April 9, 2016 by Angus
How to “engineer” your reality

Putting 100 People Through Pain For Science?

Several years ago, I attended a conference on pain management.

One of the most interesting presenters had the conference audience undergo an experiment, live.

What he did with the audience of more than 100 people was this.

He divided the room up into two groups. Each group was separated from the other. They also had a unique white board for each group. It was covered with a sheet to hide what was written.

In addition, the presenter gave each member of both groups a cup containing ice cubes.

The instructions were quite simple.

When he gave the go-ahead, each member in both groups had to empty the ice cubes into the palm of their hand. They then had to close their palms around the ice cubes, tightly, for two whole minutes.
But before he gave the go-ahead, he removed the sheets on each white board to reveal a list of phrases.

Now, on the first group’s white board was a list of “negative” connotation phrases like this:

  • “this is doing me damage”
  • “this is getting more and more uncomfortable”
  • “I cannot do this much longer”

Their list was also written out in red letters.

On the second group’s white board, the list was different. It included “positive” connotation phrases like this:

    • “this feels nice and soothing”
    • “this is cool and healing”
    • “this is an interesting experience”

Their list as written up in green letters.

The presenter requested the groups to read through their relative lists of phrases for a period of time.

Then, he asked the groups to take the ice cubes into their palms, holding them tightly for two minutes. They were also asked to continue reading their list of phrases during the two minute experiment.

When the two minutes were up, all participants were asked to empty what was left of the ice cubes back into the cup. They also had to mop up any droplets of melted ice with paper towel.

And the results …

When the experiment come to an end – as far as the groups were concerned – the presenter asked each participant in both groups to rate their level of “peak pain” felt during the two minutes on a scale of 0 to 10.

The results, of course, were interesting.

For the first group that had been asked to read the list of “negative” phrases in red letters, the average pain experience rating was 8 out of 10.

For the other group who’d read the list of “positive” phrases in green letters, the average pain level was rated at 5 out of 10.

So, for those who’d read phrases associated with “uncomfortableness” and “damage”, the peak pain experienced seemed to be higher.

On the other hand, for those who’d read phrases associated with “healing”, “cooling” and “curiosity”, the peak pain experience was lower.

The participants in both groups were, in general, quite surprised at the results.

It seemed to be a remarkable practical example of how directing our thoughts and attentional focus in specific directions can have a material impact on our interpretation of physical experience and reality.

The take-home message here …

The results of this experiment suggest that perceived physical sensations may not be an entirely objective reality.

Our reality may be able to be influenced by carefully directing our attention and thought processes.
Going back to our fear of visiting the dentist, we could say that those people who “just get on with it” have directed their thoughts and focused their attention on other things than the pain they perceive they’ll feel when the dentist starts drilling. For those who “freak out at the thought”, perhaps they’re fixating on phrases like:

“this is going to hurt, a lot”
“I’m not going to handle this at all”
“I can hear that drilling sound in my bones and scull and …”

Are you ready to engineer your reality?

So which white board do you look at most on a day to day basis?

Perhaps you wake up in the morning to a long list of negative phrases in red letters.

Or maybe you wake to a green list of positive phrases.

Why not spend some time consciously chosing to “craft” and “read” an energizing green list each morning,

… and see what happens!


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