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Autosuggestion - The Children's Clinic

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

IN different parts of France a little band of workers recruited almost exclusively from the ranks of former patients, is propagating the ideas of Emile Coué with a success which almost rivals that of their master. Among these helpers none is more devoted or more eminently successful than Mlle. Kauffmant. She it is who, at the time of my visit, was managing the children's department of the Nancy clinic.'

While Coué was holding his consultations on the ground floor, young mothers in twos and threes, with their babies in their arms, could be seen ascending to the upper story, where a little drama was performed of a very different nature from that going on below.

In a large room, decorated with bright pictures and equipped with toys, a number of silent young women were seated in a wide circle. Their sick children lay in their arms or played at their feet. Here was a child whose life was choked at the source by hereditary disease—a small bundle of skin and bone with limbs like bamboo canes. Another lay motionless with closed eyes and a deathly face, as if pining to return to the world it came from. A little cripple dragged behind it a deformed leg as it tried to crawl, and near by a child of five was beating the air with its thin arms in an exhausting nervous storm. Older children were also present, suffering from eye and ear trouble, epilepsy, rickets, any one of the ailments, grave or slight, to which growing life is subjected.

In the centre of this circle sat a young woman with dark hair and a kindly keen face. On her lap was a little boy of four years with a club foot. As she gently caressed the foot, from which the clumsy boot had been removed, she told in a crooning tone, mingled with endearing phrases, of the rapid improvement which had already begun and would soon be complete. The foot was getting better; the joints were more supple and bent with greater ease; the muscles were developing, the tendons were drawing the foot into the right shape and making it straight and strong. Soon it would be perfectly normal; the little one would walk and run, play with other children, skip and bowl hoops. He would go to school and learn his lessons, would be intelligent and receptive. She told him too that he was growing obedient, cheerful, kind to others, truthful and courageous. The little boy had put one arm round her neck and was listening with a placid smile. His face was quite contented; he was enjoying himself.

While Mlle.Kauffmant was thus engaged, the women sat silent watching her intently, each perhaps mentally seeing her own little one endowed with the qualities depicted. The children were quiet, some dreamily listening, some tranquilly playing with a toy. Except for an occasional word of advice Mademoiselle was quite indifferent to them. Her whole attention was given to the child on her knee; her thought went out to him in a continual stream, borne along by a current of love and compassion, for she has devoted her life to the children and loves them as if they were her own. The atmosphere of the room was more like that of a church than a hospital. The mothers seemed to have left their sorrows outside. Their faces showed in varying degrees an expression of quiet confidence.

When this treatment had continued for about ten minutes, Mlle. Kauffmant returned the child to its mother and, after giving her a few words of advice, turned to her next patient. This was an infant of less than twelve months. While suffering from no specific disease it was continually ailing. It was below normal weight, various foods had been tried unsuccessfully, and medical advice had failed to bring about an improvement. Mademoiselle resumed her seat with the child on her lap. For some time the caresses, which were applied to the child's head and body, continued in silence. Then she began to talk to it. Her talk did not consist of connected sentences, as with the elder child who had learned to speak, but of murmured assurances, as if her thoughts were taking unconsciously the form of words. These suggestions were more general than in the previous case, bearing on appetite, digestion, assimilation, and on desirable mental and moral qualities. The caress continued for about ten minutes, the speech was intermittent, then the infant was returned to its mother and Mademoiselle turned her attention to another little sufferer.

With patients who are not yet old enough to speak Mlle. Kauffmant sometimes trusts to the caress alone. It seems to transmit the thoughts of health quite strongly enough to turn the balance in the child's mind on the side of health. But all mothers talk to their children long before the words they use are under-stood, and Mlle. Kauffmant, whose attitude is essentially maternal, reserves to herself the same right. She adheres to no rigid rule; if she wishes to speak aloud she does so, even when the child cannot grasp the meaning of her words.

This is perhaps the secret of her success : her method is plastic like the minds she works on. Coué's material—the adult mind—is more stable. It demands a clear-cut, distinct method, and leaves less room for adaptation; but the aim of Mlle. Kauffmant is to fill the child within and enwrap it without with the creative thoughts of health and joy. To this end she enlists any and every means within her power. The child itself, as soon as it is old enough to speak, is required to say, morning and night, the general formula : "Day by day, in every way, I'm getting better and bet-ter." If it is confined to its bed, it is encouraged to repeat this at any time and to make suggestions of health similar to those formulated in the sittings. No special directions are given as to how this should be done. Elaborate instructions would only introduce hindersome complications. Imagination, the power to pretend, is naturally strong and active in all children, and intuitively they make use of it in their autosuggestions. Moreover, they unconsciously imitate the tone and manner of their instructress.

But the centre of the child's universe is the mother. Any system which did not utilise her influence would be losing its most powerful ally. The mother is encouraged during the day to set an example of cheerfulness and confidence, to allude to the malady only in terms of encouragement—so renewing in the child's mind the prospect of recovery—and to exclude as far as possible all depressing influences from its vicinity. At night she is required to enter the child's bedchamber without waking the little one and to whisper good suggestions into its sleeping ear. Thus Mile. Kauffmant concentrates a multiplicity of means to bring about the same result. In this she is aided by the extreme acceptivity of the child's mind, and by the ab sence of that mass of pernicious spontaneous suggestions which in the adult mind have to be neutralised and transformed. It is in children, then, that the most encouraging results may be expected. I will quote three cases which I myself investigated to show the kind of results Mlle. Kauffmant obtains :

A little girl was born without the power of sight. The visual organs were intact, but she was incapable of lifting her eye-lids and so remained blind to all intents and purposes up to her seventh year. She was then brought by the mother to Mlle. Kauffmant. After a fortnight's treatment the child began to blink; gradually this action became more frequent, and a month after the treatment began she could see well enough to find her way unaided about the streets. When I saw her she had learnt to distinguish colours —as my own experiments proved—and was actually playing ball. The details supplied by Mile. Kauffmant were confirmed by the mother.

A child was born whose tuberculous father had died during the mother's pregnancy. Of five brothers and sisters none had survived the first year. The doctors to whom the child was taken held out no hope for its life. It survived, however, to the age of two, but was crippled and nearly blind, in addition to internal weaknesses. It was then brought to Mlle. Kauffmant. Three months later, when I saw it, nothing remained of its troubles but a slight squint and a stiffness in one of its knee-joints. These conditions, too, were rapidly diminishing.

Another child, about nine years of age, also of tuberculous parents, was placed under her treatment. One leg was an inch and a half shorter than the other. After a few months' treatment this disparity had almost disappeared. The same child had a wound, also of tuberculous origin, on the small of the back, which healed over in a few weeks and had completely disappeared when I saw her.

In each of the above cases the general state of health showed a great improvement. The child put on weight, was cheerful and bright even under the trying conditions of convalescence in a poverty-stricken home, and in character and disposition fully realised the suggestions formulated to it.

Since the suggestions of Mlle. Kauffmant are applied individually, the mothers were permitted to enter and leave the clinic at any time they wished. Mademoiselle was present on certain days every week, but this was not the sum of her labours. The greater part of her spare time was spent in visiting the little ones in their own homes. She penetrated into the dingiest tenements, the poorest slums, on this errand of mercy. I was able to accompany her on several of these visits, and saw her everywhere received not only with welcome, but with a respect akin to awe. She was regarded, almost as much as Coué himself, as a worker of miracles. But the reputation of both Coué and Mlle. Kauffmant rests on a broader basis even than autosuggestion, namely on their great goodness of heart.

They have placed not only their private means, but their whole life at the service of others. Neither ever accepts a penny-piece for the treatments they give, and I have never seen Coué refuse to give a treatment at however awkward an hour the subject may have asked it. The fame of the school has now spread to all parts not only of France, but of Europe and America. Coué's work has assumed such pro portions that his time is taken up often to the extent of fifteen or sixteen hours a day. He is now nearing his seventieth year, but thanks to the health-giving.; powers of his own method he is able to keep abreast of his work without any sign of fatigue and without the clouding of his habitual cheerfulness by even the shadow of a complaint. In fact, he is a living monument to the efficacy of Induced Autosuggestion.

It will be seen that Induced Autosuggestion is a method by which the mind can act directly upon itself and upon the body to produce whatever improvements, in reason, we desire. That it is efficient and successful should be manifest from what has gone before. Of all the questions which arise, the most urgent from the viewpoint of the average man seems to be this —Is a suggester necessary? Must one submit one-self to the influence of some other person, or can one in the privacy of one's own chamber exercise with equal success this potent instrument of health?

Coué's own opinion has already been quoted. Induced Autosuggestion is not dependent upon the mediation of another person. We can practise it for ourselves without others being even aware of what we are doing, and without devoting to it more than a few minutes of each day.

Here are a few quotations from letters written by those who have thus practised it for themselves.

" For a good many years now a rheumatic right shoulder has made it impossible for me to sleep on my right side and it seriously affected, and increasingly so, the use of my right arm. A masseuse told me she could effect no permanent improvement as there was granulation of the joints and a lesion. I suddenly realised two days ago that this shoulder no longer troubled me and that I was sleeping on that side with-out any pain. I have now lost any sensation of rheumatism in this shoulder and can get my right arm back as far as the other without the slightest twinge or discomfort. I have not applied any remedy or done anything that could possibly have worked these results except my practise of Coué."

L. S. (Sidmouth, Devon). 1 January, 1922.

"At my suggestion a lady friend of mine who had been ill for a good ten years read La Maîtrise de soimeme. I encouraged her as well as I could, and in a month she was transformed. Her husband, returning from a long journey, could not believe his eyes. This woman who never got up till midday, who never left the fire-side, whom the doctors had given up, now goes out at 10 a.m. even in the greatest cold. Other friends are anxiously waiting to read your pamphlet.

17 December, 1921 L. C. (Paris).

I am very much interested in your method, and since your lecture I have, every night and morning, repeated your little phrase. I used to have to take a pill every night, but now my constipation is cured and the pills are no longer necessary. My wife is also much better in every way. We've both got the bit of string with twenty knots."

H. (a London doctor). 7 January, 1922.

"Your method is doing me more good every day. I don't know how to thank you for the happiness I now experience. I shall never give up repeating the little phrase."

E. B. Guiévain (Belgium). 23 November, 1921.

" I have followed your principles for several months and freed myself from a terrible state of neurasthenia which was the despair of my three doctors."

G. (Angoulême). 23 January, 1922.

" My friend Miss C. completely cured herself of a rheumatic shoulder and knee in a very short time, and then proceeded to turn her attention to her eye-sight.

She had worn spectacles for 3o years and her left eye was much more short-sighted than her right. When she began she could only read (without her glasses and with her left eye) when the book was almost touching her face. In six weeks she had ex-tended the limit of vision so that she saw as far with the left as formerly with the right. Meanwhile the right had improved equally. She measured the distances every week, and when she was here a few days ago she told me she had in three days gained 4 centimetres with her left and 6 centimetres with her right eye. She had done this on her own."

G. (London). 5 January, 1922.

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