The Practice of Autosuggestion
C. Harry Brooks & Emile Coué
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1922. By the method of Emile Coue. Includes chapters as follows. Coue's Nancy Practice: clinic of Emile Coue, a few of Coue's cures, the children's clinic; Nature of Autosuggestion: thought is a force, thought and the will; Practice of Autosuggestion: general rules, general formula, particular suggestions, how to deal with pain, autosuggestion and the child.
THE discoveries of Emile Coue are of such moment for the happiness and efficiency of the individual life that it is the duty of anyone acquainted with them to pass them on to his fellows.
The lives of many men and women are robbed of their true value by twists and flaws of character and temperament, which, while defying the efforts of the will, would yield rapidly to the influence of autosuggestion.
Unfortunately, the knowledge of this method has hitherto been available in England only in the somewhat detailed and technical work of Professor Charles Baudouin, and in a small pamphlet, printed privately by M. Coue, which has not been publicly exposed for sale.
To fill this gap is the aim of the following pages. They are designed to present to the layman in non-technical form the information necessary to enable him to practise autosuggestion for himself.
All readers who wish to obtain a deeper insight into the theoretical basis of autosuggestion are recommended to study Professor Baudouin's fascinating work, Suggestion and Autosuggestion.
Although in these pages there are occasional divergences from Professor Baudouin's views, his book remains beyond question the authoritative statement on the subject; indeed it is hardly possible without it to form an adequate idea of the scope of autosuggestion.
My own indebtedness to it in writing this little volume is very great. Mr. Coue's own pamphlet, Self-Mastery, can now be obtained from the Institute for the Practice of Autosuggestion, 20 Grosvenor Gardens, London, S. W. I. My thanks are due for innumerable kindnesses to Mr. Coue himself.
That he is the
of patience everyone knows
who has been in contact with him. I am also indebted to the Rev. Ernest
Charles, of Malvern Link, who, though disclaiming responsibility for
some of the views expressed here, has made many extremely valuable
C. H. B. (MALVERN
21 February, 1922.
THE materials for
little book were collected by
Mr. Brooks during a visit he paid me in the summer of 1921. He was, I
think, the first Englishman to come to Nancy with the express purpose
of studying my method of conscious autosuggestion.
In the course of daily visits extending over some weeks, by attending my consultations, and by private conversations with myself, he obtained a full mastery of the method, and we threshed out a good deal of the theory on which it rests.
The results of this study are contained in the following pages. Mr. Brooks has skilfully seized on the essentials and put them forward in a manner that seems to me both simple and clear.
The instructions given are amply sufficient to enable anyone to practise autosuggestion for him or herself, without seeking the help of any other person.
It is a method which everyone should follow the sick to obtain healing, the healthy to prevent the coming of disease in the future.
By its practice we
insure for ourselves, all our
lives long, an excellent state of health, both of the mind and the
E. COUE. (NANCY.)
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
treatments was already
crowded, but in spite of that eager newcomers constantly tried to gain
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
that auto-suggestion 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 neurasthenica 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
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 auto-suggestion 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 THE CLINIC OF EMILE COUE 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
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 Coue, " ' 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
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
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
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
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 hence-forward 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
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
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 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
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 The translation given here of Coue's formula differs slightly from that popularised in England during his visit of November, 1921. The above, however, is the English version which he considers most suitable.
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
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.
THOUGHT IS A FORCE
AUTOSUGGESTION is not a pseudo-religion like Christian Science or "New Thought." It is a scientific method based on the discoveries of psychology. The traditional psychology was regarded by the layman, not without some cause, as a dull and seemingly useless classification of our conscious faculties.
But within the past twenty-five years the science has undergone a great change. A revolution has taken place in it which seems likely to provoke a revolution equally profound in the wider limits of our common life. From a preoccupation with the conscious it has turned to the Unconscious (or subconscious), to the vast area of mental activity which exists outside the circle of our awareness.
In doing so it has grasped at the very roots of life itself, has groped down to the depths where the " life-force," the elan vital, touches our individual being. What this may entail in the future we can only dimly guess.
Just as the discovery of America altered the balance of the Old World, shifting it westward to the shores of the Atlantic, so the discovery and investigation of the Unconscious seems destined to shift the balance of human life. Obviously, this is no place to embark on the discussion of a subject of such extreme complexity.
The investigation of the Unconscious is a science in itself, in which different schools of thought are seeking to disengage a basis of fact from conflicting and daily changing theories.
But there is a
body of fact, experimentally
proven, on which the authorities agree, and of this we quote a few
features which directly interest us as students of autosuggestion. The
Unconscious is the storehouse of memory, where every impression we
receive from earliest in-fancy to the last hour of life is recorded
with the minutest accuracy.
These memories, however, are not inert and quiescent, like the marks on the vulcanite records of a gramophone; they are vitally active, each one forming a thread in the texture of our personality. The sum of all these impressions is the man himself, the ego, the form through which the general life is individualised. The outer man is but a mask; the real self dwells behind the veil of the Unconscious.
The Unconscious is also a power-house. It is dominated by feeling, and feeling is the force which impels our lives. It provides the energy for conscious thought and action, and for the performance of the vital processes of the body.
Finally the Unconscious plays the part of supervisor over our physical processes. Digestion, assimilation, the circulation of the blood, the action of the lungs, the kidneys and all the vital organs are controlled by its agency. Our organism is not a clockwork machine which once wound up will run of itself.
Its processes in all their complexity are supervised by mind. It is not the intellect, however, which does this work, but the Unconscious. The intellect still stands aghast before the problem of the human body, lost like Pascal in the profundities of analysis, each discovery only revealing new depths of mystery. But the Unconscious seems to be familiar with it in every detail.
It may be added that the Unconscious never sleeps; during the sleep of the conscious it seems to be more vigilant than during our waking hours. In comparison with these, the powers of the conscious mind seem almost insignificant.
Derived from the Unconscious during the process of evolution, the conscious is, as it were, the antechamber where the crude energies of the Unconscious are selected and adapted for action on the world outside us.
In the past we have
exaggerated the importance
of the conscious intellect. To claim for it the discoveries of
civilisation is to confuse the instrument with the agent, to attribute
sight to the field-glass instead of to the eye behind it.
The value of the conscious mind must not be underrated, however. It is a machine of the greatest value, the seat of reason, the social instincts and moral concepts. But it is a machine and not the engine, nor yet the engineer. It provides neither material nor power.
These are furnished by the Unconscious. These two strata of mental life are in perpetual interaction one with the other. Just as everything conscious has its preliminary step in the Unconscious, so every conscious thought passes down into the lower stratum and there becomes an element in our being, partaking of the Unconscious energy, and playing its part in supervising and determining our mental and bodily states.
If it is a healthful thought we are so much the better; if it is a diseased one we are so much the worse. It is this transformation of a thought into an element of our life that we call Autosuggestion. Since this is a normal part of the mind's action we shall have no difficulty in finding evidence of it in our daily experiences. Walking down the street in a gloomy frame of mind you meet a buoyant, cheery acquaintance.
The mere sight of his genial smile acts on you like a tonic, and when you have chatted with him for a few minutes your gloom has disappeared, giving place to cheerfulness and confidence. What has effected this change? Nothing other than the idea in your own mind.
As you watched his face, listened to his good-natured voice, noticed the play of his smile, your conscious mind was occupied by the idea of cheerfulness. This idea on being transferred to the Unconscious became a reality, so that without any logical grounds you became cheerful. Few people, especially young people, are unacquainted with the effects produced by hearing or reading ghost-stories.
You have spent the
evening, let us say, at a friend's
house, listening to terrifying tales of apparitions. At a late hour you
leave the fireside circle to make your way home. The states of fear
imaged before your mind have realised themselves in your Unconscious.
You tread gingerly in the dark places, hurry past the churchyard and feel a distinct relief when the lights of home come into view. It is the old road you have so often traversed with perfect equanimity, but its cheerful associations are over-looked and the commonest objects tinged with the colour of your subjective states.
Autosuggestion cannot change a post into a spectre, but if you are very impressionable it will so distort your sensory impressions that common sounds seem charged with super- natural significance and every-day objects take on terrifying shapes.
In each of the above examples the idea of a mental state--cheerfulness or fear--was presented to the mind. The idea on reaching the Unconscious became a reality; that is to say, you actually became cheerful or frightened. The same process is much easier to recognise where the resultant is not a mental but a bodily state.
One often meets people who take a delight in describing with a wealth of detail the disorders with which they or their friends are afflicted. A sensitive person is condemned by social usage to listen to a harrowing account of some grave malady. As detail succeeds detail the listener feels a chilly discomfort stealing over him.
He turns pale, breaks into a cold perspiration, and is aware of an unpleasant sensation at the pit of the stomach. Sometimes, generally where the listener is a child, actual vomiting or a fainting fit may ensue. These effects are undeniably physical; to produce them the organic processes must have been sensibly disturbed. Yet their cause lies entirely in the idea of illness, which, ruthlessly impressed upon the mind, realises itself in the Unconscious.
This effect may be so precise as to reproduce the actual symptoms of the disease described. Medical students engaged in the study of some particular malady frequently develop its characteristic symptoms.
with the experience known as "
stage fright." The victim may be a normal person, healthy both in mind
and body. He may possess in private life a good voice, a mind fertile
in ideas and a gift of fluent expression. He may know quite surely that
his audience is friendly and sympathetic to the ideas he wishes to
unfold. But let him mount the steps of a platform.
Immediately his knees begin to tremble and his heart to palpitate; his mind becomes a blank or a chaos, his tongue and lips refuse to frame coherent sounds, and after a few stammerings he is forced to make a ludicrous withdrawal.
The cause of this baffling experience lay in the thoughts which occupied the subject's mind before his public appearance. He was afraid of making himself ridiculous. He expected to feel uncomfortable, feared that he would forget his speech or be unable to express himself. These negative ideas, penetrating to the Unconscious, realised themselves and precisely what he feared took place.
If you live in a town you have probably seen people who, in carelessly crossing the street, find themselves in danger of being run down by a vehicle. In this position they sometimes stand for an appreciable time " rooted," as we say, " to the spot." This is because the danger seems so close that they imagine themselves powerless to elude it.
As soon as this idea gives place to that of escape they get out of the way as fast as they can. If their first idea persisted, however, the actual powerlessness resulting from it would likewise persist, and unless the vehicle stopped or turned aside they would infallibly be run over. One occasionally meets people suffering from a nervous complaint known as St. Vitus' Dance. They have a disconcerting habit of contorting their faces, screwing round their necks or twitching their shoulders.
It is a well known fact that those who come into close contact with them, living in the same house or working in the same office, are liable to contract the same habit, often performing the action without themselves being aware of it.
This is due to the operation of the same law. The idea of the habit, being repeatedly presented to their minds, realises itself, and they begin to perform a similar movement in their own persons.
Examples of this law
present themselves at every turn.
Have you ever asked yourself why some people faint at the sight of
blood, or why most of us turn giddy when we look down from a great
If we turn to the sufferers from neurosis we find some who have lost their powers of speech or of vision; some, like the blacksmith we saw in Coue's clinic, who have lost the use of their limbs; others suffering from a functional disturbance of one of the vital organs.
The cause in each case is nothing more tangible than an idea which has become realised in the Unconscious mind.
These instances show clearly enough that the thoughts we think do actually become realities in the Unconscious. But is this a universal law, operating in every life, or merely something contingent and occasional?
Sometimes irrelevant cheerfulness seems only to make despondency more deep. Certain types of individual are only irritated by the performance of a stage comedy. Physicians listen to the circumstantial accounts of their patients' ailments without being in the least upset.
These facts seem at first sight at variance with the rule. But they are only apparent exceptions which serve to test and verify it. The physical or mental effect invariably corresponds with the idea present in the mind, but this need not be identical with the thought communicated from without.
Sometimes a judgment interposes itself, or it may be that the idea calls up an associated idea which possesses greater vitality and therefore dislodges it. A gloomy person who meets a cheerful acquaintance may mentally contrast himself with the latter, setting his own troubles beside the other's good fortune, his own grounds for sadness beside the other's grounds for satisfaction.
Thus the idea of his own unhappiness is strengthened and sinking into the Unconscious makes still deeper the despondency he experienced before. In the same way the doctor, listening to the symptoms of a patient, does not allow these distressful ideas to dwell in his conscious mind. His thought passes on immediately to the remedy, to the idea of the help he must give.
Not only does he
this helpfulness in reasoned
action, but also, by Unconscious realisation, in his very bearing and
manner. Or his mind may be concentrated on the scientific bearings of
the case, so that he will involuntarily treat the patient as a specimen
on which to pursue his researches.
The steeplejack experiences no giddiness or fear in scaling a church spire because the thought of danger is immediately replaced by the knowledge of his own clear head and sure foot. This brings us to a point which is of great practical importance in the performance of curative auto- suggestion.
No idea presented to the mind can realise itself unless the mind accepts it. Most of the errors made hitherto in this field have been due to the neglect of this fundamental fact.
If a patient is suffering from severe toothache it is not of the slightest use to say to him: " You have no pain." The statement is so grossly opposed to the fact that " acceptation " is impossible. The patient will reject the suggestion, affirm the fact of his suffering, and so, by allowing his conscious mind to dwell on it, probably make it more intense.
We are now in a position to formulate the basic law of autosuggestion as follows: Every idea which enters the conscious mind, if it is accepted by the Unconscious, is transformed by it into a reality and forms henceforth a permanent element in our life. This is the process called " Spontaneous Auto-suggestion."
It is a law by which the mind of man has always worked, and by which all our minds are working daily. The reader will see from the examples cited and from others which he will constantly meet that the thoughts we think determine not only our mental states, our sentiments and emotions, but the delicate actions and adjustments of our physical bodies.
Trembling, palpitation, stammering, blushing--not to speak of the pathological states which occur in neurosis are due to modifications and changes in the blood-flow, in muscular action and in the working of the vital organs. These changes are not voluntary and conscious ones, they are determined by the Unconscious and come to us often with a shock of surprise.
It must be evident
we fill our conscious minds
with ideas of health, joy, goodness, efficiency, and can ensure their
acceptation by the Unconscious, these ideas too will become realities,
capable of lifting us on to a new plane of being. The difficulty which
has hitherto so frequently brought these hopes to naught is that of
ensuring acceptation. This will be treated in the next chapter.
To sum up, the whole process of Autosuggestion consists of two steps: (I) The acceptation of an idea. (2) Its transformation into a reality. Both these operations are performed by the Unconscious.
Whether the idea is originated in the mind of the subject or is presented from without by the agency of another person is a matter of indifference. In both cases it undergoes the same process: it is submitted to the Unconscious, accepted or rejected, and so either realised or ignored. Thus the distinction between Autosuggestion and Heterosuggestion is seen to be both arbitrary and superficial.In essentials all suggestion is Autosuggestion. The only distinction we need make is between Spontaneous Autosuggestion, which takes place independently of our will and choice, and Induced Autosuggestion, in which we consciously select the ideas we wish to realise and purposely convey them to the Unconscious.
The Practice of Autosuggestion
by C. Harry Brooks & Emile Coué
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