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The Laws of Suggestion
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Unlike most areas of scientific research, hypnosis has many traditional rules of thumb or theories that are commonly called "laws." Please keep in mind that these ideas are not proven to the same degree as other scientific laws like the Ideal Gas Law in chemistry, or the Law of Gravity in physics.
Emile Coué (1857-1926), a French pharmacist, introduced a hypnotic-like method, the self-application of conscious autosuggestion. By consciously repeating words or images as self-suggestion to the subconscious mind, Coué claimed, one could condition the mind, and the conditioned mind would produce a self-generated command when required.
Coué popularized the following laws of suggestion:
When the will and the imagination come into conflict, the imagination always wins.
In essence the harder one tries to do something, the more difficult it is to accomplish. This is a sort of reverse psychology. By presenting the subject with a challenge such as “your eyes are stuck shut. You are not able to open them.” This causes a sort of block in the mental process simply by focusing all attention on the desire to achieve the goal of the challenge. This concept does not seem to make much sense but it’s functioning is observable. For example if a subject is told not to swallow it becomes very difficult for them not to.
Concentrated Attention or Repetition
"Whenever attention is concentrated on an idea over and over again, it spontaneously tends to realize itself"
By mentally visualizing an activity one lays the neural groundwork to make it actually happen. For example repeatedly imagining being able to calmly, and successfully address a large group of people mentally prepares one for such an activity.
"A stronger emotion tends to replace a weaker one."
By attaching an emotion to a suggestion it is made more effective. Attaching an emotion that stronger then the currently experienced emotion makes it much more effective. Some emotions function as survival tools. Fear and anxiety for example are critical emotions when it comes to survival of the individual. If you are not anxious in a dangerous situation you are more likely to be injured or killed. These strong emotions can override the more critical, hypnotically resistant processes that normally dominate, and control our behavior.
Emile Coué published an influential handbook on what he called autosuggestion. Although dated this short book contains much of what was to become the foundation of modern hypnosis. Download and review Self Mastery Through Conscious Autosuggestion (Acrobat Reader required).
When reading this material keep in mind that Coué promotes the following extremely dangerous treatments that a hypnotist should NEVER attempt:
- Staunching the hemorrhaging of blood when sutures are available
- Treating a tumor with hypnosis and no other proper medical care
- Treating gout or other organic diseases only by hypnosis