What Is Subliminal Self-Help?

Kay Paddock

Subliminal self-help involves the use of the subconscious mind to improve life. Self-help books, videos and audio programs often talk about what is holding people back and what they can do to overcome problems. These are usually very direct programs of self-improvement. Subliminal self-help takes an alternative approach that the conscious mind does not need to hear such instructions directly. Instead, the instructions and affirmations are embedded into an audio recording that the ear cannot understand but that the subconscious mind, according to many enthusiasts, understands and remembers.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

Various forms of subliminal messaging have been around for decades. Of the many self-help techniques available today, subliminal messages can seem like the least work. Hypnosis is also effort-free, but many people object to the idea of being hypnotized, or they do not believe it works. With subliminal messaging, the person is typically awake, at least at first, but the message can supposedly continue to inject itself into the subconscious, sleeping mind as well.

Using subliminal self-help is typically as easy as turning on a recording before falling asleep, and then leaving it on for at least a little while. Original subliminal self-help was done on vinyl LPs, then cassette tapes, and later CDs. Today's self-help programs are usually on CDs or are MP3 audio recordings that can be replayed by a number of popular devices. Additionally, visual programs may have images that flash so quickly that only the subconscious can pick up on them.

Many popular self-help program recordings mimic sounds of nature. A rushing brook, wind over fields and sometimes even rainstorms play at a level a person can hear. Someone speaking affirmations and saying things that are designed to help retrain the brain toward different ways of thinking are recorded separately. These tracks are added in such a way that the ear cannot hear the speaking, but the subconscious is supposed to absorb what is said. The things being spoken are intended to cause different behaviors, attitudes and thoughts about the covered topics.

Effective self help changes behaviors by reminding a person of what he should be doing instead. Subliminal training is supposed to start working very quickly because it allegedly changes a person's attitudes about what he is doing. Common uses for subliminal self-help include quitting smoking, losing weight, gaining more confidence and self-esteem, and finding love. Much like clinical hypnosis is supposed to work, subliminal self-help works at affecting change through persuasion on a non-conscious level.

There is little scientific evidence indicating that subliminal self-help works, or that the subconscious mind can even pick up on the messages being spoken. This entire category of self help is filled with controversy and debate. Self-help books, self-help support groups and other self-help strategies may work better for some people. Those who have used subliminal training to improve their lives, however, will often sing the praises of subliminal tapes. At the very least, most experts agree that there is no harm in trying subliminal self-help recordings, even if there is no clear benefit.

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