With our knowledge of the powerful effect which an idea produces, we
shall see the importance of exercising a more careful censorship over
the thoughts which enter our minds. Thought is the legislative power
in our lives, just as the will is the executive. We should not think
it wise to permit the inmates of prisons and asylums to occupy the
legislative posts in the state, yet when we harbour ideas of passion
ase, we allow the criminals and lunatics of thought to usurp
the governing power in the commonwealth of our being.
In future, then, we shall seek ideas of health, success, and goodness;
we shall treat warily all depressing subjects of conversation, the
daily list of crimes and disasters which fill the newspapers, and those
novels, plays and films which harrow our feelings, without transmuting
by the magic of art the sadness into beauty.
This does not mean that we should be always self-consciously studying
ourselves, ready to nip the pernicious idea in the bud; nor yet that we
should adopt the ostrich's policy of sticking our heads in the sand and
declaring that disease and evil have no real existence. The one leads
to egotism and the other to callousness. Duty sometimes requires us to
give our attention to things in themselves evil and depressing. The
demands of friendship and human sympathy are imperious, and we cannot
ignore them without moral loss. But there is a positive and a negative
way of approaching such subjects.
Sympathy is too often regarded as a passive process by which we allow
ourselves to be infected by the gloom, the weakness, the mental
ill-health of other people. This is sympathy perverted. If a friend
is suffering from small-pox or scarlet fever you do not seek to prove
your sympathy by infecting yourself with his disease. You would
recognize this to be a crime against the community. Yet many people
submit themselves to infection by unhealthy ideas as if it were an act
of charity--part of their duty towards their neighbours. In the same
way people deliver their minds to harrowing stories of famine and
pestilence, as if the mental depression thus produced were of some
value to the far-away victims. This is obviously false--the only
result is to cause gloom and ill-health in the reader and so make him a
burden to his family. That such disasters should be known is beyond
question, but we should react to them in the manner indicated in the
last chapter. We should replace the blank recognition of the evil by
the quest of the means best suited to overcome it; then we can look
forward to an inspiring end and place the powers of our will in the
service of its attainment.
Oh, human soul, as long as thou canst so,
Set up a mark of everlasting light
Above the heaving senses' ebb and flow ...
Not with lost toil thou labourest through the night,
Thou mak'st the heaven thou hop'st indeed thy home.
Autosuggestion, far from producing callousness, dictates the method and
supplies the means by which the truest sympathy can be practised. In
every case our aim must be to remove the suffering as soon as possible,
and this is facilitated by refusing acceptation to the bad ideas and
maintaining our own mental and moral balance.
Whenever gloomy thoughts come to us, whether from without or within, we
should quietly transfer our attention to something brighter. Even if
we are afflicted by some actual malady, we should keep our thought from
resting on it as far as we have the power to do so. An organic disease
may be increased a hundredfold by allowing the mind to brood on it, for
in so doing we place at its disposal all the resources of our organism,
and direct our life-force to our own destruction. On the other hand,
by denying it our attention and opposing it with curative
autosuggestions, we reduce its power to the minimum and should succeed
in overcoming it entirely. Even in the most serious organic diseases
the element contributed by wrong thought is infinitely greater than
that which is purely physical.
There are times when temperamental failings, or the gravity of our
affliction, places our imagination beyond our ordinary control. The
suggestion operates in spite of us; we do not seem to possess the power
to rid our minds of the adverse thought. Under these conditions we
should never struggle to throw off the obsessing idea by force. Our
exertions only bring into play the law of reversed effort, and we
flounder deeper into the slough. Coue's technique, however, which will
be outlined in succeeding chapters, will give us the means of mastering
ourselves, even under the most trying conditions.
Of all the destructive suggestions we must learn to shun, none is more
dangerous than fear. In fearing something the mind is not only
dwelling on a negative idea, but it is establishing the closest
personal connection between the idea and ourselves. Moreover, the idea
is surrounded by an aura of emotion, which considerably intensifies its
effect. Fear combines every element necessary to give to an
autosuggestion its maximum power. But happily fear, too, is
susceptible to the controlling power of autosuggestion. It is one of
the first things which a person cognisant of the means to be applied
should seek to eradicate from his mind.
For our own sakes, too, we should avoid dwelling on the faults and
frailties of our neighbours. If ideas of selfishness, greed, vanity,
are continually before our minds there is great danger that we shall
subconsciously accept them, and so realise them in our own character.
The petty gossip and backbiting, so common in a small town, produce the
very faults they seem to condemn. But by allowing our minds to rest
upon the virtues of our neighbours, we reproduce the same virtues in
But if we should avoid negative ideas for our own sakes, much more
should we do so for the sake of other people. Gloomy and despondent
men and women are centres of mental contagion, damaging all with whom
they come in contact. Sometimes such people seem involuntarily to
exert themselves to quench the cheerfulness of brighter natures, as if
their Unconscious strove to reduce all others to its own low level.
But even healthy, well-intentioned people scatter evil suggestions
broadcast, without the least suspicion of the harm they do. Every time
we remark to an acquaintance that he is looking ill, we actually damage
his health; the effect may be extremely slight, but by repetition it
grows powerful. A man who accepts in the course of a day fifteen or
twenty suggestions that he is ill, has gone a considerable part of the
way towards actual illness. Similarly, when we thoughtlessly
commiserate with a friend on the difficulty of his daily work, or
represent it as irksome and uncongenial, we make it a little harder for
him to accomplish, and thereby slightly diminish his chances of success.
If we must supervise our speech in contact with adults, with children
we should exercise still greater foresight. The child's Unconscious is
far more accessible than that of the adult; the selective power
exercised by the conscious mind is much feebler, and consequently the
impressions received realise themselves with greater power. These
impressions are the material from which the child's growing life is
constructed, and if we supply faulty material the resultant structure
will be unstable. Yet the most attentive and well-meaning mothers are
engaged daily in sowing the seeds of weakness in their children's
minds. The little ones are constantly told they will take cold, will
be sick, will fall down, or will suffer some other misfortune. The
more delicate the child's health, the more likely it is to be subjected
to adverse suggestions. It is too often saturated with the idea of bad
health, and comes to look on disease as the normal state of existence
and health as exceptional. The same is equally true of the child's
mental and moral upbringing. How often do foolish parents tell their
children that they are naughty, disobedient, stupid, idle or vicious?
If these suggestions were accepted, which, thank Heaven, is not always
the case, the little ones would in very fact develop just these
qualities. But even when no word is spoken, a look or a gesture can
initiate an undesirable autosuggestion. The same child, visited by two
strangers, will immediately make friends with the one and avoid the
other. Why is this?--Because the one carries with him a healthful
atmosphere, while the other sends out waves of irritability or gloom.
"Men imagine," says Emerson, "that they communicate their virtue or
vice only by overt actions, and do not see that virtue and vice emit a
breath every moment."
With children, above all, it is not sufficient to refrain from the
expression of negative ideas; we must avoid harbouring them altogether.
Unless we possess a bright positive mind the suggestions derived from
us will be of little value.
The idea is gaining ground that a great deal of what is called
hereditary disease is transmitted from parent to child, not physically
but mentally--that is to say, by means of adverse suggestions
continually renewed in the child's mind. Thus if one of the parents
has a tendency to tuberculosis, the child often lives in an atmosphere
laden with tuberculous thoughts. The little one is continually advised
to take care of its lungs, to keep its chest warm, to beware of colds,
etc., etc. In other words, the idea is repeatedly presented to its
mind that it possesses second-rate lungs. The realisation of these
ideas, the actual production of pulmonary tuberculosis is thus almost
But all this is no more than crystallised common-sense. Everyone knows
that a cheerful mind suffuses health, while a gloomy one produces
conditions favourable to disease. "A merry heart doeth good like a
medicine," says the writer of the Book of Proverbs, "but a broken
spirit drieth the bones." But this knowledge, since it lacked a
scientific basis, has never been systematically applied. We have
regarded our feelings far too much as effects and not sufficiently as
causes. We are happy because we are well; we do not recognise that
the process will work equally well in the reverse direction--that we
shall be well because we are happy. Happiness is not only the result
of our conditions of life; it is also the creator of those conditions.
Autosuggestion lays weight upon this latter view. Happiness must come
first. It is only when the mind is ordered, balanced, filled with the
light of sweet and joyous thought, that it can work with its maximum
efficiency. When we are habitually happy our powers and capabilities
come to their full blossom, and we are able to work with the utmost
effect on the shaping of what lies without.
Happiness, you say, cannot be ordered like a chop in a restaurant.
Like love, its very essence is freedom. This is true; but like love,
it can be wooed and won. It is a condition which everyone experiences
at some time in life. It is native to the mind. By the systematic
practice of Induced Autosuggestion we can make it, not a fleeting
visitant, but a regular tenant of the mind, which storms and stresses
from without cannot dislodge. This idea of the indwelling happiness,
inwardly conditioned, is as ancient as thought. By autosuggestion we
can realise it in our own lives.