Emile Coue's Law of Reversed Effort
by Jayne Williams
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”.
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
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...
Have clearly defined targets or goals that are Specific, Measurable,
Achievable, Realistic, Time Bound.
Before using auto-suggestion, practise breathing techniques
to bring about relaxation.
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.
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.
use positive affirmations couched in the present.
I am…….. (well, healthy, happy, energetic, etc
Say your affirmations of wellness every day. Several times
Remember. “Day by Day, in every way. I am
getting better and better”.
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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