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.