Reach Your Goals with

Harness the Power of the
Subconscious Mind

Almost 50 years ago, Dr Maxwell Malz developed psycho-cybernetics, a method for harnessing the subconscious mind. Don't be put off by the name. The concept is quite simple but so powerful it can help you attain any goal you desire. Dr Maltz, a plastic surgeon, developed the method to help people overcome negative self-images. I applied Dr Maltz's ideas to quit smoking, to lose weight and to control pain.

Psycho-cybernetics worked for me and may be your key to stop smoking, to lose weight, to control alcohol and to achieve other goals.

Before I tell you how I applied psycho-cybernetics, let me give a little background about cybernetics.

Sidebar: Since 1960, Dr Maltz's book Psycho-Cybernetics has sold 35 million copies. So you will probably find a copy in your public library. If not, the librarian can borrow a copy for you from another library. Reading the whole book is not necessary. You can just follow the method I outline here to achieve your goals.

The Basic Idea: Cybernetics

Cybernetics is the science of self-regulating systems, first called by that name in 1946 by Norbert Weiner, a professor of mathematics at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). His best known book is The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society.

Cybernetics and Your Refrigerator

Your refrigerator maintains its temperature using a cybernetic device-the thermostat. As the temperature rises, the thermostat turns on a motor that runs a compressor that cools the interior. When the interior reaches the correct temperature, the thermostat turns off the motor. The temperature you set is the "target" or "goal". The refrigerator is a "goal-seeking" system that works automatically to regulate itself using the temperature "error"-the gap between the goal and the actual temperature-to get back on track by going in the opposite direction from the error.

Though most cybernetic systems within the human body are completely automatic, humans must learn some cybernetic systems, such as those used for walking and riding bicycles. The trick in leaning how to ride a bicycle is making the error correction automatic. The trick with breaking old habits is learning how to make new habits automatic.

Psychology and Cybernetics

Oddly, psycho-cybernetics is older than machine cybernetics. Romanian scientist Stefan Odobleja published his theory of closed-loop feedback in psychology in Paris in 1938-1939, but did not use the terms cybernetics or psycho-cybernetics. His work was lost for decades, Timeline.

Psycho-Cybernetics: The Subconscious Mind as a Goal-Seeking Mechanism

Maxwell Maltz observed that his plastic surgery patients often suffered from self-image problems: corrective surgery did not always result in correction of the "mutilated self-image". What he found was that the subconscious mind acted like a cybernetic mechanism depending upon the goal. Give the subconscious mind a "success goal" and it acts like a "success mechanism". Give it a negative goal and it will act as a "failure mechanism". Give it "dieting" as a negative goal and you will fail. Give it "body reshaping" as a positive goal and you will succeed at weight loss.

Imagination versus Will Power

Dr Maltz also discovered that will power was worse than useless in forming new habits. Will power is not the key to weight loss. Will power is a negative way to break some bad habit. In reality, "will-power" is "won't-power", an approach that is likely to reinforce the bad habit. Like a fish with a hook in its mouth, a person using will power struggles to break a bad habit. The harder the struggle, the deeper the habit hooks into the flesh. Don't struggle to achieve weight loss or any other goal.

Dr Maltz discovered that imagination is the key to building a new self-image. For Maltz, will power might fail even when strong as a bulldozer, but imagination could make the same task seem light as a feather. Will power cannot succeed at weight loss, but imagination makes weight loss attainable. Embracing new good habits is sufficient to displace old bad habits without a struggle. Through imagination, a person can plant a new self-image in the subconscious mind. This new self-image acts automatically to guide the person to a goal-like an autopilot. We achieve weight loss or any goal by conforming to the new self-image created by the imagination.

"To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream, not only plan, but also believe."Anatole France, 1844-1924, French novelist, quote by Tom Venuto

Dreaming: the Language of the Subconscious Mind

"I have a dream," said Martin Luther King, Jr., knowing that the power of his dream would change America forever. Dr Maltz tells us that the subconscious mind is accessed using images and sounds, the language of dreams. Thus, we must present a new self-image to the unconscious in the form of images and sounds, as in a dream. We must by-pass the will altogether, just ignore it. Will power never achieves weight loss.

The key to psycho-cybernetics is the imagination.

Psycho-Cybernetics and Smoking

I used psycho-cybernetics for the first time, not for weight loss, but to stop smoking. By 1975, I was smoking 20 cigarettes plus 10 cigarillos plus two big cigars a day, every day. Around that time, the BMA (British Medical Association) released a bombshell: a report saying that tobacco can kill you. I read their first report and stopped smoking, only to begin again six months later. Then I read the BMA's final report, a report that was shocking in its conclusions: tobacco had killed millions of people and would kill millions more.

I knew then that I had to stop smoking or die from it. I had read Dr Maltz's book and wondered if psycho-cybernetics would help. One passage in his book describes an experiment where people in a mental institution are asked to complete a test. Afterwards, they are asked to do the test again, "But this time, imagine that you are sane." The second set of test results showed a dramatic improvement. Further exercises in imagining how a well-adjusted person would behave produced equally dramatic changes in behaviour among these maladjusted people. I thought I would follow this approach: I would imagine what would happen if I kept on smoking and what would happen if I stopped smoking.

To prepare myself, I got some 3 inch by 5 inch cards and made a list of the damage to the body caused by smoking using the BMA report. Next, I made a list of the improvements that would occur if I stopped smoking. Next, I listed other benefits, including a 20-year endowment policy that I would buy with the money saved. The final result was a single card with a list of 10 points on each side. On the front was a list of the evil things that would happen if I continued to smoke and on the back was a list of the good things that would happen if I quit smoking. Associated with each point was one word that would evoke an image in my mind. For example, the BMA report mentioned that the inside of the lungs of a heavy smoker gradually turned into a black leathery material. I wrote "Lungs=black leather". On the other side of the card, one of my points was simply "£70,000 ($150,000)". This would be the value of the endowment policy earned if I invested the money I would save by not smoking.

How Psycho-Cybernetics Saved my Life

I carried that card with me for three months. During the first week, I would pull it out and read it about once per hour until I memorized it. I would close my eyes and visualize my black leather lungs and then imagine them healing slowly, turning to pink and then rosy red. After the first day or so, I began to feel disgusted with the image of myself smoking and stopped buying more. A day or so later, I got rid of my remaining cigars. I have never smoked another cigarette or cigar since-not one-though I dreamed about lighting up and smoking. Oh, did I dream! I would wake up with tears coming down my face, believing I had been hooked again by tobacco, until I realized it was only a dream-a nightmare, I should say. The nightmares continued about once every month or so for two years, then disappeared. Both of my brothers continued to smoke. Both developed lung cancer and passed away before age 65.

What happened was this. My conscious mind knew tobacco was killing me. But when I tried and failed to stop smoking, it was because my subconscious mind still accepted tobacco as a wonderful substance that made me feel good and improved performance. Psycho-cybernetics allowed my unconscious mind to accept the healing benefits of a smoke-free life. Psycho-cybernetics reset the autopilot.

Psycho-cybernetics had already given me over 10 years of life when I decided to use it to achieve weight loss for my heart's sake.

How I used Psycho-Cybernetics to Lose Weight

When I decided to succeed at weight loss, I knew that I would have to do some research about which weight loss techniques work and which do not. In about one month, my conscious mind had enough information to attain weight loss safely and without losing muscle and bone.

Gaining knowledge about diets and exercise is an important step, but not sufficient by itself. Why? Because there is no way that the conscious mind can override a lifetime of subconscious desires and habits that make up a "lifestyle". The subconscious mind will sabotage every attempt to force fat loss by will power. The subconscious has to have a goal that it accepts, a goal presented in the only language it knows: images. Give the subconscious mind the correct images and you will set your autopilot on a course for weight loss using psycho-cybernetics.

How to Tap into the Subconscious Mind to Achieve Your Goals

The job is to get your goal into the subconscious mind—to put imagination to work. I call this "setting the autopilot." These are the steps to reset the autopilot, the psycho-cybernetic mechanism:

To apply imagination, lie down and close your eyes. Relax, counting back from 50 to zero, visualizing the numbers on the black screen in front of your eyes. When you get to 15, pause between the numbers, and during the pause tell yourself you are relaxing your right leg. Do the same at each pause with arms, neck, hands, feet, one body part for each pause between the numbers. As you think the word "relax", let go the body part, feeling it feel heavy and relaxed.

When you get to zero tell yourself, "Every day I am getting better and better. Every day I am getting closer to [some words to describe your goal]." Do not allow negative thoughts to intrude in the form of doubts. Do not use words, such as "fat loss". This is critically important: the subconscious is not rational. Picture the goal as already attained and the subconscious will accept the image as a real goal.

In this relaxed state picture yourself acting out your desired goal.

To stop smoking, imagine your leathery black lungs slowling becoming paler, slowly becoming moist and pink, slowly absorbing oxygen as blood circulates through the healthy tissue.

To lose fat, imagine yourself shopping for new smaller clothing, trying on the clothing, wearing it out of the shop onto the street where you meet old friends who hardly recognize the new slimmer you.

To form the fitness habit, imagine yourself in the gym walking or running on the treadmill, lifting weights, doing abdominal exercises, becoming fitter and stronger. Imagine the blood pumping through your heart, lungs and arteries as you become more active. Imagine the muscles taking shape, replacing the flab. Imagine the new bounce in your walk and the new life in all your movements.

Repeating this procedure several times a week will fix a target in your subconscious mind, a target that you will home in on without an effort of will. The more you elaborate a new self-image, the more likely the subconscious will accept it. Dr Maltz said that 21 days was long enough to begin to see changes in behavior.

This sounds too simple to be true! Yes, but the part of the brain we are trying to access is not rational: the level of its intelligence is about that of a reptile. It really is useless to use will power and rational words to tell the reptile to exercise more and eat less. We must present the reptile brain with an image of something more desirable than food and idleness. We must present the end result we want in the form of attractive images. To help us avoid bad habits, sometimes we may have to use negative images, such as the time your cigarette burnt a hole in your new clothes. However, positive images may be sufficient to make psycho-cybernetics work.

How a Similar Technique Controls Pain

Psycho-cybernetics works by suspending the operation of rational thought. The body and mind reach a state of relaxation, which is an essential part of the technique. The tools used are simple:
  • Counting backwards
  • Visualization of numbers and words
  • Deep and slow breathing
  • Focus on body parts to relax the muscles and joints
When practicing psycho-cybernetics, the state reached by the mind and body is similar to a trance, sometimes called meditation, sometimes called auto-suggestion or self-hypnosis. A curious property of this state is that the subject can influence body functions that are not normally accessible to the conscious mind. Some subjects can alter heart beat, others body temperature. A few subjects can control blood pressure. Certain kinds of pain can be limited or completely extinguished. For example, some subjects can pass needles through the skin and pinch themselves with instruments without feeling pain.

With practice, it's possible to reduce or eliminate muscle and joint pain and headaches.

Some pain warns of disease or injury that requires medical diagnosis and treatment. If pain persists, see your doctor.