Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The power of suggestion… NOT!

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God
~John (1:1)

God said, "Let there be light", and there was light.  Some utterances fulfill the intention of the speaker.  They are prophetic words, potent words that create realities from the speaker's mind merely by claiming his vision out loud.

There is tremendous power in this. In the human realm, it is called suggestion. And it works.  If you say something emphatically, and repeat it often enough, especially if it is accompanied by a mental image, you can anticipate the future.  This is where the expression "be careful what you wish for" comes from.  Wishes pack the power of the verb*.  This can do good, but- like all power- it can also harm ourselves or others if we do not wield it carefully. 

When my friend's son was just a kid, his dad, well-meaning of course, told him emphatically, “Son, you will try drugs as a teenager and you will like them.”  It was meant as a warning but it came out as a positive suggestion.  He told his son this would come to pass. And, guess what?  It did. As soon as his son turned thirteen, he started experimenting with drugs, and he liked them.

Negative suggestion is just as, if not more, powerful than positive suggestion.

Everyone has heard of reverse psychology: tell someone not to do something and they will do the opposite.  God created the World by speaking it, but Adam and Eve fell because they ate from a tree He told them not to eat from.  He gave the Jews commandments telling them exactly what not to do, but they were a “stiff-necked” people who disobeyed at every turn. When he offered his son and said, “Go ahead, people, sin. Jesus loves you anyway!”, suddenly everyone who believed in Him behaved.  A coincidence?  I don’t think so!

Terrible two-year olds and teenagers predictably rebel against parental imperatives when phrased as commands to “not ” do something.  Just as it is in our nature to go through doors when they are held wide open, it is in our nature to resist closed ones. We are compelled to resist in order just to BE.  This is how we came into the world!  Taboos prohibiting us from being self-directed will surely find their way through the back door…

You can make a negative suggestion even when you are consciously inviting someone to be free.  Depending how you say it, they can end up taking the back door anyway:

Last week, someone sent money to the same friend's son for his birthday with a note, “Do something you wouldn’t normally do but don’t hurt yourself”.  The young man went out Saturday night with the cash to buy some weed and ended up in a dark alley where he got mugged by a group of thugs at knifepoint.  They took the gift of money and all other valuables the young man had, including his brand new jacket.  

The friend unwittingly gave the young man a negative suggestion: he told him not to do something dangerous, and he did it.

Negative suggestion can be as powerful as it is subtle.

I went to a conference on hypnosis once where the instructor demonstrated this very nicely.  He invited a volunteer up onto the stage and held his arm down by his side.  He said, “Try lifting your arm”.  The volunteer couldn’t budge it.  The instructor encouraged him, “Try again!”  And then louder, “Try harder!!” To no avail.  The man could not lift his arm.  The instructor dropped the man’s arm and said, “Relax.”  Then he bound it tightly again and said, “Now lift your arm.” Guess what?  He lifted it with ease.

When you ask someone to “try” in essence you are inviting them to not succeed.  It is a type of negative suggestion!  It is much more effective to say simply, “Do it.”

So be careful what you wish for.  And be as careful about what you wish not for!


* "verb": part of speech that expresses action or being" (12c.) directly from Latin verbum "verb," originally "a word," from PIE root *were- (3) "to speak" (source also of Avestan urvata- "command;" Sanskrit vrata- "command, vow[the Online Etymology Dictionary] 

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