THE NATURE OF AUTOSUGGESTION
The Children's Clinic
Thought Is A Force
The Children's Clinic
In different parts of France a little band of workers, recruited almost
exclusively from the ranks of former patients, is propagating the ideas
of Emile Coue with a success which almost rivals that of their master.
Among these helpers none is more devoted or more eminently successful
than Mlle. Kauffmant. She it is who, at the time of my visit, was
managing the children's department of the Nancy clinic.
While Coue was holding his consultations on the ground floor, young
mothers in twos and threes, with their babies in their arms, could be
seen ascending to the upper story, where a little drama was performed
of a very different nature from that going on below.
In a large room, decorated with bright pictures and equipped with toys,
a number of silent young women were seated in a wide circle. Their
sick children lay in their arms or played at their feet. Here was a
child whose life was choked at the source by hereditary disease--a
small bundle of skin and bone with limbs like bamboo canes. Another
lay motionless with closed eyes and a deathly face, as if pining to
return to the world it came from. A little cripple dragged behind it a
deformed leg as it tried to crawl, and near by a child of five was
beating the air with its thin arms in an exhausting nervous storm.
Older children were also present, suffering from eye and ear trouble,
epilepsy, rickets, any one of the ailments, grave or slight, to which
growing life is subjected.
In the centre of this circle sat a young woman with dark hair and a
kindly keen face. On her lap was a little boy of four years with a
club foot. As she gently caressed the foot, from which the clumsy boot
had been removed, she told in a crooning tone, mingled with endearing
phrases, of the rapid improvement which had already begun and would
soon be complete. The foot was getting better; the joints were more
supple and bent with greater ease; the muscles were developing, the
tendons were drawing the foot into the right shape and making it
straight and strong. Soon it would be perfectly normal; the little one
would walk and run, play with other children, skip and bowl hoops. He
would go to school and learn his lessons, would be intelligent and
receptive. She told him too that he was growing obedient, cheerful,
kind to others, truthful and courageous. The little boy had put one
arm round her neck and was listening with a placid smile. His face was
quite contented; he was enjoying himself.
While Mlle. Kauffmant was thus engaged, the women sat silent watching
her intently, each perhaps mentally seeing her own little one endowed
with the qualities depicted. The children were quiet, some dreamily
listening, some tranquilly playing with a toy. Except for an
occasional word of advice Mademoiselle was quite indifferent to them.
Her whole attention was given to the child on her knee; her thought
went out to him in a continual stream, borne along by a current of love
and compassion, for she has devoted her life to the children and loves
them as if they were her own. The atmosphere of the room was more like
that of a church than a hospital. The mothers seemed to have left
their sorrows outside. Their faces showed in varying degrees an
expression of quiet confidence.
When this treatment had continued for about ten minutes, Mlle.
Kauffmant returned the child to its mother and, after giving her a few
words of advice, turned to her next patient. This was an infant of
less than twelve months. While suffering from no specific disease it
was continually ailing. It was below normal weight, various foods had
been tried unsuccessfully, and medical advice had failed to bring about
an improvement. Mademoiselle resumed her seat with the child on her
lap. For some time the caresses, which were applied to the child's
head and body, continued in silence. Then she began to talk to it.
Her talk did not consist of connected sentences, as with the elder
child who had learned to speak, but of murmured assurances, as if her
thoughts were taking unconsciously the form of words. These
suggestions were more general than in the previous case, bearing on
appetite, digestion, assimilation, and on desirable mental and moral
qualities. The caress continued for about ten minutes, the speech was
intermittent, then the infant was returned to its mother and
Mademoiselle turned her attention to another little sufferer.
With patients who are not yet old enough to speak Mlle. Kauffmant
sometimes trusts to the caress alone. It seems to transmit the
thoughts of health quite strongly enough to turn the balance in the
child's mind on the side of health. But all mothers talk to their
children long before the words they use are understood, and Mlle.
Kauffmant, whose attitude is essentially maternal, reserves to herself
the same right. She adheres to no rigid rule; if she wishes to speak
aloud she does so, even when the child cannot grasp the meaning of her
This is perhaps the secret of her success: her method is plastic like
the minds she works on. Coue's material--the adult mind--is more
stable. It demands a clear-cut, distinct method, and leaves less room
for adaptation; but the aim of Mlle. Kauffmant is to fill the child
within and enwrap it without with the creative thoughts of health and
joy. To this end she enlists any and every means within her power.
The child itself, as soon as it is old enough to speak, is required to
say, morning and night, the general formula: "Day by day, in every way,
I'm getting better and better." If it is confined to its bed, it is
encouraged to repeat this at any time and to make suggestions of health
similar to those formulated in the sittings. No special directions are
given as to how this should be done. Elaborate instructions would only
introduce hindersome complications. Imagination, the power to pretend,
is naturally strong and active in all children, and intuitively they
make use of it in their autosuggestions. Moreover, they unconsciously
imitate the tone and manner of their instructress.
But the centre of the child's universe is the mother. Any system which
did not utilise her influence would be losing its most powerful ally.
The mother is encouraged during the day to set an example of
cheerfulness and confidence, to allude to the malady only in terms of
encouragement--so renewing in the child's mind the prospect of
recovery--and to exclude as far as possible all depressing influences
from its vicinity. At night she is required to enter the child's
bedchamber without waking the little one and to whisper good
suggestions into its sleeping ear. Thus Mlle. Kauffmant concentrates a
multiplicity of means to bring about the same result. In this she is
aided by the extreme acceptivity of the child's mind, and by the
absence of that mass of pernicious spontaneous suggestions which in the
adult mind have to be neutralised and transformed. It is in children,
then, that the most encouraging results may be expected. I will quote
three cases which I myself investigated to show the kind of results
Mlle. Kauffmant obtains:
A little girl was born without the power of sight. The visual organs
were intact, but she was incapable of lifting her eye-lids and so
remained blind to all intents and purposes up to her seventh year. She
was then brought by the mother to Mlle. Kauffmant. After a fortnight's
treatment the child began to blink; gradually this action became more
frequent, and a month after the treatment began she could see well
enough to find her way unaided about the streets. When I saw her she
had learnt to distinguish colours--as my own experiments proved--and
was actually playing ball. The details supplied by Mlle. Kauffmant
were confirmed by the mother.
A child was born whose tuberculous father had died during the mother's
pregnancy. Of five brothers and sisters none had survived the first
year. The doctors to whom the child was taken held out no hope for its
life. It survived, however, to the age of two, but was crippled and
nearly blind, in addition to internal weaknesses. It was then brought
to Mlle. Kauffmant. Three months later, when I saw it, nothing
remained of its troubles but a slight squint and a stiffness in one of
its knee-joints. These conditions, too, were rapidly diminishing.
Another child, about nine years of age, also of tuberculous parents,
was placed under her treatment. One leg was an inch and a half shorter
than the other. After a few months' treatment this disparity had
almost disappeared. The same child had a wound, also of tuberculous
origin, on the small of the back, which healed over in a few weeks and
had completely disappeared when I saw her.
In each of the above cases the general state of health showed a great
improvement. The child put on weight, was cheerful and bright even
under the trying conditions of convalescence in a poverty-stricken
home, and in character and disposition fully realised the suggestions
formulated to it.
Since the suggestions of Mlle. Kauffmant are applied individually, the
mothers were permitted to enter and leave the clinic at any time they
wished. Mademoiselle was present on certain days every week, but this
was not the sum of her labours. The greater part of her spare time was
spent in visiting the little ones in their own homes. She penetrated
into the dingiest tenements, the poorest slums, on this errand of
mercy. I was able to accompany her on several of these visits, and saw
her everywhere received not only with welcome, but with a respect akin
to awe. She was regarded, almost as much as Coue himself, as a worker
of miracles. But the reputation of both Coue and Mlle. Kauffmant rests
on a broader basis even than autosuggestion, namely on their great
goodness of heart.
They have placed not only their private means, but their whole life at
the service of others. Neither ever accepts a penny-piece for the
treatments they give, and I have never seen Coue refuse to give a
treatment at however awkward an hour the subject may have asked it.
The fame of the school has now spread to all parts not only of France,
but of Europe and America. Coue's work has assumed such proportions
that his time is taken up often to the extent of fifteen or sixteen
hours a day. He is now nearing his seventieth year, but thanks to the
health-giving powers of his own method he is able to keep abreast of
his work without any sign of fatigue and without the clouding of his
habitual cheerfulness by even the shadow of a complaint. In fact, he
is a living monument to the efficacy of Induced Autosuggestion.
It will be seen that Induced Autosuggestion is a method by which the
mind can act directly upon itself and upon the body to produce whatever
improvements, in reason, we desire. That it is efficient and
successful should be manifest from what has gone before. Of all the
questions which arise, the most urgent from the viewpoint of the
average man seems to be this--Is a suggester necessary? Must one
submit oneself to the influence of some other person, or can one in the
privacy of one's own chamber exercise with equal success this potent
instrument of health?
Coue's own opinion has already been quoted. Induced Autosuggestion is
not dependent upon the mediation of another person. We can practise
it for ourselves without others being even aware of what we are doing,
and without devoting to it more than a few minutes of each day.
Here are a few quotations from letters written by those who have thus
practised it for themselves.
"For a good many years now a rheumatic right shoulder has made it
impossible for me to sleep on my right side and it seriously affected,
and increasingly so, the use of my right arm. A masseuse told me she
could effect no permanent improvement as there was granulation of the
joints and a lesion. I suddenly realised two days ago that this
shoulder no longer troubled me and that I was sleeping on that side
without any pain. I have now lost any sensation of rheumatism in this
shoulder and can get my right arm back as far as the other without the
slightest twinge or discomfort. I have not applied any remedy or done
anything that could possibly have worked these results except my
practise of Coue."
L. S. (Sidmouth, Devon).
1 January, 1922.
"At my suggestion a lady friend of mine who had been ill for a good ten
years read La Maitrise de soi-meme. I encouraged her as well as I
could, and in a month she was transformed. Her husband, returning from
a long journey, could not believe his eyes. This woman who never got
up till midday, who never left the fire-side, whom the doctors had
given up, now goes out at 10 a.m. even in the greatest cold. Other
friends are anxiously waiting to read your pamphlet.
L. C. (Paris).
17 December, 1921.
"I am very much interested in your method, and since your lecture I
have, every night and morning, repeated your little phrase. I used to
have to take a pill every night, but now my constipation is cured and
the pills are no longer necessary. My wife is also much better in
every way. We've both got the bit of string with twenty knots."
H. (a London doctor).
7 January, 1922.
"Your method is doing me more good every day. I don't know how to
thank you for the happiness I now experience. I shall never give up
repeating the little phrase."
E. B. Guievain (Belgium).
23 November, 1921.
"I have followed your principles for several months and freed myself
from a terrible state of neurasthenia which was the despair of my three
23 January, 1922.
"My friend Miss C. completely cured herself of a rheumatic shoulder and
knee in a very short time, and then proceeded to turn her attention to
She had worn spectacles for 30 years and her left eye was much more
short-sighted than her right. When she began she could only read
(without her glasses and with her left eye) when the book was almost
touching her face. In six weeks she had extended the limit of vision
so that she saw as far with the left as formerly with the right.
Meanwhile the right had improved equally. She measured the distances
every week, and when she was here a few days ago she told me she had in
three days gained 4 centimetres with her left and 6 centimetres with
her right eye. She had done this on her own."
5 January, 1922.
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