Thought And The Will

If we can get the Unconscious to accept an idea, realisation follows

automatically. The only difficulty which confronts us in the practice

of Induced Autosuggestion is to ensure acceptation, and that is a

difficulty which no method prior to that of Emile Coue has

satisfactorily surmounted.

Every idea which enters the mind is charged, to a greater or less

extent, with emotion. This emotional charge may be imperceptible, as

with ideas to which we are indifferent, or it may be very great, as

when the idea is closely related to our personal interests. All the

ideas we are likely to make the subjects of Induced Autosuggestion are

of the latter class, since they refer to health, energy, success or

some goal equally dear to our hearts. The greater the degree of

emotion accompanying an idea, the more potent is the autosuggestion

resulting from it. Thus a moment of violent fright may give rise to

effects which last a lifetime. This emotional factor also plays a

large part in securing acceptation.

So far as one can see, the acceptation or rejection of an idea by the

Unconscious depends on the associations with which it is connected.

Thus, an idea is accepted when it evokes similar ideas charged with

emotion of the same quality. It is rejected when it is associated with

contrary ideas, which are, therefore, contrary in their emotional

charge. In the latter case, the original idea is neutralised by its

associations, somewhat in the same way as an acid is neutralised by an

alkali. An example will serve to make this clearer.

You are on a cross-channel boat on a roughish passage. You go up to a

sailor and say to him in a sympathetic tone: "My dear fellow, you're

looking very ill. Aren't you going to be sea-sick?" According to his

temperament he either laughs at your "joke" or expresses a pardonable

irritation. But he does not become sick because the associations

called up are contrary ones. Sea-sickness is associated in his mind

with his own immunity from it, and therefore evokes not fear but

self-confidence. Pursuing your somewhat inhumane experiment you

approach a timid-looking passenger. "My dear sir, how ill you look! I

feel sure you are going to be sea-sick. Let me help you down below."

He turns pale. The word "sea-sickness" associates itself with his own

fears and forebodings. He accepts your aid down to his berth and there

the pernicious autosuggestion is realised. In the first case the idea

was refused, because it was overwhelmed by a contrary association; in

the second the Unconscious accepted it, since it was reinforced by

similar ideas from within.

But supposing to a sick mind, permeated with thoughts of disease, a

thought of health is presented. How can we avoid the malassociation

which tends to neutralise it?

We can think of the Unconscious as a tide which ebbs and flows. In

sleep it seems to submerge the conscious altogether, while at our

moments of full wakefulness, when the attention and will are both at

work, the tide is at its lowest ebb. Between these two extremes are

any number of intermediary levels. When we are drowsy, dreamy, lulled

into a gentle reverie by music or by a picture or a poem, the

Unconscious tide is high; the more wakeful and alert we become the

lower it sinks. This submersion of the conscious mind is called by

Baudouin the "Outcropping of the Subconscious." The highest degree of

outcropping, compatible with the conscious direction of our thoughts,

occurs just before we fall asleep and just after we wake.

It is fairly obvious that the greater the outcropping the more

accessible these dynamic strata of the mind become, and the easier it

is to implant there any idea we wish to realise.

As the Unconscious tide rises the active levels of the mind are

overflowed; thought is released from its task of serving our conscious

aims in the real world of matter, and moves among the more primal

wishes and desires which people the Unconscious, like a diver walking

the strange world beneath the sea. But the laws by which thought is

governed on this sub-surface level are not those of our ordinary waking

consciousness. During outcropping association by contraries does not

seem readily to take place. Thus the mal-association, which

neutralised the desired idea and so prevented acceptation, no longer

presents itself. We all know what happens during a "day-dream" or

"brown-study," when the Unconscious tide is high. A succession of

bright images glides smoothly through the mind. The original thought

spins itself on and on; no obstacles seem to stop it, no questions of

probability arise; we are cut off from the actual conditions of life

and live in a world where all things are possible. These day-dreams

cause very potent autosuggestions, and one should take care that they

are wholesome and innocent; but the important point is that on this

level of consciousness association seems to operate by similarity, and

emotion is comparatively intense. These conditions are highly

favourable to acceptation.

If, on getting into bed at night, we assume a comfortable posture,

relax our muscles and close our eyes, we fall naturally into a stage of

semi-consciousness akin to that of day-dreaming. If now we introduce

into the mind any desired idea, it is freed from the inhibiting

associations of daily life, associates itself by similarity, and

attracts emotion of the same quality as its own charge. The

Unconscious is thus caused to accept it, and inevitably it is turned

into an autosuggestion. Every time we repeat this process the

associative power of the idea is increased, its emotional value grows

greater, and the autosuggestion resulting from it is more powerful. By

this means we can induce the Unconscious to accept an idea, the normal

associations of which are contrary and unfavourable. The person with a

disease-soaked mind can gradually implant ideas of health, filling his

Unconscious daily with healing thoughts. The instrument we use is

Thought, and the condition essential to success is that the conscious

mind shall be lulled to rest.

Systems which hitherto have tried to make use of autosuggestion have

failed to secure reliable results because they did not place their

reliance on Thought, but tried to compel the Unconscious to accept an

idea by exercising the Will. Obviously, such attempts are doomed to

failure. By using the will we automatically wake ourselves up,

suppress the encroaching tide of the Unconscious, and thereby destroy

the condition by which alone we can succeed.

It is worth our while to note more closely how this happens. A

sufferer, whose mind is filled with thoughts of ill-health, sits down

to compel himself to accept a good suggestion. He calls up a thought

of health and makes an effort of the will to impress it on the

Unconscious. This effort restores him to full wakefulness and so

evokes the customary association--disease. Consequently, he finds

himself contemplating the exact opposite of what he desired. He

summons his will again and recalls the healthful thought, but since he

is now wider awake than ever, association is even more rapid and

powerful than before. The disease-thought is now in full possession of

his mind and all the efforts of his will fail to dislodge it. Indeed

the harder he struggles the more fully the evil thought possesses him.

This gives us a glimpse of the new and startling discovery to which

Coue's uniform success is due; namely, that when the will is in

conflict with an idea, the idea invariably gains the day. This is

true, of course, not only of Induced Autosuggestion, but also of the

spontaneous suggestions which occur in daily life. A few examples will

make this clear.

Most of us know how, when we have some difficult duty to perform, a

chance word of discouragement will dwell in the mind, eating away our

self-confidence and attuning our minds to failure. All the efforts of

our will fail to throw it off; indeed, the more we struggle against it

the more we become obsessed with it.

Very similar to this is the state of mind of the person suffering from

stage-fright. He is obsessed with ideas of failure and all the efforts

of his will are powerless to overcome them. Indeed, it is the state of

effort and tension which makes his discomfiture so complete.

Sport offers many examples of the working of this law.

A tennis-player is engaged to play in an important match. He wishes,

of course, to win, but fears that he will lose. Even before the day of

the game his fears begin to realise themselves. He is nervy and "out

of sorts." In fact, the Unconscious is creating the conditions best

suited to realise the thought in his mind--failure. When the game

begins his skill seems to have deserted him. He summons the resources

of his will and tries to compel himself to play well, straining every

nerve to recapture the old dexterity. But all his efforts only make

him play worse and worse. The harder he tries the more signally he

fails. The energy he calls up obeys not his will but the idea in his

mind, not the desire to win but the dominant thought of failure.

The fatal attraction of the bunker for the nervous golfer is due to the

same cause. With his mind's eye he sees his ball alighting in the most

unfavourable spot. He may use any club he likes, he may make a long

drive or a short; as long as the thought of the bunker dominates his

mind, the ball will inevitably find its way into it. The more he calls

on his will to help him, the worse his plight is likely to be. Success

is not gained by effort but by right thinking. The champion golfer or

tennis-player is not a person of herculean frame and immense

will-power. His whole life has been dominated by the thought of

success in the game at which he excels.

Young persons sitting for an examination sometimes undergo this painful

experience. On reading through their papers they find that all their

knowledge has suddenly deserted them. Their mind is an appalling blank

and not one relevant thought can they recall. The more they grit their

teeth and summon the powers of the will, the further the desired ideas

flee. But when they have left the examination-room and the tension

relaxes, the ideas they were seeking flow tantalisingly back into the

mind. Their forgetfulness was due to thoughts of failure previously

nourished in the mind. The application of the will only made the

disaster more complete.

This explains the baffling experience of the drug-taker, the drunkard,

the victim of some vicious craving. His mind is obsessed by the desire

for satisfaction. The efforts of the will to restrain it only make it

more overmastering. Repeated failures convince him at length that he

is powerless to control himself, and this idea, operating as an

autosuggestion, increases his impotence. So in despair, he abandons

himself to his obsession, and his life ends in wreckage.

We can now see, not only that the Will is incapable of vanquishing a

thought, but that as fast as the Will brings up its big guns, Thought

captures them and turns them against it.

This truth, which Baudouin calls the Law of Reversed Effort, is thus

stated by Coue:

"When the Imagination and the Will are in conflict the Imagination

invariably gains the day."

"In the conflict between the Will and the Imagination, the force of

the Imagination is in direct ratio to the square of the Will."

The mathematical terms are used, of course, only metaphorically.

Thus the Will turns out to be, not the commanding monarch of life, as

many people would have it, but a blind Samson, capable either of

turning the mill or of pulling down the pillars.

Autosuggestion succeeds by avoiding conflict. It replaces wrong

thought by right, literally applying in the sphere of science the

principle enunciated in the New Testament: "Resist not evil, but

overcome evil with good."

This doctrine is in no sense a negation of the will. It simply puts it

in its right place, subordinates it to a higher power. A moment's

reflection will suffice to show that the will cannot be more than the

servant of thought. We are incapable of exercising the will unless the

imagination has first furnished it with a goal. We cannot simply will,

we must will something, and that something exists in our minds as an

idea. The will acts rightly when it is in harmony with the idea in the


But what happens when, in the smooth execution of our idea, we are

confronted with an obstacle? This obstacle may exist outside us, as

did the golfer's bunker, but it must also exist as an idea in our minds

or we should not be aware of it.

As long as we allow this mental image to stay there, the efforts of our

will to overcome it only make it more irresistible. We run our heads

against it like a goat butting a brick wall. Indeed, in this way we

can magnify the smallest difficulty until it becomes insurmountable--we

can make mole-hills into mountains. This is precisely what the

neurasthenic does. The idea of a difficulty dwells unchanged in his

mind, and all his efforts to overcome it only increase its dimensions,

until it overpowers him and he faints in the effort to cross a street.

But as soon as we change the idea our troubles vanish. By means of the

intellect we can substitute for the blank idea of the obstacle that of

the means to overcome it. Immediately, the will is brought into

harmony again with thought, and we go forward to the triumphant

attainment of our end. It may be that the means adopted consist of a

frontal attack, the overcoming of an obstacle by force. But before we

bring this force into play, the mind must have approved it--must have

entertained the idea of its probable success. We must, in fact, have

thought of the obstacle as already smashed down and flattened out by

our attack. Otherwise, we should involve ourselves in the conflict

depicted above, and our force would be exhausted in a futile internal

battle. In a frontal attack against an obstacle we use effort, and

effort, to be effective, must be approved by the reason and preceded,

to some extent, by the idea of success.

Thus, even in our dealings with the outside world, Thought is always

master of the will. How much more so when our action is turned inward!

When practising autosuggestion we are living in the mind, where

thoughts are the only realities. We can meet with no obstacle other

than that of Thought itself. Obviously then, the frontal attack, the

exertion of effort, can never be admissible, for it sets the will and

the thought at once in opposition. The turning of our thoughts from

the mere recognition of an obstacle to the idea of the means to

overcome it, is no longer a preliminary, as in the case of outward

action. In itself it clears away the obstacle. By procuring the right

idea our end is already attained.

In applying effort during the practice of Induced Autosuggestion, we

use in the world of mind an instrument fashioned for use in the world

of matter. It is as if we tried to solve a mathematical problem by

mauling the book with a tin-opener.

For two reasons then, effort must never be allowed to intrude during

the practice of autosuggestion: first because it wakes us up and so

suppresses the tide of the Unconscious, secondly because it causes

conflict between Thought and the will.

One other interesting fact emerges from an examination of the foregoing

examples. In each case we find that the idea which occupied the mind

was of a final state, an accomplished fact. The golfer was thinking of

his ball dropping into the bunker, the tennis-player of his defeat, the

examinee of his failure. In each case the Unconscious realised the

thought in its own way, chose inevitably the means best suited to

arrive at its end--the realisation of the idea. In the case of the

golfer the most delicate physical adjustments were necessary. Stance,

grip and swing all contributed their quota, but these physical

adjustments were performed unconsciously, the conscious mind being

unaware of them. From this we see that we need not suggest the way in

which our aim is to be accomplished. If we fill our minds with the

thought of the desired end, provided that end is possible, the

Unconscious will lead us to it by the easiest, most direct path.

Here we catch a glimpse of the truth behind what is called "luck." We

are told that everything comes to him who waits, and this is literally

true, provided he waits in the right frame of mind. Some men are

notoriously lucky in business; whatever they touch seems to "turn to

gold." The secret of their success lies in the fact that they

confidently expect to succeed. There is no need to go so far as the

writers of the school of "New Thought," and claim that suggestion can

set in motion transcendental laws outside man's own nature. It is

quite clear that the man who expects success, of whatever kind it may

be, will unconsciously take up the right attitude to his environment;

will involuntarily close with fleeting opportunity, and by his inner

fitness command the circumstances without.

Man has often been likened to a ship navigating the seas of life. Of

that ship the engine is the will and Thought is the helm. If we are

being directed out of our true course it is worse than useless to call

for full steam ahead; our only hope lies in changing the direction of

the helm.

The Use Of Suggestion For The Cure Of Moral Ailments And Taints Either Congenital Or Acquired Thought Is A Force facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail