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,

without effort."



"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

efforts.



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

them together."



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

in handfuls."



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

their hands.



"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

at it.



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

trouble exists.



"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."[1]



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

their faces.



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.





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