Autosuggestion - Particular Suggestions
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
THE use of particular suggestions outlined in this chapter is of minor importance compared with that of the general formula—" Day by day, in every way, I'm getting better and better." The more deeply Coué pursues his investigations, the more fully he be-comes convinced that all else is secondary to this. It is not difficult to make a guess as to why this should be. In the general formula the attention is fully absorbed by the idea of betterment. The mind is directed away from all that hinders and impedes and fixed on a positive goal. In formulating particular suggestions, however, we are always skating on the thin ice round our faults and ailments, always touching on subjects which have the most painful associations. So that our ideas have not the same creative positiveness. However that may be, it is a matter of experience that the general formula is the basis of the whole method, and that all else is merely an adjuvant, an auxiliary—useful, but inessential to the main object.
We have seen that a partial outcropping of the Unconscious takes place whenever we relax our mental and physical control, and let the mind wander; in popular language, when we fall into a " brown study " or a " day-dream. This outcropping should be sought before the special suggestions are formulated.
But again we must beware of making simple things seem hard. Baudouin would have us perform a num ber of elaborate preparatives, which, however valuable to the student of psychology, serve with the layman only to distract the mind, and by fixing the attention on the mechanism impair the power of the creative idea. Moreover, they cause the subject to exert efforts to attain a state the very essence of which is effortlessness, like the victim of insomnia who " tries his hardest " to fall asleep.
In order to formulate particular suggestions, go to a room where you will be free from interruption, sit down in a comfortable chair, close your eyes, and let your muscles relax, In other words, act precisely as if you were going to take a siesta. In doing so you allow the Unconscious tide to rise to a sufficient height to make your particular suggestions effective. Now call up the desired ideas through the medium of speech. Tell yoursélf that such and such ameliorations are going to occur.
But here we must give a few hints as to the form these suggestions should take.
We should never set our faith a greater task than, it can accomplish. A patient suffering from deafness would be ill-advised to make the suggestion : " I can hear perfectly." In the partial state of outcropping association is not entirely cut ,off, and such an idea would certainly call up its contrary. Thus we should initiate a suggestion antagonistic to the one we desired. In this way we only court disappointment and by losing faith in our instrument rob it of its efficacy.
Further, we should avoid as far as possible all mention of the ailment or difficulty against which the suggestion is aimed. Indeed, our own attention should be directed not so much to getting rid of wrong conditions as to cultivating the opposite right ones in their place. If you are inclined to be neurasthenic your mind is frequently occupied with fear. This fear haunts you because some thwarted element in your personality, surviving in the Unconscious, gains through it a perverse satisfaction. In other words, your Unconscious enjoys the morbid emotional condition which fear brings with it. Should you succeed in banishing your fears you would probably feel dissatisfied, life would seem empty. The old ideas would beckon you with promises, not of happiness truly, but of emotion and excitement. But if your suggestions take a positive form, if you fill your mind with thoughts of self-confidence, courage, outward activity, and interest in the glowing and vital things of life, the morbid ideas will be turned out of doors and there will be no vacant spot to which they can return.
Whatever the disorder may be, we should refer to it as little as possible, letting the whole attention go out to the contrary state of health. We must dwell on the " Yes-idea," affirming with faith the realisation of our hopes, seeing ourselves endowed with the triumphant qualities we lack. For a similar reason we should never employ a form of words which connotes doubt. The phrases, " I should like to," " I am going to try," if realised by the Unconscious, can only pro-duce a state of longing or desire, very different from the actual physical and mental modifications we are seeking.
Finally, we should not speak of the desired improvement entirely as a thing of the future. We should affirm that the change has already begun, and will continue to operate more and more rapidly until our end is fully attained.
Here are a few examples of special suggestions which may prove useful.
For deafness: Having closed the eyes and relaxed body and mind, say to yourself something of this nature: " From this day forth my hearing will gradually improve. Each day I shall hear a little better. Gradually this improvement will become more and more rapid until, in a comparatively short space of time, I shall hear quite well and I shall continue to do so until the end of my life."
A person suffering from unfounded fears and forebodings might proceed as follows : " From to-day on-ward I shall become more and more conscious of all that is happy, positive and cheerful. The thoughts which enter my mind will be strong and healthful ones. I shall gain daily in self-confidence, shall believe in my own powers, which indeed at the same time will manifest themselves in greater strength. My life is growing smoother, easier, brighter. These changes become from day to day more profound; in a short space of time I shall have risen to a new plane of life, and all the troubles which used to perplex me will have vanished and will never return."
A bad memory might be treated in some such terms as these : " My memory from to-day on will improve in every department. The impressions received will be clearer and more definite; I shall retain them automatically and without any effort on my part, and when I wish to recall them they will immediately present themselves in their correct form to my mind. This improvement will be accomplished rapidly, and very soon my memory will be better than it has ever been before.
Irritability and bad temper are very susceptible to autosuggestion and might be thus treated : " Hence-forth I shall daily grow more good-humoured Equanimity and cheerfulness will become my normal states of mind, and in a short time all the little happenings of life will be received in this spirit. I shall be a centre of cheer and helpfulness to those about me, infecting them with my own good humour, and this cheerful mood will become so habitual that nothing can rob me of it."
Asthma is a disease which has always baffled and still baffles the ordinary methods of medicine. It has shown itself, however, in Coué's experience, pre-eminently susceptible to autosuggestive treatment. Particular suggestions for its removal might take this form : " From this day forward my breathing will be-come rapidly easier. Quite without my knowledge, and without any effort on my part, my organism will do all that is necessary to restore perfect health to my lungs and bronchial passages. I shall be able to undergo any exertion without inconvenience. My breathing will be free, deep, delightful. I shall draw in all the pure health-giving air I need, and thus my whole system will be invigorated and strengthened. More-over, I shall sleep calmly and peacefully, with the maxi-mum of refreshment and repose, so that I awake cheerful and looking forward with pleasure to the day's tasks. This process has this day begun and in a short time I shall be wholly and permanently restored to health."
It will be noticed that each of these suggestions comprises three stages : (I) Immediate commencement of the amelioration. (2) Rapid progress. (3) Complete and permanent cure. While this scheme is not essential, it is a convenient one and should be utilised whenever applicable. The examples are framed as the first autosuggestions of persons new to the method. On succeeding occasions the phrase " from this day forth," or its variants, should be replaced by a statement that the amelioration has already begun. Thus, in the case of the asthmatic, " My breathing is already becoming easier," etc.
Particular suggestions, though subsidiary in value to the general formula, are at times of very great service. The general formula looks after the foundations of our life, building in the depths where eye cannot see or ear hear. Particular suggestions are useful on the surface. By their means we can deal with individual difficulties as they arise. The two methods are complementary.
Particular suggestions prove very valuable in reinforcing and rendering permanent the effects obtained by the technique for overcoming' pain, which will be out-lined in the next chapter. Before commencing the at-tack we should sit down, close our eyes and say calmly and confidently to ourselves : " I am now going to rid myself of this pain." When the desired result has been obtained, we should suggest that the state of ease and painlessness now re-established will be permanent, that the affected part will rapidly be toned up into a condition of normal health, and will remain always in that desirable state. Should we have obtained only a lessening of the trouble without its complete removal our suggestion should take this form : "I have obtained a considerable degree of relief, and in the next few minutes it will become complete. I shall be restored to my normal condition of health and shall continge so for the future." Thus our assault upon the pain is made under the best conditions, and should in every case prove successful.
We should employ particular suggestions also for overcoming the difficulties which confront us from time to time in our daily lives, and for securing the full success of any task we take in hand. The use of the general suggestion will gradually strengthen our self-confidence, until we shall expect success in any enterprise of which the reason approves. But until this consummation is reached, until our balance of self-confidence is adequate for all our needs, we can obtain an overdraft for immediate use by means of particular suggestion.
We have already seen that the dimensions of any obstacle depend at least as much upon our mental attitude towards it as upon its intrinsic difficulty. The neurasthenic, who imagines he cannot rise from his bed, cannot do so because this simple operation is endowed by his mind with immense difficulty. The great mass of normal people commit the same fault in a less degree. Their energy is expended partly in doing their daily work, and partly in overcoming the resistance in their own minds. By the action of the law of re-versed effort the negative idea they foster frequently brings their efforts to naught, and the very exertions they make condemn their activities to failure.
For this reason it is necessary, before undertaking any task which seems to us difficult, to suggest that it is in fact easy. We close our eyes and say quietly to ourselves, " The work I have to do is easy, quite easy. Since it is easy I can do it, and I shall do it efficiently and successfully. Moreover, I shall enjoy doing it; it will give me pleasure, my whole personality will apply itself harmoniously to the task, and the results will be even beyond my expectation." We should dwell on these ideas, repeating them tranquilly and effortlessly. Soon our mind will become serene, full of hope and confidence. Then we can begin to think out our method of procedure, to let the mind dwell on the means best suited to attain our object. Since the impediments created by fear and anxiety are now removed our ideas will flow freely, our plans will construct themselves in the quiet of the mind, and we shall come to the actual work with a creative vigour and singleness of purpose.
By a similar procedure the problems of conduct which defy solution by conscious thought will frequently yield to autosuggestion. When we are " at our wits' ends," as the saying goes, to discover the best path out of a dilemma, when choice between conflicting possibilities seems impossible, it is worse than useless to continue the struggle. The law of reversed effort is at work paralysing our mental faculties. We should put it aside, let the waves of effort subside, and suggest to ourselves that at a particular point of time the solution will come to us of its own accord. If we can conveniently do so, it is well to let a period of sleep intervene, to suggest that the solution will come to us on the morrow; for during sleep the Unconscious is left undisturbed to realise in its own way the end we have consciously set before it.
This operation often takes place spontaneously, as when a problem left unsolved the night before yields its solution apparently by an inspiration when we arise in the morning. " Sleep on it " still remains the best counsel for those in perplexity, but they should preface their slumbers by the positive autosuggestion that on waking they will find the difficulty resolved. In this connection it is interesting to note that autosuggestion is already widely made use of as a means of waking at a particular hour. A person who falls asleep with the idea in his mind of the time at which he wishes to wake, will wake at that time. It may be added that wherever sleep is utilised for the realisation of particular suggestions, these suggestions should be made in addition to the general formula, either immediately be-fore or immediately after; they should never be substituted for it.
With some afflictions, such as fits, the attack is often so sudden and unexpected that the patient is smitten down before he has a chance to defend him-self. Particular suggestions should be aimed first of all at securing due warning of the approaching attack. We should employ such terms as these: " In future I shall always know well in advance when a fit is coming on. I shall be amply warned of its approach. When these warnings occur I shall feel no fear or anxiety. I shall be quite confident of my power to avert it." As soon as the warning comes—as it will come, quite unmistakably—the sufferer should isolate himself and use a particular suggestion to prevent the fit from developing. He should first suggest calm and self-control, then affirm repeatedly, but of course without effort, that the normal state of health is reasserting itself, that the mind is fully under control, and that nothing can disturb its balance. All sudden paroxysms, liable to take us unexpectedly, should be treated by the same method, which in Coué's experience has amply justified itself.
Nervous troubles and violent emotions, such as fear and anger, often express themselves by physical move merits. Fear may cause trembling, palpitation, chattering of the teeth; anger a violent clenching of the fists. Baudouin advises that particular suggestions in these cases should be directed rather against the motor expression than against the psychic cause, that our aim should be to cultivate a state of physical impassibility. But since a positive suggestion possesses greater force than a negative, it would seem better to attack simultaneously both the cause and the effect. Instead of anger, suggest that you will feel sympathy, patience, good-humour, and consequently that your bodily state will be easy and unconstrained.
A form of particular suggestion which possesses distinct advantages of its own is the quiet repetition of a single word. If your mind is distracted and con-fused, sit down, close your eyes, and murmur slowly and reflectively the single word " Calm." Say it reverently, drawing it out to its full length and pausing after each repetition. 'Gradually your mind will be stilled and quietened, and you will be filled with a sense of harmony and peace. This method seems most applicable to the attainment of moral qualities. An evil passion can be quelled by the use of the word denoting the contrary virtue. The power of the word depends largely upon its aesthetic and moral associations. Words like joy, strength, love, purity, denoting the highest ideals of the human mind, possess great potency and are capable, thus used, of dispelling mental states in which their opposites predominate. The name Reflective Suggestion, which Baudouin applies indifferently to all autosuggestions induced by the subject's own choice, might well be reserved for this specific form of particular suggestion.
The field for the exercise of particular suggestions is practically limitless. Whenever you feel a need for betterment, of whatever nature it may be, a particular suggestion will help you. But it must once more be repeated that these particular suggestions are merely aids and auxiliaries, which may, if leisure is scant, be neglected.