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Autosuggestion And The Child
General Rules
How To Deal With Pain
Particular Suggestions
The General Formula
Thought And The Will

How To Deal With Pain

Pain, whether of mind or body, introduces a new element for which we
have hitherto made no provision. By monopolising the attention it
keeps the conscious mind fully alert and so prevents one from attaining
the measure of outcropping needful to initiate successfully an
autosuggestion. Thus if we introduce the "no-pain" idea into the
conscious, it is overwhelmed by its contrary--pain, and the patient's
condition becomes, if anything, worse.

To overcome this difficulty quite a new method is required. If we
speak a thought, that thought, while we speak it, must occupy our
minds. We could not speak it unless we thought it. By continually
repeating "I have no pain" the sufferer constantly renews that thought
in his mind. Unfortunately, after each repetition the pain-thought
insinuates itself, so that the mind oscillates between "I have no pain"
and "I have some pain," or "I have a bad pain." But if we repeat our
phrase so rapidly that the contrary association has no time to insert
itself, we compel the mind willy-nilly to dwell on it. Thus by a fresh
path we reach the same goal as that attained by induced outcropping; we
cause an idea to remain in occupation of the mind without calling up a
contrary association. This we found to be the prime condition of
acceptation, and in fact by this means we can compel the Unconscious to
realise the "no-pain" thought and so put an end to the pain.

But the sentence "I have no pain" does not lend itself to rapid
repetition. The physical difficulties are too great; the tongue and
lips become entangled in the syllables and we have to stop to restore
order. Even if we were dexterous enough to articulate the words
successfully, we should only meet with a new difficulty. The most
emphatic word in the phrase is "pain"; involuntarily we should find
ourself stressing this word with particular force, so strengthening in
our minds the very idea we are trying to dislodge.

We shall do best to copy as closely as we can Coue's own procedure.
The phrase he uses, "ca passe," makes no mention of the hurt; it is
extremely easy to say, and it produces an unbroken stream of sound,
like the whirr of a machine or the magnified buzz of an insect, which,
as it were, carries the mind off its feet. The phrase recommended by
Baudouin, "It is passing off," produces no such effect, and in fact
defies all our attempts to repeat it quickly. On the whole, the most
suitable English version seems to be "It's going." Only the word
"going" should be repeated, and the treatment should conclude with the
emphatic statement "gone!" The word "going," rapidly gabbled, gives
the impression of a mechanical drill, biting its way irresistibly into
some hard substance. We can think of it as drilling the desired
thought into the mind.

If you are suffering from any severe pain, such as toothache or
headache, sit down, close your eyes and assure yourself calmly that you
are going to get rid of it. Now gently stroke with your hand the
affected part and repeat at the same time as fast as you can, producing
a continuous stream of sound, the words: "It's going, going, going ...
gone!" Keep it up for about a minute, pausing only to take a deep
breath when necessary, and using the word "gone" only at the conclusion
of the whole proceeding. At the end of this time the pain will either
have entirely ceased or at least sensibly abated. In either case apply
the particular suggestions recommended in the previous chapter. If the
pain has ceased suggest that it will not return; if it has only
diminished suggest that it will shortly pass away altogether. Now
return to whatever employment you were engaged in when the pain began.
Let other interests occupy your attention. If in a reasonable space,
say half an hour, the pain still troubles you, isolate yourself again;
suggest once more that you are going to master it, and repeat the

It is no exaggeration to say that by this process any pain can be
conquered. It may be, in extreme cases, that you will have to return
several times to the attack. This will generally occur when you have
been foolish enough to supply the pain with a cause--a decayed tooth, a
draught of cold air, etc.--and so justify it to your reason, and give
it, so to speak, an intellectual sanction. Or it may be that it will
cease only to return again. But do not be discouraged; attack it
firmly and you are bound to succeed.

The same procedure is equally effective with distressing states of
mind, worry, fear, despondency. In such cases the stroking movement of
the hand should be applied to the forehead.

Even in this exercise no more effort should be used than is necessary.
Simply repeat rapidly the word which informs you that the trouble is
going, and let this, with the stroking movement of the hand, which, as
it were, fixes the attention to that particular spot, be the sum and
substance of your effort. With practice it will become easier, you
will "drop into it"; that is to say, the Unconscious will perform the
adaptations necessary to make it more effective. After a time you
should be able to obtain relief in twenty to twenty-five seconds. But
the effect is still more far-reaching; you will be delivered from the
fear of pain. Regarding yourself as its master, you will be able with
the mere threat of treatment to prevent it from developing. You will
hang up a card, "No admittance," on the doors of your conscious mind.

It may be that the pain attacks you in the street or in a workshop; in
some public place where the audible repetition of the phrase would
attract attention. In that case it is best to close the eyes for a
moment and formulate this particular suggestion: "I shall not add to
this trouble by thinking about it; my mind will be occupied by other
things; but on the first opportunity I shall make it pass away," Then
as soon as you can conveniently do so make use of the phrase "It's
going." When you have become expert in the use of this form of
suggestion you will be able to exorcise the trouble by repeating the
phrase mentally--at any rate if the words are outlined with the lips
and tongue. But the beginner should rely for a time entirely on
audible treatment. By dropping it too soon he will only court

It sometimes happens that a patient is so prostrated by pain or misery
that he has not the energy to undertake even the repetition of the word
"going." The pain-thought so obsesses the mind that the state of
painlessness seems too remote even to contemplate. Under these
circumstances it seems best to employ this strategy. Lie down on a
bed, sofa, or arm-chair and relax both mind and body. Cease from all
effort--which can only make things worse--and let the pain-thought have
its way. After a time your energies will begin to collect themselves,
your mind to reassert its control. Now make a firm suggestion of
success and apply the method. Get another person to help you, as Coue
helps his patients, by performing the passes with the hand and
repeating the phrase with you. By this means you can make quite sure
of success. This seemingly contradictory proceeding is analogous to
that of the angler "playing" a fish. He waits till it has run its
course before bringing his positive resources into play.

Baudouin recommends an analogous proceeding as a weapon against
insomnia. The patient, he says, should rapidly repeat the phrase, "I
am going to sleep," letting his mind be swept away by a torrent of
words. Once more the objection arises that the phrase "I am going to
sleep" is not such as we can rapidly repeat. But even if we substitute
for it some simple phrase which can be easily articulated it is
doubtful whether it will succeed in more than a small percentage of
cases. Success is more likely to attend us if we avail ourselves of
the method of reflective repetition mentioned in the last chapter. We
should take up the position most favourable to slumber and then repeat
slowly and contemplatively the word "Sleep." The more impersonal our
attitude towards the idea the more rapidly it will be realised in our
own slumbers.

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Previous: Particular Suggestions

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