The “rules of the mind” are simple principles that teach us how our mind works and how deeply programmed beliefs affect our experience. Once you understand these principles, you can begin to create intentional change in how you live, work, love and connect.
Marisa Peer, based on her 30+ years of client experience as a psychotherapist and hypnotherapist, identified what she calls the “rules of the mind”. If you know how your mind works, you know how to make it work better for you.
1. Your mind’s main job is to help you survive and for this it will always try to keep you away from pain and move towards pleasure.
It will do it in that order—avoiding the pain first, then seeking pleasure. It uses your thoughts as an indicator of what “pain” and what “pleasure” is. For example, if you’ve had a bad experience with love in the past, your mind—to protect you—will do anything to keep you from falling in love. Programmed deep into your subconscious mind, love and connection are linked to pain. To overcome this, you must intentionally associate pleasure and good feeling with what you want (being in love and feeling connected) – and consciously associate pain with what you don’t want (being alone).
Another helpful example is perfectionism. If we associate perfectionism with feeling enough/worthy/loved, it will be very difficult to let go of control. Many of us have subconsciously linked perfectionism to the pleasure of being praised and pain to imperfection by failing to receive compliments and praise. In most cases, this is because as a child our basic need for recognition and validation (in other words: feeling connected) was not fulfilled. It results in “please behavior”. When we work on the underlying belief that we are perfect the way we are and that as adults we are no longer dependent on validation from others, you will be able to overcome the self-limiting perfectionism. Give yourself the praise you need to hear!
2. Your mind always does what it thinks you want it to do.
Let’s use the example of a first radio/TV/stage appearance. If you follow the nerves you feel about having to appear in front of lots of people all expecting you to entertain or teach them something, you would tell your mind: “I’m so scared that something goes wrong…”, “…what if I forget what I want to say”, ” … maybe nobody likes it.” Your mind would conclude that you didn’t want to have the experience because apparently it poses a danger to you and it get to work to sabotage it. For example, by creating stomach pain or enormous resistance. Or anxiety symptoms such as trembling, stuttering and the impulse to run or freeze. These are common symptoms for public speakers. Ever heard of the keynote speaker who got laryngitis…?
It is therefore important to dialogue with your mind and tell it what you want. Using very detailed and specific words and images. Create feelings and pictures in your mind about how good the experience will be, as if it has already happened. Feel it, see it, imagine it! Create thoughts and visions about how much you enjoy doing it, how much you want to do it, how many people would benefit from it. And make clear pictures of yourself having fun backstage or receiving great feedback afterwards. You may still feel the adrenaline that makes you want to perform at your best, but it won’t paralyze you or make you not want to be there.
Remember that fear and excitement can feel the same because they create the exact same physiological response in your body. If feel fear, label it as excitement!
3. Your mind loves what is familiar and avoids what is unfamiliar.
You may be in the habit of having a glass of wine every night to relax after work. If you try to stop that, your mind will protest because that habit is so familiar and it’s unfamiliar not to drink a glass of wine.
So what you need to do is intentionally and consciously make what you don’t want unfamiliar (drinking a glass of wine every night) and make familiar what you do want (enjoy the evening without wine). You can use words like “I choose to do this”, “I choose to feel good about it”, “My body wants this”, “I like to wake up energized the next morning”, etc. Through sustained and consistent effort to break the habit and through dialogue with your mind going over all the benefits of breaking the habit, a glass of wine at night will become “unfamiliar” in no time.
4. Your mind learns through repetition.
If you’ve spent half your life telling yourself you are not smart, it takes a lot of repetition to convince yourself that you are smart. You may have to fake it a bit at first, say it even if you don’t believe it yet. Repeat the beliefs you want to have as many times as you can until it is embedded in your mind.
You probably know the expression: “Fake it ’til you make it!”. Give it a new spin by saying “Faith it ’til you make it!”. Deep down you are amazing and have everything you need to succeed inside of you. So you are not fake, you just have to work on exposing your greatness by repeating praise to yourself every day until it starts to sink in like lotion on dry skin. This isn’t about being full of yourself; it’s about having real and deep faith in yourself.
Take your lipstick and use it to write “I’m enough” on your mirror. Whenever you see it, read it out loud, until you know, feel, and believe it!
5. The mind cannot hold conflicting beliefs, they cancel each other out.
If you want a loving relationship but are afraid of rejection, it won’t come true. You must first erase the old belief (I will be rejected) to make room for the new (I deserve a loving relationship). Use the other rules to lift your beliefs in the direction that supports your purpose.
You’ve probably heard of the term “imposter syndrome” where you feel like you’re fake and every success that comes to you is coincidental. You struggle with a lingering fear that people will find out that the “real” you is not enough. This happens because a belief has developed at some point in your life which reinforces the idea that you are not enough. Despite the compliments, 5-star performance ratings and positive feedback. You don’t let it in and keep thinking that you are fake. Until you do work to break those old patterns and beliefs and let in the compliments that show who you really are. Worthy of love, connection, and happiness!
6. In a battle between emotion and logic, emotion will always win.
Some of our greatest limitations in life stem from limiting beliefs that are rooted in emotion. We may think with our rational, logical mind that we want to change something, but our emotional mind, driven by our beliefs, clings to an old habit, behavior or feeling. Therefore we must work to change the underlying beliefs.
An example of this is quitting smoking. We know with our rational mind that we will feel healthier, we will probably live longer, and we will save a lot of money if we quit. But unconsciously, most smokers link smoking to feeling connected, adjusting to their environment and avoiding rejection. This is a strong belief to overcome and a good reason why smokers find it challenging to give up. If you are a smoker, think back to your first smoking experience. Were you with friends? A parent or other family member? Was it the taste or sensation that you liked or was it the satisfying feeling of being just like everyone else? Or being able to connect in a new way? Then ask yourself if smoking still plays that role for you.
This can also apply to other addictions such as food, exercise, work, drugs… the list goes on. What role, function, or purpose does the addiction really play in your life? Once you can rationalize this, use the other rules to work on changing the emotions associated with them. Because emotions will always win!