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Emile Coue and his method (II): hypnotism, suggestion, ego-strengthening, and autosuggestion.

[Continued from Part I]

Having examined the history of Coue's method in Part I (Yeates, 2016a), we now move to the representations embedded within the method itself, before examining the clinical delivery of the entire process in Part III (Yeates, 2016c).

1. Preliminary

1.1 Orthopraxia vs. Orthodoxia

According to Sokal and Sneath (1963, p. 20) the preference for 'top-down' taxonomies over those constructed 'bottom-up' from 'commonsense' (rather than 'scientific') criteria, comes from Darwin's stress on descent from common ancestors (e.g., Darwin, 1859, pp. 111-126). Whilst Coue constructed his accounts 'bottom-up', he presented them as 'top-down' theory-driven practices in order to instill confidence and ensure the highest level of orthopraxia, 'correctness of behaviour (whilst ignoring issues of orthodoxia, 'correctness of thought').

2. Reference and Ambiguity

2.1 Homonymy and Equivocation

Most ambiguity comes from unintentional equivocation ('calling two different things by the same name') or homonymy ('different words with the same spelling'). For example, with scale ('John scales a fish', 'Michael plays scales on his tuba', 'John uses scales to weigh a fish', 'the scale of a disaster', etc.) on its own, one can't identify scale's intended referent--one must know the context in which it is used. Some examples of equivocation due to lexical ambiguity are:

* the French teacher: 'a teacher from France', or 'a person that teaches French'?

* mind-cure: 'using the power of the mind to cure a real disorder' (see Bucknill, 1855, p. 161) or, as some might have it, 'curing a deviant mind'?

* psychotherapy: 'using the psyche as a tool to therapise a real disorder' (see Dendy, 1853) or, as some might have it, 'therapising a deviant psyche'?

* cognitive therapy: 'using the cognitions as a tool to therapise a real disorder' (see Frank, 1959, p. 3) or, as some might have it, 'therapising deviant cognitions'?, etc.

2.2 Polysemy and Ambiguity

With homonymy (un-related meanings: bank = 'riparian boundary', 'financial institution') or polysemy (related meanings: bank = 'financial institution', 'a building', 'rely upon'), although listeners can't identify a term's unique referent without additional information, many do identify a referent--but, unfortunately, the wrong referent--and interpret the utterance in the wrong way.

2.3 "Hypnosis"

A technical term has precision only to the extent that it has a unique referent. Confusion reigns if the same term is used to denote different referents. Ignoring the medico-Latin hypnosis, 'natural sleep', Bernheim's grossly inappropriate term 'hypnosis' (never used in English before Kingsbury, 1891, pp. 160-162), is variously, misleadingly and indiscriminately applied throughout the current literature to, at least, the following substantially different referents:

(a) an act of hypnotisation: viz., Braid's hypnotise;

(b) 'a hypnotic state' (one of an infinite number of distinctly different 'hypnotic states'): viz., Braid's hypnotism (a consequence of being hypnotised by a hypnotist);

(c) 'the (one-size-fits-all) hypnotic state' (a non-Braid, non-Moll notion);

(d) any non-therapeutic hypnotism-centred activity;

(e) any therapeutic hypnotism-centred activity;

(f) 'hypnotherapy' in general: viz., Braid's psycho-physiology ("the whole of [those] phenomena which result from the reciprocal actions of mind and matter upon each other");

(g) an entire discipline: viz., Braid's neurypnology ("the doctrine of the influence of dominant ideas in controlling mental and physical action"). (See Braid, 1843, pp. 12-13, 1855, p. 855; and Moll, 1890, pp. 209-213)

3. The Mind

3.1 Metaphor

Given that there's no agreement on the precise physical location, constituent structure, or functional capacity of 'the mind', it's best to treat 'the mind' as a somewhat capacious hold-all metaphor, and as a natural kind (Quine, 1970) that has as many members as there are individual human beings. This theory-neutral approach of treating 'the mind' as an abstract metaphor also allows us to avoid the diverting questions of whether explanatory divisions, such as unconscious, subconscious, etc., actually exist in some substantial way, or only exist conceptually in our thoughts about them. When contrasted with 'artificial concepts' like 'time zones', however, it's obvious that 'the mind' is a 'natural concept', like 'trees' and 'cats'; and, because 'natural concepts' are readily and universally understood they demand no unique, coherent set of defining features (Kihlstrom, 1992, p. 304).

3.2 Mind & Brain

Although the physico-chemical engine (the brain') and the entity through which we experience mental events (the mind') are inextricably linked, no precise set of correlations between the brain's structures and the gross mental aspects of what goes on inside our heads is ever likely to emerge. Prochaska's experiments in the 1780s demonstrated that voluntary action was brain-based; whilst reflex action was spine-based. In 1842, by analogy with the stomach-based process of "digestion", Engledue spoke of brain-based "cerebration" (pp. 7-17); and, a little later, Braid asserted:

I look upon the brain simply as the organ of the mind, and the bodily organs as the instruments for upholding the integrity of the bodily frame, and for acquiring and extending its communion with external nature in our present state of existence.

[And, moreover, it is my view] that the mind acts on matter, and is acted on by matter, according to the quality and quantity, and relative disposition of cerebral development.

(Braid, 1843, p. 81)

For Carpenter, hypnotic phenomena were due to the mind being fully occupied by operator-suggested ideas, and were generated by means of an "ideo-motor principle of action" (1852, p. 153). Carpenter (later) spoke of "unconscious cerebration" (1853a, pp. 818-829) to identify other hidden "reasoning processes" (e.g., suddenly recalling forgotten names). Following Noble's suggestion, Braid spoke of a mono-ideo-dynamic principle being responsible for hypnotic phenomena. The German proto-psychiatrist, Johann Heinroth (c.1818) extended the philosophical concept of akrasia ('weakness of will') to acting in certain ways (e.g., eating chocolate) despite explicit intentions not to do so; and another German proto-psychiatrist, Rudolf Leubuscher (c.1838) spoke of aboulia ('inability to act'), where one's body failed to respond to mental commands (such as moving one's arm).

So, different people, with different theories, applied terms in different ways, to different sets of 'facts', to make different distinctions between aspects of 'the mind' for different reasons.

4. Dominant Ideas

4.1 Thomas Brown, M.D.

A physician renowned for his structured thinking, diagnostic skills, and prodigious memory, Thomas Brown (1778-1820), held the Chair of Moral Philosophy at Edinburgh University from 1810 until his death in 1820 (see Welsh, 1825). Rather than pronouncing how he found things to be, he taught how to go about thinking about things.

Braid studied with Brown, and it was from Brown that he adopted the term "suggestion" in the sense applied by hypnotists today (see Yeates, 2013). A confused version of Brown's work was posthumously published in 1820 (a condensed version in 1827). A fully corrected edition was published in 1851 (Brown, 1851). In one form or another, it was the most popular philosophy text in the English-speaking world for almost 50 years.

4.2 Mental Physiology

Brown's enterprise of "analyzing] the whole into parts, classifying] those parts, and describing] the dynamics of their interaction" (Dixon, 2001, p. 299), was to establish a 'science of mind', which Brown denoted "mental physiology"--"the physiology of the mind, considered as a substance capable of the various modifications, or states, which constitute, as they succeed each other, the phenomena of thought and feeling" (1851, [section].II, p. 5).

4.3 Suggestion and the Philosopher

Asserting that 'the mind' could not exist in more than one arrangement ("state") at any one time, Brown examined trains of thought, and the way that later ideas were systematically suggested by earlier ideas, from two perspectives:

(a) mental chemistry: scientific analysis and reduction of the complex mental states into their simpler components--by an "intellectual analyst" ([section].XI, p. 64)--thus, "intellectual chemistry"; and

(b) mental physics: discovery of regularities and consistencies through which mental states succeeded one another through "the observation and arrangement of the sequences of phenomena, as respectively antecedent and consequent" ([section].IX, p. 53), thus, "intellectual physics".

4.4 Emergent Properties

Anticipating Mill's "heteropathic laws of causation" (Mill, 1882, III.X4, pp. 315-317) and Lewes's "emergent properties" (Lewes, 1875, p. 412), Brown noted that, as in chemistry--where compounds have properties that can't be predicted from their constituent ingredients, and where certain compounds, once constructed, are indivisible--certain mental 'states', consequent upon complex changes in mental physiology, are irreversible ([section].XI, p. 64).

4.5 Suggestion and the Physician

Brown studied the conditions we now call psychosomatic disorders, especially the "Swiss Disease" phenomenon (denoted nostalgia, 'homesickness', by Johannes Hofner in 1688)--a deep melancholy afflicting the Vatican's mercenary Swiss Guard, the only known cure for which was a permanent return to the soldier's home village (see Anspach, 1934; Rosen, 1975; Nikelly, 2004; and Sedikides, et al., 2004). He was just as interested in somato-psychic influences on the mind as he was in psycho-somatic influences on the body: "Certain states of our bodily organs are directly followed by certain states or affections of our mind; certain states or affections of our mind are directly followed by certain states of our bodily organs" (Brown, 1851, [section].XVII, p. 106).

4.6 Suggestion and the Poet

Displaying an enthusiasm for poetry far beyond his talent, Brown published many works (1804; 1808; 1814; 1815; 1816; 1817; 1818; 1819); but, apart from one incomplete item (1820), he published no philosophical works in his lifetime. Given his brilliance as a philosopher, many were greatly upset that he wasted so much time, over so many years, producing what many of his contemporaries considered to be such second-rate verse, when he could have been writing detailed accounts of his philosophy:

The frequency with which the poetical works of Dr. Brown succeeded each other began to excite remark. And while the devotion of his mind to poetry, to the neglect, as was supposed, of philosophy, was objected to him by his enemies almost as a moral defect in his character, even those who were inclined to judge more favourably, regretted it as a weakness that materially injured his reputation.

(Welsh, 1825, p. 393)

Given the evocative characteristics of poetry it seems inevitable that Brown, the poet manque, would become so deeply interested, as a philosopher, in the regularities with which ideas presented to the mind ("suggesting ideas") became dominant and, then, via the "suggesting principle", suggested others ("suggested ideas").

4.7Braid's Position

In 1855, Braid explained the "mono-ideo-dynamic, or unconscious muscular action from a dominant idea possessing the mind" to the British Association for the Advancement of Science:

... when the attention of man or animal is deeply engrossed or absorbed by a given idea associated with movement, a current of nervous force is sent into the muscles which produces a corresponding motion, not only without any conscious effort of volition, but even in opposition to volition, in many instances; and hence they seem to be irresistibly drawn, or spellbound, according to the purport of the dominant idea or impression in the mind of each at the time. The volition is prostrate; the individual is so completely mono-ideised, or under the influence of the dominant idea, as to be incapable of exerting an efficient restraining or opposing power to the dominant idea .

(Braid, 1856, p. 120)

5. Regularities, and "hypothesis non fingo"

5.1 Isaac Newton

In 1713, remarking "hypothesis non fingo" (lit. 'I feign no hypothesis [as to its mechanism]'), Isaac Newton wrote that, despite having described law-like regularities of gravity at considerable length, he would not speculate on their underlying cause (Cohen, 1962; 1999, pp. 274-277).

5.2 Thomas Brown

In Brown's account of trains of thought, he said that, whilst he had detailed the "antecedents and consequents which succeed[ed] each other in regular series" and, while an analogous set of mental forces were obviously behind those regularities, he would adopt Newton's hypothesis non fingo, and refuse to speculate on the forces' structures (1851, [section].IX, p. 52).

5.3 James Braid

In 1843, Braid remarked that hypnotic phenomena ensued from 'hypnotic states' because that's just how things were: "it is a law of the animal economy that such effects should follow such [a] condition of mind and body". And, asserting that "this is a fact which cannot be controverted", he refused to speculate further on underlying mechanisms:

As to the modus operandi we may never be able to account for that in a manner so as to satisfy all objections; but neither can we tell why the law of gravitation should act as experience has taught us it does act.

Still, as our ignorance of the cause of gravitation acting as it is known to do, does not prevent us profiting by an accumulation of the facts known as to its results, so ought not our ignorance of the whole laws of the hypnotic state to prevent our studying it practically, and applying it beneficially, when we have the power of doing so.

(Braid, 1843, p. 32)

5.4 William Carpenter

For Carpenter, Braid's hypnotic phenomena were produced by 'dominant ideas': [they] consist in the occupation of the mind by the ideas which have been suggested to it, and in the influence which these ideas exert upon the actions of the body ... It is not really the will of the operator which controls the sensations of the subject; but the suggestion of the operator which excites a corresponding idea ... [Such ideas] not only [produce non-volitional] muscular movements, but other bodily changes [as well] ...

(Carpenter, 1852, p. 148)

To reconcile the hypnotic phenomena "with the known laws of nervous action" and, without elaborating on mechanism (hypothesis non fingo!), Carpenter offered a metaphorical "ideo-motor principle of action" to explain "the whole class of purely emotional movements [that] depend upon the excitation of certain states of mind by external impressions" (Carpenter, 1852, p. 151).

Maintaining his central, 'dominant idea' position--"I endeavour to rid the mind at once of all ideas but one, and to fix that one in the mind even after passing into the hypnotic state" (Braid, 1843, p. 50)--Braid adopted Carpenter's metaphor, and began speaking of a mono-ideo-motor principle of action.

5.5 Daniel Noble

In 1853, Noble suggested that ideo-motor was too narrow a term, and that ideodynamic "was applicable to a wider range of phenomena" (Noble, 1853, p. 71; 1854, p. 642). Both Carpenter and Braid agreed; and from that time, Braid spoke of a mono-ideo-dynamic principle of action generating hypnotic phenomena (e.g., Braid, 1855, p. 852).

5.6 Hippolyte Bernheim

In 1891, Bernheim offered a "law of ideodynamism" (Sandor, 1980, pp. 22-32): "every suggested idea which is accepted becomes an action, that is, a sensation, an image, or a movement". No-one knows the "organization [of the] laborious unconscious cerebration work [that takes place] without our awareness", said Bernheim; or how "unconscious cerebration [actually generates] a visible and tangible product of the mind". All we know is "the idea or initial sensation (the port of entry ['la porte d'entree']) and the definitive conception (the result, the port of exit ['la porte de sortie'])". A suggestion "is made"; "the impression becomes an idea"; "the idea is accepted by the brain" in an inwardly directed "centripetal" process ("phenomene centripete"); "as the result of the suggestion", it converts into an outwardly directed "centrifugal" process ("phenomene centrifuge") and is realised by "the exteriorization of the idea" (hypothesis non fingo!). Bernheim offered four examples (Sandor, 1980, pp. 29-32):

(a) The idea becomes a sensation: "the idea that one has fleas produces a real itching".

(b) The idea becomes an image or visual sensation: "a true hallucination".

(c) The idea becomes a visceral sensation: e.g., vomiting after ingesting water that one has been told is an emetic.

(d) The idea becomes movement: e.g., the movement of a hand-held pendulum (see Chevreul, 1854; Spitz and Marcuard, 2001).

5.7 Emile Coue and Charles Baudouin

Sporadically, all throughout his work, Coue would refer (indirectly) to an auto-suggestive agency through which 'dominant' ideas were realised--e.g., "Every thought entirely filling our mind becomes true for us and tends to transform itself into action" (1922a, p. 15)--and Baudouin chose to speak (specifically) of an "ideoreflexpower" (1920, p. 26).

6. Scientific Hypnotism

By definition (see Weitzenhoffer, 2000, passim), scientific hypnotism centres on the delivery of 'suggestions' to hypnotised subjects, intended to elicit:

(a) the further stimulation of partially active mental states/physiological processes;

(b) the awakening of dormant mental states/physiological processes;

(c) the activation of latent mental states/physiological processes;

(d) alterations in existing perceptions/thoughts/feelings/behaviours; and or

(e) entirely new perceptions/thoughts/feelings/behaviours.

6.1 Pre-Induction Preparation

Prior to inducing hypnotism (especially an initial hypnotisation) the hypnotist must:

(a) establish a strong rapport with the subject ('rapport', once established, increases the hypnotist's 'prestige', and, thus, the 'prestige' of their suggestions);

(b) ensure that all queries, issues, fears, superstitions, and misconceptions have been articulated, clearly understood, and satisfactorily dealt with;

(c) create a positive attitude to the subject's choice of hypnotherapy; and

(d) confirm the efficacy and appropriateness of the chosen procedure.

Obviously, anyone voluntarily presenting for treatment already has a significant level of response expectancy (see Kirsch, 1997), and is far more likely to respond to suggestion: When a patient comes for treatment, and is really in search of health, no matter how little he may appear to be in harmony with the suggestions given, his very search for health creates a sympathy for suggestions, since he would really like to believe and accept them.

(Parkyn, 1900, p. 15)

6.2 Hypnotic Suggestion

One is only a 'hypnotist' if one induces 'hypnotism'; and an idea is only a 'suggestion if it 'suggests' something. We can stipulate (i) that 'suggestions' are goal-directed communications (e.g., Freud, 1891/1966, p. 111), (ii) that 'suggestion is the ideodynamic means through which 'suggestions' are realised (e.g., Baudouin, 1920, p. 26), and (iii) that, as Janet (1920, pp. 284-285) noted, the critical feature is not the making of a 'suggestion', it's the taking of the 'suggestion'. Furthermore, suggestions' have four temporal dimensions:

(a) pre-hypnotic suggestions, delivered prior to the formal induction;

(b) suggestions for within-hypnotic influence, to elicit specific withinsession outcomes;

(c) suggestions for post-hypnotic influence, to elicit specific post-session outcomes:

(i) immediate influence ("and, on leaving here today, you'll...");

(ii) shorter-term influence ("and, each time you're.");

(iii) longer-term influence ("and, as time passes, you'll increasingly.."); or

(iv) specific-moment influence (Bernheim's suggestions a longue echeance, 'suggestions to be realised after a long interval'), which are (i) intended "to produce a particular effect at a designated later hour", (ii) have "no influence before the appointed hour", (iii) nor "after it had expired"

(Barrows, 1896, pp. 22-23), or

(d) post-hypnotic suggestions, delivered to dehypnotised-but-not-yet-completely-reoriented subjects. There is a strong tradition that these suggestions are the most efficacious.

7. Explanatory Models

7.1 The "Imaginarium"

From the decision to remain theory-neutral--and the further, productive decision to treat 'the mind' as an abstract, metaphorical concept--we can graphically represent 'the mind' and its inter-connections as displayed in Fig. 1; and then, from that understanding, and by actively employing one of Lakoff and Johnston's "container metaphors" (1980, pp. 29-32) we can also conceptualise a dedicated, metaphorical "container of ideation", situated deep within 'the mind', which we will designate "the Imaginarium", as represented in Fig. 2.



7.2 Dominant Ideas

We can now represent the 'the mind' in its normal 'state'--with the Imaginarium replete with all sorts of random ideas, directed at the functions in all sorts of ways-as shown in Fig. 3. This move, in its turn, allows us to represent the special situation of the Imaginarium holding one, single, 'dominant idea' ('dominant' because it has saturated the cognitive environment of the mind) that influences all of the functions in some symmetrical way, as shown in Fig. 4.



The representation in Fig. 4 highlights the similarity between different sorts of 'dominant idea'--the negative/bizarre ideation of depression and schizophrenia; the notion "I must save myself" on hearing "Fire!" in a crowded theatre; the immersion in listening to music; the recall of long-forgotten things on seeing an old snapshot; the hope that the champion's now-airborne shot will score the winning goal with only three seconds left in the match, etc.

7.3 The Act of Hypnotisation

Hypnotism significantly increases the closeness between psychological and physiological processes and brings many (otherwise) non-volitional physiological processes under volitional control. Given that an idea is "the mind existing in a certain state" (Brown, 1851, [section].XXV, p. 157), successful hypnotisation increases the potency of particular ideas in two mutually interactive ways: (i) subjects attend more to their current ideation, and (ii) attend less to other impressions/stimuli/sensations.


A major goal (if not the major goal) of hypnotisation is the deliberate, intentional creation of an Imaginarium that is of such size, robustness, and impermeability that whatever ideation it contains is immune from outside influence; and, moreover, an Imaginarium of such volume that subsequent hypnotism-centred intervention can proceed with minimum cognitive effort and maximum efficacy. The cognitive and physiological consequences of the 'the mind' being in the 'hypnotic state', is represented in Fig. 5--a much larger Imaginarium, and a far stronger and far more active connectivity between 'the mind' and the various functions/processes.

7.4 Consequences of Hypnotisation

With a larger Imaginarium, random thoughts become more intense (which explains why hypnotism is contraindicated in schizophrenia), as shown in Fig. 6; and a 'dominant idea' has a much stronger presence in a hypnotised subject, as shown in Fig. 7.



The extent to which particular ideation is of such unequivocal clarity, intensity, and in occupation of such a proportion of the Imaginariums volume, is the extent to which it is dominant, and the extent to which a particular idea saturates the microcognitive environment of'the mind' (i.e., is 'dominant') is a product of four mutually potentiating factors:

(a) Imaginarium volume: comparatively larger Imaginarium volumes are produced by more-appropriate-to-task hypnotisation processes;

(b) linguistic clarity and cognitive simplicity: an idea's simple, unequivocal clarity eliminates mind-diverting criticism/analysis (Yeates, 2002, 2014a, 2014b);

(c) proportion of Imaginarium occupied: the extent to which the making of the suggestion has resulted in the subsequent taking of the suggestion; and

(d) extent to which the idea is expressed in positive terms: ("be still" vs. "don't move", etc.) promotes the misattribution of the source of the suggestion to the subject's own ideation--again, significantly reducing mind-diverting criticism/analysis.

7.5 The Ideodynamic Principle of Action

The ideodynamic principle of action displayed in Fig. 8 is consistent with the parenthetical comment made in 1923, by Coue, when directing a subject's handclasp experience:

[In this case] it is not what I shall say which will take place, but what the [subject] will think. [If they think what I ask them to think,] it will take place. If they think the contrary, the contrary will take place. I don't try to oblige people to make these experiments. It is no hypnotism, it is no suggestion on my part, it is only autosuggestion on the part of the person ...

(Coue, 1923a, p. 120, emphasis added)

In order for something to be 'a stimulus' or 'a suggestion', it must be perceived and interpreted by the subject: the stimulus must have created a percept. Then, according to Brown ([section].XXXIV, p. 217, etc.), this "suggestive idea" is transformed into a "suggested idea" by an (otherwise unexplained) "suggestive principle" (hypothesis non fingo!); and, then, the "suggested idea" is converted into a corresponding ideomotor, ideosensory, or ideoaffective action, by the ideodynamic principle of action--a process which then, in its turn, generates the response. All these activities are a consequence of the ideation held in the Imaginarium.


Coue identified two types of self-suggestion: (i) intentional, "reflective autosuggestion" made by deliberate and conscious effort, and (ii) involuntary "spontaneous auto-suggestion", a "natural phenomenon of our mental life ... which takes place without conscious effort [and has its effect] with an intensity proportional to the keenness of [our] attention" (Baudouin, 1920, pp. 33-34). Baudouin identified three different sources of spontaneous suggestion:

A. Instances belonging to the representative domain (sensations, mental images, dreams, visions, memories, opinions, and all intellectual phenomena); B. Instances belonging to the affective domain (joy or sorrow, emotions, sentiments, tendencies, passions);

C. Instances belonging to the active or motor domain (actions, volitions, desires, gestures, movements at the periphery or in the interior of the body, functional or organic modifications).

(Baudouin, 1920, p. 41)

From Fig. 8, the continuously misrepresented and generally misinterpreted (but entirely correct) claim, that all 'suggested' things are ultimately self-suggested, can now be clearly and unequivocally understood in the way it was intended--e.g., according to William Brown:

Hetero-suggestion [is] suggestion implanted in a patient by another person [and] auto-suggestion [is] a suggestion implanted in a patient by himself. In so far as all forms of suggestion must be accepted by the patient himself in order to take effect, all suggestion may be called auto-suggestion.

(Brown, 1922, p. 103)

8. The Selves, Will, and Imagination

Created to impose order on randomness and enhance a subject's orthopraxia, Coue's simple explanations were not designed to expound speculative theories to an academic audience.

Coue shared the theoretical position that Hudson had expressed in his Law of Psychic Phenomena (1893)--a significant and important work based upon Hudson's extensive study of hypnotic phenomena, the hypnotic state, and mental therapeutics (which had greatly influenced the representations featured in the American correspondence course)--that our "mental organization" was such that it seemed as if we had "two minds, each endowed with separate and distinct attributes and powers; [with] each capable, under certain conditions, of independent action" (p. 25); and, for explanatory purposes, it was entirely irrelevant, argued Hudson, whether we actually had "two distinct minds", whether we only seemed to be "endowed with a dual mental organization", or whether we actually had "one mind [possessed of] certain attributes and powers under some conditions, and certain other attributes and powers under other conditions" (pp. 25-26).

8.1 Conscious vs. Unconscious Self

Coue had no time for Freud or his theories (Rapp, 1987, p. 27). He consistently used conscious and unconscious in their everyday sense of something done with alert awareness (or not). Often referring to 'the mind' and 'the state of mind of a person', he distinguished between a 'conscious' and 'unconscious self' within all of us. Later, he was prone to speak of 'the unconscious' in preference to Baudouin's 'the subconscious', from a view that his subjects might imply that the 'sub-' in subconscious indicated a somewhat lesser entity.

Others, with different goals, made other distinctions: e.g., Hudson spoke of "objective" and "subjective minds" (1893, p. 26); Parkyn spoke of "voluntary" and "involuntary minds" (1900, p. 14); Quackenbos spoke of "objective" and "subjective selves" (1900, p. 5); Atkinson spoke of "conscious" and "sub-conscious minds" (1909, p. 180); and so on.

8.2 The Will vs. The Imagination

Given the universal misrepresentation of Coue's terminology, it must be emphatically stressed that, when Coue spoke of "the will" and "the imagination", he used the term 'will' in the sense of it being a trait, rather than a virtue (see Kugelmann, 2013, passim, on the concept of 'willpower'), and used the term 'imagination' in the simpler, vernacular sense of how one generally supposes that things are ('how I imagine things to be'), and not in the far more scientific sense of the capacity to form internal ideas (or images) of situations (or objects) that are not physically present. Baudouin (1920, pp. 274-275), who studied with Henri Bergson, thought the relation between Coue's concepts of "imagination" and "will" was the same as that which existed between Bergson's concepts of "intuition" and "intelligence".

8.3 Coue's Representation

Given that his typical audience could easily distinguish between alert activities, such as counting goats, and unconscious, non-volitional activities, such as digesting food, Coue spoke of four significant dimensions of human performance:

(a) awareness: some processes were 'conscious'; others were 'unconscious';

(b) causation: some actions were 'volitional'; others were 'non-volitional';

(c) agency: the 'conscious self' performed volitional acts; the 'unconscious self' performed non-volitional acts; and

(d) faculties: "the will" and "the imagination" (he used these expansive terms (i) to distinguish the conscious process that directs our voluntary movements from that which (unconsciously) directs our involuntary movements; or, in other contexts, and in a far more abstract way, (ii) to distinguish between rational knowledge and one's unconsciously-held beliefs, self-evaluations, non-negotiable values, etc.).

8.4 Coue's Approach

Self-suggestion clearly existed, Coue said, but it was more than just asserting something. An idea had to be unconsciously 'taken', and converted into an autosuggestion, before it could have an effect. It wasn't just asserting, "I want X to happen"; the 'unconscious self' would respond, "You want it, but you won't get it!" With such an assertion vs. counter-assertion clash, not only would you fail to obtain whatever was demanded, but, due to the strength of the abrupt (unconscious) rejoinder, you would obtain the exact opposite (1912, p. 31-32).

This crucial observation was precisely why, he said, all efforts to treat "moral affections" by "rehabilitating the will" were useless; instead, one had to "train the imagination". His consistent success, where others consistently failed, he said, was entirely due to this subtle difference. Therefore, just as one must be taught to read, or write, or play the piano, one must be taught how to practise efficacious conscious autosuggestion.

In summary, his position was based on the following principles:

(a) one's mind can't hold two contradictory thoughts at the same time;

(b) only one idea could be 'dominant' at any one time;

(c) an idea, once 'dominant', is transformed into an actual physical or mental state;

(d) "the imagination" is more powerful than rational knowledge;

(e) any effort to conquer an idea by exerting "the will" only makes that idea more powerful; and

(f) once a 'dominant' idea occupies the Imaginarium, it remains there unchanged until it is replaced by another.

8.5 Cone's Four Observations

In his first lecture (1912, p. 31), Coue articulated four central principles concerning the relation between consciously suggested and unconsciously held ideas:

(a) Whenever "the will" and "the imagination" are antagonistic, "the imagination" always wins out, without exception.

(b) (By analogy with the inverse square law) whenever there's a conflict between "the will" and "the imagination", the power of "the imagination" is always (metaphorically) in direct proportion to the square of "the will".

(c) (By analogy with arithmetic and geometric progressions) whenever there's an agreement between "the will" and "the imagination", rather than (metaphorically) adding to one another, the two of them (metaphorically) multiply each other.

(d) "The imagination" can be directed.

9. Baudouin's "Laws"

9.1 Charles Baudouin

Charles Baudouin (1893-1963), a Nancy-born psychoanalyst, and a sometime student of Henri Bergson, Edouard Claparede (and Pierre Bouvet), Alfred Adler, Carl Jung, and Sigmund Freud, established the International Institute of Psychagogy and Psychotherapy in 1924. Coue had treated Baudouin's mother on at least one occasion (Orton, 1935, p. 94); and, before leaving to study in Geneva (c.1912), Baudouin spent 18-months observing and studying with Coue at his Nancy clinic. He was a member of Coue's Lorraine Society of Applied Psychology for several decades.

9.2 "Suggestion and Autosuggestion"

In 1920, Baudouin was awarded a Ph.D. by Geneva University for his dissertation, Suggestion and Autosuggestion. Parts of that dissertation, plus copious material from his own lectures, and accounts of his post-Coue theories and practices (e.g., Baudouin's use of a pendulum, pp. 208-217), were published in French and English. Originally, the English translation sold few copies; finally, based on good reviews, it continued to sell well for the next fifty years (Unwin, 1976, p. 216).

While slightly modified versions of his 1912 lecture, plus case studies, snippets from lectures, demonstrations, and interactions with individuals (1922a, 1922b, 1922e, 1923a, etc.), or 'ghost-written' newspaper articles (1923b), were published in his name, Coue wrote nothing, and left that task to others. Fortunately, buried deep within Baudouin's (otherwise entirely Coue-irrelevant) ponderous tome are several 'nuggets' containing valuable and important observations about Coue's work (viz., 1920, pp. 114-118, 153-164, and 257-258).

9.3 "Laws"

Baudouin was convinced that Coue's approach embodied six principles (of such systematic regularity that he called four of them "Laws"). His account of these principles, which have been extensively disseminated over the years (mostly in truncated, incomplete, inaccurate, or imprecise versions), continues to influence hypnotherapeutic theory and practice today.

9.3.1 First Principle

The Law of Concentrated Attention (loi de lattention concentree): whenever one's attention is concentrated on a particular idea over and over again, the idea tends to spontaneously realise itself (p. 114)--once again, Thomas Brown's 'dominant idea'.

9.3.2 Second Principle

The Law of Auxiliary Emotion (loi de l'emotion auxiliaire): one's attention is far more intensely concentrated on an idea that is associated with a strong emotion: "When, for one reason or other, an idea is enveloped in a powerful emotion, there is more likelihood that this idea will be suggestively realized" (p. 114). Baudouin offers "stage fright", and the amnesia of examination candidates as examples:
   A candidate who knows his subject perfectly well may suddenly be
   stricken with suggestive amnesia. In essence there is no difference
   between this and the forgetfulness of a proper name in ordinary
   conversation; but the examinee's amnesia is far more intense, its
   higher degree corresponding with the greater intensity of the

   Violent emotion appears to heighten the force of suggestions of any
   kind. Intense fear may thus have two very different results, the
   divergence depending on the nature of the idea present in the mind.

   Fear may glue the feet to the ground. A motor dashes round the
   corner when you are walking in the middle of the road; you are
   afraid you will not be able to get out of the way in time, and
   consequently you cannot move a step.

   On the other hand, fear may restore the use of his legs to a
   paralytic. In 1915, in one of the air-raids on Paris, a paralyzed
   woman living on the fifth storey found herself in the porter's
   lodge on the ground floor, without knowing how she had got there; a
   bomb had exploded close at hand, and she had fled downstairs in a
   moment; the idea of flight at all hazards had seized her mind, and
   under the influence of the violent emotion this idea had been
   transformed into action.

   Emotion, it might be said, instantaneously raises an idea to the
   boiling point, intensifies it to the degree when it can become an
   effective force.

(1920, pp. n5-116)

This "Law" also (implicitly) states that, whenever two ideas co-exist, (i) an idea linked to an emotion will 'outrank' any other, and (ii) an idea linked to a 'stronger' emotion, such as fear, will always 'outrank' ideas linked to 'weaker" emotions, such as pleasure. As a matter of interest, Weitzenhoffer (1989) suggested that three additional "Laws" applied to clashes between mutually antagonistic and otherwise equal suggestions:

(i) The Law of Temporal Precedence: the first suggestion given "will have precedence over the others [involved in the clash]" (p. 77).

(ii) The Law of Impressional Precedence: "the suggestion being impressed the most strongly has precedence. 'Impressed' means the extent, complexity, stability, and permanence of the associations that are formed between a suggestion and already existing determinants of the suggested effect" (pp. 77-78).

(iii) The Law of Depth Precedence: "the suggestion associated with the greater depth of hypnosis ... will have precedence over the others" (pp. 78).

9.3.3 Third Principle

The Law of Reverse Effort (loi de I'effort converti): explained as follows:
   When an idea imposes itself on the mind to such an extent as to
   give rise to a suggestion, all the conscious efforts which the
   subject makes in order to counteract this suggestion are not merely
   without the desired effect, but they actually run counter to the
   subject's conscious wishes and tend to intensify the suggestion.
   The efforts are spontaneously reversed so as to reinforce the
   effect of the dominant idea. Whenever anyone is in the state of
   mind, "I should like to, but I cannot", he may wish as much as he
   pleases; but the harder he tries, the less he is able.

(1920, p. 116, emphasis in original).

The more you try to stop thinking about some thing, the more it will persist (Wegner, 1989, p. 64). To verify you're no longer thinking of "it", you must think of "it" once again (activating the "Law of Concentrated Attention"). This "Law" reminds us that, "conscious efforts to counteract a suggestion only serve to intensify its action [which is, of course,] the principle behind such Ericksonian-like utterances as: 'The more you try to resist entering hypnosis, the more relaxed you become'" (Edmonston, 1986, p. 181). It also strongly warns against making conscious effort to realise suggestions; and, from the self-evident fact that often-realised noxious autosuggestions, are only realised "because they are made without effort", Coue stipulated that, "when you make conscious autosuggestions, do it naturally, simply, with conviction, and above all without any effort" (1922b, p. 36):

I cannot too strongly insist that in the practice of auto-suggestion the exercise of will must be strictly avoided, except in the initial phase of directing or guiding the imagination along the desired lines.

This is absolutely the only manifestation of will necessary, or even desirable. Any other voluntary effort is positively harmful, and will most certainly have an effect contrary to the one desired.

(Coue, 1923b, p. 14, emphasis added)

9.3.4 Fourth Principle

The Law of Subconscious Teleology (loi de la finalite subconsciente): in relation to hypnotic suggestion and, even, mental imagery, the most important of all: "When the end has been suggested the subconscious finds a means for its realization" (1920, p. 117). Once a suggestion has 'taken', the mind engages in goal-directed behaviour to realise the goal. The physical, physiological, or biochemical means through which goals are to be reached must never be suggested. An outcome is suggested; and, then, it's left entirely to the subject's 'unconscious self' to select the most efficient, effective, appropriate, and permanent way to attain that end.

9.3.5 Fifth Principle
   Spontaneous autosuggestion is a phenomenon of everyday occurrence
   ... [and is, at least, as significant as] the classic form of
   hypnotic suggestion. Often, indeed, the results of spontaneous
   autosuggestion are far more intense and far more lasting than those
   of hypnotic suggestion.

(1920, pp. 117-118).

9.3.6 Sixth Principle

Precisely because they are so powerful, "[we must] keep watch on our spontaneous autosuggestions"; and, particularly, we must avoid mediums and clairvoyants--for their "fantastic prophecies will germinate in our minds into veritable suggestions, and will tend to realize themselves"--and actually generate the events that were prophesied (1920, p. 118).

Noting that it could be used 'against' a subject by accident or design, Baudouin emphasised that it was a subject-centred power, and not an index of subject impotence or subject inferiority (1920, p. 27). He also noted the pernicious influence of 'self-talk':
   When we have occasion to refer to our habitual ailments, we should
   be careful always to employ the past tense, saying "I have slept
   badly of late"; instead of the customary present, "I am a bad
   sleeper", which condenses the present and the future, and involves
   the future just as much as if we were to say "I shall sleep badly
   tonight". Furthermore, we should make it a rule to talk as little
   as possible about our ailments.

(1920, p. 118)

10. Suggestions

The following random comments present important aspects of Coues extremely simple (non-complex), but not simple (easily understood) process from one useful perspective:

(a) As a scientist, Coue knew that humans were dynamic, selfregulating organisms with a natural propensity for self-healing (a view that underpins vaccination).

(b) He directed subjects to do certain (mutually exclusive) things, rather directing them to refrain from doing others.

(c) His process, aimed at saturating the cognitive microenvironment of the mind, was based on four non-controversial principles:

(i) suggestion can produce somatic phenomena;

(ii) specific suggestions generate specific somatic outcomes;

(iii) suggestions are just as efficacious in the treatment of physical or organic conditions as they are for functional or emotional conditions; and

(iv) a successful suggestion-based intervention for a physical condition does not indicate that the original complaint was in any way imaginary.

(d) Given that most of their operative functioning was beyond their conscious control, Coue sought to saturate each subject's mind with ideas that would naturally generate the desired changes, through that subject's own, inbuilt ideodynamic 'realising mechanism'.

(e) Only one idea can occupy the mind at any one time; so, whenever a 'new' idea was introduced, an already pre-existing idea could be:

(i) magnified, if the two were in accord with one another;

(ii) nullified, if the two were equal and opposite; or

(iii) replaced, if the two were mutually exclusive and the second stronger than the first.

(f) Each biochemical, physiological, behavioural, motor, emotional, cognitive, intellectual, sensory, experiential or social function is directly connected in some unique fashion to a specific, unique aspect of the mind; and each dedicated mind-to-target connecting channel can only transmit a single message in one direction at one time.

(g) Each dysfunction, abnormality, or impairment is due to a dysfunctional message; or, with absent function, no message at all.

(h) Coue never attempted to silence a 'transmitter', and never attempted to block a 'channel'; instead, he earnestly strove to:

(i) keep all channels open, flowing, and unimpeded;

(ii) keep the transmitter broadcasting;

(iii) fully saturate the mind's cognitive microenvironment with the ideal message; and

(iv) impel that ideal message with maximum force along the channel's pathway with such speed and efficiency that it met the least resistance at its target destination.

(i) Given the proliferation of mind-to-function channels, the transmitter's power, the appropriateness of the goal-specific function(s) selected, and the accuracy of the mind-to-function targetting involved--and given the need for (i) (hypnotisation maintaining) zero subject arousal, (ii) subject attribution of the messages source to themselves, and (iii) maximum information transfer with minimum cognitive effort--the message had to be simple (i.e. non-complex), unequivocally precise, and clearly expressed in terms of presence ('be relaxed'), rather than absence ('don't be tense').

11. Coue's Formula

It is important to recognise that Coue's approach was unique. It concentrated on engaging and activating all of a subject's natural curative mechanisms; and, in doing so, it was just as concerned with removing stasis, congestion, and other real and metaphorical impediments to the natural healing processes (vis conservatrix nature), as it was to motivating the transforming and natural self-healing processes themselves (vis medicatrix nature).

11.1 Non-Specificity

Coue's "Every day, in every way, I'm getting better and better" did not specify the means by which its goal was to be achieved, nor the manner in which that process was to take place (Brooks & Charles, 1923, p. 115). Recognising that his subjects confused wants with needs, and weren't "wise enough" (p. 116) to know what goals to seek, what means to specify, and what processes to demand in order to attenuate their distress, Coue said that they must not make "diverse suggestions" (such as, for example, 'Every day, in every way, my ovarian cancer is getting better and better'), on the grounds that his formula "covered everything" (p. 105).

11.2 Comments & Remarks

There are certain matters that require special mention:

(a) To a large extent, the initial impact of the the formula's self-administration was dictated by the suggestions made to the subject during the ego-strengthening session.

(b) The fact that, in performing the self-administration ritual twice a day, subjects were acting in a controlled way in order to gain self-mastery meant that the ritual, itself, had immense symbolic value as a metonymical act (Topley, 1976, p. 254).

(c) The formula, 'covered everything', and was not to be varied or embellished in any way.

(d) Every morning and evening, subjects recited the formula 20 times in a monotonously droning voice, without any attention paid to the wording, without any emotion, without any thoughts of the dysfunction to be remedied, and without any imagery.

(e) To avoid awareness-demanding distraction, repetitions were counted on a 20-knot string.

(f) The subconscious teleological process, once engaged, selected and activated psychophysical resources to effect the goal of 'getting better'; and the ritual's on-going performance generated more positive, goal-directed, incremental changes.

(g) By definition, 'unconscious self' really knew what is 'non-better' in a particular case; and how, and through which process, what was currently 'non-better' could be made 'better'.

(h) The instruction to convert 'non-better' into 'better' in every way implicitly demanded that:

(i) the vis conservatrix natum and vis medicatrix natum operate at their optimum level and promote positive long-term robust health (rather than a dysfunction-free state);

(ii) all 'non-betterness' was removed;

(iii) 'betterness' was to be achieved synergistically, through every possible avenue, with every necessary resource, in every possible combination; and, most significantly,

(iv) no time was to be wasted on 'the impossible.

(i) The daily ritual implicitly reinforced the 'dominant idea' that many on-going (but not yet evident) changes were already being effected far below the conscious levels of awareness.

(j) Due to the responses (unconsciously) generated by the ritual and formula, one was, indeed, getting 'better' each and every day; not just 'better', but 'increasingly better'; and not just 'increasingly better', but 'increasingly better in every possible way.

(k) A subject's perceptions were strongly oriented to transformation; and they began to notice changes and improvements that they consequently (and automatically) processed as being self-evident proof that hidden work was being done, far below their conscious awareness, on all of those things that were previously 'non-better'.

(l) This perceived transformation of previously 'non-better' things to 'better', in its turn, would go on to generate other equally important changes (which were, in themselves, the inevitable consequence of earlier 'non-better-to-better' transformations).

To be continued in Part III.


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Lindsay B. Yeates, PhD

School of Humanities & Languages, University of NSW Sydney, NSW Australia
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Author:Yeates, Lindsay B.
Publication:Australian Journal of Clinical Hypnotherapy and Hypnosis
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Sep 22, 2016
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