Jan 15 2009

Controlling Your Mind to React The Way You Want

pavlov-dog


Some of you might be familiar with Pavlov’s dog experiment. This experiment was done by Ivan Pavlov to measure how much his dog salivated and what response it had to food under different conditions. He soon found out the dog would begin to salivate before he was even given the food. He soon got the idea to ring a bell before the dog was fed and then give the food to the dog. The dog soon began to associate the bell with food, so he would salivate when the bell was rung.


Using this same conditioning principle we can use mind control on ourselves. Perhaps you don’t want to salivate at the ringing of a bell, but what if you became confident before talking to a stranger or felt happy during a hard time? You already have feelings that are triggers by actions, so the hard part is just reprogramming yourself into new feelings for a trigger.


First you must identify the stimulus that is causing the reaction. It might not be as easy as you think. Some things are easy, such as the fear of public speaking is caused as soon as you have to speak in front of an audience. A little harder is finding the reason you hate going to work. There could be many different things that cause this feeling, so you have to identify all of them in order to change your reaction.


Once you have found the stimulus, find out the behavior you would like to replace it with. If you have a fear of public speaking then you can practice relaxing once you start to feel scared. If you aren’t enjoying work, then practice feeling happy at work. Here are a couple suggestions for reactions:

  • Relaxing
  • Thinking happy thoughts.
  • Finding something funny
  • Concentrate on something different
  • Think of accomplishments
  • Play your favorite ‘confidence’ song in your head. Eye of the Tiger is always good.
  • Recite a mantra


  • Once you have established your behavior, then you must perform the behavior every time the stimulus happens. It is important to always perform the action immediately following the stimulus. As soon as you feel fear as you are about to speak in public then relax or if you start to feel unhappy because work is boring then you start to list off all the happy things in your life. The key is a repetition of the behavior each time. This means that you have to react to the stimulus many times before it will work fully, but it is worth the wait.


    If you do not perform the reaction each time then you risk losing the association with the stimulus. If I start to talk to a stranger without giving myself a pep talk each time, then the fear might come back. I might be able to still feel confident a few times, but it will start to fade as I get used to speaking to people without giving myself a confidence boost. Perhaps you will find that you don’t need it. You might feel more comfortable that you don’t require the confidence boost anymore, or you already feel happy. That is great, then you don’t have to keep up the reaction. If you find you start to fall back into the old habit then start practicing the reaction again.

    A different approach using the same technique.

    It might be easier to associate an action with a reaction in order to apply to multiple situations. An example of this would be continually thinking positively after you think a negative thought. You might think many negative thoughts, but they will be replaced with positive thoughts. Another example would be feeling relaxed every time you put your hand on the back of your neck. You could use this method to easily relax yourself anytime or to feel happier. You can use it for multiple situations such as relaxing before public speaking, talking to strangers, skydiving, etc.

    The same techniques apply, but instead the stimulus is an action you perform instead of a feeling. Every time you want to feel relaxed then put your hand on the back of your neck. Once your hand is on your neck then practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, muscle relaxation, stress reduction, anything that achieves the desired effect. After repeating this then the mere action will start to produce the reaction you want. If you are stressed then touch the back of your neck. It will trick the mind into doing what you want.



    Here are a few situations you can apply this to:

  • Public Speaking
  • Phobias
  • Dislike of something, job, person, etc.
  • Stressful situations
  • Overcoming habits (Such as not smoking, associate it with a undesired reaction . This means each time you smoke then you do something that doesn’t give you pleasure. Soon you start connecting the habit with the undesired reaction so you don’t want to perform the habit because it will not be pleasurable. )
  • Diets (Connect eating good food to good feelings)
  • Sleeping (Only using the bed for sleeping instead of reading, writing, lounging, etc. You will be more likely to feel tired if you only go to bed when you want to sleep.)
  • Exercising (If you feel good about yourself before exercising then you will want to exercise more)
  • Overcoming Pain (Focus on something powerful as soon you feel pain, and relax as much as possible)


  • If you have any good uses for these techniques, please leave a comment about it.


    Photo By Frotzed2

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    2 Comments on this post

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    1. Vern at AimforAwesome said:

      You might find this funny… but, sometimes when I know I need to get fired up I just start walking around the room – the house… and saying, “come on! Come On! Get it together RIGHT NOW and bang this out. Nothing is stopping you from doing it NOW. You’re going to… (and I walk through everything I”m going to do.”

      I psych myself up this way and it’s hilarious – or would be to outsiders, but I do it alone -and though one struggles with what an idiot is – the results can’t be ignored. There’s nothing stopping me from getting whatever it is I need done – DONE. It’s the perfect cure for making myself do something I’m not excited about. I tell myself – I’m not only going to do it -but, I’m going to MAX IT OUT and KICK IT’S _ _ _ and I’m not going to stop until it’s perfect and way beyond what it was going to be.

      I’ve gotta film myself doing it – it’s far more dramatic than Tony Robbins clapping his hands together to get himself revved up, but – a similar charade. lol. Great post – write more!

      March 27th, 2009 at 6:41 am
    2. Philip said:

      That sounds like an awesome way to motivate yourself to get something done. I knew about psyching yourself up, but I never really tried it in such a way. Normally the more I put something off the more I worry I am not going to do as good of a job. I find that with school work I often hate starting an essay because I don’t think it will be perfect. I am a bit of a perfectionist. So, that is the only problem with that kind psyching myself up. I can’t convince myself that I will “max it out”. Maybe I will take a difference approach, I am still trying to accept that everything doesn’t have to be perfect. Heh.
      Thanks for the comment! Always glad to hear your take on it.

      March 27th, 2009 at 10:43 am

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