Have you ever felt like buying something you don’t really need just because every day you drive by the billboard having an advertisement for it? Have you ever felt yourself beginning to like a person just because your friends have been repeatedly telling you about how good they are? Have you ever felt infatuated with someone you were constantly linked with in school or college even though you disliked them? If yes, you have experienced the power of repetition. To put it simply, your mind can be tricked into believing something is true if it is repeated enough number of times. And like everything in this world, repetition can be both advantageous and disadvantageous depending upon its usage and context. This post is all about using the Law of Repetition to your advantage, but first, a bit of stage-setting.
While doing my internship in Psychology, I was told that a lot of us tend to hold onto negative labels that were given to us by others or by ourselves over the course of our lives. Consequently, the more negative labels we acquire, the less we love ourselves. This turned out to be quite true. The more sessions I observed, and later, the more clients I met, the more I’ve come to see it is true. But how does one acquire these “beliefs”?
There are two ways in which we end up believing in something — one if the information is presented to us in a moment of sheer vulnerability or two if the information is repeated over and over again. In either case, the fault lies in our suggestibility.
What is this suggestibility you ask?
Suggestibility is an innate quality in us all that makes our brains willing to accept information as is. It is also one of the key concepts in Clinical Hypnosis (but we’ll keep that for a later post). However, it is not a skill that can be acquired or polished. It is not a binary rule that either a person is suggestible or they are not. All of us are suggestible, some more than others. Any piece of information given to us at the peak of our suggestibility goes straight into the subconscious mind (that’s the ~90% of your mind outside of your conscious purview. It is a storehouse of memories — all kinds of them, and more). Any information that makes its way to the subconscious cannot be removed. While this may sound scary, it really isn’t. Even though we cannot remove any piece of information from our subconscious mind, we can always change the perspective with which we hold on to it.
For example, for most people, the thought of chocolate cake usually brings back memories of birthdays or celebrations and good times. However, if a child who had chocolate cake at a party while playing games and having fun, ended up vomiting, then for that child chocolate cake would only bring back bad memories and an aversion to the dessert altogether. Now, though the child cannot be made to forget the instance entirely if he was to be told that he vomited because he was jumping and running around on a full stomach, then his perspective on the whole situation would change.
After all, “when we change the way we look at things, the things we look at, change”.
We are at the peak of our suggestibility when we wake up in the morning, when we are about to fall asleep when we are lost in an interesting movie (or book), when we are meditating, as well as when we are vulnerable. Except for the last one, the rest are what we can say “trance” states — when we are so relaxed and engrossed at the moment that everything else ceases to exist for a while (again, more on that in a separate post). Any information given to us during these times has an increased chance of embedding itself directly in our subconscious mind without being logically analyzed (Inception, anyone?).
You may ask, how does suggestibility come into picture when you are not in any of these states?
Owing to the law of repetition, if a piece of information is provided to you repeatedly in any form (visual, auditory, etc) your suggestibility for that particular piece of information increases. More so, if it is presented in a manner that catches your attention (i.e., dramatically). If a person is repeatedly told by one or more people in her team that she is lazy, she will become lazier and will feel less motivated to change that behavior. If a child is repeatedly told “you are stupid”, the child will carry that label throughout his life and feel less motivated to change it because he feels “that’s how I am”. If the first thing a person hears in the morning is “today is the worst day ever”, she will end up believing it and end up having the worst day ever.
When you believe in something (good or bad) with such faith, you end up looking for the smallest of signs to prove that it is, in fact true, all the while turning a blind eye to all the evidence against it.
So, how can you use repetition to your advantage?
If you find your self-love or self-worth quotient dipping, ask yourself what is leading to it. If it’s happening because of the negative labels that someone gave you or negative experiences that you have had, then the following points may be of help to you.
Depending on the purpose you seek to fulfill, the internet is full of listicles of affirmations that you can say to yourself. Affirmations are positive sentences that, when repeated every day for a few days in a row, start to become a way of life. These are the positive labels you can treat yourself to. For example, before an important presentation, instead of focusing on how nervous you are, tell yourself over and over “I am calm” and, “I am confident”, see how things change! You can get the most benefit out of affirmations by making them a part of your daily routine. I personally love “You is kind. You is smart. You is important”, from the movie The Help. Affirmations can help increase your appreciation for yourself, instill you with more confidence, boost your self-esteem, and keep you grounded. Word of advice, steer clear from using adjectives in the superlative degree (best, most beautiful, most intelligent, etc) while they may help make you feel better, they might also make you a bit of a narcissist. Just saying.
Another word of advice, don’t go overboard. If you end up hyper-focusing on repeating something because you want it to embed itself in your subconscious and you do it a hundred times a day, you will defeat the whole purpose. Just say it three to five times and let it run its course on its own.
Create mindfulness, not anxiety.
Boost resilience with gratitude
Every night before going to sleep, make it a point to think of at least five things/people/situations that you feel thankful for. Or simply say “I am thankful for everything I have, every opportunity I have received, every lesson I have learned, and every person I have met. And I close my day with nothing but gratitude and grace.” Practicing gratitude on a regular basis helps increase mental and emotional resilience (that is, your ability to bounce back faster and stronger after a setback no matter how big or small).
Setting a daily intention
Every morning, set your intention for the day and keep reminding yourself about the intention you set randomly throughout the day. For example, right after you wake up, if you set your intention to “be productive”, then keep repeating that every now and then to keep your mind focused on finding ways to be productive throughout the day instead of wasting precious time and headspace on unhelpful habits or thoughts (yes, I am talking about scrolling through social media and ruminating about how you compare to all those people. You genuinely don’t need that).
Post-its and checklists
Take a few minutes every morning to sit down and prepare a priority to-do list for yourself. A priority to-do list is a checklist of all the things you need to do in a day (or any amount of time, for that matter) written in the order of most important to least important. Put this list where you will keep seeing it every now and then. I usually use the Stickies app when I spend most of my time working on my laptop and pin it so that it floats on the top of every window and I can keep a track of the things that I have done and the ones left to do. Although a regular to-do list would do the trick, what’s the fun without a challenge?
While this may work for some people, it might not for others. And it is completely alright. Do more of what helps you grow, and if something’s not helping, look for new ways to work around it.