Why conscious choices fail

Why conscious choices fail

In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to talk about why conscious choices often fail and reveal the real power of choice.

First a quick update:

“Stop self-sabotage
Listen to the controversial interview I give to Jim Peake of MySuccessGateway.com about the real reasons we engage in self-sabotage, find ourselves enslaved to destructive & unhealthy relationships or we constantly experience repeated patterns of failure, and, the link to the Law of Deservedness.

Now, let’s talk about the power of choice – the freedom to choose and the only two types of choices that exist.

Recently, I was having dinner with a friend, Joe and his friend Maria – an intelligent, young woman who just turned thirty. Maria was expressing to me some of her challenges – feelings of guilt and her inability to freely express herself physically in a relationship. “I am full of guilt; I am screwed up”, Maria said. During a lengthy conversation, Maria also told me that she had attended a college course which she believed changed her life. In that course, she said she learned the power of choice. “Everything is about choice”, she exclaimed, almost with a sense of pride.

“Okay”, I said. “So why did you tell me a moment ago that you are screwed up? Why don’t you just choose to be happy and physically free?”

“I am trying?”

“Trying? Why are you trying? Why don’t you just choose? Remember, Yoda said ‘We do or we don’t do – there is no try!’”

“You don’t understand, Patrick.”

“I do understand. You just told me that choice is the answer – everything is about choice; so, why don’t you just choose to be happy?

“Well, I am happy; I just want to be happier.”

“Okay, so why don’t you choose right now to be happier?”

By now, Maria was becoming frustrated and annoyed, and stumbling for words, she blurted out “Oh, you don’t get it.”

“Maria, I do get it. And you are right. Power is the ability to choose; and yes, I teach that the key to emotional freedom is choice. But, you are making one mistake; a very important mistake. You think that the only choice that exists is conscious choice; willpower.”


Yes, willpower. And if willpower were the answer to taking charge of our mental state, our emotions, behavior or bad habits, then we would all be happy by now. In fact, so many of us become so frustrated and disillusioned because we try so very hard to change the way we think, feel or behave using our willpower and we seem to fail almost every time.”

“Are you saying I am not trying hard enough?”

“No. Not at all. You are simply trying to make a choice with the wrong part of your mind and that’s the reason you are left feeling so frustrated. There is a constant battle between your conscious mind (your willpower) and your subconscious mind (your imagination and emotions.)  So for you, Maria, your conscious thought is “I don’t need to feel guilty when I am with my boyfriend. I am an adult now” but your subconscious mind delivers the guilt with your mother’s voice “Maria you are bad and you should be punished for doing that.” And who wins? Your subconscious mind wins every time. So, yes, choice is critical, but you are not making the choice; your subconscious mind is making the choice. So if you want control of your choices, you must control your subconscious mind.”

Maria was relieved to hear that choice is power and that she could control her choices – although it would take a new form of action and a new process. She would need to work at a subconscious level.

It’s critical to understand that there are only two choices – logical ones and emotional ones, and, the emotional choices always win out.

All self-defeating and self-destructive behaviors are driven by emotions and the desire to escape, deaden emotional pain or emotional crisis, or to try and revive feeling when one has become numb to life. In Maria’s situation, she was turning to alcohol and other substances to try and avoid the pain of guilt over her behavior and the inability to feel good when she was feeling good, unable to enjoy feeling good. And whenever Maria tried to use her willpower to act in spite of her deeper feelings, she was still left with that horrible, paralyzing guilt that robbed her every time of joy and feeling good.

There are times when willpower is appropriate, when the answer to shifting our behavior is simply acting in spite of what we feel. But those occasions are often limited to what I call surface emotions (low intensity emotions) – such as comfort and laziness. And willpower can be a great tool to use when it comes to learning self-discipline but again it is limited depending on the circumstances and situation.

For example, maybe you are relaxing on the sofa and you notice it is time to take out the trash or time to get up and do some exercise. Comfort and laziness says, “I prefer to be doing what I am doing” and so you continue to stay where you are. In this case, willpower (or your nagging partner) overrides and says “Just do it. Do it now.” And voila, you push yourself, and you get up. Thus willpower and conscious choice is powerful for breaking out of your comfort zone but not for conquering deep-seated emotions or ones of which you are not even consciously aware.

The high-intensity emotions are the ones that are not easily conquered via willpower or conscious choice. High intensity emotions are usually connected to fear based emotions – anger, rage, guilt, shame, revenge, rejection, humiliation and so forth. Further conscious choice almost never overrides subconscious beliefs.

So in Maria’s case, the nagging guilt and the subconscious fear of punishment override her conscious choice to be happy or her willpower to be happy. And Maria’s subconscious belief (instilled and programmed by her mother) that physical connection with her boyfriend is bad also wins out over her attempt to use force and willpower to create a new opposite belief.

High intensity emotions can also be connected to the desire to avoid pain and move towards pleasure. For example, I was working with a client Jane who consciously, (logically) knew that in order to meet a partner, she needed to go out, but subconsciously, (emotionally) she chose to stay inside because she feared rejection or humiliation and that when she would meet someone, he might treat her the way her former partner did – which resulted in pain.

The answer for both Jane and Maria is to change their perspective about the past, give new meaning to events of the past and, to give them the power to make new choices at a subconscious level. For example, with Maria, the answer is to help her to subconsciously choose to create new laws and standards for herself, by accepting her mother, forgiving her mother, choosing release the guilt, accepting herself without trying to get mom’s approval and by creating new beliefs. And yes, these are all choices – made at an emotional level.

If you would like more support to release the past and make better choices, use my guided visualization and hypnosis audio program.

If you would like to comment on this newsletter, click here. If you have received this newsletter as a forward and would like to receive all of my newsletters please enter your email address on the home page.

I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”

Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & Clinical Hypnotherapist

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5 replies
  1. Avatar
    Des Sherlock - Rethink Perfect says:

    I think that a more powerful way to resolve these subconscious issues Partick is by going back to the source. That is if our perents are still alive we should discuss what ever issue is bothering us and at least try to resove it. I did this for over 20 years and it allowed me to develop a whole philosophy that I now call Rethink Perfect! Living with the desire to be always right. Wha tI found is that yes I had inherited my parents desire to be always right and rather than fighting it learning how to channel it into a more positive force for change, enlightment and simply understanding of what makes me and my parents tick.

  2. Avatar
    alli says:

    Golden! This article is a back to the basics one: emotions and the subconscious, the intangible and invisible that dictate our lives. Well, this post did motivate me to take out the Patrick Wanis cd’s I had and put them by my desk to listen to at night. Now, I just have to use my willpower (to play it at night) to get to my subconscious, lol.

    I think a lot of it is that people get stymied because detoxifying oneself emotionally is dirty work. People have to understand that it’s okay to feel bad feelings about people you love (parents, family, friends) and about yourself…then come up with the solutions.That G-d isn’t going to hate you for acknowledging your dark feelings. It’s obviously something you do in private (and with the help of a professional, if needed) and then you can move on.

    We let religion and authority figures (parents, religious leaders, bosses, “experts,” etc.) have a very strong hold in our lives. And if it’s one thing I learned from Patrick is that it’s not about learning…it’s about unlearning everything we’ve learned from the “experts” and make it our individual mission to figure out what’s best for us.

  3. Avatar
    Mike says:


    Does subconscious reprogramming really work? I have in the past tried some self hypnosis tapes and really never noticed and improvement which is the only reason I hesitate to invest in your course. Do the messages need to be delivered in a “hypnotic” state? Don’t the messages need to be customized to the individual? I am convinced that the problem is in the subconscious programming, what I am not sure of is can it be altered.

    • Avatar
      Patrick Wanis says:

      Dear Mike,

      yes, subconscious reprogamming does work. The critical factor is who is doing it and what process they are using. Many people get help and amazinf results from hypnosis CDs via constant repetition. The messages need to be delivered when you are in a relaxed state. You do not necessarily need to be in a deep hypnotic state. If there is a specific deep long-standing issue then you are best served with one on one therapist who will work on that specific issue. However, any time that you devote to constant and daily reprogramming of your thoughts will benefit you. Ensure that you are able to relax and focus on the suggestions and that they are the suggestions you desire.
      I hope this helps.
      All the best,

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