THE PRACTICE OF AUTOSUGGESTION
Autosuggestion And The Child
How To Deal With Pain
The General Formula
Thought And The Will
Induced Autosuggestion is not a substitute for medical practice. It
will not make us live for ever, neither will it free us completely from
the common ills of life. What it may do in the future, when all its
implications have been realised, all its resources exploited, we cannot
say. There is no doubt that a generation brought up by its canons
would differ profoundly from the disease-ridden population of to-day.
But our immediate interest is with the present.
The adult of to-day carries in his Unconscious a memory clogged with a
mass of adverse suggestions which have been accumulating since
childhood. The first task of Induced Autosuggestion will be to clear
away this mass of mental lumber. Not until this has been accomplished
can the real man appear and the creative powers of autosuggestion begin
to manifest themselves.
By the use of this method each one of us should be able to look forward
to a life in which disease is a diminishing factor. But how great a
part it will play depends upon the conditions we start from and the
regularity and correctness of our practice. Should disease befall us
we possess within a potent means of expelling it, but this does not
invalidate the complementary method of destroying it from without.
Autosuggestion and the usual medical practice should go hand in hand,
each supplementing the other. If you are ill, call in your doctor as
before, but enlist the resources of Induced Autosuggestion to reinforce
and extend his treatment.
In this connection it must be insisted on that autosuggestion should be
utilised for every ailment, whatever its nature, and whether its
inroads be grave or slight. Every disease is either strengthened or
weakened by the action of the mind. We cannot take up an attitude of
neutrality. Either we must aid the disease to destroy us by allowing
our minds to dwell on it, or we must oppose it and destroy it by a
stream of healthful dynamic thought. Too frequently we spontaneously
adopt the former course.
The general opinion that functional and nervous diseases alone are
susceptible to suggestive treatment is at variance with the facts.
During Coue's thirty years of practice, in which many thousands of
cases have been treated, he has found that organic troubles yield as
easily as functional, that bodily derangements are even easier to cure
than nervous and mental. He makes no such distinctions; an illness is
an illness whatever its nature. As such Coue attacks it, and in 98 per
cent. of cases he attains in greater or less degree a positive result.
Apart from the permanently insane, in whose minds the machinery of
autosuggestion is itself deranged, there are only two classes of
patient with whom Induced Autosuggestion seems to fail. One consists
of persons whose intelligence is so low that the directions given are
never comprehended; the other of those who lack the power of voluntary
attention and cannot devote their minds to an idea even for a few
consecutive seconds. These two classes, however, are numerically
insignificant, together making up not much more than 2 per cent. of the
Autosuggestion is equally valuable as an aid to surgical practice. A
broken bone--the sceptic's last resource--cannot of course be treated
by autosuggestion alone. A surgeon must be called in to mend it. But
when the limb has been rightly set and the necessary mechanical
precautions have been taken, autosuggestion will provide the best
possible conditions for recovery. It can prevent lameness, stiffness,
unsightly deformity and the other evils which a broken limb is apt to
entail, and it will shorten considerably the normal period of
It is sometimes stated that the results obtained by autosuggestion are
not permanent. This objection is really artificial, arising from the
fact that we ignore the true nature of autosuggestion and regard it
merely as a remedy. When we employ autosuggestion to heal a malady our
aim is so to leaven the Unconscious with healthful thoughts, that not
only will that specific malady be excluded, but all others with it.
Autosuggestion should not only remove a particular form of disease, but
the tendency to all disease.
If after an ailment has been removed we allow our mind to revert to
unhealthy thoughts, they will tend to realise themselves in the same
way as any others, and we may again fall a victim to ill-health. Our
sickness may take the same form as on the preceding occasion, or it may
not. That will depend on the nature of our thought. But by the
regular employment of the general formula we can prevent any such
recurrence. Instead of reverting to unhealthy states of mind we shall
progressively strengthen the healthy and creative thought that has
already given us health, so that with each succeeding day our defence
will be more impenetrable. Not only do we thus avoid a relapse into
former ailments but we clear out of our path those which lie in wait
for us in the future.
We saw that in the Nancy clinic some of the cures effected are almost
instantaneous. It would be a mistake, however, to embark on the
practice of Induced Autosuggestion with the impression that we are
going to be miraculously healed in the space of a few days. Granted
sufficient faith, such a result would undoubtedly ensue; nay, more, we
have records of quite a number of such cases, even where the help of a
second person has not been called in. Here is an example. A friend of
mine, M. Albert P., of Bordeaux, had suffered for more than ten years
with neuralgia of the face. Hearing of Coue, he wrote to him, and
received instructions to repeat the general formula. He did so, and on
the second day the neuralgia had vanished and has never since returned.
But such faith is not common. Immediate cures are the exception, and
it will be safer for us to look forward to a gradual and progressive
improvement. In this way we shall guard against disappointment. It
may be added that Coue prefers the gradual cure, finding it more stable
and less likely to be disturbed by adverse conditions.
We should approach autosuggestion in the same reasonable manner as we
approach any other scientific discovery. There is no hocus-pocus about
it, nor are any statements made here which experience cannot verify.
But the attitude we should beware most of is that of the intellectual
amateur, who makes the vital things of life small coin to exchange with
his neighbour of the dinner-table. Like religion, autosuggestion is a
thing to practise. A man may be conversant with all the creeds in
Christendom and be none the better for it; while some simple soul,
loving God and his fellows, may combine the high principles of
Christianity in his life without any acquaintance with theology. So it
is with autosuggestion.
Autosuggestion is just as effective in the treatment of moral
delinquencies as in that of physical ills. Drunkenness, kleptomania,
the drug habit, uncontrolled or perverted sexual desires, as well as
minor failings of character, are all susceptible to its action. It is
as powerful in small things as in great. By particular suggestions we
can modify our tastes. We can acquire a relish for the dishes we
naturally dislike, and make disagreeable medicine taste pleasant. So
encouraging has been its application to the field of morals that Coue
is trying to gain admittance to the French state reformatories. So
far, the official dislike for innovations has proved a barrier, but
there is good reason to hope that in the near future the application of
this method to the treatment of the criminal will be greatly extended.
By way of anticipating an objection it may be stated that the Coue
method of Induced Autosuggestion is in no sense inferior to hypnotic
suggestion. Coue himself began his career as a hypnotist, but being
dissatisfied with the results, set out in quest of a method more simple
and universal. Conscious autosuggestion, apart from its convenience,
can boast one great advantage over its rival. The effects of hypnotic
suggestion are often lost within a few hours of the treatment. Whereas
by the use of the general formula the results of Induced Autosuggestion
go on progressively augmenting.
Here we touch again the question of the suggester. We have already
seen that a suggester is not needed, that autosuggestion can yield its
fullest fruits to those who practise it unaided. But some persons
cannot be prevailed on to accept this fact. They feel a sense of
insufficiency; the mass of old wrong suggestions has risen so
mountain-high that they imagine themselves incapable of removing it.
With such the presence of a suggester is an undoubted help. They have
nothing to do but lie passive and receive the ideas he evokes. Even
so, however, they will get little good unless they consent to repeat
the general formula.
But as long as we look on autosuggestion as a remedy we miss its true
significance. Primarily it is a means of self-culture, and one far
more potent than any we have hitherto possessed. It enables us to
develop the mental qualities we lack: efficiency, judgment, creative
imagination, all that will help us to bring our life's enterprise to a
successful end. Most of us are aware of thwarted abilities, powers
undeveloped, impulses checked in their growth. These are present in
our Unconscious like trees in a forest, which, overshadowed by their
neighbours, are stunted for lack of air and sunshine. By means of
autosuggestion we can supply them with the power needed for growth and
bring them to fruition in our conscious lives. However old, however
infirm, however selfish, weak or vicious we may be, autosuggestion will
do something for us. It gives us a new means of culture and discipline
by which the "accents immature," the "purposes unsure" can be nursed
into strength, and the evil impulses attacked at the root. It is
essentially an individual practice, an individual attitude of mind.
Only a narrow view would split it up into categories, debating its
application to this thing or to that. It touches our being in its
wholeness. Below the fussy perturbed little ego, with its local
habitation, its name, its habits and views and oddities is an ocean of
power, as serene as the depths below the troubled surface of the sea.
Whatever is of you comes eventually thence, however perverted by the
prism of self-consciousness. Autosuggestion is a channel by which the
tranquil powers of this ultimate being are raised to the level of our
life here and now.
What prospects does autosuggestion open to us in the future?
It teaches us that the burdens of life are, at least in large measure,
of our own creating. We reproduce in ourselves and in our
circumstances the thoughts of our minds. It goes further. It offers
us a means by which we can change these thoughts when they are evil and
foster them when they are good, so producing a corresponding betterment
in our individual life. But the process does not end with the
individual. The thoughts of society are realised in social conditions,
the thoughts of humanity in world conditions. What would be the
attitude towards our social and international problems of a generation
nurtured from infancy in the knowledge and practice of autosuggestion?
If fear and disease were banned from the individual life, could they
persist in the life of the nation? If each person found happiness in
his own heart would the illusory greed for possession survive? The
acceptance of autosuggestion entails a change of attitude, a
revaluation of life. If we stand with our faces westward we see
nothing but clouds and darkness, yet by a simple turn of the head we
bring the wide panorama of the sunrise into view.
That Coue's discoveries may profoundly affect our educational methods
is beyond question. Hitherto we have been dealing directly only with
the conscious mind, feeding it with information, grafting on to it
useful accomplishments. What has been done for the development of
character has been incidental and secondary. This was inevitable so
long as the Unconscious remained undiscovered, but now we have the
means of reaching profounder depths, of endowing the child not only
with reading and arithmetic, but with health, character and personality.
But perhaps it is in our treatment of the criminal that the greatest
revolution may be expected. The acts for which he is immured result
from nothing more than twists and tangles of the threads of thought in
the Unconscious mind. This is the view of eminent authorities. But
autosuggestion takes us a long step further. It shows how these
discords of character may be resolved. Since Coue has succeeded in
restoring to moral health a youth of homicidal tendencies, why should
not the same method succeed with many of the outcasts who fill our
prisons? At least the younger delinquents should prove susceptible.
But the idea underlying this attitude entails a revolution in our penal
procedure. It means little less than this: that crime is a disease and
should be treated as such; that the idea of punishment must give place
to that of cure; the vindictive attitude to one of pity. This brings
us near to the ideals of the New Testament, and indeed, autosuggestion,
as a force making for goodness, is bound to touch closely on religion.
It teaches the doctrine of the inner life which saints and sages have
proclaimed through all ages. It asserts that within are the sources of
calm, of power and of courage, and that the man who has once attained
mastery of this inner sphere is secure in the face of all that may
befall him. This truth is apparent in the lives of great men. Martyrs
could sing at the stake because their eyes were turned within on the
vision of glory which filled their hearts. Great achievements have
been wrought by men who had the fortitude to follow the directions of
an inner voice, even in contradiction to the massed voices they heard
Suppose we find that the power Christ gave to his disciples to work
miracles of healing was not a gift conferred on a few selected
individuals, but was the heritage of all men; that the kingdom of
heaven within us to which He alluded was available in a simple way for
the purging and elevation of our common life, for procuring sounder
health and sweeter minds. Is not the affirmation contained in Coue's
formula a kind of prayer? Does it not appeal to something beyond the
self-life, to the infinite power lying behind us?
Autosuggestion is no substitute for religion; it is rather a new weapon
added to the religious armoury. If as a mere scientific technique it
can yield such results, what might it not do as the expression of those
high yearnings for perfection which religion incorporates?
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