By Susanna Sweeney, MSc, MBACP, CHT
In this article, find out the history of auto suggestions, the science behind them and how you can use them to your advantage to change your life.
In hypnosis terms, suggestions are statements made with the intention of influencing someone's mindset. The hypnotist uses suggestions when they want to change the way the client thinks about something, wants to change their feelings towards something, or wants to inspire positive emotions.
An auto suggestion then, quite simply, is a suggestion is a suggestion you make to yourself. Typically such suggestions are used to focus your mind, or to motivate and inspire you towards a particular goal, for example to stop smoking or to lose weight. These days, auto suggestions are more commonly referred to as affirmations.
You have probably heard about affirmations and may very well have used them. But did you know that the idea of using affirmations to change your life goes back to the work of one man AND is over 100 years old?
I bet you had no idea. Not many people are aware of this piece of hypnosis history.
In this article, I want to introduce you to the life and work of Émile Coué (1857- 1926) and retrace his thinking process for you so that you can understand the concept of affirmations or auto suggestions from the ground up.
Frenchman Émile Coué was born in humble circumstances in Troyes, France. He studied pharmacy in Paris, then returned to his hometown to open a pharmacy and drug store.
Hypnosis lectures and hypnosis stage shows were very popular at the time, and one day Émile stumbled upon such a lecture by the famous hypnotist Ambroise-Auguste Liébeault (1823- 1904) whom he subsequently befriended and started to work with in the hypnosis field, opening a hypnotherapy clinic in Troyes.
Émile was struck by parallels he observed in his hypnosis and pharmacy work. It was his observation that the patient's belief in the cure offered made a substantial difference to whether the cure would work for him or her, or not.
He started to believe that the suggestions he gave were more powerful than the medicines or the hypnosis themselves and that all healing was largely due to a placebo effect: if a patient believed the medicine would heal him, his chances of healing were much greater than if he did not.
As a result- along with the medicines he sold, he started feeding his patients suggestions to help their healing and continued to do so for many years. By the end of the century however, he moved away from being the giver of suggestions.
he came to believe that it was a much more empowering experience for patients if they became their own masters- designing and administering their own suggestions because ultimately, suggestions would only work if the person proceeded to internalize the message given.
This idea formed the background to Émile's concept of 'conscious auto suggestions'.
Whatever the healing method used- be it medicines or hypnosis- in Émile's view the healing was due to auto suggestion, and if the patient could be taught and encouraged to design and use auto suggestions, this would work so much better. rather than hypnotizing his patients, he now started to teach them how to design and use auto suggestions- all while they were in a fully conscious and wide awake state.
His recommendations on how to use auto suggestions were to use general suggestions daily, as well as specific ones that target specific goals or issues. You should recite these to yourself several times a day, in other words, Émile saw repetition as key in being successful with suggestions. Repetition would ensure acceptance by both conscious and subconscious minds, and a suggestion could only be realized once fully embraced.
Émile became a tireless proponent of the idea of auto suggestions, promoting the concept widely. He wrote books and went on lecture tours. Émile's ideas became famous all over the world. He had centres in Paris, London, and even New York. However, after his death in 1926 the craze for his ideas faded away within about ten years.
This, however, was not the end of the use of auto suggestions.
The New Age movement popularized the idea of auto suggestions once more and certainly since the movie 'The Secret' was released public fascination with self hypnosis affirmations has become wide spread.
Commonly they are now referred to as affirmations- but beware-not all affirmations are created equal. If you get the design wrong, they won't work for you or- at worst, will work against the very thing you are trying to achieve!
Read my article on auto suggestion techniques to make sure yours are designed right and that you are getting the best out of them.
Émile Coué claimed that even physical ailments could be treated- or at the very least helped- by auto suggestions. This idea has been confirmed by research in the fields of psychosomatic medicine and psychoneuroimmunology. The concept of psychological modulation of immune function has become widely accepted in these fields.
Here is a random selection of examples for scientific evidence for the mind body link as well as for the powerful role of suggestions. I have chosen these to illustrate the wide range of issues that suggestions and auto suggestions can help with.
I have also written articles on the scientific background to using stop smoking hypnosis and weight loss through hypnosis. (Hypnosis treatment for these issues will always be based on suggestion hypnosis over regression hypnosis.)
I hope you enjoyed this brief article on auto suggestions. Read on about auto suggestion techniques to find out how to design and administer suggestions that can help you to change your life.
Here is to your success and well being.
(1) Maunder, Hunter, 2001. Attachment and Psychosomatic Medicine: Developmental Contributions to Stress and Disease. Psychosomatic Medicine, July-August 2001, Vol. 63, Iss. 4, p. 556-567
(2) Spanos, Stenstrom & Johnston 1988. Hypnosis, Placebo, and Suggestion in the Treatment of Warts. Psychosomatic Medicine 50:245-260 (1988).
(3) Lupu & Lupu, 2017. Cognitive Behavioral Hypnotherapy in a Case of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Journal of Evidence Based Psychotherapies, Vol. 18, No. 1; March 2018, p. 35-44
(4) Nussbaum, Redoute, Le Bars et. al., 2010. Chronic Low- Back Pain Modulation is enhanced by Hypnotic Analgesic Suggestion by Recruiting an Emotional Network: A PET Imaging Study, International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, November 2010.
(5) VandeVusse L, Hanson L, Berner MA, White Winters JM (2010). Impact of self-hypnosis in
women on select physiologic and psychological parameters. Journal of Obstetric, Gynaecologic and Neonatal Nursing 39(2): 159-168.
(6) Fourie & Guse, 2011. An Integrated Hypnotherapeutic Model for the Treatment of Childhood Sexual Trauma: A Case Study. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 53/3.
(7) Alladin, 2010. Evidence Based Hypnotherapy for Depression, International Journal of Clinical and experimental Hypnosis, 58/2, p. 165-185.
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