General Rules

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

and dis
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.