Some of you may recall our recent post highlighting the Law of Attraction: We explained the ideology – namely that positive thoughts attract positive outcomes and negative thoughts attract negative outcomes – and briefly presented its history, applications, and criticisms. However, one question we neglected to answer is how, exactly, we incorporate the Law of Attraction at the Process Recovery Center. While the Law of Attraction can be clinically construed as a form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), our CEO, Justin Etling, channels its principles by teaching our clients about the power of the mind.
I sat down with Justin so that he could express, in his own words, how the power of the mind plays an integral role in our treatment philosophy.
The Power of the Mind: Consciousness v.s. Subconsciousness
“The mind – consciousness, subconsciousness – is still not fully understood by science. It’s still being studied,” Justin sagely began, pulling up a quote from the book Maximize Your Potential.
“British neurophysicist W. Grey Walter said that ‘at least ten billion electronic cells would be needed to build a facsimile of man’s brain,’” Justin read. “‘These cells would occupy about a million and a half cubic feet, and several additional millions of cubic feet would be needed for the ‘nerves’ or wires. The power to operate it would be around a billion watts’”. Justin also noted: “‘The number of switching devices in the human brain vastly exceeds the number in any computing machine yet developed or even thought of for design in the near future’”.
“As fascinating as computer technology has become, it is not even remotely close to what we’re capable of in our own mind,” Justin concluded. “Most people don’t think the mind is that powerful. Your mind is essentially capable of anything you believe. Your thoughts dictate your ability. They’ve proven that when students think they’re not good at something, they fail – they will meet the standards they believe are ‘supposed’ to be met. Once they’re taught that they’re not bad, they thrive. If you say, ‘I’m not good at math,’ you manifest not being good at math. The truth is your mind has the capability to compute all kinds of things.
They also say that most of your computing power lives in your subconscious, but your conscious mind is the operator of your subconscious. So, if you consciously tell your subconscious you’re not good at math, it’s going to feed you back difficulty. When people consistently think they can’t do something, they set themselves up to not be able to do it. It’s literally that simple. Your brain is working as designed”.
The Power of the Mind & The Four Minute Mile
“People who think they are able to achieve things are able to achieve things,” Justin continued. “For a long time, mankind thought that nobody could break the four minute mile. The guy who broke the four minute mile talked about how he used to visualize seeing 3:59 on the running clock. When you think about it, your brain controls every function of your body. The more mentally fit you are, the better runner you’ll be. After he broke the four minute mile, twelve other men followed. It had never been done in history; everyone thought you’d just keel over and die. It’s easy to say, ‘oh, it’s because of physical capability’, but I would argue otherwise. Twelve other men were able to do it the following year when it allegedly couldn’t be done before.
Your mind is your greatest asset, but it can also be your greatest deficit. Negative self-talk will manifest as negative results. This relates to the Law of Attraction mantra ‘ask, believe, receive’. The reason that ‘ask, believe, receive’ doesn’t work for most people is because they ask and then they don’t believe. They ask and have subsequent negative thoughts about why it can’t happen. If I say, ‘you should go be a doctor,’ your mind will feed you reasons why you can’t. Normally people listen to their negative thoughts. If you ask for something and then there’s no ‘believe’ – well, there’s no receive. ‘Ask’ and ‘believe’ need to be aligned. Once you do that, you will unlock the capability.
The funny thing about the mind is that it can’t consciously imagine how some things are possible. A lot of the recovery process – if you look at it – is people trying to give other people hope by saying, ‘you can do this, too’. They’re trying to help with the ‘believe’ piece. A lot of people want to stop using and they’re asking to stop using… but they don’t believe in themselves. They don’t believe it’s possible. As a result, they create mental barriers and they relapse. The truth is, no one person is more capable than any other person. The difference is that some people stop creating mental barriers.
Your mind can hurt you. It doesn’t hurt you because it’s trying to hurt you, it hurts you because you’re feeding it a negative belief. Ultimately, I think that belief is a huge part of harnessing the power of the mind”.
The Impact of Habit on the Power of the Mind
Justin acknowledged a unique challenge for people with substance use disorder – a challenge that, incidentally, is the other key to mastering the mind’s power.
“Your mind is dictated by habit. It forms synaptic pathways. When you do something over and over, the synapses become stronger. This means your brain will want to go back to the same pathways. Every time you do something in a different circumstance, it touches a different part of the brain. It makes you remember utilizing that pathway even more. If you extend that into the way people use substances, the synapses are very strong
The solution is to create new, healthy habits to replace the old ones. I bet if you did a study in which someone said, “I can’t stop using at the beach,” and they went to the beach with someone in recovery for thirty days, their whole perception would change. But most people don’t take the time and effort to rewire their synapses. They will, however, take the time to reinforce the negative. We inherently want to feel better. Our brain knows that; it’s geared toward the status quo. Change takes a lot of work. The mind can’t see the reward”.
Aligning Positive Beliefs With Healthy Habits
“Belief is a critical piece of achieving something, but who you surround yourself with and what environments you put yourself in also matter. Let’s take China for example. They produce crazy-good athletes. They find people who have a talent and immerse them in an environment where all they do is train. Just because they have a talent, however, doesn’t make them an Olympic athlete. Ultimately, to become an Olympic athlete, you need to create healthy habits. The more you practice, the more skilled you become. Michael Phelps is a good example of belief aligning with habit. When he started, he did three training sessions a day. People thought he was crazy. They said, ‘you’re going to wear out your body, you’re going to hurt yourself; what you’re doing is insane’. He went on to be the greatest swimmer of all time. A lot of people criticized him because he was different. At the end of the day, he believed in who he wanted to become. As a result, he pursued habits that produced the desired outcome.
The problem with aligning belief and habit is that the conscious mind can’t always envision how goals are supposed to be achieved. For example, I have a goal of opening a detox. If my mind feeds me all kinds of excuses justifying why I can’t do it, it won’t get done. Your conscious mind wants to figure out how something can be fixed right now. Your subconscious mind understands that time is part of the evolution of things coming to fruition. All things take time. It’s very rare that something is produced instantly.
The other obstacle is that your conscious mind can only concentrate on one to three things at a time. That’s how magicians work; they get you to focus here so you can’t see there. Your subconscious mind, on the other hand, is taking in thousands of bits of information a second. So, if you’re thinking fearfully, your subconscious mind sifts through everything in the environment to help your conscious mind focus on the one to three things which will support your thinking. If you think recovery is lame or unachievable, your subconscious mind will process thousands of bits of information and you will focus on the one person in the room who illustrates your negative thinking; ‘Look at this guy, his recovery sucks’. There might be twenty other people in the room who have good recovery, but you can’t see them because you’re consciously concentrating on the negative.
When you think about it in that context, it’s a little scary. Your mind is producing whatever you think. But if you think something positive, your mind will focus on the people and action steps needed to accomplish your goal. This is how successful people operate; their subconscious and conscious mind work together to stay in the solution rather than the problem. In hindsight, it’s easy to see how opportunities for success are easily created or missed”.
It’s Not Magic: Unlocking the Power of The Mind
“One of the biggest criticisms of the Law of Attraction,” I reminded Justin, “is that people who attempt to practice it think, ‘oh, I want a Lamborghini’, and expect it to be parked outside in the driveway. I think your interpretation of it makes so much more sense. It’s not that focusing on it will make it appear in front of you; it’s that if you focus on it and you believe in it, your mind unlocks its innate abilities to plan for and execute the tasks needed to reach your goal”.
“Exactly,” Justin agreed. “Your conscious mind can’t understand how you’re going to get the Lamborghini. It seems unrealistic. Your subconscious mind understands that you can do whatever you want. For instance, you could become a Doctor who can easily afford a Lamborghini. Most people focus on what they don’t have and what they can’t do. It limits them. It’s not that their mind is any less powerful than anyone else’s; their mind is just giving them exactly what they’re thinking.
You have seventy thousand thoughts going through your mind on a daily basis. Pretending you’re not going to think about your future is futile. You are going to think about your future. Why not try to dictate what your thoughts are? Don’t be mindless. Be mindful. To me, mindfulness doesn’t mean having no thoughts. Mindfulness means being mindful of what you’re thinking about. Don’t let your thoughts control you – feed yourself the thoughts you want to receive. Set goals without limitations; as you accomplish more, your belief in yourself will grow, compounding your ability to continue achieving. It’s like the snowball effect. When the power of the mind snowballs in a positive way, it creates a life of path, purpose, and focus…which is the ultimate aim of recovery”.
At the Process Recovery Center, our priority is to help you cultivate belief in yourself and create healthy habits, thereby unlocking your potential. Call (888) 649-1149 or contact us here.
Autumn Khavari is the Process Recovery Center’s in-house writer. She received an education in Substance Use Counseling from Beal College in Bangor, Maine.
Justin Etling/ Contributor