For 2021, one of my goals is to read more (I mean, whose isn’t, right?). I aim for one book a month, which for a non-reader like me, is quite a commitment. One book I heard a lot about in podcasts was Psycho-Cybernetics, which apparently is a self-help classic from the ‘80s. Somewhere in January, my fiancé suddenly ordered it online, and so the universe had spoken: PC would be my February-read.
For starters, I have to admit my expectations were a little bit high. Once you’ve been in this selfrealization jazz for a while, it’s hard to find a book that blows your mind. So as I should’ve expected, this book didn’t. It didn’t leave me with many new insights or bright ideas. What it did do, however, was back up my already existing insights with some good psychological theory, and some good ol’ common – although very christian – sense. Here’s what the book taught me.
Our subconscious is a torpedo
The first thing PC thought me was that the subconscious (brain + nervous system) works pretty similar to a torpedo. Human beings overall learn stuff by aiming for a goal, striving like a rocket towards it, and correcting our errors and deviations as we go. Think of a young (still quite not self-aware) child learning how to walk: they stand up and fall down, stand up again and fall down again – learning from the errors what not to do, and learning from the successes what to repeat.
PC teaches how we can apply this principle consciously to our goals as well, and in that way, use our subconscious to our (planned or pointed) benefit. For example, imagine our goal is to lose a few pounds. If we admit and set this goal for ourselves, according to PC, our subconscious will unknowingly work towards this goal without you putting in a lot of effort.
Of course, the conscious mind has a say as well, so some work has to be done. In the case of losing weight, we shouldn’t eat donuts all the time and maybe exercise a little. But if we can believe PC, the subconscious will help you with this and make it a lot easier to make certain (wise) decisions.
Our nature wants us to thrive
To be completely clear: we don’t have to make our subconscious work to our benefit, because it already does. Always. It’s how we learn or accomplish anything at all. But in the goals that we have that are not completely natural and instinctive (like learning how to walk), we do have to set our goals.
The design of human beings is so beautiful, our brain and nervous system (or subconscious) is supposed to make us thrive in life. It supports our goals and dreams, and by means of survival, always gravitates (or rockets) naturally towards them. Thus saying – and this is my own conclusion – life doesn’t have to be a struggle. It is actually in our nature to get what we want.
This is also backed up by other theories and movements (though in other words), for example by the Law of attraction theory or Deepak Chopra’s Energy of Attraction. PC, however, tends to explain this phenomenon by the use of cybernetics. And even though this book was written in the ’80s, that’s quite refreshing.
Self-image is everything
However, whether you learn from your fails or judge yourself by them, is essentially and up to you. Because you decide what thoughts and ideas your subconscious ‘rockets’ on. Your subconscious doesn’t have a direct link to reality, so you and your thoughts are what feeds the system and tells it what to aim for. So while setting our goals and aiming towards them, something inside us has to believe that we will reach our goals and that we are worthy of them.
If you only ever remember your fails and forget your past successes, you will think low of yourself, unknowingly set low goals, and that is what your subconscious will work towards. You’re brain tells the subconscious ‘I will never get it’, and thus that is what happens. If you think highly of yourself because you focus on your past successes, you will believe that the goal is something you can reach and deserve, and your subconscious will start to work accordingly.
So if you’re someone who thinks low of themselves, hear this: you’re not inherently born with a low self-esteem, you’re just using your memory wrongly. Train yourself to focus on your past successes, or fake the feeling of being successful if you have to, and your subconscious will start to work differently and to your benefit.
What I love about this book is that it reminded me of some strong beliefs I already had. It supports the idea that our brain has a big effect on our biology, and can even explain how, for example, we can make ourselves ill or look younger, simply have having certain thoughts. It explains why we have a higher chance of winning a game when we truly believe we will, and why ‘practising in your head’ makes an actual difference when doing the real job.
I’m a big fan of ‘woo woo’ theories like the Law of attraction, but it is nice to have these theories backed up from another angle of science. I personally relate many human issues to a low or inadequate self-image, so it was nice to read a theory that relates self-image to reaching our dreams. The book also comes with very practical exercises to train your self-image, and to make your subconscious work for whatever you set your mind to.
The only downside is that since the book is already quite old, some of the other (psychological) theories PC refers to, are a little outdated. I also didn’t appreciate the writer using religious arguments to back up his theory, or to tie his lose ends. But all-in-all, this is a very good book to remind ourselves of our beautiful design as human beings.
Did you read Psycho-Cybernetics? Let me know what you think!