A short history of self-hypnosis
It all began in France
The story of self-hypnosis begins in the 19th century France, when a 28-year-old pharmacist called Emile Coué went to work for Ambroise-Auguste Liébault (1823-1904), a physician. Liébault did much to move hypnotherapy forward, and his clinic near the town of Nancy came to promote and represent the new suggestion-based hypnosis work of his time.
Liébault passed away in 1904, but by then Coué had developed his a special way of leading into hypnosis that depending on making a series of suggestions while the subject was still awake.
Coué then decided to further develop a new technique that he called “conscious autosuggestion” – in other words, teaching subjects to go into hypnosis by themselves, using their own suggestions and imagination.
Coué based his “conscious autosuggestion” on two important ideas that overturned his period’s hypnosis theory:
- The subject is conscious, in a normal way; he is not unconscious, asleep, or in a “trance”;
- The subject is not under the hypnotist’s power or control; they respond because they are voluntarily accepting the positive suggestions they hear, as a form of autosuggestion.
Coué’s formula is still famous: “Every day, in every way, I am getting better and better”.
He instructed his subjects to repeat this sentence at least 20 times every night in a monotonous whisper, eyes closed, as they drifted off to sleep. The words “in every way” were to be given special emphasis, with consciousness that they could refer to positive change both mentally and physically.
He also told his subjects that in the case of painful thoughts or physical pain (in which case they were to also rub the affected area), to quickly say several times “it’s going, it’s going, it’s going” (in French: ça passe, ça passe, ça passe). He also said:
“I advise English-speaking people to stick to the French version, it being much easier to say “ça passe” quickly than the longer and more awkward expression ‘it is passing’ or ‘it is going’.”
Coué is also thought to have said that this special suggestion should be “gabbled” out quickly to block negative intrusive thoughts, while the formula (“Every day, in every way…”) should be repeated slowly and almost piously.
Coué said of his autosuggestion method: “It’s a sort of little trick. When one learns the trick he is able to become master of himself.”