Why Auto-Suggestion and Affirmations Do Not Work

Autosuggestion, or affirmation as it is also known, is not something new. I believe most of us have been aware of it since our teenage years, but have either not really understood it or never used it.

The mind has two parts: the conscious part which does all the thinking, and the subconscious part that absorbs information and uses it to control most of our daily lives. The subconscious solves problems and directs action, so when we (for example) decide to visit somewhere or cook a meal, we visualise what we want to do and our subconscious takes over, like a guided missile aiming directly towards what we visualised, using the skills and information we already know to get the job done. That is how you can drive somewhere without being conscious of the journey.

Everything you do happens in the mind first. This is fact: you cannot do anything unless you think about it first.  So even though we know that’s how it works, why doesn’t it work when we consciously try to use it to change something?

In order to change something, our subconscious mind needs to be reprogrammed. Although there are several ways to achieve this, the only way that does work (if it is done properly) is auto-suggestion and affirmations.

So why don’t auto-suggestion and affirmations work for most people?

1. Not done often enough

For auto-suggestion or affirmations to work they need to be done several times a day, every day, without fail. They also need to be written down rather than just said out loud or thought in your head.

2. Lack of faith

If you don’t believe it will work, you will send mixed signals to your subconscious mind. It is like telling a friend about a great new thing, but following it up by saying you’re not sure whether it’s actually that good: your friend is not going to take you seriously.

3. Failure to use emotion

Your subconscious mind reacts to emotion more than anything else. Too many people attempt affirmations and just read them out in a monotone voice, expecting the subconscious to wake up and listen. That won’t work, it won’t take a blind bit of notice. Your subconscious does not care about anything unless it makes you feel either good or bad.

4. Too similar to current thinking

The brain stores everything in patterns. For example, whenever it sees a yellow item, it will have a preconceived pattern or template for ‘yellow things’. It will then combine that pattern with other characteristics of the item like smell, feel and taste. These combinations of patterns become incredibly complex, but the brain can still organise them efficiently. This is why it is so difficult to answer correctly when you see the word blue written in green and you are asked to say what colour it is. The brain is wired to categorise everything to make later retrieval as easy as possible.

If the pattern is similar to what your subconscious already knows, it will try to fit it into the old one, or adapt it very slightly for an easier fit. This is how we end up calling our current partner our ex’s name when they do something very similar. It is not because we are thinking of the old partner, it is because our brain is looking for patterns.

5. Do you really want to change it

Any affirmation or auto-suggestion is done based on something you want to change. Unless you really want the change to take place, your subconscious mind will read the mixed messages and deny the change to keep you in your safe zone. The brain is lazy, and it won’t change unless you actively want it to. This is particularly true if you are trying to enact a change in yourself that somebody else wants.

We all use affirmations and auto-suggestion constantly on a daily basis which is proof enough that it works, but when you learn how to use this tool on a conscious level you will realise the immense power it has. The power of auto-suggestion and affirmations can be used for positive and negative outcomes – being aware of this power will give you the ability to achieve virtually anything you want.

Take this 30 second quiz – HERE to see if autosuggestion or mind movies will work with you.

13 Responses

    1. Hi Raymond, thank you for your question.

      I believe affirmations work, it is that simple. We use them all our lives without realising it, everything we say to ourselves repeatedly we become and that’s what we believe.

      So the best thing we can do is change what we tell ourselves.

      Affirmations are one of the best ways of doing this.


  1. You say that lack of believe can be the problem. How do you solve it? I find really confusing telling myself something that I want to believe but is opposite what I really believe

    1. Great question, and not easily answered.

      I suppose the best place to start is understanding where your beliefs and opinions come from. Are they really yours? Who gave them to you? What age where you when you started believing them?

      When we realised that our beliefs are nothing more than I thought, they are not concrete and they come and go we then have the awareness that they can be changed.

      What would happen if you lost all your memory? Would you still have those beliefs? You could then rewrite new ones easily.

      So my advice would be this.

      Every time you have a belief, really consider whether it is actually true, or it’s just a thought you’ve built over time.

      So when you do affirmations, enforce them. Just repeat them with a feeling, a positive feeling and allow them to penetrate deep.

      Feel free to get back to me if you don’t make any progress.


      1. Hi Steven

        what do you think about, that if you repeat it often enough, you will slowly start to believe in it, even if you don’t believe it at first?

        I would compare it to ,,self-propaganda”. Hitler also used propaganda to make millions of people slowly believe that jewish people are bad. So even though it does not seem realistic at first and you don’t believe it, by enough repetition you’ll start to believe and that’s the magic isn’t it?

        1. Hi Seraza,

          Thank you for your comment. What do I think about if someone keeps repeating the same thing again and again? We are some of our habits, so if we have the same thought going on again and again eventually we will believe it. We will also live up to that thought. So if you have a thought that something is going to go wrong, you will subconsciously in time sabotage the one thing we are worried about going wrong. It is like fulfilling a self prophecy.

          Everything becomes a relative truth if we believe it. And very often people find others that agree with their thoughts which then make the thoughts even more concrete. It is like the way the conspiracy theorist gather together.

          It can be used for good or bad, we just have to be careful and always be critical of what comes into our minds. Even if it makes sense to a current opinion, it does not mean it is true.

          This is the essence of waking up.

          Thank you for the question.


  2. Hi Steven,
    I first discovered affirmations in a book, called Think And Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.
    His method required you to not only want something, you had to set a timeline and you also had to state how you would contribute to the request.
    I landed a £100k a year job by using his book.
    I did feel a bit silly, repeating with feeeling, my daily mantra. My neighbours must have wondered what was going on.
    However, it did work and it convinced me that, with thought and feeling, one can make things happen.
    Just be careful what you ask for.

    1. Hi Julian, I felt exactly the same way with affirmations. And I still do sometimes now, but I do them anyway and my life feels better so something is working.

      I love that, just be careful what you ask for. Yes indeed!

  3. Hi Steven,
    My first contact with this theme was fifity years ago with the book “Secrets of Mental Magic”, by Vernon Howard. After, I met Napoleon Hill, Anthony Hobbins, etc. But my results have been very poor. I believe that cause of the fail was my lack of focus on the subject. But the game is not over yet. I`m returning to this subject with increased will. Is this, the way?

  4. Hello Steven,

    May I know, from the below two options, using which auto-suggestion will be more effective –
    1) I am becoming more responsible day by day.
    2) My first name (Andrew), be more responsible day by day.


    1. Hi Andrew, that’s a really interesting question.

      Although this answer would seem like a cop out, it really does depend on which one you feel most. Affirmations and auto suggestion are more about the feeling and the intention rather than the actual words. So if you feel closer to I am becoming… And it feels more comfortable then that would be the one to go for.

      You could try placing your hand on your heart, taking a deep breath between each one, and see how that feels.

      Let me know.

  5. I’ve been recently reading Think and Grow Rich and it has inspired me to dedicate time everyday doing autosuggestion. I am just curious as to how many different ways I can penetrate my subconscious. I know you’re supposed to repeat a sentence while mixing it with emotion and I can feel the emotion in me the first few times I repeat my sentences, but after a few more times the emotion just isn’t there and the Mantra looses meaning a little bit (J’aime Vu?), so instead of repeating one thing, I go into a ramble or deep expression as to say how capable I am, or how important I am, or whatever thought I want to stimulate and penetrate my subconscious. Thankfully I’m able to control positive/optimistic emotion while speaking, but is this still as effective as saying one thing over and over?

    1. Hello,

      Yes that’s a great book. I believe it’s inspired many many people. Including myself.

      It comes down to what is most comfortable, your subconscious mind learns in two ways. Repetition and emotional impact. So if you can get the reputation and feel it deeply, you have the best possible chance of upgrading the way your subconscious sees things.

      If you say the affirmations or a mantra without any feelings it is going to have little impact.

      So, I would focus on generating the feeling rather than the technicalities of the sentences. I hope that makes sense.


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