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Law of Reversed Effort

--by Aldous Huxley (Nov 22, 1999)

There is a Law of Reversed Effort. The harder we try with the conscious will to do something, the less we shall succeed.

Proficiency and the results of proficiency come only to those who have learned the paradoxical art of doing and not doing, or combining relaxation with activity, of letting go as a person in order that the immanent and transcendent Unknown Quantity may take hold.

We cannot make ourselves understand; the most we can do is to foster a state of mind, in which understanding may come to us.

--Aldous Huxley


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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 t  See full.

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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On Jul 24, 2007 Bill wrote:
Yes, but if you drive each time through Chicago on the basis of reversed effort (by not resisting) you might find that it will take less driving to make the experience less difficult. So maybe the diligence is paradoxically wrapped up in the idea of not resisting.

On Sep 2, 2006 Marcia LaReau wrote:
When we call something a "law" of something, e.g. the "law" of gravity, it refers to something that is constant under normal conditions. Gravity is not the norm in the outer-hemisphere, or in a vacuum. But those aren't the norm. To call the idea of "reversed effort" a law is, in itself a paradox, since it cannot be proven as the norm when searching through the basic activities of humans every day life. Yet - it can easily be disproven through diligence. E.g. The more times I drive through Chicago, the easier the route will be to navigate. The law of reversed effort does not apply.