In his book, Priming: Programming the Mind for Habit Change and Success, Clifton Mitchell, Ph.D. explains how the mind turns experience into habit. 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 do things like walk slower, buy fries and act ruder by a simple word stimulus. We are constantly being primed by influences in our environment and Dr. Clifton urges us to take this phenomenon 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 developed to those words. Thinking about the problem, such as “I want to be less socially anxious” will 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 is 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.
Linda Paulk Buchanan, PhD, is the Senior Clinical Director Walden’s programs in Atlanta. Dr. Buchanan is a licensed psychologist who has been treating individuals with eating disorders since 1983. She received her Master’s degree from the Psychological Studies Institute (now known as Richmont University) in Christian Counseling and received the 1999 Distinguished Alumnus Award for her work in founding ACE. Dr. Buchanan then went on to receive her Ph.D. from Georgia State University doing a residency at the Medical College of Georgia. In addition to overseeing clinical operations for Walden’s Atlanta programs, Dr. Buchanan leads a number of groups and provides individual, couples and family psychotherapy. Dr. Buchanan has developed and published a model for the treatment of eating disorders. She has conducted various research projects, including the diagnosis of eating disorders, personality variables and coping resources of individuals with eating disorders. Dr. Buchanan has been active in training other psychologists and mental health professionals in the treatment of eating and anxiety disorders. Her related specialty areas include anxiety problems, family and couples therapy and group therapy. She enjoys helping clients use and integrate their faith in the recovery process.