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We pointed out in the last section that positive suggestions can be thought of as ‘adding to’: of doing something. Negative suggestions can be likened to ‘subtracting from’: of not doing something. Much has been written on the power of positive thinking. Why is this? Part of the reason, in this writer’s view, is that our upbringing readily stresses the negative. From an early age we are repeatedly told what we can and cannot do – with the greater emphasis on what we cannot do! This readily leads to suggestions in later life like, “Don’t eat fattening foods”, “Don’t smoke it’s bad for your health”, “I will not worry about such-and-such”, etc. But such negative suggestions bring the very problem into conscious awareness and so you pay attention to it. The mind simply cannot deal with the native. If I said, “Don’t think of your car” or “Don’t think of the colour red” the mind must first bring up the image. These simple examples illustrate the way forward. If I want a person not to think of their car, then the easiest way is to get them to think of something else: anything else. The same applies with not thinking about the colour red. What is occurring, of course, is directing attention elsewhere.


People often do not know how negative their thinking really is, and so the following exercise is very useful to undertake.


Exercise: A day of being positive


Take a particular day and decide to make absolutely no negative statements or suggestions either to yourself or to anyone else. If you do make such a negative statement or suggestion do not (notice the native) be critical of yourself, simply observe yourself doing it. That is the essence of this exercise: to become familiar with how negative you are. Pay attention to your own self-talk, which can be the most negative of all.


It is simply not enough to make a suggestion positive. It must also be phrased in a way as to empower. To empower a suggestion is to give it emotional content and as such the suggestion is more likely to have the required response. One of the most positive and empowering suggestions was the one used by Mohamed Ali, “I am the greatest”. Said repeatedly and with utter conviction, this positive suggestion has tremendous power.


Take a simpler desired response – that of loosing weight. Compare the following three alternative suggestions.


  1. Negative: “I will not eat fattening foods.”
  2. Positive but not empowering: “I am going to diet”
  3. Positive and empowering: “I will eat only the right foods in the right quantities so I can become all that I wish to become.”


Although the last is longer, it is both positive and empowering. The empowering aspect comes from stress on ‘becoming all that you wish to become’. Also not that this is rather vague. But it allows the unconscious mind to work on directing you behaviour to achieve the desired goal in the way that it considers best for you.


Another aspect of suggestion should also be taken into account. This is best considered first in the context of heterohypnosis. A suggestion may be both positive and empowering but it may also be phrased in a very authoritarian way. For example, “You will eat only the right foods and in small amount so that you will therefore loose weight.” This authoritarianism may be enough for the suggestion to be rejected. Although there are occasions when an authoritarian approach is called for, in general it is much more acceptable to phrase the suggestions in a more permissive way. For example, “By eating the right kind of foods in the right amounts you will find that your weight simply drops away.”


What about self-hypnosis? Self-hypnosis involves making suggestions to yourself. There is every reason to follow the same practice in order to make your suggestions successful. Put simply, your suggestions should have three characteristics. They should be


  1. Positive
  2. Empowering
  3. Permissive


The more you incorporate these characteristics into your suggestions, the more likely they will have the desired outcome.

Return to suggestions

Positive and Negative Suggestions