The General Formula

We saw that an unskilled golfer, who imagines his ball is going to

alight in a bunker, unconsciously performs just those physical

movements needful to realise his idea in the actual. In realising this

idea his Unconscious displays ingenuity and skill none the less

admirable because opposed to his desire. From this and other examples

we concluded that if the mind dwells on the idea of an accomplished

fact, a realised
tate, the Unconscious will produce this state. If

this is true of our spontaneous autosuggestions it is equally true of

the self-induced ones.

It follows that if we consistently think of happiness we become happy;

if we think of health we become healthy; if we think of goodness we

become good. Whatever thought we continually think, provided it is

reasonable, tends to become an actual condition of our life.

Traditionally we rely too much on the conscious mind. If a man suffers

from headaches he searches out, with the help of his physician, their

cause; discovers whether they come from his eyes, his digestion or his

nerves, and purchases the drugs best suited to repair the fault. If he

wishes to improve a bad memory he practises one of the various methods

of memory-training. If he is the victim of a pernicious habit he is

left to counter it by efforts of the will, which too often exhaust his

strength, undermine his self-respect, and only lead him deeper into the

mire. How simple in comparison is the method of Induced

Autosuggestion! He need merely think the end--a head free from pain, a

good memory, a mode of life in which his bad habit has no part, and

these states are gradually evolved without his being aware of the

operation performed by the Unconscious.

But even so, if each individual difficulty required a fresh

treatment--one for the headache, one for the memory, one for the bad

habit and so on--then the time needful to practise autosuggestion would

form a considerable part of our waking life. Happily the researches of

the Nancy School have revealed a further simplification. This is

obtained by the use of a general formula which sets before the mind the

idea of a daily improvement in every respect, mental, physical and


In the original French this formula runs as follows: "Tous les jours, a

tous points de vue, je vais de mieux en mieux." The English version

which Coue considers most satisfactory is this: "Day by day, in every

way, I'm getting better and better." This is very easy to say, the

youngest child can understand it, and it possesses a rudimentary

rhythm, which exerts a lulling effect on the mind and so aids in

calling up the Unconscious. But if you are accustomed to any other

version, such as that recommended by the translators of Baudouin, it

would be better to continue to use it. Religious minds who wish to

associate the formula with God's care and protection might do so after

this fashion: "Day by day, in every way, by the help of God, I'm

getting better and better." It is possible that the attention of the

Unconscious will thus be turned to moral and spiritual improvements to

a greater extent than by the ordinary formula.

But this general formula possesses definite advantages other than mere

terseness and convenience. The Unconscious, in its character of

surveyor over our mental and physical functions, knows far better than

the conscious the precise failings and weaknesses which have the

greatest need of attention. The general formula supplies it with a

fund of healing, strengthening power, and leaves it to apply this at

the points where the need is most urgent.

It is a matter of common experience that people's ideals of manhood and

womanhood vary considerably. The hardened materialist pictures

perfection solely in terms of wealth, the butterfly-woman wants little

but physical beauty, charm, and the qualities that attract. The

sensitive man is apt to depreciate the powers he possesses and

exaggerate those he lacks; while his self-satisfied neighbour can see

no good in any virtues but his own. It is quite conceivable that a

person left free to determine the nature of his autosuggestions by the

light of his conscious desire might use this power to realise a quality

not in itself admirable, or even one which, judged by higher standards,

appeared pernicious. Even supposing that his choice was good he would

be in danger of over-developing a few characteristics to the detriment

of others and so destroying the balance of his personality. The use of

the general formula guards against this. It saves a man in spite of

himself. It avoids the pitfalls into which the conscious mind may lead

us by appealing to a more competent authority. Just as we leave the

distribution of our bodily food to the choice of the Unconscious, so we

may safely leave that of our mental food, our Induced Autosuggestions.

The fear that the universal use of this formula would have a

standardising effect, modifying its users to a uniform pattern, is

unfounded. A rigid system of particular suggestions might tend towards

such a result, but the general formula leaves every mind free to unfold

and develop in the manner most natural to itself. The eternal

diversity of men's minds can only be increased by the free impulse thus


We have previously seen that the Unconscious tide rises to its highest

point compatible with conscious thought just before sleep and just

after awaking, and that the suggestions formulated then are almost

assured acceptation. It is these moments that we select for the

repetition of the formula.

But before we pass on to the precise method, a word of warning is

necessary. Even the most superficial attempt to analyse intellectually

a living act is bound to make it appear complex and difficult. So our

consideration of the processes of outcropping and acceptation has

inevitably invested them with a false appearance of difficulty.

Autosuggestion is above all things easy. Its greatest enemy is effort.

The more simple and unforced the manner of its performance the more

potently and profoundly it works. This is shown by the fact that its

most remarkable results have been secured by children and by simple

French peasants.

It is here that Coue's directions for the practice differ considerably

from those of Baudouin. Coue insists upon its easiness, Baudouin

complicates it. The four chapters devoted by the latter to

"relaxation," "collection," "contention," and "concentration," produce

in the reader an adverse suggestion of no mean power. They leave the

impression that autosuggestion is a perplexing business which only the

greatest foresight and supervision can render successful. Nothing

could be more calculated to throw the beginner off the track.

We have seen that Autosuggestion is a function of the mind which we

spontaneously perform every day of our lives. The more our induced

autosuggestions approximate to this spontaneous prototype the more

potent they are likely to be. Baudouin warns us against the danger of

setting the intellect to do the work of intuition, yet this is

precisely what he himself does. A patient trying by his rules to

attain outcropping and implant therein an autosuggestion is so

vigilantly attentive to what he is doing that outcropping is rendered

almost impossible. These artificial aids are, in Coue's opinion, not

only unnecessary but hindersome. Autosuggestion succeeds when

Conscious and Unconscious co-operate in the acceptance of an idea.

Coue's long practice has shown that we must leave the Unconscious, as

senior partner in the concern, to bring about the right conditions in

its own way. The fussy attempts of the intellect to dictate the method

of processes which lie outside its sphere will only produce conflict,

and so condemn our attempt to failure. The directions given here are

amply sufficient, if conscientiously applied, to secure the fullest

benefits of which the method is capable.

Take a piece of string and tie in it twenty knots. By this means you

can count with a minimum expenditure of attention, as a devout Catholic

counts his prayers on a rosary. The number twenty has no intrinsic

virtue; it is merely adopted as a suitable round number.

On getting into bed close your eyes, relax your muscles and take up a

comfortable posture. These are no more than the ordinary preliminaries

of slumber. Now repeat twenty times, counting by means of the knots,

the general formula: "Day by day, in every way, I'm getting better and


The words should be uttered aloud; that is, loud enough to be audible

to your own ears. In this way the idea is reinforced by the movements

of lips and tongue and by the auditory impressions conveyed through the

ear. Say it simply, without effort, like a child absently murmuring a

nursery rhyme. Thus you avoid an appeal to the critical faculties of

the conscious which would lessen the outcropping. When you have got

used to this exercise and can say it quite "unself-consciously," begin

to let your voice rise or fall--it does not matter which--on the phrase

"in every way." This is perhaps the most important part of the

formula, and is thus given a gentle emphasis. But at first do not

attempt this accentuation; it will only needlessly complicate and, by

requiring more conscious attention, may introduce effort. Do not try

to think of what you are saying. On the contrary, let the mind wander

whither it will; if it rests on the formula all the better, if it

strays elsewhere do not recall it. As long as your repetition does not

come to a full-stop your mind-wandering will be less disturbing than

would be the effort to recall your thoughts.

Baudouin differs from Coue as to the manner in which the formula should

be repeated. His advice is to say it "piously," with all the words

separately stressed. No doubt it has its value when thus spoken, but

the attitude of mind to which the word "pious" can be applied is

unfortunately not habitual with everyone. The average man in trying to

be "pious" might end by being merely artificial. But the child still

exists in the most mature of men. The "infantile" mode of repeating

the formula puts one in touch with deep levels of the Unconscious where

the child-mind still survives. Coue's remarkable successes have been

obtained by this means, and Baudouin advances no cogent reason for

changing it.

These instructions no doubt fall somewhat short of our ideal of a

thought entirely occupying the mind. But they are sufficient for a

beginning. The sovereign rule is to make no effort, and if this is

observed you will intuitively fall into the right attitude. This

process of Unconscious adaptation may be hastened by a simple

suggestion before beginning. Say to yourself, "I shall repeat the

formula in such a manner as to secure its maximum effect." This will

bring about the required conditions much more effectively than any

conscious exercise of thought.

On waking in the morning, before you rise, repeat the formula in

exactly the same manner.

Its regular repetition is the foundation stone of the Nancy method and

should never be neglected. In times of health it may be regarded as an

envoy going before to clear the path of whatever evils may lurk in the

future. But we must look on it chiefly as an educator, as a means of

leavening the mass of adverse spontaneous suggestions which clog the

Unconscious and rob our lives of their true significance.

Say it with faith. When you have said it your conscious part of the

process is completed. Leave the Unconscious to do its work

undisturbed. Do not be anxious about it, continually scanning yourself

for signs of improvement. The farmer does not turn over the clods

every morning to see if his seed is sprouting. Once sown it is left

till the green blade appears. So it should be with suggestion. Sow

the seed, and be sure the Unconscious powers of the mind will bring it

to fruition, and all the sooner if your conscious ego is content to let

it rest.

Say it with faith! You can only rob Induced Autosuggestion of its

power in one way--by believing that it is powerless. If you believe

this it becomes ipso facto powerless for you. The greater your faith

the more radical and the more rapid will be your results; though if you

have only sufficient faith to repeat the formula twenty times night and

morning the results will soon give you in your own person the proof you

desire, and facts and faith will go on mutually augmenting each other.

Faith reposes on reason and must have its grounds. What grounds can we

adduce for faith in Induced Autosuggestion? The examples of cures

already cited are outside your experience and you may be tempted to

pooh-pooh them. The experiment of Chevreul's pendulum, however, will

show in a simple manner the power possessed by a thought to transform

itself into an action.

Take a piece of white paper and draw on it a circle of about five

inches' radius. Draw two diameters AB and CD at right angles to

each other and intersecting at O. The more distinctly the lines

stand out the better--they should be thickly drawn in black ink. Now

take a lead pencil or a light ruler and tie to one end a piece of

cotton about eight inches long; to the lower end of the cotton fasten a

heavy metal button, of the sort used on a soldier's tunic. Place the

paper on a table so that the diameter AB seems to be horizontal and

CD to be vertical, thus:

Stand upright before the table with your miniature fishing-rod held

firmly in both hands and the button suspended above the point O.

Take care not to press the elbows nervously against the sides.

Look at the line AB, think of it, follow it with your eyes from side

to side. Presently the button will begin to swing along the line you

are thinking of. The more your mind dwells easily upon the idea of the

line the greater this swing becomes. Your efforts to try to hold the

pendulum still, by bringing into action the law of reversed effort,

only make its oscillations more pronounced.

Now fix your eyes on the line CD. The button will gradually change

the direction of its movement, taking up that of CD. When you have

allowed it to swing thus for a few moments transfer your attention to

the circle, follow the circumference round and round with your eyes.

Once more the swinging button will follow you, adopting either a

clock-wise or a counter clock-wise direction according to your thought.

After a little practice you should produce a circular swing with a

diameter of at least eight inches; but your success will be directly

proportional to the exclusiveness of your thought and to your efforts

to hold the pencil still.

Lastly think of the point O. Gradually the radius of the swing will

diminish until the button comes to rest.

Is it necessary to point out how these movements are caused? Your

thought of the line, passing into the Unconscious, is there realised,

so that without knowing it you execute with your hands the

imperceptible movements which set the button in motion. The

Unconscious automatically realises your thought through the nerves and

muscles of your arms and hands. What is this but Induced


The first time you perform this little experiment it is best to be

alone. This enables you to approach it quite objectively.