In 1957, a market researcher named James Vicary claimed he conducted a test in a movie theatre that increased sales of Coca-Cola and popcorn by using subliminal messages flashed on the movie screen. These are messages that appear for such a brief time they do enter conscious awareness, but do enter the subconscious. The test never occurred, later admitted by Vicary. However, the media frenzy over Vicary’s claim resulted in actual tests being conducted by researchers to determine the potential effect of subliminal advertising. It was found that there is a small measurable effect for a short period, but dramatic results of the type claimed by Vicary could not be demonstrated.
However, we do not need to focus on subliminal messages to find extreme amounts of conditioning taking place in our lives, much do to our own thoughts. A good example of how professional influencers want to affect our decisions can be found in the last presidential election. We were bombarded on TV with commercials from both major parties that often contained misleading or false claims. The “spin doctors” did not care because they knew one simple fact: If you say something often enough, people begin to believe it. The job of these professionals, like the ones employed by big tobacco in a similar capacity, was to create doubt or obfuscate the truth. One of the ways they do this is to hammer home a message that is what they want you to believe, which might be far from or the opposite of the truth. They don’t care about the truth; they only care about getting you to believe their message. Now many of the people had already decided how they were going to vote, but the undecided voters who often determine the outcome in a close election could potentially be swayed.
Of course, the conditioning is not limited to political ads and endorsements. We see it all the time in commercials for products. Repetition and association is used to embed images in your subconscious mind. As an example, if you are a man, then you too can have that beautiful woman if you buy the car (being promoted). If you are a woman, that fragrance (being promoted) is sure to attract that handsome man.
The simple fact that repetition can be a powerful way to reach the subconscious is used by many. In fact, we use it ourselves in various ways, both positive and negative. If we are learning a new skill, we find that repetition helps make it automatic. Unfortunately, repetition can also be used with dire negative effects. If you constantly tell yourself that you are inadequate in some way, you are building that belief into your subconscious. And your subconscious tries to make it true in your life. Consider a teenage girl who is afraid she is overweight. If she constantly dwells on that thought, she will make it come true. She has told her subconscious that it needs to act upon this as truth.
So we condition ourselves all the time. Do you believe you will be successful in some new venture, or do you think about all the things that can go wrong? Do you dwell on a negative outcome? Do you constantly tell yourself you will succeed? Or do you tell yourself you will probably fail? Athletes understand the importance of actually seeing themselves performing successfully. They don’t think I might be able to; they see that I am doing it or have done it. There cannot be the slightest doubt about achieving success.
If you are negatively conditioning yourself, your subconscious will see that something is wrong and you will probably have dreams that try to provide balance by countering the negative programming. If you feel that you always fail in some area of your life, you might well be in dream situations where you succeed, as I was in my early days of dream work. You might also get direct advice on what you need to do to accomplish your goals.
There is another positive side to this that I touched upon in the post How to Seek Guidance from Dreams (Changed from Seeking Guidance from Dreams). Take an aspect of your life that you would like to change. If you are having a problem with excessive weight, for example, decide upon the image you would like to display to the world. Select the weight that is both healthy and gives you a sense of confidence. In that pre-sleep stage I discussed, focus on that image of yourself. Tell yourself that you are that person. Use both repetition and visual imagery. Continue the exercise as you fall asleep. By doing this, you are sending a new message to your subconscious; you are undoing the negative conditioning that might have occurred over a long period. Then, during the day, periodically reinforce in your mind that picture of the new you. You might have to repeat the process for several weeks. Also, be sure to examine your dreams to see if the message is getting through.
During pre-sleep, you can also ask for specific advice on subjects like diet and exercise. I would not try to mix this with the programming described above. Seek this advice on different nights. You might find that you need to make adjustments in your life in several areas. But the importance of how you see yourself cannot be overstated.