The Use Of Suggestion For The Cure Of Moral Ailments And Taints
Neurasthenia, so common nowadays, generally yields to suggestion constantly practised in the way I have indicated. I have had the happiness of contributing to the cure of a large number of neurasthenics with whom every other treatment had failed. One of them had even spent a month in a special establishment at Luxemburg without obtaining any improvement. In six weeks he was completely cured, and he is now the happiest man one would wish to find, after having thought himself the most miserable. Neither is he ever likely to fall ill again in the same way, for I showed him how to make use of conscious autosuggestion and he does it marvelously well.
But if suggestion is useful in treating moral complaints and physical ailments, may it not render still greater services to society, in turning into honest folks the wretched children who people our reformatories and who only leave them to enter the army of crime. Let no one tell me it is impossible. The remedy exists and I can prove it.
I will quote the two following cases which are very characteristic, but here I must insert a few remarks in parenthesis. To make you understand the way in which suggestion acts in the treatment of moral taints I will use the following comparison. Suppose our brain is a plank in which are driven nails which represent the ideas, habits, and instincts, which determine our actions. If we find that there exists in a subject a bad idea, a bad habit, a bad instinct, — as it were, a bad nail, we take another which is the good idea, habit, or instinct, place it on top of the bad one and give a tap with a hammer — in other words we make a suggestion. The new nail will be driven in perhaps a fraction of an inch, while the old one will come out to the same extent. At each fresh blow with the hammer, that is to say at each fresh suggestion, the one will be driven in a fraction further and the other will be driven out the same amount, until, after a certain number of blows, the old nail will come out completely and be replaced by the new one. When this substitution has been made, the individual obeys it.
Let us return to our examples. Little M_______, a child of eleven living at Troyes, was subject night and day to certain accidents inherent to early infancy [bed-wetting]. He was also a kleptomaniac, and, of course, untruthful into the bargain. At his mother’s request I treated him by suggestion. After the first visit the accidents ceased by day, but continued at night. Little by little they became less frequent, and finally, a few months afterwards, the child was completely cured. In the same period his thieving propensities lessened, and in six months they had entirely ceased.
This child’s brother, aged eighteen, had conceived a violent hatred against another of his brothers. Every time that he had taken a little too much wine, he felt impelled to draw a knife and stab his brother. He felt that one day or other he would end by doing so, and he knew at the same time that having done so he would be inconsolable. I treated him also by suggestion, and the result was marvelous. After the first treatment he was cured. His hatred for his brother had disappeared, and they have since become good friends and got on capitally together. I followed up the case for a long time, and the cure was permanent.
Since such results are to be obtained by suggestion, would it not be beneficial — I might even say indispensable — to take up this method and introduce it into our reformatories? I am absolutely convinced that if suggestion were daily applied to vicious children, more than 50 per cent could be reclaimed. Would it not be an immense service to render society, to bring back to it sane and well members of it who were formerly corroded by moral decay?
Perhaps I shall be told that suggestion is a dangerous thing, and that it can be used for evil purposes. This is no valid objection, first because the practice of suggestion would only be confided [by the patient] to reliable and honest people, — to the reformatory doctors, for instance, — and on the other hand, those who seek to use it for evil ask no one’s permission.
But even admitting that it offers some danger (which is not so) I should like to ask whoever proffers the objection, to tell me what thing we use that is not dangerous? Is it steam? gunpowder? railways? ships? electricity? automobiles? aeroplanes? Are the poisons not dangerous which we, doctors and chemists, use daily in minute doses, and which might easily destroy the patient if, in a moment’s carelessness, we unfortunately made a mistake in weighing them out?