Are you a Law of Attraction Belieber?
If so, there’s a core theme in The Power of Your Subconscious Mind summary that might resonate with you.
To be honest, I’ve always been rather sceptical of the whole manifestation movement, and so it was with trepidation that I picked up this book.
However, Dr Murphy covers many psychological approaches that, since the book’s publication in 1963, continue to be preached today.
So, if you’re looking to shed negative or disempowering beliefs and need to some reassurance about the whole process, this little self-help classic might be just the ticket.
Let’s dive in.
The Power of the Subconscious Mind Summary
In the book, Murphy talks at length about the power (and underutilisation) of the subconscious mind.
He first draws on the examples of two types of people; that which he calls the magnetised man, who’s full of confidence and courage and the demagnetised man, who’s full of fear and doubt.
“[The magnetized] man will not get very far in life because, if he is afraid to go forward, he will simply stay where he is. Become a magnetized man and discover the master secret of the ages.”
This, according to Murphy, is largely a conscious decision and we all have the power to decide the type of person we wish to be.
Murphy asserts that the subconscious mind, which is responsible for success, is ultimately programmed by our thought and beliefs.
“All your experiences, events, conditions, and acts are the reactions of your subconscious mind to your thoughts. Remember, it is not the thing believed in, but the belief in your own mind, which brings about the result.”
In this way, he likens us to gardeners planting seeds of thought in our subconscious minds.
When we sow positive thoughts, imbued with the vision of the person we wish to embody, we can “reap a glorious harvest.”
Thinking, he suggests, works by cause and effect and it’s essential, therefore, that we take charge of our thoughts.
When such thoughts are deposited in our subconscious mind, it will get to work, bringing “about harmonious conditions, agreeable surroundings, and the best of everything.”
And here’s a point that really resonates…
Murphy states that most of mankind lives in a “world without”, while more enlightened beings are immersed in the world within.
By focusing on our inner states, such as “thought, feelings and imagery”, we can influence our external reality.
In similarities to Maxwell Maltz in Psycho-Cybernetics, Murphy infers that the subconscious mind simply follows the orders we consciously input.
It will, therefore, govern our reality impartially, depending on the information we feed it.
“Your subconscious mind is amenable to suggestion. As you know, your subconscious mind does not make comparisons, or contrasts, neither does it reason and think things out for itself. This latter function belongs to your conscious mind. It simply reacts to the impressions given to it by your conscious mind. It does not show a preference for one course of action over another.”
Thoughts and Beliefs
Hence, our beliefs and language have to be monitored carefully.
“As long as you persist in saying, “I can’t afford that car, that trip to Europe, that home, that fur coat or ermine wrap,” you can rest assured that your subconscious mind will follow your orders, and you will go through life experiencing the lack of all these things.”
If we start to use negative language, we should reverse it immediately to implant positive messages into our subconscious. Like a captain guiding our ship and we must provide the correct orders for our subconscious mechanism to function.
We should also seek to impart our wishes with feeling and emotion.
“If you want to write a book, write a wonderful play, give a better talk to your audience, convey the idea lovingly and feelingly to your subconscious mind, and it will respond accordingly.”
And here, frequency becomes important, with the “repetition of constructive, harmonious thoughts.”
Furthermore, it’s important to note that the conscious and subconscious minds must be aligned.
“You must remember that a suggestion cannot impose something on the subconscious mind against the will of the conscious mind. In other words, your conscious mind has the power to reject the suggestion given.”
[Note – This is perhaps why positive thinking on top of negative beliefs won’t work. We must break the stranglehold of negative thoughts first for the following techniques to be effective.]
So, if the power of subconscious suggestion is so strong, why aren’t we all living fantastical lives?
Murphy attributes this to our childhood and the frequent barrage of negativity we face as adolescents from well-meaning parents and peers.
“If you look back, you can easily recall how parents, friends, relatives, teachers, and associates contributed in a campaign of negative suggestions. Study the things said to you, and you will discover much of it was in the form of propaganda. The purpose of much of what was said was to control you or instill fear into you.”
To be fair, much of this suggestion takes a form of protection and our parents’ desire to reduce the emotional impact of failure.
However, the book suggests we must unlearn this unintentionally adopted mindset.
“Unless, as an adult, you use constructive autosuggestion, which is a reconditioning therapy, the impressions made on you in the past can cause behavior patterns that cause failure in your personal and social life.”
And this does seem like an all too common phenomenon. We are often vessels for the thoughts and feelings of others, absorbing their opinions and constructing our thoughts based upon their worldview.
By giving our mental consent, we give their suggestions power. But Murphy reminds us that we have the ability, with reflection, to choose our own inputs.
Often where we go wrong, however, is through indecision. If we conclude that we’re confused and don’t know how to think or act, we neutralise the power of our autosuggestion.
In contrast, if we choose to believe in positive results in the present, happiness follows.
“When you are seeking an answer to a problem, your subconscious will respond, but it expects you to come to a decision and to a true judgment in your conscious mind.”
Even if we do feel intimidated by the task at hand, by choosing to reframe the situation and placing faith in our subconscious mind, we can create a new reality.
Similar to the practice of mindfulness meditation and examining our thoughts and beliefs as impartial observers, Murphy cautions against becoming over-identified with the ego and the concept of self.
Without the requisite distance from these mind-made concepts, he says, it can be hard to influence our emotional lives.
“If you say, “I,” to all negative thoughts, you are identifying yourself with them, and you cannot separate internally from them.”
Murphy suggests that we often live in our thoughts and feelings, becoming habituated to negative reactions by external events.
The antidote to this, he recommends, is self-observation, where our attention, rather than being fixed on externals, is directed inwards.
“Self-observation is the means of interior change—the change of the heart.”
Murphy notes that we are the sum total of our thoughts and beliefs, which in themselves, are the sum total of our cultural conditioning and environmental programming.
Rather than reacting by default, we must realise that nothing can control or perturb us without our mental consent.
Create Your Reality
Murphy even talks about the relative unimportance of objective reality in this process.
“The object of your faith be real or false, you will nevertheless obtain the same effects.”
This is reminiscent of the Henry Ford quote, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.”
Your thoughts and beliefs make real that which is in your mind, even prior to becoming tangible on an objective level.
Murphy likens the process to hypnotic suggestion.
“What do you believe about yourself, life, and the universe? It is done unto you, as you believe.”
Murphy asserts that any method that moves you towards a mental state of expectancy will heal, promoting visualisation as perhaps the most effective method.
“Develop a definite plan for turning over your requests or desires to your subconscious mind. Imagine the end desired and feel its reality. Follow it through, and you will get definite results.”
By painting the picture “as if it were alive” creates the kind of mindset that believes the image is already a reality.
Imagining what you want to happen becoming a reality is a way to make that same reality manifest.
It’s as if we’re playing a mental movie in our minds.
In this way, we can foster a deep acceptance, moving the image from our conscious mind into the subconscious where it then goes to work.
There must be a kind of certainty that you are moving in the direction of your vision.
According to Murphy, such techniques work well on the subconscious mind when we’re in a drowsy state, just before sleep, when we’re more impressionable.
In so doing, we can enter a relaxed, dream-like state, devoid of effort so as to convey our idea.
“The reason for this is that the highest degree of outcropping of the subconscious occurs prior to sleep and just after we awaken. In this state the negative thoughts, which tend to neutralize your desire and so prevent acceptance by your subconscious mind, are no longer present.”
Such points are reminiscent of what the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls the flow state, which itself can seem like an effortless focus on our task.
“Man is what he thinks all day long.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
Murphy states that overthinking, worrying and anxiety all have a detrimental effect on our physiological processes, which in turn disrupt our subconscious mechanism.
The antidote to this, an in mindful meditation, is to simply “let go, relax, and still the wheels of your thought processes.”
Most frustrations and anxieties, Murphy asserts, are due to unfulfilled desires. In this way, dwelling on obstacles will simply block our subconscious from working effectively.
During this process, it’s essential not to succumb to fear.
If you’ve been anxious throughout your life, you possess a kind of mental blueprint to identify anxiety and lack in your surroundings.
This is the kind of “Tetris Effect” that Shawn Achor refers to in his book “The Happiness Advantage”.
Such identification simply makes the negative in your environment more noticeable and serves to attract more of the same into your life.
According to Murphy, we would be best served by changing our blueprint.
“Get a new blueprint; build silently by realizing peace, harmony, joy, and good will in the present moment.”
We should also, according to the author, question the veracity of our beliefs, especially those which may impinge on our vision for the future.
Rather than becoming a victim, any real challenges we do face along our path should be embraced.
“Problems are life’s way of asking you for an answer. The greatest joy and satisfaction is in overcoming, in conquering. Life would become unbearable and unendurable if we did not experience change.”
As such, obstacles are simply growth opportunities.
The Subconscious Mechanism
All of our aspirations for a better life originate in our subconscious.
“Your subconscious speaks to you in intuitions, impulses, hunches, intimations, urges, and ideas, and it is always telling you to rise, transcend, grow, advance, adventure, and move forward to greater heights.”
We simply need to avoid doubt and worry and instead of planning every little detail, embrace a surety of mind.
Murphy suggests that, although our intellect will try to obstruct us, we must maintain child-like wonder and faith, imagining our emotional end state that slices through all red tape.
When we detach our minds from the sense evidence of our current situation and focus on our vision, our creative mechanism can thrive.
Indeed, striving and effort often result in the opposite of our desire. The simple art of releasing the mind reveals the way.
“Do not believe the story that the only way you can become wealthy is by the sweat of your brow and hard labor. It is not so; the effortless way of life is the best. Do the thing you love to do, and do it for the joy and thrill of it.”
Some of the greatest figures in history, according to Murphy, have trusted in the power of their subconscious to guide their work…
“Long hours, hard labor, or burning the midnight oil will not produce a Milton, a Shakespeare, or a Beethoven. People accomplish great things through quiet moments, imagining that the invisible things from the foundation of time are clearly visible.”
Murphy states that wealth is a subconscious conviction which we must build into our mental reality.
These writings are reminiscent again, of the abundance and scarcity mindset, which is often referenced in manifesting circles.
“The feeling of wealth produces wealth. Keep this in mind at all times.”
Wealth, according to Murphy, isn’t attracted through hard labour or envy, but springs from our subconscious.
However, we must first put aside any doubts or superstitions about money, as in the author’s words, what we condemn, we can never attract.
There is a caveat, however, in that making money the sole purpose of our life will invariably result in emptiness and dissatisfaction.
“By making money your sole aim, you simply made a wrong choice. You thought that was all you wanted, but you found after all your efforts that it was not only the money you needed. You also desired true expression of your hidden talents, true place in life, beauty, and the joy of contributing to the welfare and success of others.”
In accordance with many other spiritual teachings, Murphy infers that the accumulation of wealth should be a by-product of other, more nurturing and fundamental activities.
The Three Steps to Success
Love Your Work
“The first step to success is to find out the thing you love to do, then do it. Success is in loving your work.”
When you love your work, you dive into it, the world melting away in the pursuit of your craft.
Which reminds me of this amusing post I saw recently on the socials:
And if you don’t know what to do? Murphy suggests asking for guidance.
By proceeding with faith and confidence, ideas appear via hunches, intuitions or “as an inner silent awareness.”
When we love our work, Murphy suggests that we should identify a particular branch in that pursuit and learn as much as possible, becoming a leader in the field.
Instead of merely “getting by”, we should attempt to master our work to serve the greater good.
This third step is arguably the most important.
Our love of work cannot be couched in selfishness should instead be motivated by a cause beyond ourselves, one which ultimately serves humanity.
In this way, we do not simply focus on our own accumulation of wealth, but our desire to serve others.
This reminds me of the famous Viktor Frankl quote,
“For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself.”
If we do have difficult decisions to make along this path, Murphy states that we must be free from fear and worry to do our best, most critical, thinking.
The Happiness Choice
In the book, Murphy asserts that happiness is merely a mental construct and that the feeling can be fostered if only we truly desire happiness.
In contrast, he says that many of us have developed the neural predisposition for unhappiness.
“There seems to be a peculiar, mental, morbid streak in many people, whereby they seem to enjoy being miserable and sad.”
Again, such a view of life often boils down to a matter of perspective.
If we constantly search for what’s wrong in our environment, we’re certain to find it, and moreover, attract more negative experiences.
For example, is that difficult person at work really obtuse or are they simply reflecting your own mental state?
As Marcus Aurelius said,
“Choose not to be harmed — and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed — and you haven’t been.”
In this way, we almost become our view of the world…
Our lives are simply comprised of the cognitive experiences projected in our minds, which subsequently alter our thoughts and beliefs.
We just have to see different people responding to the same situation and how one person may react positively, while the other may feel defeated.
The Stoic philosophers of ancient Greece provided similar instruction, that changing our perspective, we change our lives.
In order to improve our mental outlook, we must start by monitoring and editing our thoughts.
“React and think in a new way. You want to be peaceful, happy, radiant, healthy, prosperous, and inspired; therefore, from this moment forward you must refuse to identify with negative thoughts which tend to drag you down.”
When we begin to alter ourselves from the inside, our external environment shifts accordingly.
And here’s the thing…
“It is just as easy to imagine yourself successful as it is to imagine failure.”
The core message in The Power of Your Subconscious summary is that to believe in something is to make it your reality.
“This is why Paracelsus said in the 16th century, “Whether the object of your belief be true or false, you will get the same results.”
And that we must use our inner creativity to mould our external world.
“As a man imagines and feels, so does he become.”
Whatever we give attention to grows, and our lives are but a mirror reflecting our beliefs.
But these teachings aren’t a one time deal, cautions Murphy.
The productive seeds of sustained imagination must be planted in the mind many times before they finally take root and grow.
So, begin now, by choosing your thoughts and changing your reality.
Notes and Review
This book draws many parallels with titles such as Pscyho-Cybernetics, and later, many in the positive psychology arena.
There are certainly seeds of wisdom contained in the text, covering topics such as positive thinking, visualisation, reframing, and mindfulness, all techniques that are still being studied (and recommended) today for their efficacy.
The main issue for me was that, while the message in the book is quite clear and simple, Murphy repeated it ad infinitum. While some readers might appreciate the core message being repeated for effect, I found it a little unnecessary.
And as far as real-world results? It’s difficult to say how effective such a technique is from the anecdotal stories alone.
This is why I’m performing my own experiments with visualisation and mindfulness, methods I would encourage readers to trial themselves.