How To Teach Patients To Make Autosuggestion
The principle of the method may be summed up in these few words: It is impossible to think of two things at once, that is to say that two ideas may be in juxtaposition, but they cannot be superimposed in our mind.
Every thought entirely filling our mind becomes true for us and tends to transform itself into action.
Thus if you can make a sick person think that her trouble is getting better, it will disappear; if you succeed in making a kleptomaniac think that he will not steal any more, he will cease to steal, etc., etc.
This training which perhaps seems to you an impossibility, is, however, the simplest thing in the world. It is enough, by a series of appropriate and graduated experiments, to teach the subject, as it were the A. B. C. of conscious thought, and here is the series: by following it to the letter one can be absolutely sure of obtaining a good result, except with the two categories of persons mentioned above.
First experiment. (These experiments are those of Sage of Rochester.) Preparatory. — Ask the subject to stand upright, with the body as stiff as an iron bar, the feet close together from toe to heel, while keeping the ankles flexible as if they were hinges. Tell him to make himself like a plank with hinges at its base, which is balanced on the ground. Make him notice that if one pushes the plank slightly either way it falls as a mass without any resistance, in the direction in which it is pushed. Tell him that you are going to pull him back by the shoulders and that he must let himself fall in your arms without the slightest resistance, turning on his ankles as on hinges, that is to say keeping the feet fixed to the ground. Then pull him back by the shoulders and if the experiment does not succeed, repeat it until it does, or nearly so.
Second experiment. — Begin by explaining to the subject that in order to demonstrate the action of the imagination upon us, you are going to ask him in a moment to think: "I am falling backwards, I am falling backwards . . ." Tell him that he must have no thought but this in his mind, that he must not reflect or wonder if he is going to fall or not, or think that if he falls he may hurt himself, etc., or fall back purposely to please you, but that if he really feels something impelling him to fall backwards, he must not resist but obey the impulse.
Then ask your subject to raise the head high and to shut his eyes, and place your right fist on the back of his neck, and your left hand on his forehead, and say to him: "Now think: I am falling backwards, I am falling backwards, etc., etc. . . " and, indeed, "You are falling backwards, You . . . are. . . fall . . . ing . . . back . . . wards, etc." At the same time slide the left hand lightly backwards to the left temple, above the ear, and remove very slowly but with a continuous movement the right fist.
The subject is immediately felt to make a slight movement backwards, and either to stop himself from falling or else to fall completely. In the first case, tell him that he has resisted, and that he did not think just that he was falling, but that he might hurt himself if he did fall. That is true, for if he had not thought the latter, he would have fallen like a block. Repeat the experiment using a tone of command as if you would force the subject to obey you. Go on with it until it is completely successful or very nearly so. The operator should stand a little behind the subject, the left leg forward and the right leg well behind him, so as not to be knocked over by the subject when he falls. Neglect of this precaution might result in a double fall if the person is heavy.
Third experiment. — Place the subject facing you, the body still stiff, the ankles flexible, and the feet joined and parallel. Put your two hands on his temples without any pressure, look fixedly, without moving the eyelids, at the root of his nose, and tell him to think: "I am falling forward, I am falling forward . . . " and repeat to him, stressing the syllables, "You are fall . . . ing . . . for . . . ward, You are fall . . . ing . . . for . . . ward . . ." without ceasing to look fixedly at him.
Fourth experiment. — Ask the subject to clasp his hands as tight as possible, that is to say, until the fingers tremble slightly, look at him in the same way as in the preceding experiment and keep your hands on his as though to squeeze them together still more tightly. Tell him to think that he cannot unclasp his fingers, that you are going to count three, and that when you say "three" he is to try to separate his hands while thinking all the time: "I cannot do it, I cannot do it . . . " and he will find it impossible. Then count very slowly, "one, two, three", and add immediately, detaching the syllables: "You . . . can . . . not . . . do . . . it . . . . You . . . can . . . not . . . do . . . it . . ." If the subject is thinking properly, "I cannot do it", not only is he unable to separate his fingers, but the latter clasp themselves all the more tightly together the more efforts he makes to separate them. He obtains in fact exactly the contrary to what he wants. In a few moments say to him: "Now think: ‘I can do it,’" and his fingers will separate themselves.
Be careful always to keep your eyes fixed on the root of the subject’s nose, and do not allow him to turn his eyes away from yours for a single moment. If he is able to unclasp his hands, do not think it is your own fault, it is the subject’s, he has not properly thought: "I cannot". Assure him firmly of this, and begin the experiment again.
Always use a tone of command which suffers no disobedience. I do not mean that it is necessary to raise your voice; on the contrary it is preferable to employ the ordinary pitch, but stress every word in a dry and imperative tone.
When these experiments have been successful, all the others succeed equally well and can be easily obtained by carrying out to the letter the instructions given above.
Some subjects are very sensitive, and it is easy to recognize them by the fact that the contraction of their fingers and limbs is easily produced. After two or three successful experiments, it is no longer necessary to say to them: "Think this", or "think that"; You need only, for example, say to them simply — but in the imperative tone employed by all good suggestionists — "Close your hands; now you cannot open them". "Shut your eyes; now you cannot open them," and the subject finds it absolutely impossible to open the hands or the eyes in spite of all his efforts. Tell him in a few moments: "You can do it now," and the de-contraction takes place instantaneously.
These experiments can be varied to infinity. Here are a few more: Make the subject join his hands, and suggest that they are welded together; make him put his hand on the table, and suggest that it is stuck to it; tell him that he is fixed to his chair and cannot rise; make him rise, and tell him he cannot walk; put a penholder on the table and tell him that it weighs a hundredweight, and that he cannot lift it, etc., etc.
In all these experiments, I cannot repeat too often, it is not suggestion properly so-called which produces the phenomena, but the autosuggestion which is consecutive to the suggestion of the operator.