Use Of Autosuggestion
Let us now return to the point where I said that we can control and lead our imagination, just as a torrent or an unbroken horse can be controlled. To do so, it is enough in the first place to know that this is possible (of which fact almost everyone is ignorant) and secondly, to know by what means it can be done. Well, the means is very simple; it is that which we have used every day since we came into the world, without wishing or knowing it and absolutely unconsciously, but which unfortunately for us, we often use wrongly and to our own detriment. This means is autosuggestion.
Whereas we constantly give ourselves unconscious autosuggestions, all we have to do is to give ourselves conscious ones, and the process consists in this: first, to weigh carefully in one’s mind the things which are to be the object of the autosuggestion, and according as they require the answer "yes" or "no" to repeat several times without thinking of anything else: "This thing is coming", or "this thing is going away"; "this thing will, or will not happen, etc., etc. . . .". (Of course, the thing must be in our power.) If the unconscious accepts this suggestion and transforms it into an autosuggestion, the thing or things are realized in every particular.
Thus understood, autosuggestion is nothing but hypnotism as I see it, and I would define it in these simple words: The influence of the imagination upon the moral and physical being of mankind. Now this influence is undeniable, and without returning to previous examples, I will quote a few others.
If you persuade yourself that you can do a certain thing, provided this thing be possible, you will do it however difficult it may be. If on the contrary you imagine that you cannot do the simplest thing in the world, it is impossible for you to do it, and molehills become for you unscalable mountains.
Such is the case of neurasthenics, who, believing themselves incapable of the least effort, often find it impossible even to walk a few steps without being exhausted. And these same neurasthenics sink more deeply into their depression, the more efforts they make to throw it off, like the poor wretch in the quicksands who sinks in all the deeper the more he tries to struggle out.
In the same way it is sufficient to think a pain is going, to feel it indeed disappear little by little, and inversely, it is enough to think that one suffers in order to feel the pain begin to come immediately.
I know certain people who predict in advance that the will have a sick headache on a certain day, in certain circumstances, and on that day, in the given circumstances, sure enough, they feel it. They brought their illness on themselves, just as others cure theirs by conscious autosuggestion.
I know that one generally passes for mad in the eyes of the world if one dares to put forward ideas which it is not accustomed to hear. Well, at the risk of being thought so, I say that if certain people are ill mentally and physically, it is that they imagine themselves to be ill mentally or physically. If certain others are paralytic without having any lesion to account for it, it is that they imagine themselves to be paralyzed, and it is among such persons that the most extraordinary cures are produced. If others again are happy or unhappy, it is that they imagine themselves to be so, for it is possible for two people in exactly the same circumstances to be, the one perfectly happy, the other absolutely wretched.
Neurasthenia, stammering, aversions, kleptomania, certain cases of paralysis, are nothing but the, result of unconscious autosuggestion, that is to say the result of the action of the unconscious upon the physical and moral being.
But if our unconscious is the source of many of our ills, it can also bring about the cure of our physical and mental ailments. It can not only repair the ill it has done, but cure real illnesses, so strong is its action upon our organism.
Shut yourself up alone in a room, seat yourself in an armchair, close your eyes to avoid any distraction, and concentrate your mind for a few moments on thinking: "Such and such a thing is going to disappear", or "Such and such a thing is coming to pass."
If you have really made the autosuggestion, that is to say, if your unconscious has assimilated the idea that you have presented to it, you are astonished to see the thing you have thought come to pass. (Note that it is the property of ideas autosuggested to exist within us unrecognized, and we can only know of their existence by the effect they produce.) But above all, and this is an essential point, the will must not be brought into play in practising autosuggestion; for, if it is not in agreement with the imagination, if one thinks: "I will make such and such a thing happen", and the imagination says: "You are willing it, but it is not going to be", not only does one not obtain what one wants, but even exactly the reverse is brought about.
This remark is of capital importance, and explains why results are so unsatisfactory when, in treating moral ailments, one strives to re-educate the will. It is the training of the imagination which is necessary, and it is thanks to this shade of difference that my method has often succeeded where others — and those not the least considered — have failed. From the numerous experiments that I have made daily for twenty years, and which I have examined with minute care, I have been able to deduct the following conclusions which I have summed up as laws:
1. When the will and the imagination are antagonistic, it is always the imagination which wins, without any exception.
2. In the conflict between the will and the imagination, the force of the imagination is in direct ratio to the square of the will.
3. When the will and the imagination are in agreement, one does not add to the other, but one is multiplied by the other.
4. The imagination can be directed.
(The expressions "In direct ratio to the square of the will" and "Is multiplied by" are not rigorously exact. They are simply illustrations destined to make my meaning clearer.)
After what has just been said it would seem that nobody ought to be ill. That is quite true. Every illness, whatever it may be, can yield to autosuggestion, daring and unlikely as my statement may seem; I do not say does always yield, but can yield, which is a different thing.
But in order to lead people to practise conscious autosuggestion they must be taught how, just as they are taught to read or write or play the piano.
Autosuggestion is, as I said above, an instrument that we possess at birth, and with which we play unconsciously all our life, as a baby plays with its rattle. It is however a dangerous instrument; it can wound or even kill you if you handle it imprudently and unconsciously. It can on the contrary save your life when you know how to employ it consciously. One can say of it as Aesop said of the tongue: "It is at the same time the best and the worst thing in the world".
I am now going to show you how everyone can profit by the beneficent action of autosuggestion consciously applied. In saying "every one", I exaggerate a little, for there are two classes of persons in whom it is difficult to arouse conscious autosuggestion:
1. The mentally undeveloped who are not capable of understanding what you say to them.
2. Those who are unwilling to understand.