Self-Suggestion and the New Huna Theory of Mesmerism and Hypnosis, by Max Freedom Long, , at sacred-texts.com
Mesmerism may be said to be as old as the serpent, and hypnotism as old as Dr. Braid, for he coined the name for it.
Self-suggestion—called also autosuggestion and autoconditioning—had an obscure beginning in France around the time of World War 1. Experimenters had been playing with the mechanism long before that, but the first real attempt to describe the process and the results to be obtained through its use came at this period.
Dr. Freud, of Vienna, had already partly identified the low self of Huna under the name of the "id" and had discovered the "complex".
Then came the first real advance. Dr. Frederick Pierce, a professor in one of the leading New England universities, and a psychologist, chanced to be vacationing in Switzerland. While bowling, he made the discovery that when attention was withdrawn from his hand and the ball it held during a period when his attention was attracted to something other than the game, the strength left the hand and it relaxed. With the attention again turned to the hand, the strength and muscular tenseness returned. This set him to thinking. He had been puzzling over the obscurities and empty spots in the writings of a French experimenter, and had come to realize that self-suggestion was difficult to administer to the inner and hidden self. He guessed that in a state of physical relaxation
[paragraph continues] (this substituting for the "sleep" suggested to a relaxed patient in hypnosis) the suggestion might be administered much better.
There followed a series of experiments which resulted in the invention of a special relaxation method. He named it "Decubitus", and when back at the university, began teaching some of his pupils to use the relaxation method as a part of self-suggestion. He found that about nine out of ten of the students learned the method easily, and that all were much benefited. Soon he set to work writing a book about it.
Dr. Pierce called his book, "Mobilizing the Mid-Brain", for he accepted the theory of the day which dictated the belief that all consciousness must be resident in the brain tissues. It was published and attracted much attention in psychological circles before it was eventually allowed to go out of print—and was more or less forgotten in the fury of the battles which were developing between the several schools of psychological thought. Behaviorists did battle with Freudians. Dr. Emile Coué rose into the limelight and faded out of it with his version of self-suggestion and his formula, "Every day in every way, I am growing better and better." True, everyone tried the formula and hoped to get results similar to those produced by Dr. Coué. But they had not been taught how to construct a powerful suggestion or to relax physically in order to administer it. Psychology drifted into the doldrums and remained there.
Meantime, at Duke University, Dr. J. B. Rhine was waging a war of his own on Materialism. Basing his work on the mathematics of chance happenings, he enlisted his students in the work of experimenting with extrasensory perception. "E. S. P." became a
byword in many circles, and his books, while limited in their coverage of a subject already more fully explored in Psychical Research, carried the weight of the use of an accepted research method. He convinced many open-minded people that there was such a thing as telepathy, also that clairvoyance was a fact and that it could be demonstrated. His demonstrations of the power of "mind over matter", (or psychokinesis—"P. K.") were hard to ignore. The Materialists gradually learned to handle him with care. He wrote books, and he had the expectant ear of the public. Duke University became a monument to the open and inquiring mind.
To this university came Dr. Hornell Hart, and it was he who was destined to revive public interest in self-suggestion after a period of dormancy lasting over two decades.
Dr. Hart, surprisingly enough, was not a member of the faculty in the department of psychology. He headed the department of sociology, and it may be that his main interest was, at least at first, in finding some way to help students to fit more smoothly into the social structure of the class room and of the life flowing around the university outside its gates. The students were of both sexes, the men often married, with families to support, while some were fresh from military service. Many found it very hard to fit into the new circumstances in which they found themselves.
The daily change in moods of the students was great. Some days they were happy and cheerful. On other days they might be deeply sunk in a mood of discouragement, fear, resentment or anger. Often they had the "blues" for no ascertainable reason.
Dr. Hart set about finding a remedy in autoconditioning for this painful up-and-down changing of moods from day to day. He asked the help of his students to work out a remedy, taught them the few simple things they needed to know, and set them to testing out autoconditioning.
He had the students keep and chart records of their ups-and-downs in the matter of moods. The moods were roughly classified from the blackest up to the lightest, most pleasant and most helpful. The "Mood-Meter" was developed, consisting of a chart of moods and a method of recording changes in mood, both when using autoconditioning and when failing to do so.
The success of this series of experiments was so marked that there could be no question of the validity of the results or of the outstanding benefits gained. It was found that almost all of the students could learn to autocondition quickly and with little trouble. This fact made almost every reader of Dr. Hart's book, "Autoconditioning", wish to use the method and share its benefits. These were surprisingly great considering how little time or effort needed to be expended.
By the summer of 1957, Dr. Hart was in demand as a lecturer and teacher, traveling as far as Los Angeles to teach his method and explain its value. His main effort may have been to convince his audiences that autoconditioning is so beneficial that it should be learned by almost everyone, and that it is easy to learn as well as perfectly safe.
The theory which he advances in his writings is based on a belief in the "id" or subconscious as propounded by the late Dr. Freud and as accepted by all
psychiatrists who hope to get employment in our government hospitals.
The middle self of Huna—popularly known as the conscious mind—he often calls the "real self" while the low self or subconscious he calls the "id", the "inner receptive mind" or the "unconscious mind".
Dr. Hart describes autoconditioning as a form of post-hypnotic suggestion in which the individual, standing as the real self, gives the suggestions to the inner receptive self. There is no recognition of the fact that these two selves are separate individuals. Hypnosis has the basic meaning of "sleep causing", and it is pointed out that while the general mechanisms of hypnosis are used to some extent, sleep is not at all a part of autoconditioning. If one goes to sleep, he warns, no results are obtained.
No attempt is made to present a theory to explain hypnosis. It is presented as something we now have come to accept as explored in full and proven out in so far as the suggestive phenomena are concerned, even if what lies behind them, hidden in consciousness, remains a mystery, a tangle, or a starting point for controversy.
With interest in autosuggestion and hypnosis beginning to grow as early as the year 1948, there had been offered several correspondence courses, some of them of the inexpensive "catch penny" kind, and a few laid out most elaborately, often with the coining of a new vocabulary of psychological terms. Some one of the several popular theories purporting to explain suggestion was usually given with arguments to support it.
Where interest is found awakening in a special field, there are usually those who appear to offer a
new theory purporting to explain everything, and, as in the case of the book, "Many Wonderful Things", which gave its variation on hypnotic regression into past lives, a book by Dr. Rolf Alexander came into the self-suggestion field in 1954.
His book is titled, "Creative Realism", and in it he goes well beyond the boundaries of ordinary suggestion, venturing into the realms of metaphysics at times.
He considers autosuggestion to be a form of suggestion which we can give to the subconscious while fully awake and not in even the lightest state of hypnotic trance. Autohypnosis, on the other hand, he describes as the giving of suggestion to the subconscious when it is in a state of trance, be it ever so light, or even very deep. He adds the information that one can often learn to use autohypnosis more easily if one first allows a hypnotist to administer hypnosis, throw one into a state of trance, and give one post-hypnotic suggestion to the effect that, at any later time, one need only speak a "trigger word" of command to cause one's subconscious to bring about the state of trance needed to make it receptive to new suggestion.
Going still farther, Dr. Alexander offers the theory that we are all hypnotized to a considerable degree by what has happened to or around us in our lives. He seems to blame many of our personality troubles on this form of hypnosis-without-a-hypnotist, and he offers a method which he calls "self-realization" to be used to dehypnotize ourselves. The use of this method is urged as a preliminary to the administering of autosuggestion. It is also to be used as an antidote to remaining in a suggestible
trance to some extent after the use of autohypnosis.
Mention must be made of another writer of this general period when autosuggestion was once more attracting interest. Alfred Korzybski, in his book, "Science and Sanity", wrote at length about what false meanings attached to words can do to throw individuals off the line of normal mental and emotional balance. He pointed to many instances in which a misunderstanding of the true meaning of a word has caused an emotional disturbance. Reasoning, being based on a correctly understood set of word meanings in many instances, has been found to be faulty, and faulty reasoning can bring on emotional troubles to match. His reasoning is sound and his thinking has colored much in the realms of psychological conjecture, but he has added little to our knowledge of the theory or mechanics of suggestion itself.
One of the latest books to enter the general field, is "Hypnotism Handbook", by Cooke and Van Vogt. It is a careful digest of the standard methods used in administering hypnosis in professional circles. Init the authors discuss the several schools of psychological thought and their theories, but state candidly that as yet we do not know what hypnosis actually is. However, they are quick to add that we can classify rather well the things which suggestion can bring about, and know enough of the practical application of the mysterious mind force to use it very well.
They question the theory that all is "conditioning" (forming new reaction habits by repetition). They call attention to what follows when a hypnotized subject is commanded to be alert and normal in every way except that he will remain open to suggestion. The subject, under such circumstances, appears to
think, reason, perform his usual work, and in every way to give evidence of being in a normal condition, except that he responds instantly to the orders of the hypnotist. It must be agreed that the theory of conditioning would have to be stretched to the breaking point to account for this type of reaction.
While "Hypnotism Handbook" is intended for the use of professionals, it can be read with profit by anyone wishing to know what the generally accepted ideas are concerning self-suggestion, and what methods are proposed for the use of the professional hypnotist desiring to help a subject learn to activate in himself suggestions given beforehand by the therapist.
The authors appear to have little enthusiasm for the use of self-suggestion when the professional is not first consulted and allowed to earn his fee. They admit that while there are methods which can be used to learn the use of autohypnosis without the help of a hypnotist, these methods "require prolonged training". Yoga practices are mentioned as examples of one long and difficult method of learning to use the art. This conclusion is sharply contradicted by the statements of Dr. Pierce and Dr. Hart, both of whom found that their students learned to use self-suggestion with ease in a matter of a few days, becoming almost expert inside a period of a month or two.
In concluding this short summary of conditions surrounding self-suggestion, it may be said that the system is so simple that all of the methods of use which have been advocated outside of professional circles are effective and practical. It is in understanding what one is doing and why, that a lack may be felt. Almost anyone can learn to write his name by patient practice, but if he can first learn to recognize
the letters and learn the sounds for which they stand, the setting down of the signature will have vastly more meaning and significance.
Coming to know Huna, is like coming to know the alphabet of psychology and learning to read the sounds of the letters. We do anything better after we have learned why each step is to be taken.