The unconscious mind does not hear 'not'
Don’t think of a blue tree. Don’t think of blue bark, or blue branches, and definitely don’t think of blue leaves.
Chances are you now have a pretty clear image of a blue tree in your mind. That’s because the unconscious mind doesn’t hear the word ‘not’. It just hears content words and focuses on them instead.
This is a pretty important concept for our communication with ourselves and with others. Take goal setting for example. How often have you heard people say things like the following: “I don’t want to be broke all the time,” or “I don’t want to be unhappy”? The problem with these statements is that they focus on the negative, so that all the unconscious mind hears is “broke all the time” and “unhappy”, and therefore focuses on these things. Some people try to turn it round and make their sentence positive, yet still manage to focus on the negative, for example: “I want to stop eating lollies.” Here, the problem is still contained in the sentence, so all the unconscious mind hears is “eating lollies,” and that’s what it focuses on.
It’s therefore important to consider what you do want, and take the negative out of the sentence completely, so your unconscious mind knows where to go, instead of just where not to go. If you went to someone’s house and they asked you what you’d like to drink, you’d never reply “Not coffee and not tea, and I don’t want water either thanks” leaving them no closer to knowing what you do want, and goal setting should be the same. “I don’t want to struggle with money” could become instead “I want to have enough money to pay all my bills and buy the things we need, plus have enough left over to save $500 a month.” Now your unconscious mind knows exactly where you’re heading, making it much easier to figure out how to get there.
Interestingly, we all have these skills and we all use them at certain times. Imagine a child meeting his or her younger sibling for the first time, and wanting desperately to hold them. We very carefully explain to the child exactly what they need to do. “Sit down, put this cushion here, put your arms like this and hold him very gently.” Yet at other times we forget these skills and exclaim: “Don’t hit your sister!” All the child’s mind can hear is “hit your sister” and there’s little chance of them figuring out what they might like to do instead.
Right through our lives, it’s important to know what we want and to communicate that very clearly with ourselves and others. When we say what we don’t want, our unconscious mind has no guidance as to where to focus its attention aside from on the thing we want to stay away from. When we turn that communication around and focus clearly on what we do want instead, we can finally shine the torchlight in the direction we want to go, instead of pointing it behind us.