Priming: Programming the Mind for Habit Change and Success, Clifton Mitchell, Ph.D.

Book Review by Linda Buchanan

In his book, Priming: Programming the Mind for Habit Change and Success, Clifton Mitchell, Ph.D. explains how the mind turns experience into habit which then becomes very automatic or subconscious. Describing and applying the science behind this, he teaches his readers how to harness this natural brain function to increase control over what becomes automatic thus breaking bad habits and creating new ones.  Priming research has demonstrated that people can be influenced to walk slower, to buy fries, and to act more rudely by a simple word stimulus. We are constantly being primed by influences in our environment and Dr. Clifton urges us to take this phenomena under our own control and prime ourselves to automate whatever we consciously desire through developing and focusing the mind on preferred dominant thoughts.

The method he describes for developing a dominant thought to prime the mind in the desired direction is simple and easily applied. The effective dominant thought will be a positive action that is worded in the present tense. It will also be focused on small changes that can be personally controlled. Dr. Clifton explains how the subconscious mind moves you in the direction of the dominant thought because of all the associations that have been created to those words. Thinking about the problem, such as “I want to be less socially anxious” will simply bring up all the associations already formed to those words. Thus the effective dominant thought would be “I smile and make eye contact with others.” He includes a fascinating discussion comparing and contrasting dominant thoughts to affirmations and positive thinking and makes a convincing argument that when the latter are successful, it is because they are meeting the criteria stated above. He concludes with specific suggestions for using his approach with various problematic behaviors. Some readers who are already familiar with priming and brain functioning might want to read the last chapters first.  I highly recommend this book as I’ve already found the technique helpful in my own life and effective with my clients.

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