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Reader comment on Aldous Huxley's passage ...

Law of Reversed Effort


On Aug 16, 2008 Janet wrote:

A law is a theory that has been scientifically tested and verified to be repeatable. The Law of Reversed Effort is the name given to the repeatable observation that individuals obtain different results when applying conscious and unconscious effort to perform a behavior. For example, try telling someone how to tie a shoelace. You will probably stumble several times in the attempt, because you are using the conscious mind to describe what for you is an unconscious behavior. When learning a new behavior, we do not have the discrete actions that make up this behavior stored in our unconscious mind. Therefore, we must consciously think of each discrete action as we do it, like we did when we were learning to tie our shoelaces or write the letters of the alphabet. Our unconscious mind helps us out by storing each successful attempt until we gain a level of mastery. The behavior then becomes automatic. The Law of Reversed Effort is applied by therapists to Patients who want to interrupt previously learned patterns that are no longer useful. If a person learned as a child to break into a sweat when a mean dog comes by, he may no longer find this unconscious response useful as an adult. To interrupt this "skill" the Patient is given instructions to try really hard to break out into a sweat when he sees a dog. This takes the behavior out of the unconscious and puts it in the control of the conscious (left brain), which does not know how break out into a sweat. Just like trying to consciously tell someone each muscle action you need to perform to tie your shoelaces would interrupt your ability to quickly and easily tie them without thinking about it. Therefore, when you want to successfully perform a behavior you have already instilled in your unconscious mind, it is best to stop “trying” and let go and start doing.



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