I have been thinking about the use of suggestion in therapy. This arose from having a discussion with someone over 'suggestion therapy'. We were arguing about what exactly is 'a suggestion?' And that got me to thinking about all the different forms of suggestion. There are direct suggestion, indirect suggestions, stories, sayings, covert hypnosis, stealth hypnosis and all the rest.
One of the most commonly used is self-suggestion, or affirmation. Affirmations have been around since Antiquity: Aristotle said 'A vivid imagination compels the body to obey it'.
Affirmations suggestions and Emile Coue
Modern affirmations started with Emile Coue (photo above). He was French pharmacist (1857-1926) who noticed that his customers got better the more he puffed up the power of the medicine they bought from him. The same medicine sold without his praise didn't seem to work so well. He believed that when willpower and the imagination were combined the results were unstoppable. He believed that conscious auto-suggestion was superior to hypnosis. He was the first person to state that "you are what you think". When you think about something, your mind forms an image of it, and your unconscious mind will strive to achieve that image. If your thoughts are always dark and negative and self-critical, then your mind will tend to dwell on that, and make you unhappy. He developed the famous affirmation 'Every day in every way I am getting better and better'. This affirmation was designed to counteract negative thinking.
Suggestion can work with the conscious mind
Coue's work showed that you don't have to access the unconscious mind to make changes, you can also make changes through the conscious mind. With affirmations, people are giving themselves suggestions while fully conscious of what they are doing. Coue taught that willpower is not enough. No amount of willpower is going to overcome negative thinking. He emphasized the need to imagine what it is that you want first. Then think of ways you can achieve that. Finally you reinforce it with an affirmation.
There is an extensive list of affirmations on this site.
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