For someone who doesn’t even suspect that he is susceptible to anger it is much more difficult to overcome the fault than for someone who is aware of it, since the latter already knows the real enemy and where he should direct his efforts. He already feels that whenever something unpleasant or annoying happens he should first of all fight his anger rather than its cause. In this way he will be sure to overcome his rage, whilst the cause will disappear of its own accord.
The Devil You Know
- More general techniques of AS
- Auto-Training is the conscious direction of the unconscious
- The value of clear aims and self-analysis
- Inner control means inner freedom
- A return to intuition
The Dilemma of Self-Help
Attitude No. 1: «If I don’t get myself seen to soon I might let things go too far, then there’ll be complications or it may even be too late. If I try treating myself I’ll probably do a lot more harm than good, and no one’ll be able to do anything. I’m totally ignorant about these things, I can’t do anything and I’m frightened of everything. If anyone can help me at all then it is a good doctor. It’s far too big a responsibility for me to try to do anything myself. I don’t believe in this self-help lark anyway».
Attitude No. 2: «Doctors are only human, after all: to err is human and to insist that your mistakes are right is even more so. Hanging around doctor’s surgeries is a tremendous waste of time and mental energy with only very dubious benefits, if any. It’s also more than likely that, thanks to the doctor’s enthusiasm and knowledge, you’ll find you’re suffering from a few extra diseases you’d never even heard of before and certainly had no desire to get acquainted with now. So there’s really a lot of sense in trying to clear things up independently. After all, I know myself pretty well after all these years and we’ve all got to go sometime, that’s for sure. If I’ve got something wrong with me I’d prefer to do the treating myself rather than someone I don’t even know!»
These are two extreme attitudes towards self-help, neither of which I recommend, and you probably already have your own views on this anyway. Whether you are inclined towards the first or second extreme basically depends on your character, philosophy, attitude to yourself and, above all, your past experience of doctors and your current state of health.
As always, the truth lies somewhere between the two extremes, although this is unfortunately of little help since there is a broad continuum between the two and the problem of finding the golden mean remains.
The one suggestion I would make is not necessarily to change your point of view but simply to be aware that it is not the only possibility, that it is not the absolute truth. After all, even if you are in intensive care you cannot avoid helping yourself entirely. Similarly, although you may have been a heroically persistent advocate of self-help your whole life some of the techniques you adopt are almost sure to include elements discovered or recommended by other people: the bicycle was invented long ago but we decide which type is going to be best to take us past the post. Finally, if we are talking about treatment and self-help then we should really encompass the area of prevention too, and it is as difficult to define where one ends and the other begins as it is to pinpoint exactly when common sense starts to be prejudice.
The Origin of Auto-Training
«Even before You speak, when I’m still only imagining I can hear Your voice or see You, when nothing, absolutely nothing is happening. I can already begin to feel that I’m establishing contact. With this feeling as my support, I’m sure I can try anything without difficulty; it’s also very important for me to know that You exist. But I feel that, although I’m not the most important one in all this, I’m not totally insignificant either: everything You give becomes mine and I do with it whatever I like; I feel that on this basis I can create myself, I can project my own state».
(From a patient’s diary.)
Evidently there are some truths which need to be rediscovered time and time again, each succeeding age making its own particular contribution. In the 1920’s and 30’s a German psychotherapist, Dr. Shultz, used hypnosis to induce in his patients states of rest, relaxation, and light and deep sleep until he began to notice that they were capable of doing the same without his help. The quicker they achieved this, the more successful their treatment. The patients’ dependence on the doctor decreased as they began to believe in their own powers until they were finally completely independent. Working in isolation but nonetheless inspired by his success, Shultz began to teach his patients techniques of Auto-Suggestion and ways of developing their concentration; his exercises for the treatment of neurosis have been called «autogenous training» or auto-training. Shultz himself used the term «self-hypnosis through training», although the precise meaning of «self-hypnosis» continues to be disputed by doctors and psychologists to this day.
However great Shultz’s contribution, this is a field in which it is difficult to speak of priority. For example, the various techniques devised by Jacobson, Coue, Asturel and Bekhterev all have a great deal in common. (It indeed seems true that there is nothing fundamentally new in the world). Although Auto-Training has been employed over the years in a variety of different fields and for different purposes, the method itself remains essentially the same. Originally considered the prerogative of religion and the occult, today it has acquired a wider practical application.
Auto-Training has world-wide recognition and is regarded as a kind of Western yoga. Opinions differ as to how much independence should be granted to a subject. Some doctors believe that the patient should remain dependent on his or her therapist, thereby bringing Auto-Training closer to ordinary hypnosis. Others, (including myself), seek methods which the patient can practise independently, thus hoping to make Auto-Training a universally practised technique. Nevertheless, Auto-Training ceased being limited to medical use a long time ago. Perfectly healthy people, for example, athletes sometimes practise a form of Auto-Training called «psychological training»; some variants are used in education, notably in the teaching of foreign languages, and so on. Thus new forms of Auto-Training are constantly being developed.
Just Pure Habit
Have you filled in your questionnaire of personal values and significance yet? This is important if you are hoping to practise Auto-Training seriously since some people are less successful than they could be because they do not give themselves a chance to reflect: they are simply swept along by events without attempting to understand what is happening. Clarifying what exactly is happening to you and defining how you feel at a given moment can be invaluable; this will be not merely a diagnosis of what is wrong but actually the beginning of the cure. If you are not frightened of scrutinising your attitude towards something, then whatever is really troubling you is almost sure to come to light.
The idea is not, of course, to become entirely absorbed in your own processes since this technique is only intended to be a temporary help. It is like playing chess: you assess the position in order to find your own best move and not just for the sake of considering the state of play as a whole. Ultimately you will need to devote very little time to assessing where you are.
Here is an example of an approach that can make it easier to decide what your aims are. This was written by a Mr. K., a research assistant.
My particular enemies are:
1. Lack of motivation, laziness, inertia, difficulty in getting into the right mood for something and when changing from one occupation to another; constant resistance to things that must be done; procrastination.
2. Lack of self-assurance in relating to people, fear of sarcastic remarks and criticism and of appearing awkward or stupid, consequent indecision and an excessively abrupt manner.
3. Constant worries about trivialities, anxiety without apparent cause, hence insomnia.
This is not every thing, but it includes the main things and it is enough for the moment. Here is the Ideal Me I hope to create with the help of Auto-Training as soon as possible:
1. My attitudes towards work are, «I’ll do whatever has to be done straight away.» and «As soon as I’ve finished this I’ll forget about it completely and go on to something else»: energy, agility and accuracy.
2. I relate to people with a relaxed assurance and unhurried friendliness.
3. When alone, I’m optimistic and organised.
Merely identifying your «particular enemies» and drawing up a plan for the «Ideal You» are in themselves a big step forward. Anyone hoping to live more consciously will find it helpful to repeat this exercise from time to time, sometimes reviewing the current situation and occasionally his or her whole life. (Making a «confession» to someone else is, primarily, a way of confessing to yourself). For some people, it is true, the act of self-analysis itself becomes the goal, demanding a great deal of time without giving any tangible results. But this is up to you.
When Can I Start?
Our faculty for concentrated self-observation is developed at about twelve, plus or minus a year or two. This is approximately the age when you can begin to practise Auto-Training. In order to have conscious aims for self-improvement (to keep calm, be more self-directed, etc.), it is necessary to be able to look at yourself with an impassionate and critical eye. It is, of course, impossible to set any hard and fast age limits: some adults who cope with life quite adequately are nevertheless incapable of independent self-analysis and they generally benefit more from group therapy rather than individual training.
Can Anyone Practise Auto-Training?
A doctor’s first commandment, never, under any circumstances to do any harm, is followed one hundred per cent in Auto-Training. I do not know of any cases in which Auto-Training has been harmful. There have been some cases, it is true, of a patient’s condition deteriorating while practising Auto-Training but this has been coincidental and Auto-Training itself has not been to blame.
The only time you should definitely not practise Auto-Training is if you are suffering from an acute illness or an attack of a chronic one (for example, an infection, or a cardiac or psychiatric disorder) when the addition of an unknown quantity in your state may have unpredictable consequences. But at such times you would be unlikely to feel like Auto-Training anyway; it can be introduced a little later to aid convalescence.
You can start to practise Auto-Training without consulting a doctor if you are generally in good health but are troubled with, for example, excessive shyness, occasional insomnia, etc. It is advisable to consult your doctor, however, if you suffer from cardiac or vascular disorders, a diagnosed neurosis or stuttering. The doctor may well refuse to give you a definite answer, in which case you are free to decide for yourself. Helping yourself does not, of course, exclude other help. Auto-Training in no way undermines the effect of medicine or psychotherapy; on the contrary, it complements both since it plays a part in any type of treatment.
The Fear of Failure:
Rules For Self-Experiment
If you really want to change yourself then you cannot avoid a certain amount of experiment. However carefully devised a course of Auto-Training may be, it will be a terra incognita to you when you start. You are setting out to discover your hidden potential. Consequently, you are obliged to test yourself out in new situations, to forgo some old habits and to adopt new and unfamiliar ones.
People who are a little wary or distrustful can sometimes be alarmed by this at first: “You don’t know what might happen! Best leave things as they are: better the devil you knew than the devil you don’t know”! The uncertainty and vagueness of this period of experimentation, the need to analyse yourself, and, above all, to make up you own mind about how to continue may cause anyone who lacks self-assurance and who is inclined to anxiety to become even more anxious and distressed. (You often come across a similar kind of anxiety in a psychotherapist’s consulting room when a patient is frightened of misunderstanding what is said or of resisting hypnosis.)
Intense anxiety can, therefore, sometimes make it necessary to interrupt independent training for a while. If, however, you manage not to be intimidated by this, things generally improve with time. People who are over zealous in experimenting with Auto-Training occasionally have to take breaks too. After a time, Auto-Training itself will begin to be of use, helping you to develop a sense of proportion.
It is sometimes useful to remember that our whole life is itself nothing more than an experiment; although we consider it an immutable fact, it is really just one out of a number of possibilities. Any treatment a doctor prescribes is also an experiment since its effect can never be predicted with complete accuracy. It is perfectly natural for us to experiment and to look for new things the whole time and there is nothing wrong in us giving human nature a helping hand.
Everything will be fine if you practise Auto-Training in a systematic way, gradually intensifying the demands you make on yourself. It is best to test out with caution any technique or exercise you have not used before. There is no need to be disheartened by any minor setbacks initially: they are simply due to the inertia of years making itself felt. If you pay close attention to the way you feel and put trust in yourself, you can be sure of success.
You Know More about Yourself Than You Think
We sometimes seem to hear a voice from deep down inside us. This is our mind or our body complaining about something, or perhaps making a suggestion, a request or a command. Sometimes our inner voice is so loud that we are obliged to fulfill its wishes immediately, but usually it is fairly muffled and indistinct.
We all have intuitive knowledge about ourselves, yet it is only children, whilst they are still closer to their animal ancestors than to their «civilised» parents, who retain it in its pure form. By the time we have reached adulthood, however, we are generally no longer aware of it and so, whatever state it is in, it is quite useless to us. This intuitive self-knowledge becomes keener during pregnancy and certain illnesses. On the other hand, in adolescence its voice fades more than ever. Young people often eat and sleep when they do not particularly want to; their natural liveliness is curbed in early childhood, first when they are thrust into buggies and playpens and then when they are constantly besieged by commands not to fidget, to stop playing around and to sit still. They forget how to run, jump, clamber and hop and soon cease to be the good all-round natural athletes they had been. They learn to sit for hours in hot stuffy rooms when their bodies are crying out for fresh air and exercise. A mass of pseudo desires and needs and undesirable conditioned reflexes confuse their real desires. The first cigarette and the first glass of alcohol are invariably unpleasant but young people persevere because both are an accepted part of adult behaviour: most things that are harmful or superfluous result in us feel ill or uncomfortable, although we rarely recognise this as a warning. Instead, we heroically force our bodies to accept a lot that is bad for us and they generally oblige, for a time at least.
It would be extremely serious if our intuitive self-knowledge were to fall silent altogether. Fortunately, it usually wakes up in moments of extreme danger; it is not that easy to destroy our natural constitution completely. However, in general, this only applies to sudden and dramatic violations of our equilibrium. The greater danger lies in the small deviations which, although fairly unpleasant, are still tolerable. Only a few rare individuals manage to evade the harmful effects of modern life and somehow contrive to live as nature prompts without apparent difficulty. They are abstemious, active and have a flexible attitude to living; they never force themselves to do what seems unnatural; without undue reflection, they always know exactly what they ought to do and they have a genius for self-preservation.
Controlled and conscientious self-observation can help you reestablish at least some of your suppressed self-knowledge and to start taking notice of your true needs again. You can be exacting or patient yourself; without excessive servility you can trust your intuition like a good friend; take note of what it prompts you to do as you would a doctor’s advice, but do not think of it as a medical handbook which is offering you a choice of all the diseases under the sun.
The Limits of the Possible
You are unlikely to be disappointed with something just because you learn that your feelings depend on impulses sent from small sections of the brain. Similarly, the knowledge that your headache or bad moods are simply the work of some fiendish little cells will certainly not help you to feel any better. However, it is nonetheless useful to know that it is our own body rhythms that determine our mental and physical state; they decide whether we see things in a rosy glow or funereal greys, whether we feel on top of the world or miserable, full of energy or listless. Only when we begin to understand this can we start taking a sober and critical look at ourselves. I know, for example, that at any given moment my physical and mental state is not simply a reflection of or a reaction to external stimuli, but it is also the product of independent and complex processes within. This knowledge helps me forecast how I will probably feel in the future. Thus it is possible to foresee when your «difficult days» are likely to be (for women these are often connected with their menstrual cycle) and, consequently, to be ready for them. On these days it is important to remember your own potential for acting negatively, to take care of yourself and to protect others from your possible actions. A bad mood is far easier to get through if you are sure it is going to pass, and it always does!
At such times it is particularly important to start Auto-Suggestion in good time since, although Auto-Training can easily intercept the early stages of a negative state, it can rarely eliminate it once it has set in. Once you have mastered Auto-Training, however, this will never occur because, apart from everything else, it helps you to learn how to predict your mood.
Auto-Suggestion or Self-Deception?
You find remarkably untalented people who are convinced of their genius, criminals who feel they are social benefactors and some of the mentally ill who think they are Jesus Christ, Napoleon, etc. This is all false involuntary Auto-Suggestion which has become false self-awareness, that is, self-deception; it has nothing to do with conscious, goal-orientated Auto-Suggestion.
The latter is based on a sober evaluation of reality, both actual and potential. The assertive formula (I must - I want to - I can - I act - I achieve) gives you a push in the chosen direction, but not as far as the goal; it is a means of self-improvement, not of reaching perfection.
By practising Auto-Suggestion you force yourself to believe that something which will be, actually IS. This, however, is not self-deception but a creative anticipation of reality which transfers the potential into fact.
It is important to get the limitations of Auto-Suggestion quite clear. If you make the suggestion:
I’M ALERT AND READY FOR WORK
I FEEL WELL NOW
I LIKE JOHN BROWN
and really do feel this, then you are not deceiving yourself in the least. If, however, you suggest that you are a famous film star, a universal genius or the best person who has ever lived, you run the risk of self-delusion.
Five Principles for Beginners
Principle No. 1: inner aim
I should like to emphasise once again that this is half the battle: work out your general strategy before starting the course of Auto-Training and then your tactics before each particular exercise. Try to see as clearly as possible what you have to overcome and, most of all, what you want to attain.
Principle No. 2: moderate fanaticism
Practise self-analysis before and after but not during an exercise; then all you need is increasing faith that the necessary state is being attained, a fanatical faith which at the given moment is blind. This is the state when the Auto-Suggestion is establishing itself; you will gradually learn how to invoke it easily and quickly.
It is, of course, impossible and unnecessary to eliminate all conscious reflection on your condition. When you first start practising Auto-Training it is natural that you will be fairly curious to know how you are feeling the whole time and there is no need to fight this, particularly since it will cease of its own accord as soon as you get used to the exercises. Exactly the same happens when you are developing your powers of concentration: the thoughts which distracted you initially will disappear by themselves. In general, it is completely foreign to Auto-Training to fight, suppress or eradicate anything. Once you learn to believe in yourself all unnecessary and obstructive thoughts and feelings simply disappear.
Principle No. 3: stop being frightened of yourself
It is quite natural to experience some anxiety and uncertainty at first. The opposite feelings, imperturbable assurance and the calm brought by understanding will appear sooner or later.
Principle No. 4: give yourself time!
It is extremely important to be cunning at first, it is hard to say for how long exactly. Set yourself concrete tasks without demanding success and without expecting to see any change; the last thing you should do is to criticise yourself. The absence of tangible results does not mean they do not exist: the channel that is going to be the route for all subsequent Auto-Suggestion is simply being cut in your subconscious. It is worth remembering that there is usually a time lag between conscious and subconscious processes: the latter may unexpectedly present the former with an accomplished fact or, on the contrary, its cumbersome biological mechanism may lag behind the instantaneous demands of the conscious mind. The subconscious is traditionally inert and changes its rhythms with difficulty: it is hard to draw it into something new and equally difficult to stop it once it has got into the swing of things. You will have to be very patient and wait some time before it will show itself to its full advantage.
Do not be upset if your Auto-Suggestion is not realised immediately: it is never wasted. Each time the channel will be cut through the subconscious more quickly and easily, although unforeseeable deviations are always possible. The important thing is the general direction, that is, the overall effect after a lot of attempts. Simply practising Auto-Training is valuable in itself, even if you unlikely to see any speedy results.
At first, when you are still fairly anxious and your self-control is comparatively weak, try to arrange your practising so you do not have to be conscious of time. It is ideal, for example, if you have a couple of free hours and can spend forty minutes on Auto-Training and the rest of the time walking. It is best not to worry about being late when you are doing Auto-Training.. (Once you have mastered the basics you will never be frightened of anything if you do not want to be).
Set yourself a minimum number of tasks for a certain amount of time and do not try to do any more in the allotted period: no one is making demands on you. The time you are practising Auto-Training belongs to you alone.
Principle No. 5: it is already there
Remember that the states you are trying to attain with the help of Auto-Training are already very familiar to you. They have happened spontaneously at some time but you have probably forgotten because they were just fleeting and, above all, of little interest to you then. Auto-Training does not mean you have to try to acquire anything new: you simply have to draw on and develop the positive elements which are already part of your character.
I have already made it clear that Auto-Training is not a religion, a philosophy or an ideology, not even a health-giving “system” in the usual sense. It is simply a number of techniques anyone can use, irrespective of whether he or she is a Christian, a Maoist, or a Hindu, etc. Despite its adaptability, however, Auto-Training is not like a car, which, although it can conveniently move in any direction you choose, can also knock a few people down en route.
If you have ever noticed the effects of a day spent in the country or by the sea, how it gives you a general sense of tranquility and elation, and how it can also help to dissolve a quarrel, anxiety, jealousy, a sense of hurt, depression or despair, you will immediately understand what I am talking about: if you are calm and balanced on one level this will help you to be the same regarding other things too.
Auto-Training (and its older sibling, yoga) help you towards personal development on a moral as well as a physical and psychological level. My work and personal experience have shown me that, apart from the specific, goal-orientated effect on individual symptoms and disorders, Auto-Training also has a non-specific effect: you become generally more balanced, energetic and spontaneous and take a greater joy in life: your mental powers and ability to get on with others improve; your egoism is less rigid and demanding and can be channeled into more altruistic aims. Some people experience other side effects too: one patient, for example, informed me that, thanks to Auto-Training, he surprised himself by suddenly improving his chess game so much that he started beating people he had had no hope against previously. Another patient, an oil engineer, told me that soon after starting Auto-Training he discovered he had a natural gift for invention which he had never known about before. (Three years later he had been granted twenty patents and been promoted to a better paid job.)
What Does It Look Like?
When you are doing gymnastics, say, or jogging, you immediately attract the attention of those around you. Anyone practising Auto-Training, however, simply appears to be resting or deep in thought: lying or sitting down, eyes open or closed, mouthing the occasional word and moving slightly from time to time. You could quite easily notice nothing at all since someone can be doing Auto-Training while having an interesting conversation, reading, or even running. True, only those with experience would be able to do this and by then it would just be a matter of course.
Finding a Place
It is not particularly difficult to find somewhere for your Auto-Training.. A quiet spot at home is best at first: a room where you are unlikely to be disturbed, a favourite armchair or a comfortable bed. But if that is impossible then you can start anywhere you like. It may be more difficult initially but more beneficial too since, ultimately, practical skills are of little use unless they are put to the test. Anyone-starting Auto-Training in the peace and quiet of his or her own home will nevertheless have to move out into the world sooner or later.
Finding a Time
The time you choose for Auto-Training will have to fit in with your particular life-style. Many recommend the evening when you can use Auto-Training to wind down after the tribulations of the day; but the morning, or a lunch- or tea-break can do just as well.
You should bear in mind that the results of Auto-Training (deep relaxation in particular) depend, apart from anything else, on when you practise. This is determined by your individual circadian rhythms and is affected not only by your present state (if you are tired and under the weather, Auto-Training may inject you with energy, if you are excited or nervous it may have a calming effect) but also by what is likely to happen in the near future. If, for example, in an hour’s time your body is naturally ready for sleep, then Auto-Training may help you drop off earlier than usual. Conversely, it may prevent you from getting to sleep for a while. Experiment and take note of what happens; you will soon find the best and most convenient time to practise. For some people, if they are tense or bad tempered in the morning, say, the most worthwhile time may be early in the day. It is beneficial to do Auto-Training both before and after physical exercise of any kind, but inadvisable when you are very hungry or have just had a heavy meal.
A Special Time
The few moments when we are just dropping off to sleep at night and when we are waking up in the morning are particularly valuable since, at this time, we are naturally very receptive to self-hypnosis or Auto-Ssuggestion. You can take advantage of these moments over and above your daily programme of Auto-Training. It is a particularly good time for suggesting either a fundamental, long-term reorientation of attitudes, or simply for meeting short-term needs.
How Long Is the Course?
As part of medical treatment, courses of Auto-Training can last from 4 or 5 up to 12, or even 30 weeks depending on the individual and his or her particular aims. A few people who take to Auto-Training easily achieve significant results after an amazingly short time, whilst others progress slowly. However, just because you may not be very quick at mastering the exercises does not mean that they are not doing you any good.
The course described here is designed for approximately 15 weeks, but you should not tie yourself to this too rigidly: the important thing is to have a routine and to do some Auto-Training every day.
How Long Is Each Session?
Protracted, three-hour sessions of Auto- rainingare recommended for certain extreme forms of neurosis. Such long periods can be extremely beneficial since they help you to get rid of anxiety, depression and other distressing states, or to prepare yourself for a crucial meeting or an important piece of work, etc. For most people, of course, it is out of the question even to think of finding this much free time.
Thirty minutes a day is quite sufficient to master the course described here: for example, five minutes in the morning, twenty minutes during the day (two ten-minute spells), and five minutes before going to sleep. The important thing is quality, not quantity: only five minutes a day is valuable if you concentrate well.
Your Own Intonation
«What do I have to say to get rid of my headache?»
If you have that much faith then words may indeed help. However, like it or not, there are very few people today who still believe that words can work wonders. For someone with this implicit faith there is no problem at all: just give them some words (any you like as long as you say them with authority) and that is that. It is much more complex for someone who has a rational attitude towards the use and meaning of words.
Auto-Suggestion in Auto-Training can be either verbal or non-verbal. Suppose you want to warm your hand: you can either simply «send» warmth there, or you can repeat to yourself (or out loud), «My hand’s getting warmer».
Which way is better?
Only you can answer that, after you have experimented a little. It is possible that neither will work and that you need a visual stimulus, in which case you should imagine your hand lying in very hot, bright sunshine. Or you can try all three techniques together; if you are concentrating hard you will do this naturally anyway.
The use of words is only an elementary stage of Auto-Training; once the whole process has become a matter of routine you will be able to achieve the same result more directly, non-verbally. However, initially, words are the knife that cuts out the channel for future Auto-Suggestions through your subconscious mind.
A verbal formula is a demand made by the conscious on the subconscious mind, a request for one of the potential states already there to dominate. But since words are the language of the conscious, they can only give the subconscious vague directions as to how to find the required state. Consequently, you also need to set your subconscious mind swinging to and fro in a search at the non-verbal level.
Verbal Auto-Suggestion can be expressed in a loud or medium voice, in a whisper, or silently to yourself. The formulas should be:
Simple and clear. If you repeat to yourself, «I think my hand seems to be getting a little bit heavier than it was a few moments ago», or something similar, the only thing that is likely to happen is that you will get slightly bored and very tired. A correct approach would be: «My hand’s getting heavy», or «My hand’s heavy». The words should be simple and familiar. Your brain should not have to waste time and energy trying to understand involved constructions.
Original. Banality undermines our perception as much as excessive innovation; the ideal is a compromise between the familiar and the novel. People who are particularly annoyed by cliches constantly need fresh images or none at all; even successful formulas have to be changed after a while. Naturally everyone has his or her own judgement of the banal, and what seems utterly ridiculous to one person may be a revelation to another.
Relevant. The words must mean something and have the power to impress.
However, I would like to emphasise that the actual words themselves are not of major importance; the main thing is the reminder you give your subconscious, the internal tone you set. After all, if you want to, you can reel off Shakespeare like a shopping list or make limericks sound like immortal verses, especially if you set them to music: it all depends on the emotional level you pitch things at. This inner intonation underlines what is of real significance for us in a form comprehensible to both our conscious and subconscious minds: it is our individual music.
Some schools of Auto-Suggestion recommend a harsh approach in which you give yourself commands and even shout at times. This is very effective for some people; in others it is met with resistance or complete indifference. The tone you adopt is undoubtedly a matter of personal preference. Gentle persuasion, impassive objectivity, persistent pleading and sarcasm can all be effective. It is important always to have underlying confidence in what you are saying; whining complaints are never any use. This assurance means that your subconscious is willing to support your words.
The St. Petersburg psychotherapists, Dr. G.S. Belyaev and Dr.A.A. Mazhbits, recommend formulas of increasing insistence:
I really do want my right hand to become heavy.
I really want my right hand to become heavy.
I want my right hand to become heavy.
Let my right hand become heavy.
Let my right hand be heavy.
My right hand’s heavy.
My hand’s heavy.
This is a useful technique which can be adapted for various Auto-Suggestion. It works because you give yourself time and space for the Auto-Suggestion to cut a channel through the subconscious; you do not notice the exact moment when the wish becomes fact.
There is also micro-Auto-Training; short sessions of Auto-Training lasting from literally a few seconds to 2-5 minutes which you can do anywhere in the few odd moments you are forced to spend waiting: on your way home from work, for example, or standing at a supermarket check-out, etc. These short spells can do much more for you than smoking or chatting. You will find them a real lifeline at times, particularly if you have to concentrate intensively for any length of time. (I learnt this from having to conduct sessions of psychotherapy.) If you add up all these spare minutes you will find you have masses of time for Auto-Training every day.
With A Tape Recorder
You can tape your own verbal Auto-Suggestion or that of a doctor to use in your training. This technique, which makes Auto-Training more like hypnosis, is often especially useful for people who are easily distracted or very anxious. The major drawback is that it gives little opportunity for your mind to work independently. Its chief advantage is that a constant result is almost guaranteed. However, even this will alter with time and, as you become more accustomed to a tape, you will probably either begin to fall asleep very quickly or start feeling annoyed. Consequently, you will have to change it from time to time.
Do I Have to Keep an Eye
on Myself the Whole Time?
«Listen!» says your Inner Controller, your subconscious mind. «Listen to me carefully. I wish you only the very best and so I’m asking you to turn to me for help more often. Please don’t forget that I’m always here. I can increase your attention and help you concentrate on anything you like. I can wake you up and put you to sleep whenever I need to. With my help you can choose any mood you like: just believe that I exist and have the power to do anything. Don’t be frightened that I’ll rob you of your spontaneity. Far from it. If you will only believe in me then you’ll find that, in fact, I am spontaneity. You certainly don’t need to keep an eye on yourself the whole time. You just have to treat me well, that is, treat yourself well. The main thing for me is to have your confidence: believe that I can and shall do everything!»
Major Benefits of Auto-Training
Above all, Auto-Training brings you the realisation that, at last, you are in charge. After all these years! You are now the real owner of what has technically been yours for a long time. Inside you may experience a feeling of space which is both new and yet familiar: inner freedom.
A Little More Terminology
Before going any further let us look at what we are dealing with and try to get things in perspective, even if only very approximately.
1. Self-regulation: the basic principle governing the functioning of the body, brain and psyche.
2. Self-control: self-regulation at a psychological level; including both subconscious (automatic) and conscious actions.
3. Auto-suggestion: one of the universal mechanisms of the mind which can also be effective for healing purposes. It is always with us and can be used at any time.
4. Auto-training: a collection of techniques for independently influencing the mind and body mainly through the conscious use of Auto-Suggestion.
5. Auto-psychotherapy: all we do and can do ourselves to help maintain our mind and body. (Auto-Training is one of the most developed techniques that can be adopted for this aim).
6. Self-perfection: a goal towards which anyone wanting to become themselves will naturally want to strive. It has much in common with Auto-Training, although they are not the same thing. A way of attaining peace of mind.
For Those Who Intend to Practise Auto-Training
I would like to remind you of the three ways of reading this book described in the first chapter. It is quite likely that during the first reading you will feel like trying out some of the exercises as you go along. This is fine, but be careful not to let these early attempts influence you too much when you are deciding whether to take up Auto- Training seriously or not. Try to get your aims as clear as possible. Consult your doctor if necessary and decide what Auto-Training can best do for you (some people, for instance, are immediately interested in muscle relaxation, others in exercises for increasing warmth, etc.). Fix a time when it is most convenient for you to practice regularly. All you have to do now is to start. Keep this book handy for the first 2-3 months at least.