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What is Autosuggestion?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 11 November 2016
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Autosuggestion is a process in which the subconscious internalizes repetitive thoughts as a result of an effort on the part of the individual to alter mental associations. Using autosuggestion, people can fixate on a belief, an action, or an opinion. This concept in psychology is used in some types of psychotherapy and is also a component of many self improvement programs which claim that people can “think themselves better.” The efficacy of such programs is a matter of debate. Some forms of autosuggestion do appear to have an effect, while others are more dubious.

The concept of autosuggestion arose in the latter half of the 19th century. Researchers were interested to know why hypnosis worked and why some people appeared to more susceptible or suggestible than others. One theory put forward was the idea of autosuggestion, that people with a conscious will to change or be affected by hypnosis would be more susceptible to hypnotic techniques. Essentially, people could convince their minds to accept something using internal pressure, rather than being influenced by someone on the outside.

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One common use of autosuggestion is in a self improvement program where someone is encouraged to read an affirmation before bed and to repeat it while going to sleep. The goal is to change the thought processes in the mind so that someone starts to embody the information in the affirmation. Programs such as “think and grow rich” rely on the idea of autosuggestion, arguing that people must change their mindset in order to accrue wealth.

Some forms of meditation also utilize autosuggestion. For example, a meditation routine could include a practice in which someone imagines growing heavier or lighter. In this case, the person is not literally getting lighter and heavier with the meditation, but autosuggestion can make it feel this way. Likewise, meditation practices can also encourage people to do things like feel hotter and cooler with autosuggestion. These practices are used to help people grow calmer, and some studies suggest that meditation with autosuggestion can in face be very effective for some people.

Numerous self help books focus on the power of positive thought and the idea that people can enact changes in their lives with positive thinking, a form of autosuggestion. Some people respond positively to such programs and experience benefits, whether because of beneficiary qualities in these programs or a placebo effect. Others do not. It would appear that perhaps some people are more susceptible to autosuggestion than others.

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anon245882
Post 5

I find some of these comments interesting. I was in high school when I saw the first hypnosis examples. Our psychology teacher hypnotized some of the classmates one afternoon. It was sad, as one was my best friend. He asked her if she was "daddy's little girl or "mommy's little girl - she replied, no - I am no one's little girl, and then she started to cry. That was the end of the session. He spoke to her quietly and she did not remember it.

I was one of the few people he said were not susceptible to hypnosis. He explained it as having a strong will or perhaps a guard up - probably due to a trauma in my life.

I

do know we are all creations of our past. People who argue that the past should be forgotten, seem not to realize how we have been shaped by events in our lives, how we responded and how we were treated. Everything that happened to us from the moment of birth, perhaps before - who knows -- makes us the person we are today.

The really lucky ones have had loving parents and grew up feeling loved, and knowing they were OK. Being told that their actions, their life was good. I know how it is to be constantly criticized, and to have the intrusive thoughts that no matter how hard I may try, never go away.

SkyWhisperer
Post 4

@everetra - I’ve heard something that also struck me as somewhat of a paradox. It’s that people who are more intelligent are more susceptible to suggestion and autosuggestion than people who might be less smart.

That seems strange. You’d think the opposite would be true. The reasoning seems to be that the intelligent people are more “open” to ideas, and so autosuggestion takes root more easily in their minds. Oh well, I guess that’s why I’ve never had much luck with the self help books.

everetra
Post 3

@hamje32 - It’s interesting that you talk about hypnosis. I’ve never seen real life hypnotic trances, and I guess I’m open to the possibility that it does work.

However, I’d be more interested in the therapeutic uses of autosuggestion than those that are simply used for entertainment value. For example, I would like to learn more about how people use autosuggestion to kick bad habits like smoking or drinking too much.

I believe it’s been used in therapy to help people with their addictions; in that regard, I think it should be accepted by the medical profession so that we can see more peer reviewed studies on how well it works.

hamje32
Post 2

@NathanG - I grew up on Robert Schuller’s The Power of Positive Thinking, as well as Napoloean Hill’s Think and Grow Rich. It’s amazing how these two seminal works on positive thinking have become the basis for just about everything else you see today on self improvement.

It’s all the same stuff, except maybe worded a little differently and put in different packages. I think it is true – you create your own future by what you believe about yourself, how you see yourself.

I don’t believe everyone can become a millionaire just by “thinking” it to be so, but the reality is we are all where we are today, because of yesterday’s thoughts, in my opinion.

NathanG
Post 1

I saw firsthand the power of autosuggestion techniques at a company conference we had a couple of years ago. For our dinner entertainment, we invited a well known hypnotist in the area to come and offer to hypnotize some of the employees.

He had several volunteers come forward. One in particular was a very extroverted lady in our company and within minutes she was the life of the party. He had her respond to various hypnotic suggestions, everything from pretending like she was in a movie theater watching a funny film, to recalling a bunch of childhood memories and acting them out.

It was funny and sad at the same time because the emotions were so raw. She

didn’t seem like she was faking it. Afterwards I asked her what it was like. She told me it was like a walking dream. She knew what she was doing, but didn’t know why. That was eerie, but it made a believer out of me.

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