Books, CDs, and articles by
Dr. Charles Henderson, a leading researcher and authority on self-hypnosis.


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Subliminal Messages—a Brief Overview

The word "message" is misleading when it comes to talking about subliminals. An otherwise simple  message like, "Go to the store and buy a quart of milk" is much too complicated to be a subliminal message. More accurately, the "messages" in subliminals are actually signals. See the answers below  for clarification and my book for even more information.  But here's the bottom line: subliminals cannot make you do anything and they are completely safe. Their sole purpose is to get the subconscious part of your mind to pay closer attention to the suggestions being made.

What do your subliminals tell me to do?
Nothing. At least, not directly. The subliminals act as attention getters and emphasizers. They get the attention of the subconscious and give importance to conscious messages, such as those that compose the suggestions used in hypnosis.

Are suggestions more powerful when they are presented subliminally?
No. Actually, in most cases, they are not as effective as ordinary suggestions. Now, don't let this confuse you. It's just that the subconscious mind is not responsive to subliminal commands or complicated messages.

Only certain, very limited messages are effective, and they are effective ONLY in this way: They have the effect of saying to the subconscious, Listen up, what's being said is important.

(Please note the distinction here between regular suggestions—that is, carefully crafted, complete statements or sentences—and subliminal imbeds, which are composed of a very narrow set of one- and two-word phrases.)

 Think of subliminals used in this way as signals, rather than messages. Like the flashing lights at a railroad crossing. The alternately blinking lights signal the approach of a train. In the same way, certain subliminals signal to the subconscious mind that an important message is on the way. The subliminal signals don't change the suggestion in any way, any more than the train signal changes the train.

Can subliminals make me lose weight (quit smoking/study better/etc.)?
This is actually the same question as the ones that precede it and the answer is the same. No. Not directly. A subliminally embedded suggestion like, "You will never again eat French fries" would not be nearly as effective as consciously presenting the same suggestion to the accompaniment of proper subliminals. These "proper" subliminals have been identified through years of painstaking laboratory and clinical research.

Are subliminals illegal?
No. A lot of people think they are, but they are legal in every state of the United States and, so far as I know, in every other country in the world.

Do magazines and other media use subliminals?
Some would say so, yes. They used to appear pretty obvious in places like full-page magazine advertising. However, I have not spotted any for several years. If they are still being used, they are quite subtle. If you'd like to know more about this, read Subliminal Seduction or The Clam-Plate Orgy by Wilson Bryan Key. (Note: Both of these books are currently out of print so you will have to find them in libraries or in used book stores.)

Can subliminals hurt me?
No, but they can be mildly upsetting to a very small fraction of the more sensitive among us. In my own research involving hundreds of subjects over the years, I found that roughly one in a hundred people would at first be mildly upset by some of the more powerful subliminals. But they usually quickly got over it. No one ever reported to me any serious disturbance, nor am I aware of that happening in other research.

What are the subliminals on your CDs and tapes?
Words that are vitally important to the subconscious mind. They are not messages in themselves, just words and brief two- or three-word phrases that are potent attention getters for the subconscious mind, and that emphasize the importance of the conscious messages being perceived. (See my comments above about signals.)

The words are reversed (try doing that on your home tape recorder!) because it is immensely important that the hearer not consciously recognize the words. Within the very limited domain of verbal signals that work as subliminals, the more they are camouflaged (to the conscious mind), the better. They are still heard by the subconscious. And, yes, the subconscious does recognize reversed words in its native language. The words must, however, be recorded in regular pronunciation first and then the recording reversed.

(We discovered in my research that some very good hypnotic subjects can, while in a trance state, speak in reverse! However, when their reversed speech was recorded, and then the recording played backward to "un-reverse" the words, it didn't sound like ordinary speech. That's because it is not possible for the human mouth to accurately make reversed-word sounds.) Ω