The Intuition Network, A Thinking Allowed Television Underwriter, presents the following transcript from the series Thinking Allowed, Conversations On the Leading Edge of Knowledge and Discovery, with Dr. Jeffrey Mishlove.


JEFFREY MISHLOVE, Ph.D.: Hello and welcome. Today we're going to examine the topic of mind power -- that is to say, to what extent can we take charge of our lives, set goals for ourselves, and consciously, deliberately move towards those goals, thereby transforming our lives through the power of our own mind? With me is Dr. Bernie Zilbergeld, a psychologist practicing in Oakland, California. Dr. Zilbergeld is the author of Male Sexuality, The Shrinking of America, and Mind Power. Welcome, Bernie.

BERNIE ZILBERGELD, Ph.D.: Glad to be here, Jeff.

MISHLOVE: You know, in one of your earlier books, The Shrinking of America, you conclude on the note that it's good for people to accept their limitations, to be aware of what we can't do, and to feel good about that -- to realize that to be human is to be limited, and that even the greatest achievers in our culture, the Einsteins, the great geniuses, all had terrible faults, terrible problems, and that people have to accept this. It seems to me that the theme of Mind Power is almost saying that we don't have to accept any limitation. We can set a goal for ourselves and move towards that goal if we really work at it. I wonder how you feel about that. Has your thinking changed at all over the years?

ZILBERGELD: Not really. I don't see a contradiction. It's true the tenor of the two books is different. I mean, the tone of The Shrinking of America is more pessimistic and cautious. It's saying, in contrast to what all these shrinks on television are telling you, you'd better watch out. You can't get all that stuff, and they themselves even know that. Mind Power looks at a different aspect -- what do we have that works? I do acknowledge in Shrinking there are things that work. And here we say -- actually, this book was cowritten with Arnold Lazarus -- here is something that really does work. Here is a group of techniques, also called self-hypnosis at times, although we discuss why we don't want to use that phrase -- visualization, imagery -- here are ways of taking charge of your mind, training your mind. But there are still limitations. The subtitle of Mind Power is Getting What You Want Through Mental Training. We don't say "getting your quick fix by reading this book."

MISHLOVE: It's not by magic.

ZILBERGELD: No, and the training we discuss is very disciplined training. Mind power itself is the systematic and disciplined use of mental resources or capacities we all have, and that most of us don't use at all or use very well. But disciplined use, training. We give examples of athletes who do this mental imagery -- Arnold Schwarzenegger, Greg Louganis, Mary Lou Retton. They do it every day for years. Now, it may only be a few minutes a day, but every day. And there are still limitations. The time you spend doing X, reaching goal X, cannot be spent reaching goal Y. You know, the last person who could do everything, in my mind, was Thomas Jefferson, and he died a long time ago. You can't have everything. The time you spend losing weight, you can't also spend writing or being more assertive or stopping smoking or whatever it might be. The time you spend making a million dollars, you can't spend painting a great picture, or painting any picture.

MISHLOVE: How many goals do you think a person can work toward at one time?

ZILBERGELD: Not very many. If you're having certain problems, if you're more on the deficit end, probably to tackle one problem at a time may be it. I don't want to set up any strong and fast rules, because some people have worked on more than one. But you can't have twenty goals at a time -- well, you can; you can have five hundred. I've never seen anybody work effectively at more than a few. If somebody has a big goal -- let's say, on the positive side, "I want to make a million dollars" -- which, by the way, is the goal of a lot of people these days -- you probably can't have a lot of other big goals of that size at the same time. You will dissipate your energies, your capacities, your discipline, and you will end up achieving none of them, probably, or you'll do a sloppy job on all of them. I think the number of goals we can work for are limited, and in the people I've seen and also read about, who have achieved great things, they kind of accepted that some things they would never achieve, and they let those lay by. I think it is a dangerous myth, very dangerous, to think you can have it all. You might be able to have a lot, but not all.

MISHLOVE: One of the things that you suggest in your earlier work -- and I think it's worth getting at the skeptical side of things -- you suggest that maybe change is a myth as a whole, and you look at some of the strongest examples, like Korean brainwashing --

ZILBERGELD: Which doesn't work at all.

MISHLOVE: Right. Or the Army. The Army tries to change people, and has total control over their whole life, and yet studies showed that in World War II only maybe twenty percent of the soldiers who were in combat actually fired their guns when they were ordered to do so.

ZILBERGELD: People are not half as malleable as we like to think. On the other hand, when people are motivated, or at least interested -- "I would like to make more money; I would like to be kinder to my children, or firmer with my children," or whatever it is -- when people are motivated, and they have some good techniques -- I'm a great believer in techniques -- there is at least a decent chance, a halfway chance, they can get what they want. If they're disciplined as well as motivated, then there may be an excellent chance. And with the proper techniques. From my way of thinking, and also what the research shows, if you go around having wonderful psychoanalytic interpretations from your analyst or yourself as to why you're doing X, Y, and Z, your chances of getting what you want are kind of small. On the other hand, the techniques in Mind Power, were not developed by psychologists, by and large, and that's one reason I love them. These are techniques developed and refined in the real world of experience -- in athletics, entertainment, politics, business, whatever. They work for a lot of people who are well motivated and who use them regularly, and they do work, and you can see the results not in laboratory studies, although they have been replicated there. But when Greg Louganis can keep on getting perfect tens in international competition -- nobody's ever done that before. And he gives a lot of credit to the visualization he does every day and before every event. By the way, talk about discipline: before he gets on the board -- I mean, he's the greatest diver of all time, no question about it -- before he gets on the board, while he's sitting there waiting for his name to be called again, forty times, four-oh, in his head, he goes over the dive he wants to do. That's mental rehearsal. He's setting up what athletes like to call a mental blueprint. Actually Bill Russell, the great basketball player, that was his term for it, setting up a mental blueprint. There is evidence that that's a good way of thinking about it. You are actually setting up something in the nervous system. This is physiology. And there's evidence that that in fact does happen, so that your body will follow the blueprint in your mind and produce that kind of dive. That type of evidence to me is incredibly impressive. Now, do most of us have the discipline or the motivation of a Greg Louganis, an Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Mary Lou Retton? No, but we don't need that much. If we have enough to get us to do this every day, every day to practice seeing ourselves in a different way -- seeing ourselves giving an interview or conducting an interview, giving a talk, talking to our children. You know, so many people are so negative. We all talk to ourselves; I'm sure you'd accept that. We're constantly talking: "You're an idiot. You moron. You never say the right thing. You're probably the worst interviewee who was on his show" -- whatever. We keep beating up on ourselves.

MISHLOVE: To learn how to stop those negative thoughts, that's part of the discipline.

ZILBERGELD: And replace them with more positive thoughts. And if you practice that every day, one day, it might be a few weeks, a few months --

MISHLOVE: Now, how do you stop? If you've got a habit you've been doing for the last thirty years -- you've got negative thoughts, you worry, you complain, you deprecate yourself; your parents, your grandparents did that, your friends all do it; you turn the TV on, and people are putting each other down in the situation comedies; your boss does it -- how do you stop that?

ZILBERGELD: Well, if you've been doing it that long, there's no hope, I guess -- just a joke. You stop it, first of all, by recognizing what you're doing. One thing I suggest is people carrying around a little tiny notebook -- you buy them at the grocery store for seventy cents -- in their purse or their pocket for a week. Every time you notice yourself putting yourself down, or your therapist or spouse or kids say, "Gee, Dad, you're doing it again; you just called yourself a schmoe," or whatever, make a note of what you did, just so you can have a representative picture.

MISHLOVE: You have to recognize what you're doing.

ZILBERGELD: Yes, you have to recognize what you're doing. A lot of people who are very self-deprecating don't recognize it. I mean, you point it out to them -- I think I pointed out in Mind Power an example that I've had many times, where someone will carry around this notebook for a week or two and won't write anything in it. They say, "I don't put myself down. You're wrong about that." And then in the next twenty minutes, they'll give thirty examples. And then I point it out to them. I say, "What was that? You're doing it again. Look at that, look at that." You get a picture of it. Then you start developing arguments for each one, or you change each one. By the way, this is part and parcel of what's called cognitive behavior therapy, and also Albert Ellis' Rational-Emotive Therapy. You start noticing, what are you doing to yourself -- all the catastrophizing and blaming and awfulizing and whatever -- and then you start changing them. You either argue with it and say, "Hey, wait a minute. That wasn't a bad interview. It's not the best I've done, but that was a fairly good interview." Or, "Well, I still don't talk to my daughter Susie the way I'd like to, but I'm really getting better at it, compared to what I was six months ago." In other words, you give yourself credit wherever you can.

MISHLOVE: Try to replace the negative thought with a positive one.

ZILBERGELD: Right. The bottle is always half full and half empty. It makes a great deal of difference which side you're focusing on. You try to focus on the more positive. But it's realistic. There's no bull here. There's no telling yourself lies. If you blew the interview, you blew it. If you lost -- whatever, thirty dollars on the stock market -- then you lost it, you don't lie about it.

MISHLOVE: But it doesn't mean that you're a stupid, dumb person necessarily. It may just mean you made a mistake.

ZILBERGELD: You made a mistake, and you still want to see it more positively than even that. You know, studies of successful people, real high performers, show they do not weigh themselves down with failures. In fact, a lot of them won't even use the term; they say glitch or mistake or error or whatever. They look at them, they learn from them: "What can I learn from this? You know, I don't really have time to play the stock market, and for me to put any money into it is really stupid. So this is a good experience. Yes, it cost me three thousand dollars or whatever, but what I learned is, I'm not going to spend my money that way. The good old B of A is good enough for me at their six percent."

MISHLOVE: In other words, you try and assume that anything bad that happens to you, happened so that you can learn something from it.

ZILBERGELD: That, or something else. You put the most positive face on it whatsoever, because that's as true as any other interpretation and is the most productive and constructive.

MISHLOVE: And as a psychologist, what I hear you saying is you don't regard positive thinking as being just airy-fairy, wishy-washy, woo-woo stuff.

ZILBERGELD: There are several kinds of positive thinking. The kind that denies reality is exactly what you said. This faces reality head on. One of my best examples is Lee Iacocca, an incredibly positive thinker and incredibly successful human being. When he went to Chrysler, stupid positive thinking would be to say, "Gee, well, there's no problems here. Things will get better." The company would have been bankrupt. He looked at it head on. He said, "We've got a mess here, folks. We are in serious trouble." The positive part was, "We will overcome." And that led him to a unique solution. No one in his position had ever asked the United States Government to guarantee bank loans. It was a unique solution, and by being a solution, it worked. Chrysler is now a very successful company. You face reality head on. The positive part is you know you're going to triumph, and you do. Another part of sophisticated positive thinking is you don't assume that only positive thinking is what's needed. You know, Arnold Schwarzenegger did not give up weight lifting or practicing acting in order to sit around doing exercises like in Mind Power. He did the exercises so that his weight lifting and acting and all that would be more effective. Greg Louganis did not give up diving. Iacocca did not give up making cars. You use the mental processes, the mental exercises, to make your other work more effective, but you recognize. There were a lot of books -- Joyce Brothers wrote one a few years ago, something like How to Get Whatever You Want Out of Life, and said if you sit around and think of having a million dollars, you'll have it. Bull! If you think about ways to do it -- if you use imagery, visualization, positive thinking, and that reinforces and strengthens the things you're actually doing to make money

-- you may get the million dollars. But just sitting and thinking about it is not going to do you any good.

MISHLOVE: I think people often develop negative thought patterns because they've had bad experiences in their lives. For example, if a person's been robbed many, many times, they may be afraid to go outdoors even if it's safe. How does one overcome that?

ZILBERGELD: Well, we've all had negative experiences. I mean, a person without negative experiences doesn't exist beyond the age of one second. It depends what it is. One thing you can do is actually visualize yourself going out and not being robbed -- you know, having a good time. You can also remind yourself -- studies have shown people tend to remember the negative, especially negative thinkers, and they just gloss over the positive. Think about the nine million four thousand four hundred and eighty-two times you went out and weren't robbed, and just look at how much weight you're giving this one time you were.

MISHLOVE: Do you have to be able to visualize in mental pictures in order to do this?

ZILBERGELD: No. Visualization is of course a visual word. You have to represent reality in some way. It can be with sounds, it can be by feel, it can be a sense. Some people can even taste and smell, but very few. But you have to represent it. When I say imagine, when I use the word imagery or visualization, I'm doing it wrongly. That's not the way to do it, although that's the way we tend to think about it. You have to represent it in some way. Some people can't see a picture in their mind whatsoever, but they can feel it, and that will work just as well. Here again, my great thrust has always been you've got to consider the individual you're working with, or the individual that you are or that I am. I happen to be a person who can see very clearly in my head, but musicians often can't see. They can hear. I mean, Mozart and Beethoven could hear what they wrote before they wrote it, and once they could hear it, it was done.

MISHLOVE: Say I want to set a goal for myself -- let's say a simple thing, like, "I want to go outside and have a good time," and I try and visualize that. Now, maybe in my brain, because of my old habits, I visualize it, and all of a sudden something bad happens. What do I do, start over? Redo it?

ZILBERGELD: Well, one thing I found that works incredibly well, and it sounds too simple, but you can go try it, is just to tell people, "This is your mind. You can control it. We have all sorts of studies, all sorts of testimonials. What I'm asking you to do is have a positive experience in your mind. Imagine yourself walking down the street, talking to neighbors, going to the dance or store or whatever, all positive, just for one minute here, no negative imagery. Can you do that, Jeffrey?" My guess is two or three go-arounds with that, and you will find you can actually do it.

MISHLOVE: So it might take a little practice.

ZILBERGELD: Yes, two or three go-arounds. A lot of people don't understand that you can actually control the mind. I'm not saying you can control it a hundred percent. You can control it a lot.

MISHLOVE: It goes right against everything that Freud said about the mind.

ZILBERGELD: Well, Freud had some interesting ideas. You know, Freud was wrong quite a bit. We used to think that feelings were primary, that we couldn't do anything about that. Like if you're depressed or anxious, well, you just have to talk about it, express it, whatever. The great cognitive revolution was to realize that feelings are a product, a reflection, a result, of the mind. The mind controls them. Is this one hundred percent true? Like everything, no, but it's true often enough that it is a revolution. You cannot feel depressed without a whole supporting cast of negative thoughts and images in your mind. Change those thoughts and images and you won't feel depressed. Will you feel ecstatic? I don't know, but you won't feel depressed. The same with intimidation. Intimidation has certain job specs, all feelings do, and these specs mainly operate in your mind. If you change what's in your mind, either content or structure, you change the feeling.

MISHLOVE: Well, I would assume that it's easier for some people to do this than others.

ZILBERGELD: Of course.

MISHLOVE: For example, if a person's been traumatized, it may be harder.

ZILBERGELD: Of course, sure.

MISHLOVE: And they may need to practice more -- that's the way to overcome, say, a trauma?

ZILBERGELD: Well, not only practice, but there's one word we haven't used at all, and you and I of course both know it, and that's relaxation. One way to make these techniques more effective, and especially when there are real strong feelings or trauma, is relaxation. If you can get relaxed first, and God knows we have plenty of ways -- Arnold and I sell tapes with our book, other people sell tapes. There are some very quick ways of becoming relaxed, and again, you need to practice those ways. It may take you several days, several weeks, or even several months, but if you can get relaxed and then imagine yourself going out and having a good time, or going out and making money, or talking differently to your children, or whatever it might be, the chances are much improved that that's exactly what you'll do.

MISHLOVE: And I gather that the key here is when you're visualizing or imagining or creating this program in your mind, you want to set it up as if you have accomplished, or are accomplishing, the very thing that is your goal.

ZILBERGELD: Well, those are actually two techniques. One is imagining the goal, another is imagining the means. What I like to do with imagining the goal is not imagining yourself accomplishing it, but how your life will be different after you've accomplished it. It's an incredibly powerful motivator for people.

MISHLOVE: Feeling like it's already been done.

ZILBERGELD: Yes. Let's say a person wants to lose weight. Not only imagine yourself looking real wonderful in that bikini or whatever bathing suit at the beach, but the real practical things. Imagine how great it is to go into Saks or wherever you shop with no embarrassment at all -- I mean, just the positive feelings. You say, "Gee, let me try that thing on, this dress and that blouse." That is so powerful to so many people that it can really help. Mental rehearsal, what athletes have made so popular, is you imagine yourself doing what needs to be done to get there -- like Greg Louganis imagining his pefect ten-and-a-half gainer, or whatever it is; me imagining giving a wonderful talk. You imagine doing what is required to do. But the techniques of mind power are probably infinite. There's all sorts of things.

MISHLOVE: One of the things that you wrote about that I found most appealing is the idea of the inner guide, or even a committee. You mentioned one fellow who decided he would like to put together a committee of some of the most famous people in history to advise him with various issues in his life.

ZILBERGELD: That was Napoleon Hill. Yes. Actually, Mahatma Gandhi used to take a day off every week -- I was a political science major in college, not psychology, and I did my honors thesis on Gandhi, and this is one thing that intrigued me about him. He would take a day off a week and wouldn't talk to anybody that day. He was listening to his inner voice, and that was the same as the inner guide or whatever. Your mind is malleable; that is the part of the world that is almost totally malleable. If you want to create an inner guide, or a committee, or different guides for different parts of your life, I know people who have a medical guide or sort of a well-being guide, they have a financial guide, they have a political guide. And you can choose whoever you want. You can choose people dead, people who've never lived, to advise you on whatever you want. Now of course it's all part of you, but it's a different way of gaining access to parts of you that otherwise you may not be able to gain access to at all, or this may be a better way of accessing them. Since you said you liked that one, let me tell you about one of my favorite techniques, and that's what we call recalling past successes. We've all had successes. If nothing else, you've learned to tie your shoes, or to talk, or to walk, or something, and most people forget about these things. Successful people don't. They remember. One of the best examples is not in the book because I got it after the book was being published. The head of a large corporation in San Francisco, one of the biggest corporations in America -- I'm not at liberty to say what -- has in his office a scrapbook of his biggest accomplishments. He calls it his victory log. Whenever he's not feeling the way he wants, he's not feeling up, or he's faced with a difficult meeting or negotiation, he closes off his door, tells his secretary no calls, flips through the pages, and he settles on one great accomplishment. Then he closes his eyes and relives it -- the time that he closed that deal, whatever it was. What he's doing is psychically pumping himself up. We all have this. And you know, as the feelings of power and confidence and strength reach their peak, he goes out to do battle again, and you can see he'd be a very formidable adversary. All of us can do this, and it applies to anything. If you wake up in the morning and you don't feel the way you want to feel -- let's say I woke up on the wrong side, but I've got this interview today, I want to be up for it -- what's the best way to change feelings? You can change your feeling. Recall the time when you felt the way you want to feel. I don't mean just a split second. Get into the feeling.

MISHLOVE: Relax a little bit first.

ZILBERGELD: Where were you? Who was there? What were you wearing? Who said what? What was the temperature? You know, really recreate it. We're talking about all of two, three, four minutes. And you will notice -- your viewers are of course free to try this at any time; I hope they will -- you'll notice your feelings start shifting toward the way it was then, which is the way you wanted to be now. It's just like hypnotists have known for a long time one of the quickest ways to hypnotize somebody who's been hypnotized before is to ask them to describe in detail the other experience. One of the quickest ways to get relaxed is to recall a time -- most of us have had those times often when we were children on the beach -- a time when you felt relaxed. You know -- recall the warm sun on your body, the warm sand under you, the sound of the waves breaking, the smell of cooking hot dogs. All of a sudden you realize you're feeling more relaxed.

MISHLOVE: So much of the key to mind power, in effect, is to deliberately not remember the bad events, and deliberately to remember the good ones.

ZILBERGELD: There is fairly good research that people who are successful and content and happy and all of that, do the opposite of what other people do. They remember the good events, they forget the bad ones; whereas depressed people, negative people, the people we have a hard time being around, tend to forget the good events. You know, I think denial of bad events is a very important way of staying sane.

MISHLOVE: I don't even view it as denial. The way I think of it is, here we are in the present, and I have the power to carry with me into the future those experiences from the past that I choose. Some of them I'll leave in the past.

ZILBERGELD: I think that's a great way of looking at it, Jeffrey. That's why you are a successful and, I assume, a happy person, relatively speaking. Right. Which suitcase do I want to take? Do I want to take the ugly, stinky, lousy, rotten, failure one, or do I want to take this cheerful one? And this sounds simplistic, and in a way it is, and yet it makes a difference between a good life and a not so good life. And also, there is research behind this

-- that people who are neurotic and depressed and all that, they just focus on the half empty part, the ugly part, the mean part, the failures; whereas the other people -- you know, most successful people have had more failures than anybody else. People don't seem to realize this. Abe Lincoln failed many times, Harry Truman failed many times, all the successful financiers failed.

MISHLOVE: They try more things. They go bankrupt sometimes.

ZILBERGELD: They try more things, they fail more times. They just forget. They learn what they can, and they move on. You know, there are other people who thirty years later can't get over missing a pass in a high school football game, or being turned down for a date by a boy or girl in eighth grade. It's still dragging them down. In fact, there was a movie made about that. I can't remember the name of it, but it was about a guy who's in his thirties and his whole life is being weighed down because he missed the pass in a high school game. The only way he can move on in life is to replay the game, which in the movies is possible. In real life it's not possible unless you want to do it in your mind.

MISHLOVE: Well, what you're suggesting is that we have the power in our mind to choose. We're in control of what baggage we're going to carry around with us.

ZILBERGELD: Yes, and if you're tired of the depressing movies you're showing in your mind and all the depressing sound tracks, choose something different. Play "Chariots of Fire" instead of some funeral march.

MISHLOVE: I gather that you recommend for this purpose the use of all kinds of tape cassettes and the various hypnotic type tapes that are available.

ZILBERGELD: Well, hypnotic only means focused attention. I do recommend tapes. A friend of mine, Cory Hammond at the University of Utah, has done some research on tapes which backs up my clinical research, which I like fine. People find that tapes are extremely useful for training the mind at the beginning, and then they get to a point where they don't need the tapes anymore. If you don't have the tape, you're in the funny position of having to split your mind. You have to tell yourself what to do, and then do it. So I have to say, "Bernie, take some deep breaths. OK, Bernie." And then I take the deep breaths. Then I have to say, "Now, Bernie, why don't you imagine yourself writing that great book, or running that great race, or whatever? And as you do imagine that, Bernie, blah blah blah. . . " That splits the mind in a way we don't want it split at the time. It's far better that you're just kind of passive, listening to a tape, which could be your own voice. You can make your own tapes, and in Mind Power we give directions for doing that. They work much better.

MISHLOVE: Then eventually it just sort of becomes second nature to give oneself those suggestions.

ZILBERGELD: Yes. I hardly want to hold myself out as the greatest exemplar of mind power, but I know whenever I go to give a talk now, on my way to it in the car, on the plane, on the bus, whatever, I am going through it in my mind. I don't tell myself to do it, I just do it. It's automatic now; I certainly don't need the tape anymore.

MISHLOVE: Well, Bernie Zilbergeld, it's been a pleasure having you with me. You know, I can tell from the joy and the excitement, the enthusiasm that you bring to this topic, that you are a person who is really living with the kind of mind power that you talk about and write about. Thank you very much for being with me.

ZILBERGELD: What a wonderful compliment. Thank you, Jeffrey.


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