You already know about switchwords, you just didn’t know they were called that.
Switchwords are words with special superpowers.
What’s their special power?
They address your subconscious mind, which usually doesn’t deal in words (emotions are its currency). That’s your non-thinking mind, and it’s responsible for a helluva lot. Although it lacks the sophistication of the newer cortex, if we want to change anything, we gotta get that fella on side.
So switchwords might be the ultimate in mind hacks. Isn’t that interesting?
Here is what you need to know about your brain on switchwords, and how and when to use them.
Meet your brain
First let’s visit your brain via the triune model developed by American neuroscience Dr Paul MacLean. We have not one, not two, but three brains.
Reptilian brain – evolved 250 million years ago, which is also precisely when it stopped changing.
This part of the brain is real primitive. It does not learn from experiences; it repeats programmed behavior over and over.
The reptilian brain evolved for survival. It controls basic functions necessary for life, such as breathing and reproduction. It has no feelings.
Mammalian brain – evolved about 50 million years ago. This part of the brain contains feelings and emotions, but it is inarticulate in communicating these feelings to the conscious mind. It is influenced by things that have emotional impact on us. It stores that shit, because it also is concerned with our survival.
When it senses things are ok on that front, it is concerned with helping us to thrive.
Your reptilian and mammalian brain makes up around 92% of your brain.
Cortex – the part you identify with. According to Carl Jung, it is about 40,000 years old and is still evolving. The conscious mind does not begin to develop until about age three and is not fully developed until about 20 years of age. That is very important to remember. I’ll tell you why below.
In contrast to the subconscious mind, which evolves its value system through emotions, the conscious mind evolves its value system through rational interpretation of experience.
How our brain messes us up
As you can see, there are vast differences between our three brains. Because of these vast differences, “the three brains are often dissociated and in conflict.” No kidding.
When the emotional part of our brains was developing in the early years of our lives, we did not have a rational, mature conscious mind to filter out negative programs and select positive ones we will need as adults.
Adding insult to injury, we have no idea that these programs are scuppering us, because they were developed at such an early age we have no conscious memory of them.
Author Ken Keys said “the new brain, the conscious mind, will analyze problems and come up with rational solutions, often without the vaguest idea what is taking place in the old brain, the subconscious mind, which is governed by non-rational feeling…that is the crux of our problem. The poor communication between the old and new brains creates problems in everyday life.” Quite the predicament.
What are you using and when?
To give you an idea, let’s compare some functions of the conscious and subconscious mind:
Conscious mind Subconscious mind
Age New Older than your greatest grandmother
Size Puny Massive
Sight Sees Blind as a bat
Communicates Words Images and feelings
Cognitive process Logical Illogical
Time Past, present & future Present
Willpower Will Power
Functions Voluntary Involuntary
Ability to multi-task Non existing It’s awesome at it.
Memory Limited Unlimited
Who is calling the shots around here?
The conscious mind is still the cleverest (most evolved). There are just certain things it can’t do. So it needs to know itself.
The conscious mind is where all the effort happens. It’s from the conscious mind that you engage discipline and will. The subconscious mind is positively lazy by comparison. In fact conscious effort, no matter how well intended, only impedes the subconscious mind.
When the conscious mind and subconscious mind are in harmony, you have willpower. You are ‘single-minded.’
Alas when the conscious mind and subconscious mind are in conflict, there is no willpower. You are ‘dual minded’. You might know consciously that you are competent and have self worth. But if your subconscious is storing a different story, well then, no bueno.
The subconscious mind has the power to dominate, but it is not as smart as your conscious mind. We simply need to make it our servant and not our master. It can be done.
So how do we tame this well intentioned, but potentially problematic little monkey?
3 steps to getting the subconscious mind on board
Three rules, all of which are simple but not easy:
- We manage our thoughts. We need to work our muscle for directing our attention. It’s good old mindfulness and meditation again.
- We make the unconscious conscious. I’m talking about detecting limiting beliefs.
- We embrace painful emotions. Emotions are the language of your subconscious mind. The subconscious mind needs permission to experience the complete range of emotions we feel. For that to happen, we need to remain empathetically connected to ourselves and have compassion whilst experiencing difficult emotions. I have written about how we actually do that here. I also chat about it here.
We have been taught that painful emotions are in some way bad or need to be chased away. That is wrong. Pain is very instructional. When we deny it, we miss out on letting it guide our actions.
For as long as we continue to deny negative emotions, our subconscious can’t release us from it’s main aim for us to survive. So there really is no way around this I am afraid.
Switchwords – short circuit to the subconscious mind?
Back to the beginning then.
Certain words may have the power to communicate with our subconscious minds directly.
Although neurologist Sigmund Freud first introduced the idea, James Mangan was responsible for getting this on the map in his book The Secret of Perfect Living.
Mangan created a psychological system slightly resembling transcendental meditation, in which readers were encouraged to engage their subconscious minds and obtain specific mental states by focusing their attention on mantra-like one-word affirmations called switchwords.
Liz Dean has written the modern manual on the subject. I encourage you to read it.
Before using switchwords
Before you use switchwords, you need to be clear on what you want (if you aren’t sure, there is a switchword for that! It is TOGETHER).
Understand that the role of switchwords is to create the conditions for success – you still need to do the work. You are simply priming your subconscious, instead of your usual routine of ignoring its power and neglecting it.
Will switchwords work for you?
There are universal switchwords that work for 95% of us. There are also experimental ones, open ones, and personal ones that work just for you.
To test your receptivity to a switchword, do a kinetic muscle test.
How to use switchwords
You say them – out loud or in your head – until you get the result you need, or you sense what’s blocking you. It could be ten minutes or a few weeks. The idea is that you build the habit of saying them into your day.
And you don’t need to wait for there to be a problem. You can use the master switchword TOGETHER to align your subconscious and conscious mind to help you to ensure that you are on the same page.
Switchwords can be used for every day stuff (helping the day go smoothly) or to support yourself with larger challenges including health and relationship issues.
There are various techniques you can use (for e.g. writing switchwords on cards), but the most basic is just to say the words. Try saying them in sets of 10, 28 or 108.
If you are curious about using switchwords and don’t know where to start, try these 5:
TOGETHER: the master switchword, bringing you TOGETHER as one, so your conscious and subconscious beliefs are aligned. Chant TOGETHER, and you’ll also begin to sense what’s blocking you. Prefix other switchwords with TOGETHER, and you also empower the switchwords that follow.
REACH is like the ‘find’ function on your computer, helping you find lost objects.
DIVINE brings you a miracle.
BE-DONE to speed up a request. Add it to the end of any Switchword phrase, such as TOGETHER-DIVINE-COUNT-BE-DONE
DIVINE ORDER to put anything in order, organize or help you pack for a trip.
Other useful ones
GIGGLE gets you in the mood for writing. To hit a writing deadline: GIGGLE-DONE.
AROUND to get perspective on a situation.
ADJUST to improve mobility or mood.
ALERT – to increase awareness and be mindful.
CHANGE to deal with pain.
BLUFF to reduce anxiety.
CURVE to feel beautiful.
JEWEL to reduce fear.
ELATE to shift your mood upwards.
GUESS to make a decision.
STRETCH to prolong a good mood or run of luck.
CRISP to get mentally sharp and focused.
BUBBLE for energy and go beyond perceived limitations.
CARE to retain information.
CRYSTAL for mental clarity. Good for reading.
LOVE-CHARM brings you your heart’s desire.
ON to put travel plans into action and to make a journey speed up.
CIRCULATE to banish loneliness.
DEDICATE to stop clinging.
HELP to stop procrastination and uncertainty.
OFF to get to sleep or break a habit.
SLOW to have patience and wisdom.
WATCH to learn a skill.
WOMB to feel nurtured.
ZEN to get into a meditative state.
To recap: you just chant them out loud, under your breath or in your head. At least 10 times just to make sure. If you do it at a regular time or times throughout the day, then you won’t forget.
If you want to make shifts happen, you gotta rally that genie within. Switchwords might offer one invaluable way of doing that.
Given that it takes barely any time and you have to say something to yourself anyway, switchwords are a useful tool to add to your personal change game.