Autosuggestion as defined by Emile Coué is the implanting of an idea in oneself by oneself. Modern autosuggestion techniques typically achieve this through the repetition of positive present-tense affirmations multiple times per day for at least 30 days while in a state of meditation or self-hypnosis.
Wouldn’t it be awesome if there were a way that you could make profoundly positive changes to your life without doing much at all?
When a lot of people try self-hypnosis, they find that they can hypnotize themselves easily enough, but then they have no idea how to use it for change.
This is not surprising since many hypnosis techniques for change rely on the conscious mind being out of the way.
Similarly, meditation is easy, once you know the trick. But again, people find that they become bored or just don’t know what to do.
You could be forgiven for thinking that it is all too hard and giving up. Which would be a great pity, because those profoundly positive changes are easy, when you know how to cause them.
As it turns out, often all that’s required is an understanding of some simple underlying principles around the working of the human mind. A little bit of self-hypnosis or meditation. And a tiny amount of effort to put them together.
Once you have the basic skills, we are talking a few minutes a day.
A few minutes a day for massive positive change in your life? I call that a bargain!
So what are these magical principles?
Conscious Mind vs Unconscious Mind
The human mind can be considered to be composed of the conscious mind and the unconscious (or subconscious) mind. The conscious mind is where our awareness resides, and is where we get our sense of self. The unconscious mind is the continually changing end result of everything we’ve ever experienced.
As you might imagine, the tiny handful of things we can focus on right now is much smaller than everything we’ve ever experienced.
This means that our unconscious mind is vast compared to our conscious mind.
And that has the consequence that just about everything we do is driven by unconscious processes.
Where it gets tricky is that our conscious mind is the source of both our sense of self and our critical thinking.
Our conscious mind fact-checks incoming information against everything we already know, and only allows things through that fit in with our current world view.
When new information conflicts with our world view, we either learn something new, or we throw out that new information.
Overall this is a fantastic process since it means our brains can still make sense of the world around us even though the world is much bigger than us. So long as nothing slips through the cracks, all is well. And since the world itself doesn’t try to deceive us much, by and large, it works.
Unfortunately, things can and do slip through the cracks.
We acquire beliefs throughout our lives not only from the environment around us, but also from other people. These days, we don’t even know most of those people.
Some of these beliefs are well-defined and easily understood. Most of them are murky and hidden.
Willpower vs Imagination
Where willpower is used in an attempt to overcome imagination, imagination always wins.
As human beings, we like to think that we are agents of our own destiny and that we have some form of control over ourselves.
We like to believe that we can force ourselves to do things that we really don’t want to do.
And reality bears this out to some extent.
We have an exam coming up, and don’t want to study, but somehow force ourselves to do so anyway.
We decide that we’re going to eat less, and for a time, we do.
Or we decide we’re going to get on top of our fitness and go to the gym.
Here’s the thing though: We only ever have to use willpower to do things we don’t want to do.
And that means that our imagination is always competing against our willpower.
For most of us, when we try to use willpower to do something, we end up drained and resenting the thing we are trying to force ourselves to do.
The end result is that we stop doing it.
We only ever use willpower to do things we don’t want to do.
What’s going on is that when we use willpower, we end up focusing on the thing that we’re trying to overcome.
And because of the way the human mind works, we usually end up getting more of the thing we’d like to overcome.
Willpower can definitely work for a time. But it is simply too draining to be a solution for most people.
Luckily there are other ways.
Suggestion and Autosuggestion
If you think back to when you were first learning in school, I’m sure you have fond memories of rote learning.
This is where we force something into our brains by the process of repeating it until our brain decides it’s important enough to keep.
It turns out that we can use the underlying process of repetition to convince our brains that just about anything is true.
And that is where suggestion and autosuggestion come into play.
Suggestion is the process in which we implant an idea into someone’s mind.
And autosuggestion is the application of suggestion to our own mind.
Autosuggestion is a process in which we implant an idea into our own mind.
As it turns out, there are some extremely simple rules we can follow.
The Laws of Autosuggestion
Back in the early 1900s, Emile Coué suggested some simple laws of autosuggestion. Some of his ideas don’t really fit in with our modern understanding of how brains work, so the laws I present here are an updated version.
- Imagination will always win over willpower.
- We can consciously decide what we will imagine, and use that to direct our imagination.
- The more important we can make a suggestion appear, the more easily we will accept it as the truth. The easiest way to do this is by feeling a strong positive emotion at the same time as we make our suggestion.
- The more we repeat a suggestion, the more our brain will accept it as the truth and will find ways to make it happen.
- Self-hypnosis and meditation can be used to place our minds into a state that is more accepting of any suggestions we might make.
How Does Autosuggestion Work?
Autosuggestion works by forcing new ideas into the unconscious part of our mind that drives our lives. This leads to us forming new beliefs and habits that lead to the manifestation of our suggestion.
Our minds have evolved to maximize our ability to survive in a wide variety of environments. They do this largely by remembering what was bad so we can avoid it, and by remembering what worked well so we can do more of it.
In short, there is a survival advantage in being able to avoid bad things and do more of good things. Our emotions alert us to whether a particular situation is good or bad, so our brains are essentially hard-wired to encode things more strongly when there is a strong emotion involved.
On top of this, because of the way that neural networks in general work, if something is repeated a lot, it is also more strongly encoded.
In regards to repetition, there are a lot of things we encounter out in the world which might be considered one-off events.
We clamber over a fallen log at our overnight campsite 12 times, and our brains start to get good at navigating that particular log. But unless something triggers the memory again, we might never think of it.
Our skill at clambering grows, while the specific memory degrades over time.
On the other hand, we follow the exact same process every time we tie our shoelaces. It becomes an automatic habit.
And if we allow ourselves to become lost in the process, we find that we can learn it even more quickly.
Autosuggestion works most effectively when we combine mono-focus, heightened emotions, and repetition in the right way.
Autosuggestion Techniques And How to Use Them
There are a number of simple techniques and processes that anyone can learn to become skilled at autosuggestion.
At the simplest level, an autosuggestion is nothing more than a statement we make to ourselves describing a new truth. Usually these are positive present-tense affirmations, and they can also be statements about the future.
A classic example of an autosuggestion from Coué’s Self Mastery Through Conscious Autosuggestion is Every day in every way I am getting better and better.
The possibilities here are near-endless.
Now I have no way of knowing what you want out of life, and I have no way of knowing what you want right now. But you do.
Follow this process to create your own autosuggestion affirmations:
- Choose something that you want.
- Write down a simple, easily remembered, positive, present-tense statement as if you already have that thing.
- Speak the statement out loud.
- If the statement does not flow smoothly, go back to step 2 and repeat until it does.
Here are some autosuggestion examples:
- I walk 10000 steps every day.
- I enjoy healthy foods.
- My body is growing stronger every day.
- I am breathing easily.
Rather than bore you with a list, hopefully that’s enough for you to get an idea.
Choose an Achievable Affirmation
Choose an autosuggestion affirmation that is actually possible for human beings to achieve.
If you decide that you want the power to turn yourself invisible, it’s probably not going to work unless you also want to become a scientist researching invisibility.
On the other hand, if what you want is a nice house out in the countryside, that is within just about everyone’s grasp.
As a rule, if people have achieved something before, or have solid ideas on how to do so, it is likely that you can achieve it too.
People don’t magically turn invisible. Scientists do work on invisibility technology.
Meditation And Self-Hypnosis
The best place from which to state your autosuggestion affirmations is one of absolute focus on the task at hand. Self-hypnosis and meditation are both excellent for this.
When we move our conscious mind out of the way, it becomes much easier for us to embed ideas directly into our unconscious minds.
Our unconscious minds drive most of our lives.
Meditation and self-hypnosis can both be used to set aside our conscious minds and explore other possibilities.
There are a number of ways to go about this.
Remember, you’re going to be repeating your autosuggestion affirmations a lot, multiple times every day.
So what’s needed is a process that you can quickly and easily spin up on-demand.
If meditation is your preference, learn how to use micro-mindfulness.
And if you prefer self-hypnosis, learn how to hypnotize yourself instantly.
Regardless of whether you choose meditation or self-hypnosis, go into the state, and then repeat your autosuggestion affirmation several times.
20 repetitions is a good starting point. And how many you choose is entirely up to you.
Remember when I was talking about the campfire log and tying shoelaces earlier? The difference between these is that tying shoelaces is something we do just about every day.
When we want to learn any new skill, it is vital to repeat it on an ongoing basis, at least until it becomes fully habituated.
This means that it’s important to set aside multiple times throughout your days when you will take a few moments to meditate or go into self-hypnosis, then repeat your autosuggestion affirmations.
Use Mini-Habits In Place of Motivation
One of the biggest impediments to achieving success is getting started. This can be overcome with the use of mini-habits. A mini-habit is a habit that we intentionally create that is so small it would be ridiculous to not do it.
Suppose that you decide you want to get fit, and part of your new fitness regime is that you’re going to do push-ups.
You could decide that you’re going to do 200 push-ups every day for the next 6 months.
There’s a huge problem with this.
Most people when faced with 200 push-ups are going to think it’s too big a task, and simply not do it.
With mini-habits, we intentionally design a task that is so small it becomes easy to do.
In the case of the 200 push-ups, a mini-habit might be that we are going to do just one.
For most people, one push-up is easy.
So we set aside a time at which we’re going to do it, and do our single push-up.
We feel totally satisfied that we have achieved our goal if we complete that single push-up.
And when we do this, something magical happens. A lot of the time, we will keep right on doing more of them.
By choosing an outrageously small goal, we can make it easy to get started. And once we’re started, it is a lot easier to keep on going.
Now rather than fitness, apply your affirmation to the above example.
Decide that you are going to be completely happy and satisfied if you repeat your autosuggestion affirmation just once.
Then do it.
How to Remember to Do Your Affirmations
To remember to do your autosuggestion affirmations, use a mental technique known as future pacing to attach the autosuggestion to things that are guaranteed to happen in your future.
Once we get over the initial hump of actually doing something, often we’re faced with another challenge: Actually remembering to do it.
As luck would have it, with a little setup we can automate this process too.
Imagine never having to use an alarm to remind you to do things again.
And the best part is it’s easy to do.
To future pace your autosuggestion affirmations, take a few moments to think through a typical week and consciously choose some times and places when and where you will speak those affirmations.
It works best if you speak them out loud, but if that’s not practical, in your head is better than not at all.
Once you’ve found a few suitable times and places, follow this process:
- Go into hypnosis or meditate.
- Visualize one of your previously chosen places and times. See it as clearly as you can in your mind’s eye.
- Notice one prominent feature of that place that lets you know you are there. Maybe it’s the feel of a doorknob, or the weight of a glass.
- See yourself speaking your autosuggestion affirmation out loud when you experience that feature.
- Allow a sense of pride and achievement to well up inside.
- Go back to step 2 and repeat for each new time and place.
- Come out of hypnosis or stop meditating.
- Actively speak your autosuggestion at each time and place.
Our brains work largely on association, so when we run this kind of process, the physical feature becomes attached in our mind to saying our mantra. When we do this enough, what tends to happen is that when we experience that doorknob or whatever in the future, we automatically say our affirmation.
This is known as future pacing, and it’s one of the ways that hypnotherapists ensure that our subjects’ desired changes will continue to happen throughout their future.
Supercharge Your Autosuggestion Affirmations With Emotion
Use goal setting, visualization and emotion to step inside your autosuggestions and make them real.
Now that we’ve got all the pieces, you might be wondering how we put it all together.
This last part is easy.
And as with the others, here’s a simple process:
- Choose a goal. This can be anything at all that you desire.
- Write an affirmation that supports your goal.
- Go into hypnosis or meditate.
- Visualize everything around what things will be like when you have your goal.
- Allow yourself to experience the feelings that go with having achieved that goal.
- Go deep inside those feelings and make them as strong as you possibly can.
- Speak your autosuggestion out loud several times while feeling those feelings like that.
- Step through each time and place where you future paced your affirmations, speaking your affirmation in each one.
- Come out of hypnosis or stop meditating.
And that’s really all there is to it.
Choose an affirmation that supports your goal. Find the emotion. Experience that emotion strongly. Use it to drive the entire process.
Next up, check out my article on setting and achieving your goals!