Autosuggestion And The Child

In treating children it should be remembered that autosuggestion is

primarily not a remedy but a means of insuring healthy growth. It

should not be reserved for times when the child is sick, but provided

daily, with the same regularity as meals.

Children grow up weakly not from lack of energy, but because of a waste

and misapplication of it. The inner conflict, necessitated by the

continual process of a
aptation which we call growth, is often of quite

unnecessary violence, not only making a great temporary demand on the

child's vital energy, but even locking it up in the Unconscious in the

form of "complexes," so that its future life is deprived of a portion

of its due vitality. A wise use of autosuggestion will preclude these

disasters. Growth will be ordered and controlled. The necessary

conflicts will be brought to a successful issue, the unnecessary ones


Autosuggestion may very well begin before the child is born. It is a

matter of common knowledge that a mother must be shielded during

pregnancy from any experience involving shock or fright, since these

exert a harmful effect on the developing embryo, and may in extreme

cases result in abortion, or in physical deformity or mental weakness

in the child. Instances of this ill-effect are comparatively common,

and the link between cause and effect is often unmistakable. There is

no need to point out that these cases are nothing more than spontaneous

autosuggestions operating in the maternal Unconscious; since during

pregnancy the mother moulds her little one not only by the food she

eats but also by the thoughts she thinks. The heightened emotionality

characteristic of this state bespeaks an increased tendency to

outcropping, and so an increased suggestibility. Thus spontaneous

autosuggestions are far more potent than in the normal course of life.

But, happily, induced autosuggestions are aided by the same conditions,

so that the mother awake to her powers and duties can do as much good

as the ignorant may do harm.

Without going into debatable questions, such as the possibility of

predetermining the sex of the child to be born, one can find many

helpful ways of aiding and benefiting the growing life by

autosuggestive means. The mother should avoid with more than ordinary

care all subjects, whether in reading or conversation, which bear on

evil in any form, and she should seek whatever uplifts the mind and

furnishes it with beautiful and joyous thought. But the technical

methods of autosuggestion can also be brought into action.

The mother should suggest to herself that her organism is furnishing

the growing life with all it needs, and that the child will be strong

and healthy in mind, in body, and in character.

These suggestions should be in general terms bearing on qualities of

undoubted good, for obviously it is not desirable to define an

independent life too narrowly. They need consist only of a few

sentences, and should be formulated night and morning immediately

before or after the general formula. Furthermore, when the mother's

thoughts during the day stray to the subject of her child, she can take

this opportunity to repeat the whole or some part of the particular

suggestion she has chosen. These few simple measures will amply

suffice. Any undue tendency of the mind to dwell on the thought of the

child, even in the form of good suggestions, should not be encouraged.

A normal mental life is in itself the best of conditions for the

welfare of both mother and child. For her own sake however the mother

might well suggest that the delivery will be painless and easy.

The only direct means of autosuggestion applicable to the child for

some months after birth is that of the caress, though it must be

remembered that the mental states of mother and nurse are already

stamping themselves on the little mind, forming it inevitably for

better or worse. Should any specific trouble arise, the method of

Mlle. Kauffmant should be applied by the mother. Taking the child on

her knee she should gently caress the affected part, thinking the while

of its reinstatement in perfect health. It seems generally advisable

to express these thoughts in words. Obviously, the words themselves

will mean nothing to an infant of two or three months, but they will

hold the mother's thought in the right channel, and this thought, by

the tone of her voice, the touch of her hand, will be communicated to

the child. Whether telepathy plays any part in this process we need

not inquire, but the baby is psychically as well as physically so

dependent on the mother that her mental states are communicated by

means quite ineffective with adults. Love in itself exerts a

suggestive power of the highest order.

When the child shows signs of understanding what is said to it, before

it begins itself to speak, the following method should be applied.

After the little one has fallen asleep at night the mother enters the

room, taking care not to awaken it, and stands about a yard from the

head of the cot. She proceeds then to formulate in a whisper such

suggestions as seem necessary. If the child is ailing the suggestion

might take the form of the phrase "You are getting better" repeated

twenty times. If it is in health the general formula will suffice.

Particular suggestions may also be formulated bearing on the child's

health, character, intellectual development, etc. These of course

should be in accordance with the instructions given in the chapter

devoted to particular suggestions. On withdrawing, the mother should

again be careful not to awaken the little one. Should it show signs of

waking, the whispered command "sleep," repeated several times, will

lull it again to rest. Baudouin recommends that during these

suggestions the mother should lay her hand on the child's forehead.

The above, however, is the method preferred by Coue.

This nightly practice is the most effective means of conveying

autosuggestions to the child-mind. It should be made a regular habit

which nothing is allowed to interrupt. If for any reason the mother is

unable to perform it, her place may be taken by the father, the nurse,

or some relative. But for obvious reasons the duty belongs by right to

the mother, and, when a few weeks' practice has revealed its beneficent

power, few mothers will be willing to delegate it to a less suitable


This practice, as stated above, may well begin before the child has

actually learned to speak, for its Unconscious will already be forming

a scheme more or less distinct of the significance of the sounds that

reach it, and will not fail to gather the general tenor of the words

spoken. The date at which it should be discontinued is less easy to

specify. Growth, to be healthy, must carry with it a gradual increase

in independence and self-sufficiency. There seems to be some slight

danger that the practice of nightly suggestions, if continued too long,

might prolong unduly the state of dependence upon parental support.

Reliable indications on this point are furnished, however, by the child

itself. As soon as it is able to face its daily problems for itself,

when it no longer runs to the parent for help and advice in every

little difficulty, the time will have arrived for the parental

suggestions to cease.

As soon as a child is able to speak it should be taught to repeat the

general formula night and morning in the same way as an adult. Thus

when the time comes to discontinue the parent's suggestions their

effect will be carried on by those the child formulates itself. There

is one thing more to add: in the case of boys it would seem better at

the age of seven or eight for the father to replace the mother in the

role of suggester, while the mother, of course, performs the office

throughout for her girls. Should any signs appear that the period of

puberty is bringing with it undue difficulties or perils, the nightly

practice might be resumed in the form of particular suggestions bearing

on the specific difficulties. It must be remembered, however, that the

child's sexual problem is essentially different from that of the adult,

and the suggestions must therefore be in the most general terms. Here

as elsewhere the end alone should be suggested, the Unconscious being

left free to choose its own means.

As soon as the child has learnt to speak it should not be allowed to

suffer pain. The best method to adopt is that practised by Coue in his

consultations. Let the child close its eyes and repeat with the

parent, "It's going, going ... gone!" while the latter gently strokes

the affected part. But as soon as possible the child should be

encouraged to overcome smaller difficulties for itself, until the

parent's help is eventually almost dispensed with. This is a powerful

means of developing self-reliance and fostering the sense of

superiority to difficulties which will be invaluable in later life.

That children readily take to the practice is shown by these examples,

which are again quoted from letters received by Coue.

"Your youngest disciple is our little David. The poor little chap had

an accident to-day. Going up in the lift with his father, when quite

four feet up, he fell out on his head and on to a hard stone floor. He

was badly bruised and shocked, and when put to bed lay still and kept

saying: 'ca passe, ca passe,' over and over again, and then looked up

and said, 'no, not gone away.' To-night he said again 'ca passe' and

then added, 'nearly gone.' So he is better."

B. K. (London).

8 January, 1922.

Another lady writes:

"Our cook's little niece, aged 23 months--the one we cured of

bronchitis--gave herself a horrid blow on the head yesterday. Instead

of crying she began to smile, passed her hand over the place and said

sweetly, 'ca passe.' Hasn't she been well brought up?"

All these methods are extremely simple and involve little expenditure

of time and none of money. They have proved their efficacy over and

over again in Nancy, and there is no reason why a mother of average

intelligence and conscientiousness should not obtain equally good

results. Naturally, first attempts will be a little awkward, but there

is no need for discouragement on that account. Even supposing that

through the introduction of effort some slight harm were done--and the

chance is comparatively remote--this need cause no alarm. The right

autosuggestion will soon counteract it and produce positive good in its

place. But any mother who has practised autosuggestion for herself

will be able correctly to apply it to her child.

At first glance the procedure may seem revolutionary, but think it over

for a moment and you will see that it is as old as the hills. It is

merely a systematisation on a scientific basis of the method mothers

have intuitively practised since the world began. "Sleep, baby, sleep.

Angels are watching o'er thee,"--what is this but a particular

suggestion? How does a wise mother proceed when her little one falls

and grazes its hand? She says something of this kind: "Let me kiss it

and then it will be well." She kisses it, and with her assurance that

the pain has gone the child runs happily back to its play. This is

only a charming variation of the method of the caress.