How to Escape Your Mental Prison

Use Conscious Autosuggestion to Overcome Negative Thinking

I was talking with a friend of mine at a recent networking event. She happened to comment on how positive I always come across. I thanked her, then mentioned that I work on my attitude daily. She was curious as to how I do this. So I shared what I have done every morning before I leave home for the past 20+ years to keep myself positive and confident – a Morning Success Ritual that includes positive affirmations.

I consider myself an ordinary person. I’m bright but no rocket scientist. I have certain talents but will not be appearing at Carnegie Hall anytime soon. I played high school baseball but couldn’t hit a curve ball, which sidelined a career in the majors. Speaking of high school, I graduated with a 1.74 G.P.A. I sum up my past by saying I am a formerly shy, low self-esteem, unassertive underachiever with a bad attitude. I remained this way (though no one else could tell) through my 20’s and into my early 30’s. And I was quietly frustrated and depressed about my prospects for having a happy, successful life.

I now believe I was a “Negaholic” – I was addicted to habitual negative thinking, trapped in my own negative “mental prison.” I’ve come to realize that this is not uncommon. How does it happen? Three main causes: The family you grew up in if they were less than positive, your friends/business associates, and perhaps most toxic of all, the media, especially the news on TV, talk radio and the web.  These “infect” your mind (unconsciously) with negative, fearful, anxious thoughts that condition you against believing in good outcomes for yourself.

If you happen to have negative/anxious/fearful thoughts, congratulations – you’re normal. I believe everyone (including me) has them. We human beings are constantly having thoughts running through our minds during our 16 waking hours – one thought per second times 16 hours = 57,600 thoughts/day, more or less. It’s like we’re having a constant conversation with ourselves throughout each day. While I don’t know Tony Robbins, or the Dalai Lama, the Pope, Tom Brady – whoever – I’m convinced that they too have negative thoughts creep into their consciousness from time to time. The secret to minimizing negativity is to literally raise the quality of the conversation running through our mind like these people apparently have. 

A way to do this is by engaging in “conscious autosuggestion,” a fancy way of saying you replace them with positive affirmations. Conscious autosuggestion is nothing new: Émile Coué, a French psychologist, published Self-Mastery Through Conscious Autosuggestion in England (1920) and in the United States (1922). He introduced the concept of self-suggestion it it:

Intentional, “reflective autosuggestion” made by deliberate and conscious effort.

Piggybacking on this, Napoleon Hill, in his classic 1937 book Think and Grow Rich, stated that: “Through the dominating thoughts which one permits to remain in the conscious mind, (whether these thoughts be negative or positive, is immaterial), the principle of autosuggestion voluntarily reaches the subconscious mind and influences it with these thoughts.” Notice the phrase “which one permits” – this implies that we need to monitor the thoughts we allow to cross our minds. 

Naturally, negative thoughts will arise – they do for me, and I’m sure they do for you. So when they to start cycling through your mind, how do you counteract them? Answer: By first becoming aware they’re happening, and then actively replacing them with positive thoughts. While it sounds easy, I can attest it takes practice to become a reflexive positive thinker.

You may not realize, as Viktor Frankl (author of Man’s Search for Meaning in 1946) states, you can choose your attitude. Your attitude consists of thoughts, which you can also choose. This sounds simplistic, yet it’s true. If you were to become aware of every single thought you had during a given day you’d find out quickly if the bulk of them were positive or negative. 

The practice that I prescribe for people to escape their negative mental prison is to

• First notice when their negative thoughts arise.

• Use a thought to break these recurring thoughts, like “STFU!” (“Shut The ForGodSakes Up!”)

• Immediately flip to Conscious Autosuggestion (positive affirmations) to replace the negative thoughts.

Here’s an example: Let’s say you’ve been calling upon good prospects for your business for a while but several of the top ones remain non-commital. In the middle of the night (which is when I typically have negative/fearful/anxious thoughts) you start to think obsessively, “These folks are never gonna sign on with me. They don’t want my services, already have someone else, I’ll go broke trying to get them, my business will fail, yada yada …” It’s at that point you have to literally say, “STOP IT” to your own thoughts, then replace them with positive affirmations like, “My great prospects want to become my clients!”

A powerful positive affirmation I use and recommend is, “I am responsible for all of my thoughts in my mind!”  It immediately reminds me that I have the responsibility to choose what I think, that it’s incumbent on me to upgrade my mental chatter. 

Here’s how one of my clients turned his career around by using Conscious Autosuggestion:

“At the beginning of last year my 10-year investment partnership was beginning to unwind and all I could think about was how hard I had worked for so long only to have a partner that no longer wanted to work hard, and financially didn’t need to. That got my mind spinning a bit out of control in a negative perspective so I spent several months simply focusing in on my existing clients. But my mind was still a bit “off track” from a positive business development and community involvement perspective.  It also kept me from using one of my core strengths, which is building lasting relationships with high net worth people in my community.

So I reached out to Coach Jim.  With his help I created my ‘daily mission statement’ to focus on not only growing my investment practice but also how important being involved in local non-profit work is to me and my core beliefs. I now say my daily mission multiple times a day to remind me of what my practice is all about and my personal income goals. More importantly, it focuses me on what I indeed want to use that income for in my community:  To help those who are less fortunate and in need a helping hand.

The daily mission statement also keeps me focused on my workout routine and overall family wellness goals.  Using autosuggestion every day is really all about keeping me true to my goals around Family, Occupation, Recreation, Money and Spirituality (FORMS).”

Finally, a great reminder:

“You can’t afford the luxury of a negative thought.” — A book by Peter McWilliams

You don’t even need to read this book, just know the title, to get the point: Negative thinking is a habit that costs you dearly in terms of your happiness, your prosperity and self esteem. It’s a mental prison that you can escape anytime you want when you decide to reject negative thinking and replace it with positivity. Choose your thoughts carefully and you will get out of jail free.

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