Chapter 7 – Warnings and Qualifications
BEFORE going further, it may be well to issue a few statements as to what this system does not include.
The advice is not to hypnotize yourself into success. This is important to understand, for many people, and with some reason, dread and fear anything that is based on hypnotism, even in the form of self-suggestion. The work of the Nancy school, with which Coué made us all familiar, is full of excellent hints for self-management, and Charles Baudouin’s book, Suggestion and Auto-suggestion, can be read to great advantage by many who do not follow him with full agreement; and there are several small handbooks on Coué’s system which are worth studying. But it is not for nothing that the fad which was once so widespread has faded away. In spite of all warnings, too many of those who attempted self cure ended by reinforcing the troubles they set out to banish.
No, although a sentence from a chapter on hypnotism was helpful in discovering our formula, the connection of this procedure with hypnotism ends there. You are advised to use, first, a minimum of will – just enough to decide to try a new process. Then, as in the Nancy school, the imagination takes over until your mind is clear, cool, and “pleasant” in tone; not confused, diverted, troubled or foggy.
The difference lies just here: in intensive auto-suggestion there is a serious danger that the mind will get as out of touch with reality in the other direction as it was in its day-dreaming or depression; that it will become, as the French say, exaltée, a word for which we have no exact and satisfactory equivalent. But “extravagantly elated” is about what exaltée implies, a state of mental intoxication as dangerous as it is temporarily delightful. You cannot live on those peaks; and if you could, you would, again, find yourself unable to act effectively in the world of reality. Without such action you are as far from success, as deep in self delusion, as ever.
Confident, steady, freely flowing action is what we need. Then safe delight begins.
The mind, cleared of its doubts, begins to expand and enjoy its own activity; the rewards of satisfactory action begin to show themselves. An elation which has nothing to do with delusion or hypnotism naturally follows, and has no later reaction to nullify it.
Second, the advice is not to make “affirmations” such as “I cannot fail,” “I am successful in all I do,” and so on. This procedure, which is helpful with many, has too much in common with auto-hypnotism for those who do not thoroughly understand the principle on which they are working as they follow it. There is much to admire in the philosophy behind those religions which use “affirmations”; that there is an ultimate Unity behind the duality or diversity of the world seems an inescapable conclusion. Nevertheless, we are “conditioned” (as both Behaviorists and philosophers say) by the flesh, by personality, by the concrete world; so we must at least act as if the constitution of the world were dual, almost evenly distributed between good and evil. Most of us are brought up short by prosaic commonsense when we try to use the “affirmative” method, and for one who can successfully make use of it there are a hundred who feel ludicrous when doing so. There are others who succeed for a while and then find themselves worse off than before. There is no disapproval whatever for the method when used by those for whom it is, we might say, temperamentally suitable. But for skeptics of even a mild order, it is likely to be more irritating than helpful.
Thirdly, the advice is not to dash out and impress others by posing, pretending or downright lying about one’s successfulness. The only one to impress, at least at first, is yourself, and that only to the extent of making for yourself a congenial working-atmosphere.
The recommendation, once more, is simply this: Act as if it were impossible to fail.
Then, above all, you are not advised to engage in still one more fantasy about success, a somewhat more detailed and circumstantial fantasy than you have pushed yourself to before, but still bearing signs of its kinship to your former day dreaming. In this case the use of the imagination is quite different, and worth a little detailed scrutiny later.
Long before Freud made his contribution to modern thought, Pico della Mirandola, in a treatise called De Imaginatione – Concerning the Imagination – was discriminating between two kinds of reverie: the one retrograde, backward-turning, keeping the man from his man’s work, prolonging irresponsibility and mental childhood; the other, the true imagination, was found in the successful man.
An aphorism of Joubert, which denies the fine name of Imagination to the former type of reverie, is perhaps the neatest definition that can be found, worth pages of ordinary “distinguishing”: “Fancy,” he says, “an animal faculty, is very different from imagination, which is intellectual. The former is passive, but the latter is active and creative.”
It is the latter creative imagination which is to be called on, and if that fact is kept fully in mind there will be no danger of slipping once more into the bad old habit of dreaming the world into a different shape while life slips away. Remember again that “Success depends on a plus condition of mind and body, on power of work, on courage.” It is that idea which must be held firmly in mind: that the test of whether or not one is dreaming or imagining correctly is whether or not action follows the mental work. Any mental activity which turns backward for longer than it takes to correct a mistake and to replace an unsatisfactory habit with a good one, is minus, and cannot be continued if you hope to lead a fuller life.
You set for yourself in advance the hours in which you will work. Within those hours, and as part of that work, you first clear and free your mind. When this has brought you to a pleasant, confident, quiet state you are ready to get at the work proper. The first part of the time is spent clearing the decks for action. You clear the decks; you act.
Now, this is an age of alibis. We all know a little too much about the Glands Regulating Personality, and the Havoc raised by Resistances, and so on. Never since the world began were there such good opportunities to be lazy with distinction. It is perfectly true that many cases of subnormal energy can be helped by the proper glandular dosage, but how many of those who have spoken to you of being probably hypothyroid ever went through the simple process of having a basal metabolism test to see if that were really the trouble? Of course they can claim that the situation is so grave that they cannot even get up energy to start being cured; there’s no answer to that one.
But if you are really seriously handicapped by lethargy, you can take your first success-ward step by consulting a good diagnostician, if necessary. If necessary, mind; for there is a fact which makes a good deal of the talk about glandular insufficiency look like the alibi it too often is, and which will be confirmed for you by specialists in glandular therapy if you ask them: that if those who complain of lethargy increase their habitual activity little by little the glands respond by increased secretion. In short, very often this condition can be cured by starting at the other end! You may rest assured that you will have no consequent breakdown in following this advice unless you deliberately (and with intent to cripple yourself) leap from a practically comatose state to one of manic activity.
As for Resistances! They are almost an item of dogma in the current secular religion.
Persons who would never dream of going to the time, expense, or trouble of a full analysis will tell you complacently that they have “a resistance” to this or that, and feel that they have done all and more than can be asked of them by admitting their handicap. Remarkable cures of resistances, however, have been observed in those who took solemnly the advice to replace that word with our ancestors’ outmoded synonym for the same thing: “bone-laziness.” It is not quite so much fun, nor so flattering, to be foolishly lazy as it is to be the victim of a technical term, but many are crippled for knowing an impressive word who would have had no such trouble if they had lived in a simpler and less self-indulgent society. Those who are genuinely, deeply, and unhappily in the grip of a neurosis should turn at once to one of the well known therapies. Unless one is willing to do so, it should be made a matter of social disapproval to refer technically to such difficulties.
If the alibis of the age were in any way generally helpful, if they were not excuses for remaining inactive, and if inactivity were really a happier state than effectiveness, there would be little harm in indulging in the contemporary patter, even without the specialized medical or psychological knowledge necessary for using the terminology correctly. But before you decide that you are the victim of uncooperative glands, or a villainous Resistance, try a few of the suggestions for self-discipline in a later chapter.
You may find them so much fun, your expanding powers so much more rewarding than – well, your bone-laziness – that you will not need the services of an expert, after all.
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