Monthly Archives: June 2015

We Get What We Expect to Get ~ Part 1

Belief Creates the Actual Fact in Nearly Everything

Why it works

Why it works

Wishing on a star, rubbing a rabbit’s foot, crossing your fingers, or knocking on wood, all have one thing in common—the power of suggestion. The magic you imagine in the bones and fur of the rabbit’s foot makes you feel lucky and hopeful, which invites into your mind the anticipation that an outcome you desire could actually happen. The scientific evidence suggests that your anticipation mobilizes vast inner resources and directs those resources toward fulfilling your desire. Irving Kirsch of Harvard Medical School and Maryanne Garry of Victoria University of Wellington teamed up to review the most recent and intriguing effects of the power of suggestion on cognition and behavior.[1] The evidence shows that once you anticipate that a desired outcome could happen, you set in motion a chain of thoughts and actions that work together to actually make it happen. “The effects of suggestion,” Dr. Garry states, “are wider and often more surprising than many people might otherwise think. If we can harness the power of suggestion,” Garry concludes, “we can improve people’s lives.”[2] Learning to tap this power moves into the higher stages of human potential, and the good news is that tapping this potential couldn’t be simpler (I’ll show you one approach at the end of the article).

The power of suggestion appears to be at the center of why some people succeed at school, business, or athletics while others fail, and why some people’s illness or pain resolves and others’ gets worse. Believing you are limited or blocked in some way drives the limitation. The great martial artist Bruce Lee said, “There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must go beyond them.[3] Our very thoughts are capable of extending mental and physical limits we tend to accept. It appears that the limits we perceive are not necessarily set by nature, but by our own mental attitude.

Most of what we know about the power of suggestions comes from the placebo effect, which describes real psychological and physiological changes that occur when the mind has been convinced to expect a therapeutic effect from a substance that is inert. In itself, the placebo does nothing; it’s the mind that generates the beneficial effect. While much of the research on the placebo effect has focused on alleviating pain, there is growing evidence that the placebo effect is multi-dimensional.  One such study relates to prospective memory. Prospective memory is how the brain remembers details or events that are to occur in the future. It gets us to appointments on time, helps us pay our bills when they are due, enables us to follow instructions, anticipates the next steps in a plan, and reminds us to take medication on time. Chronic stress debilitates prospective memory and researchers wanted to see if it was possible to enhance memory with a placebo.[4] They convinced subjects that a placebo they’d been given was a powerful “smart drug” that improved cognitive function and memory. In truth, the so-called smart drug was nothing more than a vitamin C drink. One group received the placebo and one group was given nothing at all. Then the researchers put both groups through a high-effort prospective memory task. Prospective memory improved in the group that had ingested the placebo, while the group that didn’t receive the placebo showed no improvement.

Perhaps nothing has turned our limited view of human potential on its head more than the research of Ellen Langer of Harvard University. Her research validates what William James, the father of American psychology, concluded about the power of belief more than a hundred years ago. James concluded that we can change anything if we believe we can; that belief creates the actual fact.[5] Langer’s most famous study showed this holds true even with the aging process. Our mental attitude can turn back the hands of Time, reversing the effects of aging. In 1979, Langer conducted an experiment with men in their late seventies, early eighties, who were languishing in nursing homes.[6] She took the men out of the nursing homes and to a retreat center where the men were asked to mentally put themselves back in time twenty years, to 1959. They wore clothes that were fashionable in 1959, ate the food they ate then, carried photo IDs of how they looked, read newspapers and magazines, and watched films, television programs, and discussed sporting events, all from that year. Their assignment was not merely to reminisce about bygone days,” Langer said, “but to make a psychological attempt to be the person they were 22 years before.”

The elders did just that. “They put their mind in an earlier time,” Langer said, “and their bodies went along for the ride.”[7]  The results were astonishing. Langer’s time travelers showed greater improvements in blood pressure, joint flexibility and manual dexterity, and incredibly, their arthritis began to retreat. These were men who previously couldn’t bend over far enough to tie their own shoes, but their prowess improved so much that at one point they engaged in a touch-football game. Their IQs even improved and when they returned to real time, their families were astounded at how much younger they looked. The results defied belief. “It sounded like Lourdes,” Langer said.[8]  The mind can become Lourdes, or it can become a bed on a geriatric ward. Langer’s study shows that even aging is nothing but a mindset.

… Continue on to Part 2 of this article

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[1] R. B. Michael, M. Garry, and I. Kirsch, Suggestion, Cognition, and Behavior, Current Directions in Psychological Science 21, no. 3 (2012): 151–56.
[2] The Power of Suggestion: What We Expect Influences Our Behavior, for Better or Worse, News, Association for Psychological Science, June 6, 2012
[3] Robert Pagliarini, Meet Bruce Lee, Personal Growth Guru, CBS/MoneyWatch, August 27, 2012,  http://www.cbsnews.com/news/meet-bruce-lee-personal-growth-guru/
[4] Sophie Parker et al., A Sham Drug Improves a Demanding Prospective Memory Task, Memory, 19, no. 6 (August 2011): 606–12.
[5] William James, The Principles of Psychology, Volume 2, Macmillan, 1891, pgs. 288-297
[6] Ellen J. Langer, Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility (New York: Random House, 2009), 5–12. [
7] http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/26/magazine/what-if-age-is-nothing-but-a-mind-set.html?_r=0
[8] Ibid

We Get What We Expect to Get ~ Part 2

Belief Creates the Actual Fact in Nearly Everything

Langer also conducted a study with maids who clean hotel rooms.[9] These workers wereRoberto Weigand with attribute copy typically assigned fifteen rooms a day and spent half an hour cleaning each room. The task expends a physical effort that exceeds the level of daily exercise the Surgeon General prescribes. But the workers thought their job didn’t qualify as exercise, and since they were too tired at the end of their shift to go to the gym, they believed they weren’t getting the kind of exercise that burned calories or made them fit. Dr. Langer divided the hotel workers into two groups. In one group, she reinforced the mind-set that the physical exertion in their job achieved the recommended level for physical fitness. The second group was not given this information. After four weeks, without any change in diet or activity, people in the first group lost weight. Their body fat dropped, and even their blood pressure improved by 10 points. The only thing that had changed was the group’s mind-set. There was no improvement in the second group.

It may be hard to believe that a change in mind-set could actually improve eyesight as bad as 20/70 or even 20/160, yet in one study it did.[10]  It makes one wonder if we’re all wearing mental blinders. In his memoir, Thomas Merton gets to the heart of the problem, when he wrote: “Perhaps I am stronger than I think. Perhaps I am even afraid of my strength and turn it against myself, thus making myself weak.”[11]

The strength Merton is referring to is as near to you as your own thoughts. Years ago, I knew a young man who, in his mid- twenties, was diagnosed with stage-2 adult Hodgkin’s lymphoma. His oncologist told him that he had 10 percent chance of surviving, which is virtually a death sentence. Yet my friend had misheard the doctor and he left the clinic thinking he’d been told him he had 10 percent chance of dying. During the course of his treatment, his mind-set was built on the anticipation that every step of his medical care was achieving the highly favorable result of complete remission, which is exactly what happened. It wasn’t until his case was presented during hospital grand rounds by his oncologist that he learned he’d misunderstood. He said that if he’d heard his oncologist’s prediction correctly, he would have died. He was absolutely certain that the mindset his misperception produced saved his life.

The Reshaping Reality Tool

The evidence is there and the proof is mounting that your mind can reshape your reality to align with your wishes. Harness this power and you become the master of your fate. There is a simple tool called Reshaping Reality that can generate the anticipation of the wealth, health, and love we all seek. Use this tool on a daily basis to amplify your expectancy for achieving your goals, and see what happens. You can play the recording of Don Joseph Goewey guiding you through this process by pressing the button below:

Play-Button

  • Sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes.
  • Select a current goal and state to yourself the outcome you wish to achieve. Imagine this outcome as you want it to happen. Pretend that it has already come to pass, and see your life as it would exist at that moment. Let go of all restraints on your thinking. Tell yourself it’s all right to imagine anything, regardless of whether you think it’s probable or even possible.
  • Involve the sensory parts of your brain. Hear the sounds that are present when the outcome is realized. Smell the air and feel the temperature in the environment. Picture what you will see. Now see into the periphery of the picture. What elements of life are around you? Who is with you? Make the colors and elements of your imagined outcome vivid. If people are present, what are they saying to you? What are you saying to them?
  • As you continue to experience the picture you have created, feel the feelings you imagine will overcome you when this outcome is realized. Do you feel joy? Do you feel satisfaction? Do you feel relief from pain or fear? And as you imagine the feelings you will have, bring them close and actually feel them as if they are your experience, right here, right now. Make these desired feelings as strong as you can. If you are happy, allow them to place a smile on your face or make you laugh out loud. If you are relieved, let the relief lift your spirits. Let the emotions become real. Sustain these desired emotions for as long as you can, up to no more than a minute.
  • Then let everything go. Let go of the emotions and let go of the picture.
  • You have now primed your thinking and emotional centers to lock your internal guidance system on your desired outcome. Believe it.

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[9] Alia J. Crum and Ellen J. Langer, “Mind-Set Matters: Exercise and the Placebo Effect,” Psychological Science 18, no. 2 (2007): 165–71.

[10] Believing Is Seeing: How Mindset Can Improve Vision, Association for Psychological Science, April 9, 2010, http://www.psychologicalscience.org/media/releases/2010/langer.cfm.

[11] Thomas Merton, The Intimate Merton: His Life from His Journals, ed. Patrick Hart and Jonathan Montaldo (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1996), 161.