This article originally appeared on VICE UK
One night this summer, Simone Sarinas put on her headphones, let a YouTube video play on repeat and fell asleep. This would be her routine for the next six nights, and at the end of the week she apparently woke up one centimetre taller. Simone made a diary of her progress and uploaded it to YouTube, where it’s received over 700,000 hits since June from people keen to learn about her experience with "subliminals".
There is a growing community on YouTube of people using subliminal messaging videos to change things about themselves. Often made up of ambient music and/or unintelligible jabbering, the idea is that subliminal messages can enable people to change their eye colour, build muscle, grow taller, gain superpowers or even transform into elves.
“Whether it was from the subliminal or not I don’t know,” Simone says, speaking to me over email. “But I do believe they work because of the Law of Attraction and subconscious programming.”
Audio subliminals for self-improvement in particular are nothing new – it was even lampooned in an early episode of Friends, when Chandler tries to quit smoking by listening to a tape repeating the iconic affirmation: “You are a strong, confident woman who does not need to smoke.” But the world of subliminal messaging on YouTube can take a different – and often darker – turn from gently reprogramming your subconscious to stop wanting fags.
Wendi Blum is an author, international speaker, entrepreneur consultant, and designer. She’s also a subliminals enthusiast. Wendi has squeezed subliminals in her daily schedule, and says that they’ve helped her build her career, obviate anxiety and suicidal thoughts, meet her ideal partner and pay off $80,000 in debt.
But for Wendi, subliminal audio has done more than help her attain the American Dream. Wendi says that subliminals improved her bone density by 29 per cent and healed her basal cell carcinoma. If we take her experience with no pinch of salt at all, we’re basically accepting that subliminal audio can affect human DNA.
Akuo Subliminals, the man behind one of the most popular subliminal YouTube channels, might not have tried extreme subliminal affirmations himself. However, he supports that anything is doable, as long as you follow specific rules that have to do with repetitiveness, engagement, self-care and belief in yourself.
With almost 1.8 million views, Akuo’s most popular video is ‘Grow Taller in 10 Minutes,’ followed by ‘Change Your Eye Colour to Sea Green.’ His videos get thousands of likes while users keep updating the comment section with their personal success stories. But do they really work?
Forums, communities and Facebook groups reckon so, but you need to be dedicated to your goal. One enthusiast, who asked to remain anonymous, told me that watching subliminal audio has helped him get more attractive, achieve clearer skin and look younger. “Every time I got out of my house, everybody was staring at me,” he recalls.
This is exactly how believers suggest that subliminals work: hidden affirmations, typically masked by music, reprogram the brain via neuroplasticity. Hidden messages enter the subconscious mind, delete old programming, and replace it with new and improved code – much like computers and smartphones. Subliminal fans believe that, as soon as the brain takes an idea as a given, it’s just a matter of time before it becomes a reality.
Thomas Miller, host of the Subconscious Mind Mastery podcast, says he loves the awakening this YouTube trend represents. “Our internal wiring is a mystery of unknown proportions. We’ve probably only scratched the surface of what our brains are capable of,” he tells me. “I totally believe we can change behaviours, physical features, eliminate tumours, change attitudes, outcomes, health, finances, relationships, careers, and so much more through the power of programming our brains towards our desired outcomes.”
Much like Akuo Subliminals, Thomas doesn’t use subliminals either. “Our brains are powerful beyond our comprehension,” he explains. “If I trusted someone but they ended up putting something in that video that was not in alignment with the outcome I wanted, I fully realise it could have a very negative impact.”
Turns out, Thomas isn’t entirely off the mark. Two years ago an online petition claimed that Mind Power, one of the most prominent subliminal creators at the time, had hidden some dark subliminal affirmations in her videos. According to the channel's victims, her videos caused demonic and sexual dreams, while others claim that Mind Power’s subliminals sent them to the emergency room.
Mind Power was shut down in December, but the conversation kept going. Discussions concerning how much users should trust online creators are still hot among fans, and Reddit’s subliminal community is filled with threads questioning the integrity of some YouTube channels.
One community member, Laurie*, tells me that Mind Power triggered depressive, obsessive and harmful thoughts, as well as distressing night terrors and insomnia. However, the symptoms slowly cleared up in the weeks after she stopped using them. “I had never experienced anything like that before using Mind Power’s subs,” she tells me. “I had no mental illnesses prior to use, nor do I have any in this present moment whatsoever.”
After the Mind Power scandal broke, Laurie started creating her own subliminals to reset her mind. So far, she claims to have manifested “longer hair, natural doll-like eyelashes, and clearer skin.” She also uses subliminals to heal emotionally and manifest money and social opportunities.
Today, Mind Power goes by the nickname Asherah Omega and moderates a Facebook group by her real name, Amy Bass. In a blog post last summer she addressed the rumours that her videos contained dark subliminal messages in an effort to manipulate people. “If you feel like you are being controlled then don't be part of my group,” she wrote, saying she “doesn’t give a shit about the subliminal community” and only wants “soldiers” and “warriors” as followers.
Amy Bass declined to comment for this piece, but now sells subliminal audio for $1 each and guarantees that her guides can help people gain superpowers.
Bass isn’t the only one to run into trouble. Earlier this year, another subliminal YouTube creator, Rose Subliminals, admitted to using adding negative affirmations to her videos. She stepped out of the subliminal community and closed her account.
Over the past years, the drama around subliminals only seems to increase as the videos themselves get more popular. One anonymous fan of Mind Power supports the theory that YouTube, for whatever reason, takes down the subliminals that truly work – “and Mind Power’s stuff worked really fast,” he concludes.
According to Social Blade, popular subliminal channels on YouTube are gaining 1,000 subscribers per week on average, while data from Google Trends clearly show that interest in subliminals spiked in 2019.
As subliminals creep further out of the weird side of YouTube, Akuo tells me that as long as they’re benefiting people, no one can stop subliminals from going mainstream. Who knows, they could become the next reaction videos, morning and night routines or ASMRs. Perhaps then we'll all become the 6'11 elves with mint green eyes we truly long to be.