Newsletters: Volume 1 No. 5
Health and Longevity: Changing my Mind the Subliminal Way
Attitudes and beliefs have long been suspected of impacting life in meaningful ways. However, only in the past decade or so has so-called hard science turned to this page. Today there is little argument about the influence of attitude and belief on health, wellness, longevity, and the general quality of life that a positive expectation can exert. That's the good news--the bad news is simply that most people carry around self defeating beliefs about everything from aging to the common cold.
For years I have worked with elite athletes. There is no necessity to explain the power of the mind to an athlete. They get it right away. They get it because they experience it in their game. They know that doubt, fear, anxiousness, nervousness, lack of confidence, etc., fail to produce the desired outcome, and therefore--lose those attitudes, feelings and beliefs or lose!
Athletes are not the only people to intuitively understand the value of changing our minds to change our lives. Business people are also particularly adroit in this area. The mental edge is just that, an edge, an advantage, an opportunity. Lose it and lose!
Life and all its glory is not about winning and losing. It is really about the quality of our experiences. As we expand our horizons, the world meets us with a cornucopia of opportunity. As we grow individually in the appreciation for life's many miracles, all of us improve. Our ability to take responsibility for the things we can change and let go of the things we can't change opens entirely new possibilities for personal well being, and planetary peace, balance and harmony. As each of us releases the compulsion to blame and replaces it with the desire to understand, trust and allow, our quality of life improves. Now, that's not just so much philosophy, it's a matter that can be and has been demonstrated neuro-chemically. All this "cosmic fluff," as critics in the past may have labeled it, is indeed the real stuff that matters.
Now that the role of mind is so well documented in every aspect of our lives, how do we change those old self defeating patterns, those old engrained beliefs, those old urges to get even, those old tendencies to dwell on negative experiences, and so forth. There are lots of ways to begin to take control of your own thoughts. Some of them include hypnosis, autogenic training, NLP, a trip to the Himalayas to study in a cave for years, and so forth. There is nothing wrong with any of these methods. They do, however, all put a definite demand on our time. In today's fast paced world, one of our problems is the lack of time.
Coming of Age
The idea behind subliminal communication as a modality for changing the mind captured the imagination of many, in part, because of its ease. No extra time investment required. Change your mind the easy way. Play it while you sleep, while driving, while working on your computer, while watching TV, and so forth. In fact, the idea was so exciting that many rushed in to cash in on self-help made easy.
Our culture is served by capitalistic motives and that's just how it is. There isn't anything wrong with cashing in, so to speak, on a new drug, a new technology, a new anything--so long as it really works. The problem was simple, too much profit motive and too little good work. Let's take a look at what one could call the subliminal legend.
James Vicary brought subliminal stimuli out of the closets and laboratories of academics with his use of it to sell popcorn and Coca-Cola. Well, he said he increased concession sales dramatically by flashing hungry and thirsty messages over Kim Novak's face during the showing of the movie Picnic. However, Vicary later told Congress that he made the whole thing up. Did he--didn't he--who knows? The point is not whether he did or not, but that his boast brought significant public attention to this potential persuasion technique.
Suddenly the market place swelled with subliminal this and that. Books, articles, ads and self-help tapes proliferated everywhere. By 1984, the Orwellian year, subliminal tapes were in nearly every bookstore in America. Surveys suggested that most people did not believe a subliminal tape could help them but they did believe subliminal information could be used covertly to brainwash them. There was a definite cognitive dissonance in the minds of many--the technology was futile in the arena of help but super powerful in the hands of manipulators. (For more information see my book, Subliminal Communication: Emperor's Clothes or Panacea). Despite this general belief, subliminal self-help tapes sold record numbers until the late 1980's.
Academics during the eighties spoke out against subliminal tapes in nearly every major story on the subject. They claimed there was no evidence for effectiveness and even if the subconscious mind could process the stimuli, there was no evidence, and or even basis, to believe that subliminal messages could influence behavior. By 1990, the scientific trend was changing, but a now infamous trial in Reno, Nevada, would submit a near death blow to the subliminal promise. In what the Judge termed, "manipulation of the media," the defendants in this case did all they could do to turn subliminal motivation into a theory advanced by quacks and frauds. The public saw and heard very little of what really went on in this trial. Instead, they were virtually inundated in almost every imaginable form of media with jokes, innuendoes and outright insults upon anyone silly enough to think subliminal information could persuade one to think in a certain way, let alone act upon it. (For details see my book, Thinking Without Thinking and or click below for an excerpt detailing the Judas Priest case).
The Cargo Cult Revisited
In a scathing article attacking subliminal communication among other things, the term "Cargo Cult" was used to describe a practice that mixed a little science in a cauldron of nonsense full of myth and folklore, and offered the mixture up as scientific. Now that loosely paraphrases the idea, but it also makes the point quite clear. The lay public and many scientists were made to believe that subliminal stimuli was itself only cargo cult nonsense. To prove this point, some of the pundits most vociferously opposed to subliminal motivation carried out studies with commercial subliminal audio tapes. (That is not to say that all such studies were motivated in this way and/or conducted by scientists determined to prove a foregone conclusion--for that simply would not be true). Several such studies repeatedly demonstrated no effect. Many were unable to recover even the slightest tracing of an actual verbal message from the commercial subliminal audio tape. A broad brush painted the entire field as a result. Some commercial companies that sold subliminal tapes closed their doors and went out of business while others dropped their subliminal products and went on with something else. This was as it should be and may still apply in many instances. After all, in many ways, the industry deserved the scathing. (I am not attacking or defending the audio tape subliminal industry per se'. I should also be clear that the technology I developed, known and patented as Whole Brain® InnerTalk®, is technically a dichotic shadowing approach that is only modestly masked. It has been called the "unsubliminal subliminal." Still, for most people, since they do not understand, if in fact they hear the affirmations, InnerTalk® is considered to be subliminal).
Recently a customer from Europe phoned my offices. Our customer service person came into my office following the call. They were told that a company, I'll let the company be anonymous, had informed this customer whose native tongue was not English, that the language used on a tape program did not need to be in any language other than English. This they insisted on despite the fact that the people who would be listening to the program did not understand English. Now either this suggests something like English is the master language of the unconscious and/or something like the intent of the words is understood by the unconscious and therefore an English only speaking person could listen to Chinese and benefit from the program. I consider these kind of statements to not only be theoretically and factually flawed but dishonest. It is precisely this kind of marketing that brought about much of the contempt many scientists held for the subliminal self-help field. Unfortunately, some of this still goes on. Nevertheless, by 1998 much of the real scientific debate had ended.
In the marvelous book published by the American Psychological Association, Empirical Perspectives on the Psychoanalytic Unconscious, edited by Robert Bornstein and Joseph Masling, the Editors write," Early in the twentieth century, research focused on establishing the existence of unconscious mental processes and on demonstrating that these processes could produce measurable effects on motivation, emotion, cognition and behavior Controversies surrounded the measurement of unconscious mental processes (By 1992) these investigations demonstrated unequivocally that not only do stimuli perceived or remembered without awareness influence behavior, but they also produce effects on responding that are qualitatively different than those produced by stimuli consciously perceived and remembered‹"
The Editors continue, "Consider the following: During the 1980s, there were dozens of published papers questioning the existence of unconscious perception and memory. Since 1990, there has not been a single article in a mainstream psychology journal challenging the existence of these phenomena." [1998, p.xvi-xix].
Not everyone attempts to keep pace with developments in the sciences. Only a couple of months ago a new hypnotherapy publication arrived in my office with a story debunking subliminal communication. The story quoted Howard Shevrin's comment, much quoted in the past, which asserted no behavioral influence could be produced with subliminal stimuli. Dr. Shevrin made that statement in the early 80s. He refuted that statement completely when he testified that it was his opinion that the subliminal message in the Stained Class album by Judas Priest, was a causal factor in the double shooting in question during the Reno Trial. (Taylor, 1995).
The Pendulum Swings Again
The popular press during the nineties portrayed and/or reported, often in a liquor advertisement, that a subliminal stimulus was simply a hoax. The popular press did not cover many stories that showed effectiveness with subliminal treatment protocols. Even when they did, as with our own, End Child Violence program, a sort of tongue in cheek caveat was added at the end of the story which essentially suggested with suspicion that subliminal stimuli was dubious and unproven.
Compounding all of this for many people was the position taken by some religious organizations that asserted evil influences were attached to subliminal learning techniques. I personally saw a very rewarding program go down the drain over this mindset. We participated in a study with a school district whereby we provided the tapes and auto-reverse cassette players. Juveniles who were failing were exposed to learning tapes using subliminal motivation affirmations, our patented InnerTalk technology. The study results impressed everyone. However, when an effort to extend the pilot project to the entire district for at risk children was made, the religious objections prevailed.
When the time has come for something--it has come. My Father used to laugh and scoff at me when I spoke of things like men travelling to the moon. I still remember the amazement of many of my elders when President John F. Kennedy pledged to put a man on the moon. Perhaps there will still be those people who firmly oppose subliminal communication ten years from now, but if there are, it will probably be for reasons other than science. The science is in. The subconscious learns, solves problems, plans and hides many things from the conscious. It is not a repository of indelible memories written like on some blank slate, but it is dynamic and activates much of what we call behavior. It is not magical, translating Chinese, but often the conscious can only guess at what truly lies within its motives. Suddenly, once again, the study of consciousness is fair game in the discipline of psychology. What is even more exciting, is that once again studies reporting the benefits of subliminal stimuli are back in the popular press. Take for instance the recent report that subliminal messages facilitated more youthful feelings.
"Positive Thinking Makes Seniors Stronger Walkers," was the title of a story reported by Reuters. The study was reported on in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, but it gained prominence in the popular media including the Internet. Not a derisive word appeared as the story reported, "In a controlled study of how older people walk, gerontologists found that a single, quick, subliminal exposure to positive terms about aging--words such as 'wise' and 'experienced'--significantly improved the subjects speed and coordination." (http://www.cnn.com/HEALTH/9911/02/elderly.fitness/index.html)
There are hundreds of studies that could have been reported on like this one. If you're interested in more information, take a look at this link for a review (citation and brief description) of the subliminal research literature: (http://www.progressiveawareness.org/research_deskreference.html)
There will still be controversies--that we can all count on. There are still many more unanswered questions, than there are answers. There is still an abundance of non-sense out there, ranging from commercial companies that claim millions of messages on a thirty minute tape to nonsense about secret messages. There is a difference in subliminal techniques, whether in the laboratory or in the market place. There is a distinct difference between visual and audio subliminal delivery systems. There is much to say about the nature of the affirmations employed as subliminal stimuli. In my various books, I have covered most of this in depth and it is not the focus of this article, so let it just be said, not all so-called subliminals work! (For more info hit this link: (http://www.innertalk.com/downloads/subtech.html). Still, the pendulum has swung and subliminal information processing has come of age.
Changing the mind by accessing unconscious processes via subliminal stimuli is a truly viable alternative today. Our patented InnerTalk technology has been repeatedly demonstrated effective in many diverse domains. It's an exciting time and we continue to work hard to bring you the very best product available. We were fortunate; we missed most of the criticism leveled at others. Indeed, some of those pundits insisted that our products were not truly subliminal, since words are often heard when using our tapes, albeit, typically those words are not understood. We designed a technology that would bypass conscious interference and go directly to the unconscious. It does that and we're very pleased with its proven result. Still, remember that there's no magic here. At best, our products are antidotes for negative beliefs and self-limiting patterns. You're the miracle--you're the magic. You do the doing, and we're proud to in some small way, facilitate your journey. Thank you.
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