An Artist's Experiments In Auto-Suggestion
( Originally Published 1908 )
"My work, as you know, brings me constantly before the public, and consequently my most essential need is self-possession and self-confidence. These qualities I lacked to such a degree that I was never able to do my-self justice. A few days after I began the study of suggestion I had an important duty to perform. About two hours before going on to the platform I made some suggestions to myself according to your instructions, such as that I should feel no fear or nervousness, and that I should be able to throw myself into my work, etc. I then dismissed the matter from my mind. The result was truly remarkable. When the time came I had a sense of ease and power and self-possession such as I had never experienced before, either in public or private, and I held my audience from the beginning to the end. Not only that, but it was a perfect joy to me to be able to do it. I have had several successes since that time, and can now take an entirely different attitude toward my art and my public work. Instead of the helpless nervousness which used to possess me, I have a feeling of confidence and power, so marked that those who know me have commented upon the change without knowing the reason. I have gone steadily on, and I not only hope, but I know that it is within my power to reach the full expression of my talent — a thing which seemed utterly impossible before. I have used auto-suggestion in many other ways and with surprising success. I find that it is quite possible to put out of my mind little annoying vexatious things, which are not worth a thought, but which destroy peace of mind as effectually as large troubles. I can banish the `blues' as with a magic wand. On one occasion I had a piece of business to transact, requiring the utmost tact and delicacy. It was a matter of vital importance to me. On going to sleep the night before and on awakening in the morning I suggested to myself that when the time came I should know how to say the right thing in the right way. When the eventful hour came my mind was clear and alert, and I seemed to have a deeper insight into the matter. I said just what came into my mind to say, and I could scarcely believe the evidence of my senses when the thing so much desired was accomplished. I could give other instances, but do not wish to weary you. It has made life over for me. It seems truly as if the crooked things are made straight and the rough places plain."
A CLERGYMAN ON AUTO-SUGGESTION
`In writing this letter, I hope, in as simple a way as possible, to give several reasons why I believe in auto-suggestion. These reasons will take the form of illustrations of the good which has been accomplished in my own case. I am a minister. For some time I have been engaged in literary work. Before and during that time I had been troubled with nervousness, sleeplessness, imaginary worries, dismal forebodings. I heard of the work being done in Emmanuel Church, a work which was and is designed precisely for such a case as mine. Yet I did not put much faith in it at first. It seemed too simple. I examined further. I found that it was simple, but also that there are profound pyschological laws which may be put into operation for the healing of mind and of body. The method alone is simple. I came to discover reservoirs of stored-up forces lying in the depths of the subconscious self of which I had never dreamt. I determined to give the new "cure" a trial. My first weakness was a great tendency to worry, to anticipate troubles that never came to pass. All this, of course, reacted upon the nervous system. My nerves became demoralized. I determined to check these miseries. In the morning and evening I "suggested" to myself not negative but positive qualities, e.g., courage, self-confidence, cheerfulness. At first, it all seemed a delusion and a snare; but in two weeks or so things looked brighter, the world took on a more roseate hue and life appeared a different and better thing altogether. To-day, while not wholly delivered from the bondage, I am on the way to complete and permanent conquest. I may add such a thing looked impossible three months ago. Again, to any one who knows what insomnia is, it is scarcely necessary for me to speak. In the morning I arose unrested, at night I went to bed tired and sleep-less. Again I "suggested" sleep, a good night's sleep. At first it failed. The fault was mine. I did not treat the method seriously enough. Again I tried more suggestion, say fifteen minutes. That night, the third or fourth, I slept the sleep of the just for five hours. I kept the "suggestion" up until today I sleep from six to six hours and a half.
Finally, nervousness in the pulpit troubled me a great deal. I wanted to get rid of it. Well, on the Wednesday or Thursday previous to the Sunday on which I was to preach I began to "suggest" to myself "self-confidence," "courage," "faith." If I had these I knew I had won half the battle. That first Sunday it worked like magic. I felt like a new man. I was a new man. I had more power, more energy, consequent upon more courage and self-confidence. I was more at my ease, which meant that the people were more at theirs. A message I tried to give was no longer so formless, not quite so dead.
'This letter, I fear, is becoming long. Yet I cannot close without saying that in other directions I have been wonderfully helped. Ministers, like other persons, have a temper. I think I was especially human in that respect. That, at least, is a frank confession. Perhaps I can afford now to be frank when I say that the "old man" is being put off continually and the "new man" of deeper faith, of more buoyant hope, of larger sympathies, is being put on day by day.
I find auto-suggestion is also good in my studies. If I Wish for more concentration in my thinking, more ease in grasping ideas, more fluency in writing, with the will comes the strength or capacity for execution. At first, th results may seem, like the blind man, who, when his sight was restored, saw men as trees walking. Things are blurred — distorted — then they become clearer, until, at last, they stand out in distinctest outline. At the beginning we do not seem to get results. The bad temper, or worry, or nervousness seem to be still master. It may be so: but another trial, and still another, and the first victory is won.
After that it becomes easier. At the moment of worry or nervousness it seems as if the suggestions I made during the day came back to me like an old friend to remind me of my good resolutions, and I am certain they will, after a time, become a second nature.