The Power of Suggestion

Suggestions have a big influence over our lives. Tell anyone something convincingly enough and they’ll accept what you say. Tell them over and over again and sooner or later they’ll start to believe you.

Unfortunately it’s often the suggestions of others that we allow to control us. For instance:

  • Advertisers use them to persuade us to buy their products. Promotional suggestions are often recalled years after they ceased to be used.
  • Politicians use them too with catchy phrases (whether or not they’re true) as we’ve recently seen with the election of Donald Trump and the Brexit referendum.
  • Parents use them all the time. Young children tend to believe everything their parents say. E.g. when a young child gets hurt and Mum ‘kisses it better’ it does feel better, even though there’s no logical reason why it should.
  • Placebos – pills and potions with no active ingredients – can cure illnesses for no other reason than the patient believes they can. Placebos were once treated as a bit of a joke – as if the patient were ‘fooled’ into getting well -but now they’re taken very seriously indeed.
  • Suggestions don’t necessarily have to be direct: parents who receive a letter from school about head lice in their child’s class often feel itchy!
  • Nor do suggestions have to be verbal. Non-verbals (gestures, facial expressions and so on) can be even more powerful, and verbal suggestions backed up by visual, taste, tactile or olfactory stimuli can be extremely compelling.
  • Some hospital radio stations do not play certain records because of the effect they could have on patient recovery. For example, ‘My Way’ (‘And now the end is near, and so I face the final curtain’), ’ ‘The First Cut Is The Deepest’,  ‘I Just Died In Your Arms Tonight’ and ‘Help Me Make It Through The Night’ contain some unhelpful suggestions!

You’ve used suggestion many times, and it has also been used on you. You can learn to make good use of this vital tool to:

  • help internalise your goals.
  • replace negative attitudes and beliefs with positive ones.
  • relax and combat stress.
  • cultivate better relationships with yourself and others.
  • change unwanted habits and personality traits.
  • build confidence in yourself and your abilities.

… and for many other purposes.

Suggestion, Affirmations and the Law of Attraction

Affirmations are simply suggestions made to ourselves – statements that represent how we are or how we want our lives to be. They help bring into effect the great Universal Law of Attraction:

Whatever your mind dwells upon, with feeling, you attract into your life.

Think about it – do you know anyone who is always talking about their illnesses and who is always ill? Or anyone who is always running themselves down, and who consequently never achieves very much?

Affirmations are powerful tools that use the power of structured repetition. One of the best known was formulated by Emil Coué in the 1920’s: ‘Every day in every way, I’m getting better and better.’ He helped many people to heal themselves using this simple phrase. Try it for yourself!

Properly phrased affirmations make a big impact on your unconscious, but be aware you must observe certain rules, otherwise they may backfire.

The following rules apply to affirmations. They’re even more effective when used in conjunction with deep relaxation (this is called ‘autosuggestion’) – but slightly different rules apply.

Personalise your affirmations

Affirmations which attempt to change other people are totally ineffective. Repeating ‘Jim loves me’ does not work, because only Jim can make this choices. But you can affirm ‘I am attracting a wonderful person into my life who has… (all the qualities you’re looking for)’ You may not win Jim over, but you will find someone to your liking.

A simple way to personalise your affirmations is to use the first person pronoun, ‘I’. For example:

  • I accept, love and approve of myself.
  • Every day, I am becoming more calm, peaceful and relaxed.
  • I am whole, perfect, strong, powerful, loving, peaceful and happy.
  • I am a positive person. I think, act and talk positively at all times.

Another way to personalise – and strengthen – your affirmations – is to use the ‘first, second and third person’ technique. Let’s suppose you want to be a calmer and more confident person. Add your first name and affirm:

  • I, Chris, am a calm and confident person.
  • You, Chris, are a calm and confident person.
  • Chris is a calm and confident person.

Use positive words and phrases

It’s important to always use words and phrases that express what you want, not what you don’t want. Otherwise you might inadvertently end up with the opposite of what you intended.

The unconscious often overlooks a negation if it occurs in the middle of a sentence. If you affirm, ‘I will not fail’, only the word ‘fail’ registers. It’s far better to affirm, ‘I am a success’.

I recently heard a woman telling how she stuck little notices all over her house one morning reminding her not to forget her son’s team’s football kit for the match that afternoon. The notes said, ‘Don’t forget the kit’. Guess what happened!

Make your affirmations credible

This is one of the biggest secrets for using self-suggestion. The purpose of self-suggestion is to impress your unconscious with empowering beliefs which reflect the way you want to be. This is why some writers recommend stating all your affirmations in the present tense, i.e. beginning your affirmations with ‘I am’, ‘I can’, ‘I have’, ‘I do’ etc.

The problem, though, is that an affirmation which totally contradicts your current belief system alerts a mechanism in the brain known as the Reticular Activating System (or ‘Critical Censor’). It can assert itself in many ways, such as an uncomfortable feeling in the chest or solar plexus or a quiet but persistent voice in your head saying, ‘Don’t be ridiculous.’ This is your old programming and conditioning trying to reassert itself.

How do you get round this?

Firstly, consider affirmations as a tool for change rather than statements of absolute truth. Think of them as planting seeds. You won’t see the results immediately, but have faith in the technique, and you will.

Another way is to choose your wording carefully so the suggestion will bypass the Critical Censor. This is how:

  • Put all weaknesses and limitations in the past tense.
  • Affirm your willingness to change.
  • Affirm that you are making good progress towards your goal, and this continue.
  • Affirm your determination to do whatever you can to improve.

A useful form of wording is:

‘I used to be… but all that is changing. Now I am becoming more and more… ‘

For example, if you’re shy, affirm: ‘I used to be shy, but all that is changing. I am becoming more assertive every day. I know I can and I will continue to improve.’

More examples:

  • I used to believe that I was weak, but all that is changing, and I am now becoming stronger and stronger each day.
  • I used to be negative, but that attitude is now behind me. Nowadays I think, talk and act positively at all times.
  • I used to be judgemental, but that is now changing. Every day, I am becoming more open and accepting of myself and others.

Say your self-suggestions as if you really mean them

The Law of Attraction is widely misunderstood. Just wishing or hoping – even believing – are not enough. You must invest some energy into the conditions you wish to create. In other words, you must do something.

As a first step, invest some emotional energy into the affirmations themselves. Say them out loud, enthusiastically. Mean what you say. A thought alone has little power, but when expressed with genuine feeling, it has real impact. Emphasise your words with passion, a strong tone of voice, movement and firm intent.

For maximum impact, also:

  • Write them out every day – this reinforces them in your unconscious.
  • Look at yourself in the mirror as you speak them.
  • Jot them down in your diary, list them on cards, programme them into your mobile phone, carry them with you and read throughout the day.
  • Record them onto a recording device and listen frequently.
  • Write them on sticky labels and place them anywhere you routinely look.
  • If your goal is something tangible, carry a reminder of it with you and affirm that it is yours every time you look at it.
  • You can increase the effectiveness of your affirmations by adding, ‘This, or something better, I accept for myself, for my greatest good and the greatest good of all’.

Keep at it

The unconscious loves repetition. The more you use self-suggestion, the more effective it is.

It takes about a month to change an old thinking pattern, so don’t give up. Affirm whenever you can, wherever you are, especially during those times when the mind is naturally most receptive. Last thing at night is a good time – give it something uplifting to work on while you are asleep. Another good time is first thing in the morning. If you can find a few moments during the day to relax and unwind – terrific!


© David Lawrence Preston, 23.11.2018

Facebook and Twitter

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @feelinggoodatt

Life Coach book cover

How To Books, 2004

The Law of Attraction is not what it seems

The two great principles that are said to determine what we make of our lives are the Law of Cause and Effect and the Law of Attraction. Some people have always known their significance, and now this knowledge is becoming known to many more. As the Buddha said,  ‘All that we are arises with our thoughts; with our thoughts we make our world.’

We have the power to think. That’s what makes us human. It’s also what puts us in charge of our lives. What we think about and the way we think determine how things work out for us. Life is like a mirror, reflecting our thoughts back to us as the circumstances of our lives.

But it’s not just a matter of playing with words or repeating affirmations parrot-fashion. The Law of Attraction works at all levels – conscious and subconscious, physical, mental and emotional – and to get the most from it you have to believe and feel with your whole being.

Of course, a positive attitude help you to live a healthier, longer life and be more successful at everything you do. When life is tough, pessimists lapse into in negative self-talk and limiting beliefs and quickly become demotivated. Not only does it lower their chances of success, it actually weakens the body’s natural defences.  Optimists, on the other hand, stay focussed, seek solutions and act quickly to put things right. They have the courage to try out new ideas and are more fun to be around.

But – and this is a big but – there are many misconceptions about positive thinking.  If you were to read some of the mass market books on the Law of Attraction, it sounds so easy. But it’s not. You could be forgiven for thinking that all you have to do is focus your thoughts on something you want and it will show up in your life. Then you’ll be happy.

There’s a downside. If you use this Law from a consciousness of selfishness or greed, you may get what you want, but you will also reap the effects of your intentions. You will attract the effects of selfishness, greed and uncaring (yours and other people’s) and like King Midas will not benefit from what you have.

The Law of Attraction only works to your advantage when you align your thoughts with the highest good for all – love, joy, prosperity and health, not just for yourself, but for everyone and all beings.

Wire Opera, Curitiba (2)

©David Lawrence Preston, 24.1.2018

Facebook and Twitter

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @David_L_Preston

How to Books, 2009

The Second Law – The Law of Attraction

The universe works on energy and attraction. The mind has a magnetic quality which attracts whatever we hold in our consciousness. Thoughts of good things attract good things: loving thoughts attract love, peaceful thoughts attract peace, thoughts of success attract success and so on. In the same way, thoughts of fear, illness, poverty and so on attract according to their kind.

This has long been recognised. The Bible attribute to King Solomon the words, ‘As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.’ The Buddha said, ‘All that we are arises with our thoughts; with our thoughts we make our world’. The Roman scholar Marcus Aurelius wrote, ‘A man’s life is what his thoughts make of it.’ William Shakespeare wrote, ‘Nothing is good or bad, but thinking makes it so’.

The Laws of Cause and Effect and Attraction teach that success in any area of life comes from firming up our intentions, and thinking the kind of thoughts that are consistent with what we desire.

Focus on what you want, not what you don’t

Any line of thinking that you dwell and act upon takes root in your subconscious mind and influences your behaviour. When you focus our minds on what you want, you’ll get it.

Ironically, when you focus your mind on what you don’t have and don’t want, that’s also what you get!

  • The laws of flight were not discovered by people focussing on why things stay on the ground.
  • The inventor of steel ships, Brunel, was ridiculed by people who understood only why vessels sunk.
  • Early psychologists were so obsessed with mental illness they had little understanding of what made people happy.
  • Similarly, focusing on disease does little to help us live long and be healthy.

Breaking a negative cycle

To break a negative cycle, get your mind off what you don’t want, because by dwelling on this you’ll continue to attract it into your life. ‘This is just the way I am,’ is an especially dangerous thought. Change it to, ‘this is how I choose (or intend) to be.’

Nothing much is possible unless you align your thinking with success, believe you can succeed and then take the right actions. This is the I-T-I-A Formula.


Develop the power of concentration

Concentration is the ability to direct your thinking. It is the ability to focus your mind on one thought, image, sound or object. Concentration brings the Laws of Cause and Effect and Attraction into play.

Concentration can be learned like any other skill, but must be practised. Start by practising this simple exercise: When you notice your thoughts wandering, say STOP and then gently bring your attention back to where you want it to be. Each time it wanders, bring it back. You may need to do this dozens of times a day at first, but you will find that it gets easier if you are patient and keep at it.

©David Lawrence Preston, 2.6.2016

Facebook and Twitter

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @David_L_Preston

Life Coach book cover

How To Books, 2010


Positive Mind, Positive Questions

The way you talk to yourself is crucial. It influences your state of mind, your mood and your behaviour, and therefore the circumstances of your life.

Frequently your self-talk – the ongoing conversation in your head – sounds like a series of questions since we habitually interrogate ourselves: ‘What should I do next?’ ‘How should I react to this?’ ‘Why did I do that?’ ‘Why was I so stupid?’ And the unconscious is designed to come up with a response, even if the question is totally groundless.

The unconscious has no intelligence. It is not capable of judging the validity of a question. Its job is to search its data files for an answer, and it always finds one. For instance, if you ask: ‘Why am I so unlucky?’ it will give you an answer even if you are not particularly unlucky, which inevitably makes you feel worse.

The answer you get depends on the ‘presupposition’ behind the question. Presupposition means ‘assumption’. Presuppositions don’t have to be deliberate or even conscious, and it’s important that you make yourself aware of them.

When you ask yourself a question with an positive presupposition, your unconscious searches its databanks and comes up with a positive answer. For example, ask:

  • How could I be happier?
  • How can I solve this problem?
  • What can I learn from this?
  • What can I do to improve?

and your unconscious looks for evidence that you will be happier, things are going well, and you are learning from your experiences and so on. Then it suggests ways of making things better.

Teachers, counsellors and coaches know this very well. They are trained to ask ‘powerful’ questions, those that interrupt their students’ and clients’ negative thinking patterns and move them forward.

One way to use this principle is to change ‘Why?’ questions to ‘How?’ ‘Why’ questions often take your mind back to the past, focus on problems, and keep you stuck there; ‘How’ questions such as ‘How can I solve this?’ move you forward.

For example, imagine a tennis player who has just lost – again – to an opponent who he knows he should be able to beat. ‘Why can’t I beat X?’ he asks, exasperated. ‘Why is he so much better than me?’ A little voice in his head responds:

  • ‘Because you’re not as talented.’
  • ‘He’s physically stronger than you.’
  • ‘He’s quicker than you.’
  • ‘He’s mentally stronger than you.’
  • ‘He’s younger/older than you.’
  • ‘You’re just not as good.’

Now he’s really down in the dumps, having convinced himself there’s no way he can ever beat him.

Now consider these questions:

  • How can I beat him next time?
  • What must I do?
  • How can I improve?
  • What are his weaknesses? How can I exploit them?

Whether you’re asking silently or out loud, ask in a firm voice that pre-supposes a helpful response. Now the mind has something constructive to work on. ‘Change your tactics… practise your second serve… hit more shots to the backhand… stay back from the net… eat right before the match … etc. etc.’

Sometimes the answer comes quickly, but not always. The unconscious rarely works to deadlines, but answers do come, often when least expected – when mowing the lawn, doing the cleaning or driving to the shops. You can develop this faculty by asking for intuitive guidance and asking for solutions to your problems. Now the unconscious has something positive to work on.

Powerful questions focus your attention on solutions rather than problems, help bring the Law of Attraction into operation, and are a characteristic of the thought processes of all happy and successful people. It’s a simple switch to make, so start now. Use the Four Step Method. Be aware of the questions you ask yourself. Stop negative questions. Replace them with positive questions. And keep doing it. I promise you, your life will quickly change for the better.


©David Lawrence Preston, 4.4.2016

Facebook and Twitter

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @David_L_Preston

Conf book cover

How To Books, 2010