COUE'S NANCY PRACTICE
A Few Of Coue's Cures
The Clinic Of Emile Coue
The Clinic Of Emile Coue
The clinic of Emile Coue, where Induced Autosuggestion is applied to
the treatment of disease, is situated in a pleasant garden attached to
his house at the quiet end of the rue Jeanne d'Arc in Nancy. It was
here that I visited him in the early summer of 1921, and had the
pleasure for the first time of witnessing one of his consultations.
We entered the garden from his house a little before nine o'clock. In
one corner was a brick building of two stories, with its windows thrown
wide to let in the air and sunshine--this was the clinic; a few yards
away was a smaller one-storied construction which served as a
waiting-room. Under the plum and cherry trees, now laden with fruit,
little groups of patients were sitting on the garden seats, chatting
amicably together and enjoying the morning sunshine while others
wandered in twos and threes among the flowers and strawberry beds. The
room reserved for the treatments was already crowded, but in spite of
that eager newcomers constantly tried to gain entrance. The
window-sills on the ground floor were beset, and a dense knot had
formed in the doorway. Inside, the patients had first occupied the
seats which surrounded the walls, and then covered the available
floor-space, sitting on camp-stools and folding-chairs. Coue with some
difficulty found me a seat, and the treatment immediately began.
The first patient he addressed was a frail, middle-aged man who,
accompanied by his daughter, had just arrived from Paris to consult
him. The man was a bad case of nervous trouble. He walked with
difficulty, and his head, arms and legs were afflicted with a continual
tremor. He explained that if he encountered a stranger when walking in
the street the idea that the latter would remark his infirmity
completely paralysed him, and he had to cling to whatever support was
at hand to save himself from falling. At Coue's invitation he rose
from his seat and took a few steps across the floor. He walked slowly,
leaning on a stick; his knees were half bent, and his feet dragged
heavily along the ground.
Coue encouraged him with the promise of improvement. "You have been
sowing bad seed in your Unconscious; now you will sow good seed. The
power by which you have produced these ill effects will in future
produce equally good ones."
The next patient was an excitable, over-worked woman of the artisan
class. When Coue inquired the nature of her trouble, she broke into a
flood of complaint, describing each symptom with a voluble minuteness.
"Madame," he interrupted, "you think too much about your ailments, and
in thinking of them you create fresh ones."
Next came a girl with headaches, a youth with inflamed eyes, and a
farm-labourer incapacitated by varicose veins. In each case Coue
stated that autosuggestion should bring complete relief. Then it was
the turn of a business man who complained of nervousness, lack of
self-confidence and haunting fears.
"When you know the method," said Coue, "you will not allow yourself to
harbour such ideas."
"I work terribly hard to get rid of them," the patient answered.
"You fatigue yourself. The greater the efforts you make, the more the
ideas return. You will change all that easily, simply, and above all,
"I want to," the man interjected.
"That's just where you're wrong," Coue told him. "If you say 'I want
to do something,' your imagination replies 'Oh, but you can't.' You
must say 'I am going to do it,' and if it is in the region of the
possible you will succeed."
A little further on was another neurasthenic--a girl. This was her
third visit to the clinic, and for ten days she had been practising the
method at home. With a happy smile, and a little pardonable
self-importance, she declared that she already felt a considerable
improvement. She had more energy, was beginning to enjoy life, ate
heartily and slept more soundly. Her sincerity and naive delight
helped to strengthen the faith of her fellow-patients. They looked on
her as a living proof of the healing which should come to themselves.
Coue continued his questions. Those who were unable, whether through
rheumatism or some paralytic affection, to make use of a limb were
called on, as a criterion of future progress, to put out their maximum
In addition to the visitor from Paris there were present a man and a
woman who could not walk without support, and a burly peasant, formerly
a blacksmith, who for nearly ten years had not succeeded in lifting his
right arm above the level of his shoulder. In each case Coue predicted
a complete cure.
During this preliminary stage of the treatment, the words he spoke were
not in the nature of suggestions. They were sober expressions of
opinion, based on years of experience. Not once did he reject the
possibility of cure, though with several patients suffering from
organic disease in an advanced stage, he admitted its unlikelihood. To
these he promised, however, a cessation of pain, an improvement of
morale, and at least a retardment of the progress of the disease.
"Meanwhile," he added, "the limits of the power of autosuggestion are
not yet known; final recovery is possible." In all cases of functional
and nervous disorders, as well as the less serious ones of an organic
nature, he stated that autosuggestion, conscientiously applied, was
capable of removing the trouble completely.
It took Coue nearly forty minutes to complete his interrogation. Other
patients bore witness to the benefits the treatment had already
conferred on them. A woman with a painful swelling in her breast,
which a doctor had diagnosed (in Coue's opinion wrongly), as of a
cancerous nature, had found complete relief after less than three
weeks' treatment. Another woman had enriched her impoverished blood,
and increased her weight by over nine pounds. A man had been cured of
a varicose ulcer, another in a single sitting had rid himself of a
lifelong habit of stammering. Only one of the former patients failed
to report an improvement. "Monsieur," said Coue, "you have been making
efforts. You must put your trust in the imagination, not in the will.
Think you are better and you will become so."
Coue now proceeded to outline the theory given in the pages which
follow. It is sufficient here to state his main conclusions, which
were these: (1) Every idea which exclusively occupies the mind is
transformed into an actual physical or mental state. (2) The efforts
we make to conquer an idea by exerting the will only serve to make that
idea more powerful. To demonstrate these truths he requested one of
his patients, a young anaemic-looking woman, to carry out a small
experiment. She extended her arms in front of her, and clasped the
hands firmly together with the fingers interlaced, increasing the force
of her grip until a slight tremor set in. "Look at your hands," said
Coue, "and think you would like to open them but you cannot. Now try
and pull them apart. Pull hard. You find that the more you try the
more tightly they become clasped together."
The girl made little convulsive movements of her wrists, really doing
her best by physical force to separate her hands, but the harder she
tried the more her grip increased in strength, until the knuckles
turned white with the pressure. Her hands seemed locked together by a
force outside her own control.
"Now think," said Cone, "'I can open my hands.'"
Slowly her grasp relaxed and, in response to a little pull, the cramped
fingers came apart. She smiled shyly at the attention she had
attracted, and sat down.
Coue pointed out that the two main points of his theory were thus
demonstrated simultaneously: when the patient's mind was filled with
the thought "I cannot," she could not in very fact unclasp her hands.
Further, the efforts she made to wrench them apart by exerting her will
only fixed them more firmly together.
Each patient was now called on in turn to perform the same experiment.
The more imaginative among them--notably the women--were at once
successful. One old lady was so absorbed in the thought "I cannot" as
not to heed the request to think "I can." With her face ruefully
puckered up she sat staring fixedly at her interlocked fingers, as
though contemplating an act of fate. "Voila," said Coue, smiling, "if
Madame persists in her present idea, she will never open her hands
again as long as she lives."
Several of the men, however, were not at once successful. The whilom
blacksmith with the disabled arm, when told to think "I should like to
open my hands but I cannot," proceeded without difficulty to open them.
"You see," said Coue, with a smile, "it depends not on what I say but
on what you think. What were you thinking then?"
He hesitated. "I thought perhaps I could open them after all."
"Exactly. And therefore you could. Now clasp your hands again. Press
When the right degree of pressure had been reached, Coue told him to
repeat the words "I cannot, I cannot...."
As he repeated this phrase the contracture increased, and all his
efforts failed to release his grip.
"Voila," said Coue. "Now listen. For ten years you have been thinking
you could not lift your arm above your shoulder, consequently you have
not been able to do so, for whatever we think becomes true for us. Now
think 'I can lift it.'"
The patient looked at him doubtfully.
"Quick!" Coue said in a tone of authority. "Think 'I can, I can!'"
"I can," said the man. He made a half-hearted attempt and complained
of a pain in his shoulder.
"Bon," said Coue. "Don't lower your arm. Close your eyes and repeat
with me as fast as you can, 'Ca passe, ca passe.'"
For half a minute they repeated this phrase together, speaking so fast
as to produce a sound like the whirr of a rapidly revolving machine.
Meanwhile Coue quickly stroked the man's shoulder. At the end of that
time the patient admitted that his pain had left him.
"Now think well that you can lift your arm," Coue said.
The departure of the pain had given the patient faith. His face, which
before had been perplexed and incredulous, brightened as the thought of
power took possession of him. "I can," he said in a tone of finality,
and without effort he calmly lifted his arm to its full height above
his head. He held it there triumphantly for a moment while the whole
company applauded and encouraged him.
Coue reached for his hand and shook it.
"My friend, you are cured."
"C'est merveilleux," the man answered. "I believe I am."
"Prove it," said Coue. "Hit me on the shoulder."
The patient laughed, and dealt him a gentle rap.
"Harder," Coue encouraged him. "Hit me harder--as hard as you can."
His arm began to rise and fall in regular blows, increasing in force
until Coue was compelled to call on him to stop.
"Voila, mon ami, you can go back to your anvil."
The man resumed his seat, still hardly able to comprehend what had
occurred. Now and then he lifted his arm as if to reassure himself,
whispering to himself in an awed voice, "I can, I can."
A little further on was seated a woman who had complained of violent
neuralgia. Under the influence of the repeated phrase "ca passe" (it's
going) the pain was dispelled in less than thirty seconds. Then it was
the turn of the visitor from Paris. What he had seen had inspired him
with confidence; he was sitting more erect, there was a little patch of
colour in his cheeks, and his trembling seemed less violent.
He performed the experiment with immediate success.
"Now," said Coue, "you are cultivated ground. I can throw out the seed
He caused the sufferer first to stand erect with his back and knees
straightened. Then he asked him, constantly thinking "I can," to place
his entire weight on each foot in turn, slowly performing the exercise
known as "marking time." A space was then cleared of chairs, and
having discarded his stick, the man was made to walk to and fro. When
his gait became slovenly Coue stopped him, pointed out his fault, and,
renewing the thought "I can," caused him to correct it. Progressive
improvement kindled the man's imagination. He took himself in his own
hands. His bearing became more and more confident, he walked more
easily, more quickly. His little daughter, all smiles and happy
self-forgetfulness, stood beside him uttering expressions of delight,
admiration and encouragement. The whole company laughed and clapped
"After the sitting," said Coue, "you shall come for a run in my garden."
Thus Coue continued his round of the clinic. Each patient suffering
from pain was given complete or partial relief; those with useless
limbs had a varying measure of use restored to them. Coue's manner was
always quietly inspiring. There was no formality, no attitude of the
superior person; he treated everyone, whether rich or poor, with the
same friendly solicitude. But within these limits he varied his tone
to suit the temperament of the patient. Sometimes he was firm,
sometimes gently bantering. He seized every opportunity for a little
humorous by-play. One might almost say that he tactfully teased some
of his patients, giving them an idea that their ailment was absurd, and
a little unworthy; that to be ill was a quaint but reprehensible
weakness, which they should quickly get rid of. Indeed, this denial of
the dignity of disease is one of the characteristics of the place. No
homage is paid to it as a Dread Monarch. It is gently ridiculed, its
terrors are made to appear second-rate, and its victims end by laughing
Coue now passed on to the formulation of specific suggestions. The
patients closed their eyes, and he proceeded in a low, monotonous
voice, to evoke before their minds the states of health, mental and
physical, they were seeking. As they listened to him their alertness
ebbed away, they were lulled into a drowsy state, peopled only by the
vivid images he called up before the eyes of the mind. The faint
rustle of the trees, the songs of the birds, the low voices of those
waiting in the garden, merged into a pleasant background, on which his
words stood out powerfully.
This is what he said:
"Say to yourself that all the words I am about to utter will be fixed,
imprinted and engraven in your minds; that they will remain fixed,
imprinted and engraven there, so that without your will and knowledge,
without your being in any way aware of what is taking place, you
yourself and your whole organism will obey them. I tell you first that
every day, three times a day, morning, noon and evening, at mealtimes,
you will be hungry; that is to say you will feel that pleasant
sensation which makes us think and say: 'How I should like something to
eat!' You will then eat with excellent appetite, enjoying your food,
but you will never eat too much. You will eat the right amount,
neither too much nor too little, and you will know intuitively when you
have had sufficient. You will masticate your food thoroughly,
transforming it into a smooth paste before swallowing it. In these
conditions you will digest it well, and so feel no discomfort of any
kind either in the stomach or the intestines. Assimilation will be
perfectly performed, and your organism will make the best possible use
of the food to create blood, muscle, strength, energy, in a word--Life.
"Since you have digested your food properly, the excretory functions
will be normally performed. This will take place every morning
immediately on rising, and without your having recourse to any laxative
medicine or artificial means of any kind.
"Every night you will fall asleep at the hour you wish, and will
continue to sleep until the hour at which you desire to wake next
morning. Your sleep will be calm, peaceful and profound, untroubled by
bad dreams or undesirable states of body. You may dream, but your
dreams will be pleasant ones. On waking you will feel well, bright,
alert, eager for the day's tasks.
"If in the past you have been subject to depression, gloom and
melancholy forebodings, you will henceforward be free from such
troubles. Instead of being moody, anxious and depressed, you will be
cheerful and happy. You will be happy even if you have no particular
reason for being so, just as in the past you were, without good reason,
unhappy. I tell you even that if you have serious cause to be worried
or depressed, you will not be so.
"If you have been impatient or ill-tempered, you will no longer be
anything of the kind; on the contrary, you will always be patient and
self-controlled. The happenings which used to irritate you will leave
you entirely calm and unmoved.
"If you have sometimes been haunted by evil and unwholesome ideas, by
fears or phobias, these ideas will gradually cease to occupy your mind.
They will melt away like a cloud. As a dream vanishes when we wake, so
will these vain images disappear.
"I add that all your organs do their work perfectly. Your heart beats
normally and the circulation of the blood takes place as it should.
The lungs do their work well. The stomach, the intestines, the liver,
the biliary duct, the kidneys and the bladder, all carry out their
functions correctly. If at present any of the organs named is out of
order, the disturbance will grow less day by day, so that within a
short space of time it will have entirely disappeared, and the organ
will have resumed its normal function.
"Further, if in any organ there is a structural lesion, it will from
this day be gradually repaired, and in a short period will be
completely restored. This will be so even if you are unaware that the
"I must also add--and it is extremely important--that if in the past
you have lacked confidence in yourself, this self-distrust will
gradually disappear. You will have confidence in yourself; I repeat,
you will have confidence. Your confidence will be based on the
knowledge of the immense power which is within you, by which you can
accomplish any task of which your reason approves. With this
confidence you will be able to do anything you wish to do, provided it
is reasonable, and anything it is your duty to do.
"When you have any task to perform you will always think that it is
easy. Such words as 'difficult,' 'impossible,' 'I cannot' will
disappear from your vocabulary. Their place will be taken by this
phrase: 'It is easy and I can.' So, considering your work easy, even
if it is difficult to others, it will become easy to you. You will do
it easily, without effort and without fatigue."
These general suggestions were succeeded by particular suggestions
referring to the special ailments from which Coue's patients were
suffering. Taking each case in turn, he allowed his hand to rest
lightly on the heads of the sufferers, while picturing to their minds
the health and vigour with which they would soon be endowed. Thus to a
woman with an ulcerated leg he spoke as follows: "Henceforth your
organism will do all that is necessary to restore your leg to perfect
health. It will rapidly heal; the tissues will regain their tone; the
skin will be soft and healthy. In a short space of time your leg will
be vigorous and strong and will in future always remain so." Each
special complaint was thus treated with a few appropriate phrases.
When he had finished, and the patients were called on to open their
eyes, a faint sigh went round the room, as if they were awaking
reluctantly from a delicious dream.
Coue now explained to his patients that he possessed no healing powers,
and had never healed a person in his life. They carried in themselves
the instrument of their own well-being. The results they had seen were
due to the realisation of each patient's own thought. He had been
merely an agent calling the ideas of health into their minds.
Henceforth they could, and must, be the pilots of their own destiny.
He then requested them to repeat, under conditions which will be later
defined, the phrase with which his name is associated: "Day by day, in
every way, I'm getting better and better."
The sitting was at an end. The patients rose and crowded round Coue,
asking questions, thanking him, shaking him by the hand. Some declared
they were already cured, some that they were much better, others that
they were confident of cure in the future. It was as if a burden of
depression had fallen from their minds. Those who had entered with
minds crushed and oppressed went out with hope and optimism shining in
But Coue waved aside these too insistent admirers, and, beckoning to
the three patients who could not walk, led them to a corner of the
garden where there was a stretch of gravel path running beneath the
boughs of fruit trees. Once more impressing on their minds the thought
of strength and power, he induced each one to walk without support down
this path. He now invited them to run. They hesitated, but he
insisted, telling them that they could run, that they ought to run,
that they had but to believe in their own power, and their thought
would be manifested in action.
They started rather uncertainly, but Coue followed them with persistent
encouragements. They began to raise their heads, to lift their feet
from the ground and run with greater freedom and confidence. Turning
at the end of the path they came back at a fair pace. Their movements
were not elegant, but people on the further side of fifty are rarely
elegant runners. It was a surprising sight to see these three
sufferers who had hobbled to the clinic on sticks now covering the
ground at a full five miles an hour, and laughing heartily at
themselves as they ran. The crowd of patients who had collected broke
into a spontaneous cheer, and Coue, slipping modestly away, returned to
the fresh company of sufferers who awaited him within.
Next: A Few Of Coue's Cures
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