There is a good story that goes like this. Two children were climbing trees. They were enjoying themselves. Suddenly there was a gust of wind and the tree started to shake. One child’s father shouted, “ Hold tight”, the other child’s mother shouted, “Don’t fall”! The second child promptly fell. The first child hung on till the father reached him and brought him down to safety.
Why did the first child not fall? It was because the instruction given was positive, one which the boy’s brain understood. There was no negative words in there. The second child’s instruction was negative, and the negative words are not understood by the right hemisphere of the brain. All the brain heard was fall, so she fell.
The brain has two hemispheres. The right and the left. The left hemisphere understands language, the words used in sentences. Once the word is uttered, the left hemisphere sends a message to the right hemisphere through a bundle of nerves that connect them. Once the message is sent, the right hemisphere gets the image. For example, when the word apple is uttered, the left brain sends the message to the right brain, where the image of the fruit apple comes up. From this image, one acts. Because we tend to act on the basis of our right brain image.
If a person points to an orange and says it is an apple, the left brain understands apple, the right brain comes up with the image of apple, and you know that person is wrong. That fruit is not an apple.
In the same fashion, the right brain cannot associate with the word, “Not”. So when the mother yelled, “ Don’t fall”, the child’s right brain brought up the image of falling, and so she fell. Where as the first child’s brain brought up the image of holding tight, so he did it. That is why it is said, do not give negative messages. The right brain ignores the Not, focuses on the image that forms without the Not, and so you do what you are not supposed to do.
If you admonish a child and say, “Don’t run”, she will run. Same way if you decide not to smoke, you will smoke. Instead you need to rephrase your sentences to have only positive words. You can tell the child, “Walk slowly”. The child’s right brain will immediately translate it into an image of walking, and so he/she will walk. Same way you could tell yourself, “ I will give up smoking. I will chew gum instead, or eat some sunflower seeds when I get the urge”. This way you will reach for gum or seeds when you feel like smoking.
Learn to give yourself positive sentences. Also while talking to others. Understand that negative does not get translated into an image; and you will achieve what you set out to avoid.
Try these exercises, say out aloud these sentences. “Don’t be a fool”, “Don’t act like a child”, “Don’t drop that plate”, “Don’t touch that hot stove”, “Don’t drink the hot soup”, etc. What are the images you get? You will get the images of being a fool, acting like a child, dropping the plate, touching the hot stove and drinking the hot soup. You will end up following your images. It is automatic and you will do it without thinking. Actually since you think it, you will do it. It is your thoughts that lead to action.
Try and see how many such negative self talk have you indulged in lately. Try to convert them into positive ones. See the difference.