Autosuggestion - Conclusion
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
INDUCED Autosuggestion is not a substitute for medical practice. It will not make us live for ever, neither will it free us completely from the common ills of life. What it may do in the future, when all its implications have been realised, all its resources exploited, we cannot say. There is no doubt that a generation brought up by its canons would differ profoundly from the disease-ridden population of today. But our immediate interest is with the present.
The adult of to-day carries in his Unconscious a memory clogged with a mass of adverse suggestions which have been accumulating since childhood. The first task of Induced Autosuggestion will be to clear away this mass of mental lumber. Not until this has been accomplished can the real man appear and the creative powers of autosuggestion begin to manifest themselves.
By the use of this method each one of us should be able to look forward to a life in which disease is a diminishing factor. But how great a part it will play depends upon the conditions we start from and the regularity and correctness of our practice. Should disease befall us we possess within a potent means of expelling it, but this does not invalidate the complementary method of destroying it from without. Auto-suggestion and the usual medical practice should go hand in hand, each supplementing the other. If you are ill, call in your doctor as before, but enlist the resources of Induced Autosuggestion to reinforce and extend his treatment.
In this connection it must be insisted on that auto-suggestion should be utilised for every ailment, what-ever its nature, and whether its inroads be grave or slight. Every disease is either strengthened or weakened by the action of the mind. We cannot take up an attitude of neutrality. Either we must aid the disease to destroy us by allowing our minds to dwell on it, or we must oppose it and destroy it by a stream of healthful dynamic thought. Too frequently we spontaneously adopt the former course.
The general opinion that functional and nervous diseases alone are susceptible to suggestive treatment is at variance with the facts. During Coué's thirty years of practice, in which many thousands of cases have been treated, he has found that organic troubles yield as easily as functional, that bodily derangements are even easier to cure than nervous and mental. He makes no such distinctions; an illness is an illness whatever its nature. As such Coué attacks it, and in 98 per cent. of cases he attains in greater or less degree a positive result.
Apart from the permanently insane, in whose minds the machinery of autosuggestion is itself deranged, there are only two classes of patient with whom Induced Autosuggestion seems to fail. One consists of persons whose intelligence is so low that the directions given are never comprehended ; the other of those who lack the power of voluntary attention and cannot devote their minds to an idea even for a few consecutive seconds. These two classes, however, are numerically insignificant, together making up not much more than 2 per cent. of the population.
Autosuggestion is equally valuable as an aid to surgical practice. A broken bone-the sceptic's last resource-cannot of course be treated 'by autosuggestion alone. A surgeon must be called in to mend it. But when the limb has been rightly set and the necessary mechanical precautions have been taken, auto-suggestion will provide the best possible conditions for recovery. It can prevent lameness, stiffness, unsightly dèformity and the other evils which a broken limb is apt to entail, and it will shorten considerably the normal period of convalescence.
It is sometimes stated that the results obtained by autosuggestion are not permanent. This objection is really artificial, arising from the fact that we ignore the true nature of autosuggestion and regard it merely as a remedy. When we employ autosuggestion to heal a malady our aim is so to leaven the Unconscious with healthful thoughts, that not only will that specific malady be excluded, but all others with it. Autosuggestion should not only remove a particular form of disease, but the tendency to all disease.
If after an ailment has been removed we allow our mind to revert to unhealthy thoughts, they will tend to realise themselves in the same way as any others, and we may again fall a victim to ill-health. Our sickness may take the same form as on the preceding occasion, or it may not. That will depend on the nature of our thought. But by the regular employment of the general formula we can prevent any such recurrence. Instead of reverting to unhealthy states of mind we shall progressively strengthen the healthy and creative thought that has already given us health, so that with each succeeding day our defence will be more impenetrable. Not only do we thus avoid a relapse into former ailments but we clear out of our path those which lie' in wait for us in the future.
We saw that in the Nancy clinic some of the cures effected are almost instantaneous. It would be a mistake, however, to embark on the practice of Induced Autosuggestion with the impression that we are going to be miraculously healed in the space of a few days. Granted sufficient faith, such a result would undoubtedly ensue; nay, more, we have records of quite a number of such cases, even where the help of a second person has not been called in. Here is an example. A friend of mine, M. Albert P., of Bordeaux, had suffered for more than ten years with neuralgia of the face. Hearing of Coué, he wrote to him, and received instructions to repeat the general formula. He did so, and on the second day the neuralgia had vanished and has never since returned. But such faith is not common. Immediate cures are the exception, and it will be safer for us to look forward to a gradual and progressive improvement. In this way we shall guard against disappointment. It may be added that Coué prefers the gradual cure, finding it more stable and less likely to be disturbed by adverse conditions.
We should approach autosuggestion in the same reasonable manner as we approach any other scientific dis covery. There is no hocus-pocus about it, nor are any statements made here which experience cannot verify. But the attitude we should beware most of is that of the intellectual amateur, who makes the vital things of life small coin to exchange with his neighbour of the dinner-table. Like religion, autosuggestion is a thing to practise. A man may be conversant with all the creeds in Christendom and be none the better for it; while some simple soul, loving God and his fellows, may combine the high principles of Christianity in his life without any acquaintance with theology. So it is with autosuggestion.
Autosuggestion is just as effective in the treatment of moral delinquencies as in that of physical ills. Drunkenness, kleptomania, the drug habit, uncontrolled or perverted sexual desires, as well as minor failings of character, are all susceptible to its action. It is as powerful in small things as in great. By particular suggestions we can modify our tastes. We can acquire a relish for the dishes we naturally dislike, and make disagreeable medicine taste pleasant. So encouraging has been its application to the field of morals that Coué is trying to gain admittance to the French state reformatories. So far, the official dislike for innovations has proved a barrier, but there is good reason to hope that in the near future the application of this method to the treatment of the criminal will be greatly extended.
By way of anticipating an objection it may be stated that the Coué method of Induced Autosuggestion is in no sense inferior to hypnotic suggestion. Coué himself began his career as a hypnotist, but being dissatisfied with the results, set out in quest of a method more simple and universal. Conscious autosuggestion, apart from its convenience, can boast one great advantage over its rival. The effects of hypnotic suggestion are often lost within a few hours of the treatment. Whereas by the use of the general formula the results of Induced Autosuggestion go on progressively augmenting.
Here we touch again the question of the suggester.
We have already seen that a suggester' is not needed, that autosuggestion can yield its fullest fruits to those who practise it unaided. But some persons cannot be prevailed on to accept this fact. They feel a sense of insufficiency; the mass of old wrong suggestions has risen so mountain-high that they imagine themselves incapable of removing it. With such the presence of a suggester is an undoubted help. They have nothing to do but lie passive and receive the ideas he evokes. Even so, however, they will get little good unless they consent to repeat the general formula.
But as long as we look on autosuggestion as a remedy we miss its true significance. Primarily its a means of self-culture, and one far more potent than any we have hitherto possessed. It enables us to develop the mental qualities we lack : efficiency, judgment, creative imagination, all that will help us to bring our life's enterprise to a successful end. Most of us are aware of thwarted abilities, powers undeveloped, impulses checked in their growth. These are present in our Unconscious like trees in a forest, which, over-shadowed by their neighbours, are stunted for lack of air and sunshine. By means of autosuggestion we can supply them with the power needed for growth and bring them to fruition in our conscious lives. How-ever old, however infirm, however selfish, weak or vicious we may be, autosuggestion will do something for us. It gives us a new means of culture and discipline by which the accents immature," the " purposes unsure " can be nursed into strength, and the evil impulses attacked at the root. It is essentially an individual practice, an individual attitude of mind. Only a narrow view would split it up into categories, debating its application to this thing or to that., It touches our being in its wholeness. Below the fussy perturbed little ego, with its local habitation, its name, its habits and views and oddities is an ocean of power, as serene as the depths below the troubled surface of the sea. Whatever is of you comes eventually thence, however perverted by the prism of self-consciousness. Autosuggestion is a channel by which the tranquil powers of this ultimate being are raised to the level of our life here and now.
What prospects does autosuggestion open to us in the future?
It teaches us that the burdens of life are, at least in large measure, of our own creating. We reproduce in ourselves and in our circumstances the thoughts of our minds. It goes further. It offers us a means by which we can change these thoughts when they are evil and foster them when they are good, so producing a corresponding betterment in our individual life. But the process does not end with the individual. The thoughts of society are realised in social conditions, the thoughts of humanity in world conditions. What would be the attitude towards our social and international problems of a generation nurtured from infancy in the knowledge and practice of autosuggestion? If fear and disease were banned from the individual life, could they persist in the life of the nation? If each person found happiness in his own heart would the illusory greed for possession survive? The acceptance of autosuggestion entails a change of attitude, a re-valuation of life. If we stand with our faces west-ward we see nothing but clouds and darkness, yet by a simple turn of the head we bring the wide panorama of the sunrise into view.
That Coué's discoveries may profoundly affect our educational methods is beyond question. Hitherto we have been dealing directly only with the conscious mind, feeding it with information, grafting on to it useful accomplishments. What has been done for the development of character has been incidental and secondary. This was inevitable so long as the Unconscious remained undiscovered, but now we have the means of reaching profounder depths, of endowing the child not only with reading and arithmetic, but with health, character and personality.
But perhaps it is in our treatment of the criminal that the greatest revolution may be expected. The acts for which he is immured result from nothing more than twists and tangles of the threads of thought in the Unconscious mind. This is the view of eminent authorities. But autosuggestion takes us a long step further. It shows how these discords of character may be resolved. Since Coué has succeeded in restoring to moral health a youth of homicidal tendencies, why should not the same method succeed with many of the outcasts who fill our prisons? At least the younger delinquents should prove susceptible. But the idea underlying this attitude entails a revolution in our penal procedure. It means little less than this: that crime is a disease and should be treated as such; that the idea of punishment must give place to that of cure; the vindictive attitude to one of pity. This brings us near to the ideals of the New Testament, and indeed, autosuggestion, as a force making for goodness, is bound to touch closely on religion.
It teaches the doctrine of the inner life which saints and sages have proclaimed through all ages. It asserts that within are the sources of calm, of power and of courage, and that the man who has once attained mastery of this inner sphere is secure in the face of all that may befall him. This truth is apparent in the lives of great men. Martyrs could sing at the stake because their eyes were turned within on the vision of glory which filled their hearts. Great achievements have been wrought by men who had the fortitude to follow the directions of an inner voice, even in contradiction to the massed voices they heard without.
Suppose we find that the power Christ gave to his disciples to work miracles of healing was not a gift conferred on a few selected individuals, but was the heritage of all men; that the kingdom of heaven within us to which He alluded was available in a simple way for the purging and elevation of our common life, for procuring sounder health and sweeter minds. Is not the affirmation contained in Coué's formula a kind of prayer? Does it not appeal to something beyond the self-life, to the infinite power lying behind us?
Autosuggestion is no substitute for religion; it is rather a new weapon added to the religious armoury. If as a mere scientific technique it can yield such results, what might it not do as the expression of those high yearnings for perfection which religion incorporates?