Negative Suggestion?


Why you Should Avoid Negative Suggestion


Negative Suggestions are ideas that are presented to a client when he/she is in hypnosis and they focus on what the client should avoid. They really can cause a client problems, though.

The problem is that the subconscious part of the mind is liable to ignore the negation term (e.g. no, not, avoid, stop, etc) and so a Suggestion such as, 'You won't eat fatty foods' is liable to be taken as 'You eat fatty foods'. At best this will simply confirm a behaviour the client is all too aware of; at worst it will encourage the very problem the client is seeking to avoid.

But why is negative suggestion such a problem?

Fine's book, 'A Mind of its Own' (2006) argues that we have a bias towards believing things as opposed to rejecting them. She supports this by quoting (page 107) a study by Lieberman and Arndt (2000) in which they mocked-up an election. Volunteers were asked to give their impression of (invented) political candidates. There were given made-up headlines about these 'candidates', and not surprisingly, a headline which read:

"Bob Talbert associated with fraudulent charity."

damaged his reputation enormously. But amazingly, this headline was just as damaging:

"Is Bob Talbert associated with fraudulent charity?"


Now, if you feel that politics is the life for you, just consider the following headline:

"Bob Talbert not linked with fraudulent charity."

incredibly, readers saw this as incriminating!!! Please just pause for a moment and consider what you've just read... these volunteers had just read something that should have made them more inclined to vote for the candidate... and yet it did just the opposite!

As Fine writes:

"Denials are nothing more than statements with a 'not' tagged on. The bit about "Bob Talbert" and "fraudulent charity" slips into our brains easily enough, but the "not" isn't somehow quite as effective as it should be in affecting our beliefs."

This is from the NY Times:

Why you must not think of chocolate

Perverse impulses seem to arise when people focus intensely on avoiding specific errors or taboos. The theory is straightforward: to avoid blurting out that a colleague is a raging hypocrite, the brain must first imagine just that; the very presence of that catastrophic insult, in turn, increases the odds that the brain will spit it out.

“We know that what’s accessible in our minds can exert an influence on judgment and behavior simply because it’s there, it’s floating on the surface of consciousness,” said Jamie Arndt, a psychologist at the University of Missouri.

The empirical evidence of this influence has been piling up in recent years, as Dr. Wegner documents in the new paper. In the lab, psychologists have people try to banish a thought from their minds — of a white bear, for example — and find that the thought keeps returning, about once a minute. Likewise, people trying not to think of a specific word continually blurt it out during rapid-fire word-association tests.

The same “ironic errors,” as Dr. Wegner calls them, are just easy to evoke in the real world. Golfers instructed to avoid a specific mistake, like overshooting, do it more often when under pressure, studies find. Soccer players told to shoot a penalty kick anywhere but at a certain spot of the net, like the lower right corner, look at that spot more often than any other.

The risk that people will slip or “lose it” depends in part on the level of stress they are undergoing, Dr. Wegner argues. Concentrating intensely on not staring at a prominent mole on a new acquaintance’s face, while also texting and trying to follow a conversation, heightens the risk of saying: “We went to the mole — I mean, mall. Mall!”

“A certain relief can come from just getting it over with, having that worst thing happen, so you don’t have to worry about monitoring in anymore,” Dr. Wegner said.

All of which might be hard to explain, of course, if you’ve just mooned the dinner party.




So how can you identify a Negative Suggestion?

The key thing is that it will probably use one of the following words:

Not (as in 'do not' or 'don't', 'must not' or 'mustn't'); Avoid; Stop; or Cease.


So sentences such as: 'Don't bite your nails'; 'Stop overeating'; 'You mustn't eat chocolate', etc are all Negative Suggestions.


To convert it to a positive just ask yourself 'how does the client want to be?' In the case of a client getting wound up about life, she obviously wants to be relaxed. Thus a Positive Suggestion will say something like, 'You enjoy relaxing', or 'You now take a calmer view of life'.

If you are still unsure take the following little test:

Which of these is a Positive Suggestion and which is a Negative Suggestion? (Answers at the bottom)

You won't smoke anymore
You allow yourself to enjoy being relaxed
You have a confidence about life
You enjoy eating smaller portions
You won't eat the bad foods
Stop getting stressed
Relax and let go
Don't think of strawberries
You enjoy eating healthy foods




Numbers 2,3,4,7 and 9 are the positive ones.

If you didn't get them all right, then go through them again until you are clear. What is called 'over-learning' is important - this is where you go through something so often that you are able to do it without thinking. So do re-read this until you are absolutely certain as to what a Positive Suggestion is.