There are many physical laws that we live by. Jump off a building (that’s not a suggestion!) and you’ll experience the physical law of gravitation. As we have physical laws there are also mental laws. These laws are just as real and we can use them for either our benefit or detriment. When it comes to the mind, especially the subconscious mind, one of the most important mental laws to get to grips with is ‘The Law of Reversed Effect’:

The Law of Reversed Effect states; “The greater the conscious effort, the less the subconscious response” or understood another way “Whenever the will (conscious mind) and imagination (subconscious) are in conflict, the imagination (subconscious) always wins.”

It’s helpful to understand that the subconscious is infinitely more powerful than the conscious and it is your ‘inner protector’. Its primary function is to prevent you from getting hurt and it learns and remembers rules and behaviours in order to do exactly this. These rules and behaviours are created from emotional responses to events which, more often than not, occurred in childhood. Each situation that reminds the subconscious of the childhood event gets treated according to the rule that was created back there, back then. This rule is then reinforced and becomes a habit, something you just do automatically without thinking.

The Law of Reversed effect means that any conscious, will-driven attempts to change the habit (the subconscious automatic response), get ferociously resisted, because that would mean abandoning the ‘rule’ (the subconscious learning). Because the subconscious mind wants to protect you it’s not about to abandon that rule because then ‘you will get hurt’. So when you try to change the automatic habit response, it is regarded as an attack by the subconscious, and is resisted. The more pressure you apply the more resistance is generated. This is the Law of Reversed Effect.

Every client that comes to see us is presenting with a ‘subconscious’ problem. If the problem were a conscious one they would have decided to change it there and then and done it. They might consciously want to do something or stop doing something but their subconscious has very different ideas. This has often gone on for many, many years with the client believing that if only they try harder they will be able to change it, but of course the harder they try the more stubborn the issue becomes. They are often extremely frustrated at not being able to master their issue and move forward using sheer will alone, but this is exactly the Law of Reversed Effect at play.

A great example of this is the insomniac. Sleep is an entirely subconscious process, and ‘willing’ yourself to or ‘trying’ to sleep has exactly the opposite effect. The more you grit your teeth to ‘get’ to sleep the more awake you become!

The Law of Reversed Effect has an incredibly potent effect on our self-talk too, and It’s important to know that whatever we tell ourselves we must or mustn’t do, feel or think the opposite occurs. ‘I must sleep’ leads to a night of tossing and turning, ‘I mustn’t feel anxious’ will reinforce that anxious state.

The wonderful thing with Hypnosis is that you can bypass the Law of Reversed Effect by making powerful and positive changes without trying.

Imagine trying to find that previously familiar anxious feeling, but finding it has simply gone. In fact, the harder you try to find that feeling the harder it is to remember what it actually felt like. By shifting the subconscious focus we can easily start to utilise the Law of Reversed Effect in a positive way.

Using conscious effort to make changes, can be futile and let’s face it more than a little ‘trying’. True change resides in the subconscious…and when motivated in the right way it can occur with very little effort indeed.


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About Zoë Clews

Zoë Clews is the founder of Zoë Clews & Associates and is one of the most successful and sought-after hypnotherapists working in the UK today. She has spent the last 17 years providing exclusive, highly-effective hypnotherapy treatment to a clientele that includes figures in the public eye, high net worth individuals and professionals at the top of their careers. An expert in all forms of hypnotherapy treatment, Zoë is a specialist in issues relating to anxiety, trauma, self-esteem and confidence. She works with nine Associates who are experts in their own fields and handpicked for their experience and track records of success, providing treatment for an extensive range of conditions that include addiction, weight loss, eating disorders, relationships, love and sex, children’s issues, fertility problems, phobias, Obsessive Compulsive Disorders and sleep issues.  She takes inspiration from her own emotional journey and works with both individuals and blue-chip corporates who want to provide mindfulness support for their people either on a regular or occasional basis, or as part of an employee benefit scheme.