If you’ve been around the self-help material for any length of time, you’ve no doubt heard this at least once…

The unconscious mind doesn’t hear negatives.

Or any of the variables, such as it doesn’t recognize negatives, doesn’t understand negatives, etc. – but you get the point.

And, admittedly, I have made this assertion on many occasions in the past as well.

The unconscious mind doesn’t hear negatives.

But as I have thought about it, I have to ask…


This advice is usually given in terms of goal setting, because so many people will set goals based on what they don’t want. Ask them what they want, and they will respond:

“Well, I don’t want to be poor anymore.”

“I want a person who doesn’t smoke.”

“I want a person who isn’t like my ex.”

Any coach or self-help guru will point out that the Universe is going to ignore the negative, and move in your direction that thing that you are focusing on – i.e. poverty, folks who smoke, and partners who are…well, whatever you decided
you didn’t like about the last one you were with.

The mind responds to what is being focused on.

But, (and I’m going against conventional thinking here) the mind does not simply negate the negative.


Spend about five minutes saying, “I am not wonderful!”

Okay – unless you are tapping, don’t really do that. Hopefully just reading the suggestion you thought, “I don’t want to do that!”

Why not? If the unconscious mind doesn’t hear negatives, wouldn’t you be filled with a great feeling as the mind simply picks up the words “I am wonderful”…?

Couldn’t we authentically experience joy by walking around proclaiming, “I’m not happy, and I don’t want to be happy”…?

Do children find themselves happily consuming vegetables as their unconscious flips their statement, “I don’t like broccoli!”…?


The unconscious mind is not simply hard of hearing.

The problem with negative desire statements is not that the mind can’t hear or understand the negation, but that it is looking for a feeling to focus on, and so builds with the material it is given. The reason “I’m not happy” doesn’t turn into “I’m happy” is because the mind understands the lack of happiness
it is a feeling it knows well – and it finds the opposite.

But what feeling comes from the lack of smoking? Just talking about smoking brings up the unwanted feeling – there isn’t a clear opposite that is triggered. The mind doesn’t so easily put it together that, “If this guy doesn’t smoke, he must then be committed to his own physical health, and takes care of himself,
and will likely take care of me, and that feels very good!” Because that isn’t an automatic conclusion.

Same with the question of wealth or a partner’s qualities. Speaking of what isn’t wanted only brings up the negative feelings that the mind can easily identify – it is not naturally inclined to go looking for the feeling that is desired.

It is great advice to create desire statements that don’t contain negatives, but not because the mind simply can’t understand the negatives.

Ask something about the qualities they truly love about anything or anyone, and you are unlikely to get a string of, “Well, it isn’t this… he/she isn’t that…he/she doesn’t do this…”

Recognizing what you don’t want can be a great start, but in creating powerful desire statements, you need to then figure out what you do want in the absence of the unwanted traits. You need to discover what would easily inspire good feelings
in you – because it is the good feeling you are ultimately looking for.

If you aren’t clear on what kind of partner you do want, and only say that you don’t want a partner who smokes, you might just as well leave out the partner as the cigarettes.

Ask yourself, “What do I really want? What do I believe would feel really good?”

Or you could try asking, “What do I really not want?” - since the mind is just a simple tool that can’t recognize negatives.


And despite how this article comes across, I am not really meaning to criticize the “conventional wisdom,” but to encourage you to be clear about what you are doing and why, rather than accepting that this is just the way it is. It is simply accepting rules in this way that got most of us in trouble in the first place…!

You deserve the experience you want – focus on what you believe it might be, and be open to the fact that the Universe may have something even better in mind.

Author's Bio: 

Brad likes to think of himself as an Evolution Catalyst. He is known internationally for his work with Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT). Brad has worked with a diverse group of clients, from CEO's to professional and NCAA athletes, from award-winning actors to clients in social service programs. He has been a presenter at a number of events, including Jack Canfield’s “Breakthrough to Success.” He is the co-author of the best-seller "Freedom at Your Fingertips," and is a featured expert in the EFT movie “The Tapping Solution” and has partnered on teleseminars with Joe Vitale and Bob Doyle of “The Secret.”