Words are powerful – and your mind is listening

When I was training to be a therapist, I was really rather alarmed when my teacher said to me, “The mind is really complicated and complex. It takes a lifetime to understand and to master.” I thought, “Well, how is that going to work then? No one has got a lifetime to master their mind.” Furthermore, what is the use of being 80 years old and having finally worked out your mind? That is not helpful. And guess what? It’s actually not true either.

The truth is that the human mind has one simple job: keep you alive as long as possible. To do that, our mind is an expert at helping us avoid and flee what causes us pain or danger. When we were living in tribes in the bush, this job was actually quite difficult. We had to flee predators, find water and food, and protect ourselves from the elements constantly. We were under physical threat far more often than we are today, and we were designed to respond to those stressors. Our bodies developed “fight or flight” responses which informed how we responded in times of stress, which usually involved large animals, angry tribesmen, or natural disasters.

The physical world has changed a lot since then. On a daily basis, most people in the modern world don’t have a direct threat to their physical well being. But there’s a fundamental design flaw here: our mind hasn’t changed much at all to reflect our new, safer and tamer reality. We are still primed for fight or flight responses to the stress and adversity life throws our way. The difference now is that the stressors and roadblocks are less primal and more mental. Nevertheless, when we come onto the planet, our mind still believes in its one, singular job: keeping us alive. And how does it do that? By listening to our instructions we give it about what causes us pain.

This is why when we’re sitting in traffic in the morning, running late to work, and we spill our coffee all down our white top and say “This commute is killing me. This traffic is a nightmare. My boss is stressing me out. I’m dying under the pressure” our mind actually believes us. And so how does our body respond to these instructions? Well, it’s been told we’re under threat—Something is killing you! Your mind wants to keep you alive!—so your heart rate goes up, your cortisol levels increase, your body surges with hormones and you feel angry and lash out at your kid sitting in the back seat and send a rude text message to our colleague. We tell our mind that it’s stressed and that we’re under direct threat, and lo and behold, it believes us. Hour after hour, day after day, our mind uses the language it hears us using to inform how it should feel.

This is such an important lesson for you to learn: Your mind does what it thinks you want it to do.

In the moment you’re sitting in traffic and allowing yourself to feel immense stress, your body is desperately trying to get you out of that situation because you are giving it all the indicators that sitting in the car is causing you great pain. You are giving your mind instructions, through your words, that is triggering a physical fight or flight response. But the truth is, being 15 minutes late to work in a stained white top doesn’t cause you any pain. Inconvenience, perhaps, but not the kind of stress one feels when their house is burning down, or they’re being chased by a wild boar. But your mind doesn’t care. You’ve verbally expressed that you’re in pain and under threat, and thus your mind gives you all the symptoms and responses to help you flee it. The result? You just end up stressed and miserable.

Like all my teachings, this truth is based on science. Muscle testing is a technique that comes from the field of applied kinesiology. In a sense, muscle testing is like asking your subconscious mind a question with words and getting a physical answer from your body. If you ask a question or test a statement that is untrue, “i.e. My name is Ed” when your name is not Ed, your body will have a “weak” response—that is, your arm will not be able to resist the person who is administering the test. If you say something true, however, your body will have a strong response and be able to resist.

Muscle testing proves that our bodies respond to things in a way we’re not always conscious of or in control of, similar to what happens when we’re sitting in traffic that we verbally call “hell on earth.” Remember that words are powerful, and your mind is always listening—so tell it what you want it to do!

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