychologists invest a great deal of time and research funds attempting to understand the mechanisms that bring about behavioural change and many unanswered questions still remain. However, I want to give you some basis for optimism by suggesting that if you are prepared to make an effort and to invest some time then the probability of significant change occurring is greatly increased.
Unfortunately I am unable to write out a simple formula that can be plugged into your neuronal machinery with predictable outcomes. One of the great concerns that I have in reading some of the self-help literature is that much of it appeals to people who are looking for the quick fix. They have a problem and they want an answer and they want it now. It reminds me of the executive who said, I want patience and I want it now!.
There are very few quick fixes but there are techniques which, if applied conscientiously, can bring about change. One of these is a process I call Mind-Management.
Mind-Management is a process whereby new images and attitudes are deliberately and systematically planted in the mind to replace and overlay those undesirable images that sometimes put a drag on our potential.
Mind-Management means reconstructing an improved-you from the inside. The images that you plant will have an impact on neurochemistry and on the physical processes that govern the nervous system.
I’ve called the process Mind-Management because it is planned thinking rather than random thinking. It’s using valuable mental-computer time for constructive work. You wouldn’t plan to use the office mainframe for computer games all day but wisely allocate to tasks of greater priority. So therefore I’m suggesting that you take your most valuable computer – your mind – and give it some priority tasks to do instead of random-roaming. That’s Mind-Management. If, for example, you’re thinking of something driving to work, why not use this thinking time constructively!
How Can I Find Time to Reshape the Images in My Mind?
Although attitude formation takes time it is not impossible to grab spare moments throughout the day to absorb powerful images. If you have a full time Personal Assistant then you could get them to read your affirmation statements as you are being driven to work. But if you can’t afford that luxury then a Smartphone can serve as an image-building resource while you drive in traffic.
You can listen to your affirmations while you’re having a shower or even as you are dropping off to sleep at night. Even 15 minutes a day can make a difference.
List the changes or goals that you would like to achieve.
This is cognitive planning. You may discover lots of areas for change and these may include themes that refer to both your personal and professional life. If things are not going well at home then you may decide to improve your attitudes in this area as part of a major mental renovation. Your image-list may include lots of items.
Write out the items in the present tense as though these images had actually been fulfilled. If you project winning images into your mind then it will draw on the necessary resources to bring those images to daily reality.
Athletes imagine winning; healthy people think healthy thoughts; successful managers think success.
Here are a few suggestions:
“I am physically fit and have a healthy body and mind. I am a very strong runner and swimmer and enjoy vigorous physical exercise. My body functions magnificently and I am extremely fit and healthy.”
“I enjoy meeting new clients. I find it stimulating and interesting to make new contacts and to discover ways in which my products and services can improve their business.”
“I am a capable and efficient manager. My staff find me approachable and appreciate that I listen to them and respect their input.”
“I am well groomed and look successful. I have confidence in my appearance and this assists me to project a positive image towards my workmates and clients.”
“I enjoy working for (your organisation). I have confidence in the products (or services) I provide and appreciate the support of other team members in assisting me to reach my goals.’’
“I look forward to management meetings. I can bring to notice the achievements of my team and benefit from the strategic input and constructive criticism of my peers.”
“I am constantly learning new skills and enthusiastically acquire the knowledge necessary to meet the professional standards expected of me.”
This Is Where You Plant Your New Attitudes
Because 99.99% of our attitudes are stored in the subconscious mind then it is in this storage domain that the new images must be planted. The goal of Mind-Management is to take a series of positive images and to plant them in your subconscious mind.
You may think, well this shouldn’t be too difficult I’ll just say them a dozen times and then I’ll be right.
Unfortunately it is not as easy as that. What needs to occur is a process of prolonged repetition that leads to physical changes at a neuronal level. What Mind-Management is about is breaking habits through replacement. In this context the key to change is vivid repetition.
In any day there are moments when the mind is more responsive to new ideas than others. The semi-states, or altered state of consciousness, lie between wakefulness and sleep and also during periods of reverie or relaxation. These are good periods for the introduction of fresh ideas and images. Perhaps the best period of time is the twilight zone as you drift off to sleep. If your last thoughts consist of those positive statements and affirmations that you have scripted then those images drift with you into the night. (The last thing you want to take into your dreams is the 11 o’clock news!!).
Once you have prepared your list and are satisfied with the images, record them on your iPhone or iPod using an application like iTalk.
Follow these steps to achieve your image-building goals:
1. Download a Smartphone recording application like iTalk;
2. Use the first five minutes on the recording as a period of relaxation. You can record a series of statements that will relax you. For example:
I am walking along a beautiful lonely beach. It is a warm, sunny day and I feel the cooling effects of a gentle sea-breeze on my face. Seagulls fly overhead and the waves flow to the shore in a gentle, smooth rhythm. I lie down on the sand and allow the sun to relax every part of my body. My feet are relaxed … my knees are relaxed my thighs are relaxed etc. I am now totally relaxed and feeling completely at peace;
3. After you have completed your relaxation statements leave a minute of silence on your recording;
4. In your own voice, and with genuine conviction, record your image-building statements. If you have ten statements then record them one by one with a short break between each statement. Repeat the series over and over at least 6 or 10 times;
5. I also recommend that you prepare a recording that can be used at the start of a new day. Begin this recording with a statement like:
I am entering a day of positive and dynamic achievement. This day affords me another opportunity to move a step closer towards the realisation of my goals. I will move forward today and the lessons that I learn and experiences that I encounter will bring my heart’s desires one step closer. My concern and love for others will be the measure of my greatness today. I will grasp every opportunity that comes my way to do a kindness to another human being;
6. Record the achievement statements at least 6 or 10 times;
7. Play the first recording every evening before you go to sleep. You may drift off to sleep with the recording playing but it will stop itself and the phone will go into sleep mode. This is fine as your last mental images will he those on the recording and not a re-run of problems gathered during the day;
8. Play the day start recording every morning as you get ready for work or in the car or train as you travel to your place of work. (You’ll probably need to use headphones in the train unless you are SO proud of your image statements that you are prepared to share them with fellow commuters);
9. Play these recordings every day for a month and once a week after that initial period. Keep these images fresh in your mind and commit them to memory. Once placed deep in the mind the super-intelligent neurons that make up the cerebral cortex will begin subconsciously to find ways of taking these new images and converting them into reality. Gradually you will begin to notice positive changes taking place in your attitudes and behaviour.
Support Your Image Building With Action
It goes without saying that image-building needs to be supported by action. It’s not helpful to have an image of a well-groomed professional if you head for work looking like something a platypus had for breakfast.
Add action to the image-building and this will create a harmonious link between your thoughts and their physical outcome.
Simonton, O.C., Matthews-Sirnonton, S., & Sparkes, T.F. (1980). Psychological Intervention in the Treatment of Cancer. Psychosomatics. 21, 226-233.