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Hypnotherapy and Hypnosis articles

Emile Coue's Law of Reversed Effort

by Jayne Williams MIAPH

Emile CoueEmile Coue was a French man who was born in 1857 and died in 1926 at the age of 69. He originally trained as a pharmacist and graduated in 1826. He was considered a brilliant student. Coue’ noticed that in certain instances he could improve the efficacy of a medicine, simply by praising its effectiveness to the patient. He noticed that those patients to whom he praised the medicine had a marked improvement over those patients to whom he said nothing. This began Emile Coue’s journey into the use of hypnosis and the power of the imagination and along with his wife Nancy Lemorine he went on to found the Nancy School of Hypnosis

Sometimes termed the Father of Applied Conditioning or the Prophet of Self Suggestion (autosuggestion) Coue’ believed that the power of imagination could be used both for good and bad effect. His belief that a person could improve their life, both physically, mentally and spiritually by using the inner resource of imagination is both a teaching and practice that has been adopted by members of the caring professions (in particular hypnotherapists) with good effect. Furthermore Coue’ believed that illness both mental and physical were as a direct result of mistaken or distorted thinking, and that by simply adjusting those thinking patterns to create a more balanced outlook, patients could and did improve their circumstances. Coue’ taught people this power of auto-suggestion and one of Coue’s most famously
adopted phrases is the one. “Day by Day, in every way, I am getting better and better”.

The foundation stones of Coue’s teaching

  • Imagination is the principal force of the human being and is the language of the unconscious mind. Once the imagination is employed for the benefit of one's psyche, there is no requirement for willpower.
  • Imagination is more powerful than willpower. Everything that has been created by man, began as a thought, imagination.
  • All thoughts continue until they have been discharged by action, or changed by other thoughts.
  • Whenever there is a conflict between the imagination and the will, it is always the imagination that will win.
  • When the will and the imagination are in alignment, they do not simply add to one another, they multiply one another


Although Coue’s teachings during his lifetime were more popular in Europe than in America, many who took on his teaching in America went on to become famous themselves for spreading the ‘gospel’ of his words. Notably, Norman Vincent Peale, Robert Schuler, W Clement Stone and others.

What Coue’s discovery amounts to is that thoughts that fill our mind tend to realise themselves; that when thoughts are dwelled upon, the mind tends to transform them into action: if it accepts them - "That whatever we think becomes true for us." Or to put it another way. What you focus on is what you get. In other words, if you can get a person to think and believe that they are getting better, they will do so. Secondly, he says that the imagination (unconscious) always dominates the will. If we try to control our actions through the use of our will, we shall fail, unless our will happens to be in agreement with our imagination. If we can control our thoughts, our imagination, then we can control our actions. Thus we should always try to think that we will be healthy rather than ill. Happy rather than sad and successful rather than a failure. The problem then is one of implanting the proper thoughts. Coue says that it is impossible for the mind to accept two thoughts at the same time; that is, when a person is thinking two contradictory thoughts, they will not be accepted. If, however, a person dwells upon one thought only, this thought will penetrate the unconscious and be acted upon.

The notion that thoughts determine our actions is of course not a new one and was known before Emile Coue was born. One of the most successful Roman Emperors’ Marcus Aurelias said that our lives are what our thoughts have made them but, in more recent years, conventional wisdom has been able to analyse and identify how this actually works.

See diagram below


Coue discovered that we are made up of a conscious and an unconscious mind. While the conscious mind has an inaccurate memory and uses filters to reason and discriminate, the unconscious mind has an impeccable memory and records without our knowledge every detail of every event since our birth. Additionally the unconscious accepts without question everything that we tell it. It can be likened to a farmer’s field. Whatever we plant into it, it will return to us ten-fold. The unconscious then is a reflection of our imagination; it returns the value of our innermost thoughts and feelings.

It is often not until we become ill, or out of balance mentally or physically, that we begin to realise how our internal dialogue (self talk) is fuelling a belief system that causes us to take actions that are not health- promoting. Coue discovered that these belief systems could be adjusted and adapted to promote recovery and that, once learned, these skills could continue to foster physical and mental health, in many cases for life.

Emile Coue formulated a psychological standard which was the fore-runner of today’s popular therapies and in his teachings we learn hope: that the imagination can be trained, adapted and adjusted.

Coue even offered us a template for change, which has been used by many forward-thinking organisations in the western world and people who wish to improve their circumstances.

How to beat Coue's Law

Train your mind to be more positive and more powerful...

hypnosis
Have clearly defined targets or goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time Bound.

hypnosis
Before using auto-suggestion, practise breathing techniques to bring about relaxation.

hypnosisUse visualisation to see yourself really there. Using all of the senses of sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell and by imagining as much detail as possible, you are communicating in the clearest terms with your unconscious mind.

hypnosis Treat visualisation as a discipline. Set aside time each day, to review your goals and, as well as visualising them, verbalise them. This increases their power.

hypnosisAlways use positive affirmations couched in the present.
I am…….. (well, healthy, happy, energetic, etc ;)
Say your affirmations of wellness every day. Several times a day



Remember. “Day by Day, in every way. I am getting better and better”.

Examples of Coue’s Law in action
Have you ever tried not to scratch an itch. The more you try not to, the more that itch drives you on and on, until eventually you just have to give in and scratch. Yet you might also have noticed at times having an itch and then something happens that takes your attention away from it and you forget about it completely. This is Coue’s Law in action.

Just say for instance, that a plank measuring 6 feet long by 10 inches wide was suspended by blocks just ten inches off the floor. Next imagine that you were asked to walk along that plank, without falling off. You can see that you would not have too much trouble doing that. What though if that same plank were suspended ten feet in the air. How do you think you would fare then? Do you think you would wobble? Probably so. Yet what has changed? The plank is still 6 feet long and 10 inches wide. The only thing that has changed is that the plank is now further off the ground. This has introduced a conflicting thought into your mind, the possibility that you may fall. This was not a worry to you when the plank was just ten inches off the ground, because the possibility of injury was remote. Yet at 10 feet, falling may result in an injury. Therefore you become nervous. You will try to concentrate on not falling and, if you should get to the other end of the plank without falling off, you would have certainly wobbled a few times and will be very relieved to have reached the other end. In the same way, it is almost universally said that, if you are climbing a ladder or working high up, you should not look down. Naturally the moment you look down, you would gain a perspective on how high up you really are, thus bringing the fear element into your conscious thoughts.

Now let us take another example. Have you ever gone to bed at night, tired and wanting to sleep, yet the moment your head hits the pillow you find yourself wide awake and, the more you try to sleep, the more sleep eludes you. Many people have learned from this experience that, if they get out of bed (perhaps make a drink and read or listen to music) on returning to bed they have been able to relax and fall asleep. However, other people have said then even the next night, when they are desperately tired and wanting to sleep, the moment their head hits the pillow again, they find themselves wide awake. For those people, not sleeping has become a cycle of behaviour and the anxiety feeds upon itself thus reinforcing the law of reversed effort. When the sleep pattern is disrupted to this degree, interventions from hypnotherapy prove very effective.

There have been many occasions when couples trying to conceive have found that, the moment they stop trying to conceive, the woman becomes pregnant naturally, much in the same way that couples have been known to give up on the idea of having a baby of their own and have adopted a child, only to discover that mum becomes pregnant within months of the adoption.

Of course the classic examples of Coue’s Law in action are part of the proverbial New Year's resolutions. You may have said to yourself, “I won’t smoke any more”, or “I will eat less chocolate” or “drink less alcohol” or “take more exercise and lose weight”. How long does it last? Most people have broken their resolutions before January is out. Why? Because every time you say to yourself “I won’t smoke” or “I won’t drink” you are inadvertently stoking the fires of desire, Coue’s Law comes into its own and all you can think of is that next cigarette, bar of chocolate, glass of wine. Remember, what you focus on is what you get. The more you focus on what you can’t have or can’t do, the more conflict you are building in yourself. In order to succeed, you must concentrate on what you do want. For example:- you could say things like “Now that I am a non-smoker I feel more energetic”. Or “every day now I see myself getting slimmer and slimmer”.

These are just some examples of advice you will be given by a professional Hypnotherapist registered with the IAPH.

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