Do not lose heart and despair if you do not succeed
in fulfilling all the good that you would wish.
If you have fallen, try to rise up again…
and willingly, consciously go back
to where you started.
Willpower Rules. O.K.?
- Techniques for toning up and coming out of relaxation
- The problem of tone
- Developing willpower
- Coffee: to drink or not to drink
- Energy potential
- The Echo-Magnet
Why Do We Feel As We Do?
A lack of vital energy and an inability to energise themselves and improve their tone is a real problem for many people who would like to live more full and energetic lives. Although this is clearly a problem for them personally it also has consequences for society at large.
When we are active and alert then, in physiological terms, our whole body, our organs, muscles and, most important of all, our brains are ready for activity. Conversely, when we are tired or run down our body is pleading to be allowed to rest in peace. At such times our brain has its own defences, poor concentration, for instance, or difficulties in taking anything in.
The centres of tone lie in the core of the brain, near those centres that determine our physical and mental state by synthesising the condition of individual muscles and organs. They are sensitive to the slightest disturbance so that, for example, when we are sickening for something they create the first, inexplicable symptoms. They, too, react to a change in the weather if our bodies are slow to adapt, but can at times also become imbalanced of their own accord.
A Universal Cure?
At this point I am not going to advise a healthy lifestyle to improve vitality: plenty of exercise and fresh air, a varied diet and everything in moderation, etc., although this is naturally for humans what soil, warmth, water and sunshine are for plants. It is all necessary but insufficient on its own and, unfortunately, not always available; but more of this later.
The Obstinacy of Tone
A loss of tone, asthenia, (the most common psychosomatic symptom) can result from a variety of internal disorders. Usually it is not caused by an illness as such, but simply by a temporary lack of something you need. For some people, apparently, fresh air is the decisive factor: they are full of life in the countryside and inevitably wilt in the town. Others, for example, need large doses of vitamins, or only feel really well if they enjoy a regular sex life, or are totally dependent on the weather, while others simply need their eight hours a night, and so on. It is not always possible to establish what has caused a prolonged and distressing loss of tone; some people are clearly susceptible to this and it happens of its own accord at the least sign of trouble.
I would like to emphasise that personal development requires nothing out of the ordinary: all we have to do is study ourselves carefully. Once again I am not making any great discovery by saying that every day, and sometimes several times a day, we instinctively use an ancient technique of toning up: stretching. After a couple of hours you get up from your desk and your arms, back and neck naturally flex into a pleasant, liberating tension. You straighten up, take a quick breath in and hold it for a few moments. Yawning, another age-old technique, is based on the spasmodic jaw movements of a fish cast up on the shore. It stretches the whole face as the lower jaw moves down, the blood flow increases, air is drawn sharply into the apex of the lungs and is forced deeper into the alveoli as the breath is held; extra oxygen is supplied to the brain.
By taking careful note of the mechanics of these natural activities we can learn to recreate them at will as a part of Auto-Training or at any other time.
Pretend you are stretching and hold your breath for a few seconds.
Another variant is to drop your head forward so your chin rests on your chest, spread out your fingers and place your hands on the back of your head, moving your elbows and shoulders up and out as far as you can. Take a normal breath and hold it whilst you straighten your neck and press forwards with the palms of your hands to prevent your head from rising: pull your elbows up and out more sharply. Remain tensed for a few seconds, and exhale. Repeat 5 or 6 times.
This is a particularly good way to tone up during periods of intense mental activity.
In these stretching exercises we are imitating the way our four-legged friends tone up and do their morning exercises. Athletes are well acquainted with such exercises since they tone the muscles ready for activity.
Straighten the fingers of one hand either using your other hand or by pressing them hard against a firm surface. Relax. Twist your wrist to one side and release it. Hold your arms straight out in front of you with your palms pressed against a wall. Stretch your arms out to the side. Relax. Stretch them above your head, and relax. Standing. sitting and lying, stretch out your legs, trying to straighten the joints as much as you can, either by pushing against a wall or the floor, or with the help of your hands. Press your hands against a wall and straighten your torso. Sitting with your head supported on a wall or on the back of a chair, push your chest forwards, and relax.
Stretching has a toning effect and decreases muscular tension; you can, of course, achieve a similar effect by giving yourself a little shake.
A Spring and Lightning
It is advisable to master toning-up techniques before regularly practising the deep relaxation exercises with "warmth" and "heaviness" described subsequently (chapters 11 and 12), since it is helpful to be able to control your relaxation and come out of it quickly, dispelling any sleepiness and sluggishness at will. It is true that, as you will discover for yourself, relaxation tones you up better than anything. But this only happens once the pendulum has swung back, so that the maximum effect is felt some time later. Practise toning up, therefore, whilst you are learning to relax and, of course, always use it to finish up with.
Imagine you are superficially relaxed (the first phase of Auto-Training): you have already dispersed any muscle tension and your breathing is free. But now you have to be instantaneously as active and alert as possible. What should you do?
Take a run and a jump, a mental one, of course, that is, suddenly accelerate your inner tempo.
Silently count up to 20 (or at least 10), getting faster as you go, so that the first three numbers are incredibly slow and the others gradually speed up until they are like a burst of machine-gun fire. Jump up when you reach the last number.
You can combine this with exercises for respiratory and muscular toning. You can hold your breath whilst counting and tense your muscles without moving from where you are. Or you can imagine that you really are running and jumping and actually jump up when you make your imaginary spring: imagine you are being spun round in a whirlpool and jump up and out when you feel you are being finally dragged down into the centre. Pretend you are a flower bud that is rapidly opening and, as the last petals unfold, open your eyes and stand up. Imagine you are a spring uncoiling, or a Jack-in-the box.
Try the "sliding pendulum" described earlier (chapter 7), increasing the speed of your counting until it is triple the normal rate. You will find this combines well with the following Auto-Suggestion:
Legs light, supple and agile,
Hands light, supple and agile,
Like a spring, wanting to move,
Agile, light and alert,
Full of fun, lively,
Being pushed - stand up!
Another toning exercise that can be practised immediately after relaxation is a variant of the "soaring eagle" yoga pose.
Standing, straighten your back and let your head fall back as far as possible. Stretch your arms out behind you, to the side and above your head. Bend your hands back as far as you can and spread your fingers like a fan; breathe in deeply and, holding your breath, raise yourself up onto your toes; hold this position for 5-30 seconds. Exhale vigorously and relax, letting your arms fall down and relaxing your head and back. Repeat 3 or 4 times.
Here are some toning exercises for the face that are especially good during breaks in intensive mental activity.
Take a breath and hold it for 2-3 seconds whilst frowning. Repeat 15-20 times.
Suddenly screw up your eyes and open them again. About 10 times.
Suddenly bare your teeth by pulling the corners of your mouth to the side and down whilst tensing the subcutaneous muscles of the neck. Repeat 15-20 times.
The following are some verbal formulas for super-toning; the idea is to help you feel bursting with energy. They are only effective if you can really connect with the words.
Full of supple strength,
on top of the world,
a bundle of energy,
a focus of willpower;
ready – strike!
Or, more concisely:
This is a variant of vascular toning (based on N.K. Mirovsky’s method).
On goes the cool shower,
streaming all over,
shoulders and back pleasantly cold,
covered in goose pimples.
colder and colder,
a coiled spring,
tightly tensed, ready to spring,
Ready – spring!
Remember that if you find one technique unsatisfactory there are always plenty of others. When you finish Auto-Training you can do some basic keep-fit exercises or give yourself a little massage to help with toning. You can even do isometrics and a gentle massage in public, in a library, for example, without anyone paying too much attention.
In a while I am going to describe a universal technique of Auto-Suggestion that people have found useful in improving self-esteem. Till then, however, let us digress a little and consider a few very common problems we have probably all come across at some time or other.
Remember Your Pendulums
Suppose you have just had an invigorating shower and massage: you are feeling on top of the world, alert, bright and active. Everything is fine until you suddenly feel your tone is dropping for some reason or other. You wonder in alarm where all your energy has gone and why you now feel so apathetic and tired.
Remember your pendulums and stop worrying: you have not actually lost anything. Your energetic tone has disappeared temporarily to return in its own good time, as long as you do nothing to hinder it. A trough always follows one peak, and is the forerunner of the next. Everything has its cycle: if we have something wrong with our liver, for example, it will tend to ache at regular intervals; our brains are as punctual as Immanuel Kant; even our dreams come on time. It is much easier for us than for our doctor to observe the swing of our pendulums over a long period since we are around twenty-four hours a day.
In order to be able to help ourselves, it is especially important to study at least two of our pendulums, namely that of activity and tone, and that of mood. They have complex cycles of varying lengths (a day or less, a week, a month or even longer), and are influenced by external circumstances in addition to their own inner process. You will not, of course, be able to follow everything, but you can note the major swings, particularly those that affect you negatively. "Understand in order to foresee, foresee in order to master". Once you have learnt how to forecast a swing you can learn, if not how to actually avert it, then at least how to tone it down.
Watch animals and young children and notice how they always manage to rest at the least opportunity: little but often. This is the most beneficial way of all and Auto-Training helps you to recapture the skill. Relaxing swings our activity pendulum over towards sleep and readjusts our bodily functions accordingly. It is rather like putting a car into neutral: although out of gear, the engine keeps running and the vehicle continues to move.
Do You Really Know How to Drink Coffee?
We can be toned by hot water or by cold, by moderate hunger or moderate satiation, by work or by rest, by smoking or by not smoking, by a glass of wine or a period of temperance. All this can, however, just as easily sap our energy, help us to feel depressed or slow us down. It all depends on the biochemical state of the part of the brain governing tone at that particular moment, as well as on our personal make-up, of course.
Chemical stimulants, including the most common ones, tea and coffee, have a direct effect by further stimulating the brain cells that are already active, and waking those that are at rest.
A word of warning, however, since chemical stimulants of any kind affect our inviolable supplies of nervous energy. If taken unwisely, they can easily consume too much energy too fast and result in a chronic fall in tone that is difficult to put right. It is the old story: at first we gradually begin to feel we need the stimulant more often, so we increase the dose and its frequency. Soon, we reach the impasse since it ceases to take effect altogether or lasts for a very short time and we are in a bad way without it.
Theoretically, therefore, I would advise no stimulants of any kind, not even tea and coffee, let alone drugs or alcohol. In fact, however, many of you reading this and I, too, find it difficult to imagine our lives and work without a strong cup of tea or coffee. But would it really be a good idea to give them up?
Yes, particularly if you find caffeine produces fairly rare side effects (palpitations, insomnia and anxiety) and if you have mastered more natural means of stimulation to take their place: massage and physical, respiratory or psychological exercises.
No, if tea and coffee have long shown themselves to be helpful and quite harmless.
The greatest effect from tea and coffee as stimulants can be obtained in two ways. Firstly by moderate, regular use (one cup or at most two of medium strength in the morning or at midday). The stimulant then becomes an ordinary element of our tone and any extra loss can be compensated for naturally by sleep and relaxation, thus maintaining a balance. This is generally what happens for most people who are used to, but not dependent on these drinks.
Secondly, a strong cup of tea or coffee once in a while, as a stimulant proper when, for example, you have a heavy workload. It is important, however, after a stint of this kind to rest well, maybe going for a walk and having a good sleep. Such doses should not be repeated more than once or twice a week. You could not, in fact, do so even if you wanted since, after taking the stimulant for 2 or 3 days running, it would lose its effect. You must give your body a chance to let the biochemical balance of the tone motor re-establish itself.
More than half the work of today and certainly most of the work of the future is mental rather than physical. Although we experience physical exhaustion at or even before its onset, mental fatigue gives us a less clear warning and makes itself felt much later.
Only relatively few people become aware of mental fatigue at its onset, when their head begins to ache or they experience other unpleasant symptoms. Usually, however, it creeps up on us without warning so that it is almost impossible to distinguish it from the familiar difficulties associated with working: we cannot solve the problem, our ideas will not work out as we would like, our attention keeps wandering.
On most occasions the brain is far from willing to admit its weakness; half the battle is actually realising that we are not thinking clearly, cannot concentrate, and are doing things wrongly. Sometimes mental fatigue takes the form of pseudo-productivity or unwarrantedly high spirits. A tired chess player pays for his or her mistake after a few moves even though, whilst committing the blunder, he or she is convinced it is the best solution.
So have a break from intense mental activity before you begin to feel tired.
You have no doubt already had plenty of opportunities for observing how long it takes you to noticeably tire: twenty minutes, perhaps, three-quarters of an hour, an hour, or even only four or five minutes. In any event, it is best to start to rest a little before you begin to notice fatigue. If sometimes you tire more quickly than others work out the average and experiment until you learn how to anticipate exhaustion without thinking about it. The ideal is to get to the point when something inside you is able to say quietly but clearly, “Stop now, it’s time you had a rest”.
As for how to rest, the old adage that “a change is as good as a rest” can be relied on 100%. If your work is sedentary then, of course, the best thing is to get up and move. Go for a walk or a run, do some exercises, breathe deeply, stand on your head, anything you like. Although this is basic common sense, it is surprising how few apparently intelligent people take any notice of it.
You can also rest well by relaxing intensively for short periods (relaxing tension, breathing freely, “the sliding pendulum”, “re-birth”, etc). or by toning exercises. I have found that the most effective way of all is to take 4-5 minutes rest: move around energetically, relax deeply and then tone up.
When you take a break, stand up decisively and, forgetting completely about your work, do some vigorous physical exercise: swing your arms, crouch, lie on your back and cycle your legs, jump up and down, etc. Then suddenly plunge into relaxation and, if you like, concentrate on your work again, but only in a very general way, (something like: I’m only interested in such-and-such). Finally, after a short, gentle toning immediately return to your work. Giving yourself frequent, brief, but lively breaks of this kind you can remain at a very high level of efficiency and alertness for a long time; an ideal, intoxicating rhythm of work will naturally establish itself. It goes without saying that a sense of proportion should be retained since longer periods of rest with a complete change of interest and activity are also necessary and should be fairly regular.
The ability to rest effectively is an art and, as such, is no less important than work itself. People who are able to rest as well as they can work are fairly rare, although the two go hand in hand. As always, the most difficult thing is to overcome inner inertia and to skip from the crest of one wave to another. Sinking into an armchair when we come home exhausted after a hard day at work and spending the evening locked in a tight embrace with the TV, feeling sorry for ourselves because of our headache is not proper rest at all. For this we need self-discipline and a means of accessing our creativity.
If you start observing the way you rest I am sure you will notice a striking correspondence (assuming, of course, that you consider your work either interesting or important): the more firmly you force yourself to rest effectively, the more you will want to work.
Plans and Reality
Some people take a pride in following routines and enjoy living to a strict time-table. Other are obliged to do so simply because they have a heavy workload. All very laudable too, if you can do it, but for the vast majority of us this approach is unrealistic since unpredictable external circumstances tend to play too great a role in our lives. Therefore, it is important when drawing up a time-table to remember that the less planned the better: a casual visit from a friend, a phone-call or an interesting programme on the television can easily ruin our good intentions. (At the time we may curse the friend who disrupts our plans, but cheerfully go and do the same ourselves to another friend next day). Remember it is better to forget about following a routine altogether than to worry about not keeping to it. When planning a time-table it is essential, of course, to consider the realities of the outside world; however, it is equally important to remember the realities of our own inner world. People differ not only in their conscious attitude to routines, but also in their ability to stick to them. Some people can do so with very little effort, even in adverse conditions. It seems to be quite natural for them (I call such people "rhythmics") either because they are innately well-ordered or because they have become that way as a result of developing the habit early in life.
At the other end of the continuum are the "dysrhythmics" who find it extremely difficult to stick to any routine. This is not through want of trying and often they work very hard, beset with difficulties. However, their physical and mental make-up is such that they cannot fit into the framework of a routine: their internal rhythms are too complex, unpredictable and powerful. A dysrhythmic may not want anything to eat for a couple of days and then be ravenous, he or she may not feel like sleeping for three nights and then do nothing but sleep for two days…
These are the two extremes: most people are somewhere in between.
It goes without saying that rhythmics fit easily into normal working life; semi-rhythmics do fairly well; whilst dysrhythmics find themselves in a chronic state of catastrophe. They feel ill if they submit to the rhythm of their environment, but if they do not, no one is going to make any allowances for them. They cannot win either way. I have noticed that dysrhythmics are often physically strong, tough and intelligent. Their capacity for creativity is temperamental and elusive. As far as observing routines and social convention is concerned, their internal make-up is unfortunate to say the least. Judged by other criteria, however, they display some irrefutable qualities.
If over many years you have honestly experimented with several routines for reasonable periods of time without any success whatsoever, you are probably dysrhythmic. Consequently, there is no point in your continuing to try to keep a strict routine and it is much more sensible for you to follow, as far as this is possible, your body's whimsical dictates. Try, therefore, to make your time-table as flexible as you can (I realise this is poor advice for anyone dependent on office hours, public transport, etc). Do not demand results when your body is not feeling up to it, wait for the good times and then devote yourself wholeheartedly to the task in hand. Eat and sleep when you want to and have the chance to do so. It is quite possible that when you know more about yourself you will actually be able to see some pattern in what now seem totally disordered oscillations in your state. Moreover, since everything changes with time your body rhythms may also alter and become more coordinated. In any case, do not consider yourself inferior to people who find it easy to stick to routines.
If you feel you are in a rut, your present life-style does not satisfy you, you feel tense, your moods are unpredictable and work is going badly, etc., then it is probably a good idea to make a sudden zigzag in your life. Change, for example, the daily routine you take for granted. If you usually get up at seven, then try getting up at four and see how things go. Take some strenuous physical exercise if you do not normally have much, or spend the whole day in bed, if you do. Fast for a day or two. Go somewhere new and lead a completely different way of life for a week.
Zigzags are necessary to shift an unhelpful balance that has established itself; they rely on an element of chance in order to clear the way for something of more significance.
Any strong stimulus can be a zigzag as long as it is something novel: the theatre or cinema if you have not been recently, a swim after a long break, even some new clothes.
Be careful, however, not to get too carried away with these extreme changes.
One self-perfection fanatic I knew once went for a twenty-five-mile ski on an empty stomach. Lightly clad and in sub-zero temperatures, he ended up with frost bite and double pneumonia. Another enthusiast stopped eating meat entirely and developed anaemia. Depriving yourself of sleep entirely does not do you any good either. Moderation is the thing. If you make your whole life a series of sudden zigzags then you can scarcely expect your state of mind to be any more stable.
Reflection on the "Syndrome of Weak Will”
“…..I keep on falling into the trap of criticising people I consider weak-willed. I just find them very annoying: they should pull themselves together and get things done rather than just talking about it and letting themselves get swept along…” You may well have come across this less than constructive attitude to weak will and may even hold it yourself.
Or you may know from experience what it feels like when it seems as if all the many things you have to do have accumulated and are weighing heavily on your conscious and subconscious mind, all your attempts at assertiveness fail and you feel incapable of making any decisions whatsoever. Even if you did you would be too terrified to put them into practice. It is at moments like these that you might become the target for the type of criticism above, or you may even start comparing yourself to others, “Why aren’t I like X? He always manages to do things, on time, too, and he has a hectic social life as well. I just make a lot of fuss about what I’m going to do, but never actually do it!” Negative thinking of this sort is very dangerous, of course, and can feel like a noose gradually tightening around our necks: we are convinced that we are incapable of doing anything and suffer continual guilt and disappointment in ourselves as well as the disillusionment and misunderstanding of our family and friends who were expecting something from us.
Some people are more susceptible to this kind of negative thinking than others and it is most common in those between their late teens and thirty-five or forty. It often indicates that someone is still unsure of who they really are or what they want to do and is worried by the demands and expectations of their friends and relatives ("Come on, now, get down to some studying; put your back into it; it’s about time we saw something from you"). The demands others make on them soon become their own self-expectations, and their self-image largely depends on how close they can come to satisfying those expectations. They have not yet an established personal philosophy, although they have already lost the psychological defences of childhood: fantasy and lightheartedness. Consequently, they fall into the trap of trying to force themselves too hard, a paradoxical state for people worried about being weak-willed!
This "syndrome of weak will" is sometimes accompanied by complications, for example, drinking. Some people drink in order to drown, even just for a short time, their chronic sense of inferiority. (Excessive drinking is a sign that things are already serious).
Can anything be done to help?
As a student, I read numerous books and pamphlets devoted to willpower. Most of them were written by sincere and enthusiastic people who, you felt, had gone through a lot themselves before arriving at any satisfactory conclusions and had then decided, as is often the case, to share their hard-won experience with their fellows. Apart from stating the obvious, a number of these manuals contained some subtle observations and sensible advice. For example, force yourself to do at least one difficult thing every day, even if it is really trivial, as long as you do not want to do it; or create your own set of incentives, cunningly link boring tasks to interesting ones and unpleasant ones to nice ones; force yourself to act at an exacting pace; put yourself into impossible situations; get terribly angry with yourself and think up some punishment or, on the contrary, be as encouraging as possible, live constantly in a fever of Auto-Suggestion: “I have a strong will, nothing's impossible for me, I can do everything”, and so on.
These books were heartening for a short time but the effect soon wore off, disappearing all the quicker the more inspiring the book had seemed at first. I have observed that I am not alone in my reaction to this type of literature. (Naturally, I hope my book will prove the exception!) I knew someone, it is true, who had organised his life according to the book, “Willpower in business and domestic life”. He is now an important scientist with every moment accounted for in a rigid timetable. He assured me that this particular book changed his whole life when he read it as a young man. I got the impression, however, perhaps falsely so, that he had been born with a genius for the meticulous. In any case, one thing was quite clear: you need tremendous willpower in order to make good use of advice on how to develop your will.
At that time I was convinced that I was the most weak-willed creature alive, that no one else had to try to start his life from scratch almost every day. This is so depressing that it is easy to just give up on yourself altogether.
I was slightly reassured to find I was not alone and that a lot of people think like this at some time or other, even though they may be ashamed of doing so. (A little later I came to think that this was quite normal). I realised that even if our attempts at a new start do not break with our past attitudes and habits entirely, then at least things are different in some ways: we have made at least a little progress. I understood that it is vital to keep on making fresh starts until our attempts flow together in the way that light from an alternating-current bulb merges into one uninterrupted beam. I decided that willpower is probably best measured by our stamina to keep beginning all over again every day, even several times a day.
After this I often had and still have occasion to work with people who complain about their lack of willpower; people who are considered weak-willed by their friends and family. (I, in fact, still considered myself to be so long after I had gained a reputation to the contrary).
You may be surprised when I state that I consider the commonly accepted concept of "willpower" to be totally meaningless, a myth that should have been demystified a long time ago.
People without will do not exist any more than there are people without a liver or a heart. Everyone has his or her own psychological and physical make-up adapted, with differing degrees of success, to meet both external and internal demands. It is not a question of people being strong- or weak-willed but of having different powers of attention and recall. The degree to which they are suggestible and dependent on their emotional and physical state also plays a part in this. There are hundreds of different interests, predispositions, levels of fitness, individual cycles and relationships between the conscious and the subconscious that determine whether or not someone is able to start everything from scratch and carry it through. It is often possible and valuable to try eroding some of these differences, that is to say, to develop our willpower. In some cases, however, the demands we make on ourselves also have to be changed. An apparently strong will can sometimes suddenly go to pieces dramatically.
Practising psychotherapists have to work their way through this motley interplay of variables all the time. I think the familiar label of ‘weak-willed’ should apply to those who believe at any given moment that they are weak-willed, whilst ‘strong-willed’ refers to those convinced of the reverse. The difference in attitude depends on how well-developed our powers of Auto-Suggestion are and whether our belief in ourselves has been reinforced or undermined by other people and external events.
Our dependence on our emotional state is of considerable significance. Some people look on living as a joyless duty and are constantly seeking difficulties and hardships. They are at their best when overcoming them and, in fact, sometimes need this stimulus in order to act at all (they are negative-dependent). Others are the opposite: they see life as a source of unalloyed joys and successes and are paralysed from acting at the first hint of trouble or unpleasantness (positive-dependent). Neither is ideal: harmony is of the essence. It is a good idea to take a look at yourself and decide the sort of person you are so you can develop a more balanced attitude: the ideal, perhaps, is to be, in moderation, a mixture of spartan, sybarite, hedonist and the ascetic.
The degree of control you have over your own personality varies at different times in your life and it is impossible to establish what is normal for you. Pushing yourself to overcome shortcomings is one thing, fighting yourself every inch of the way is quite another and should be avoided other than very occasionally, if at all. Such a harsh attitude to yourself can be a sign of weakness. Sheer bravado will not take you very far in this as in any other field. If you want to strengthen your willpower and fundamentally change your personality you will need to learn to live at peace with yourself. To do this you need a lot of ingenuity: a wise leader acts with an invisible hand.
Just five words hold the secret of that great skill: how to concentrate on what you have to, namely,
forget the must in must
There are two kinds of must: External and Internal. We recognise the former in phrases like, "You should do your homework", "I must buy a present", "You ought to give a lecture," "You must to do this," "You must write that": an endless list of Musts, an infinity of Duties.
An Internal Must, or Internal Necessity we call Desire. Naturally, this is something we want to do, something it is hard to forget.
‘Why doesn’t he ever do what he ought to do? Why doesn’t she? Or you? Or I?’ The answer is simple: precisely because of the " OUGHT TO", because of the MUST. This is the sole reason in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred. Listen carefully and you can hear the full weight of that categorical MUST. It is something you do as a duty, from fear of repercussions, deprivation or punishment; something you do with gritted teeth and a bitter smile when there is absolutely no room left to manoeuvre. The Law is the Law, Duty is Duty, and some people are eager to carry out both. Just take a good look at them, however, and you will see that most are motivated by a Desire which, in some cases, has little to do with the Duty in question.
Have you ever seen a child turn over a new leaf at school just because he or she has been reprimanded? Most people who appear stubbornly resistant to change in fact want to change and want to very much indeed. But conscious wanting is, alas, a MUST and there is no getting away from it. Just say, "You MUST understand" or "You MUST love me" and you will find it is a sure way of destroying either understanding or love. People have known about this simple truth for thousands of years and still have not managed to understand it: perhaps just because they OUGHT to.
In other words, all those fortunate people who, conscious of the necessity of their duties, still manage to carry them out conscientiously are, in fact, virtuosos at self-deception. In some way or other their subconscious finds a loophole for escaping from Duty into Desire so that MUST naturally changes into WANT TO.
Consequently, this is possible.
The Echo-Magnet is intensive Auto-Suggestion, a way of tuning ourselves into any activity or mood.
I am sitting at my desk, perfectly still and with my eyes closed. Everything is ready.
‘I can write. I can write. I can write. I am writing…I'm writing!...’ I repeat this 10-11 times to myself or in a half whisper with growing intensity, at first saying it automatically and gradually becoming increasingly involved. SUDDENLY I stop, lean back in my chair and relax, keeping my eyes closed. I feel totally empty. I DO NOT WANT anything. I am NOT WAITING for anything. I am NOT WRITING! I just let go of everything, absolutely everything. I forget myself and simply dissolve…That is it, excellent…
But for some reason the familiar phrases start to intrude again and again, and in fairly quick succession into the well of my blissful emptiness. The same demand, command and invocation rise to the surface, come and go. Something inside me, at times vaguely, at times distinctly, urges, tempts and attracts me. My hand picks up the pen of its own accord and starts to write the phrases you have just read. I stop. I am stuck. I make one big effort of concentration and…relax. I let myself slip back and plunge into emptiness.
And once again a toneless whisper stirs and returns.
‘I can’... And so on.
You can use whatever phrases, formulas or invocations you like (as long as they are short and to the point) and the whole technique is just a simple conversation between your conscious and subconscious mind, a conversation in which both sides give themselves and the other party space and time, neither hindering nor interrupting.
‘Calm, calm, calm…
I feel fine. I feel fine. I feel fine…
I’m working. I’m working. I’m working…’
The three phases of the Echo-Magnet are:
• "action" (that is, the state you are hoping to achieve).
This cycle is repeated over and over again. What is happening in the brain at this time is that chains of nerve cells automatically repeat the given stimulus. This is the NATURAL way in which the brain ALWAYS works. Although we do not realise it, any conscious effort we make to remember, say or do something, any task we set ourselves, involves this cyclic process. The goal is achieved only after a channel has been cut in the subconscious mind. (The message is transmitted from conscious to subconscious thought. It is converted into action by the motor apparatus and the message saying the action has been completed is fed back to the conscious mind). You may find you keep forgetting things: a name, perhaps, someone's telephone number, or the number of your bank account. So what do you do? You say to yourself, ‘I'll remember it in a minute - just a second, it’s on the tip of my tongue’, and you relax.
When I was still at school I observed something strange that I am sure you will recognise immediately. Imagine you are revising history for the exam you have got next week. It is something you MUST do: 100 pages a day of serious revision. You are putting yourself through it; you are really trying very hard.
But then you suddenly rebel: you have just had enough: there is no way you are going to learn any more about the historical significance of Nebuchadnezzar, even if you try hammering it in.
But you MUST try. You MUST take the exam.
However, for some reason or other you start leafing through the book and find it gets very interesting about 15 pages further on: ‘Hey, I didn't know that, fascinating…He seemed quite a good chap that Nebuchadnezzar, especially for his time… I understand it all now…How on earth did he manage to…’
It is suddenly all quite different, in fact, just as soon as you have invented a little bit of freedom for yourself: anything you like as long as it is not something you MUST do. Any loophole at all, even one within the MUST itself. Once you have done this then it seems very easy to return to the MUST, because it has already become WANT TO!
Here is a typical exchange between the conscious and subconscious mind during the Echo-Magnet (phase of emptiness).
Con: …So, I don’t have anything I HAVE to do.
Sub: Come off it: you do. You’re just making reality fit in with what you'd
like to be true.
Con: I tell you, there’s nothing I must do. You can just … off!
Sub: I certainly will not!
Con: Come on, clear off! There’s nothing I have to do…
Sub: Just you wait and see, I'll show you what HAS to be done…
This is the only way we can beat the Perversity we have sitting inside us. Success depends on three things:
The strength of the invocation.
Be as firm, passionate, strong and stubborn as possible. You will soon find the pace, rhythm and intonation that suits you best.
The absolute nature of the emptiness.
Complete relaxation and the ability to let yourself go without reserve. The greater the contrast, the more powerful the Echo-Magnet' s response, and the quicker the MUST will change to WANT TO.
Trust in yourself.
Let yourself go. As soon as the Echo-Magnet begins to work (and it is impossible for it not to do so) make yourself as receptive as possible to change. Let your natural impulses decide guide you. Trust yourself and the strength of your own WANT TO. Do not crush it with a distrustful MUST. Everything will happen of its own accord: two major centres of control in the brain have begun to work in harmony.
The essence of the secret for changing MUST into WANT TO.
The "invocation" is a coercive force, a MUST exerting intense pressure on our mind. In order to defend itself, our brain first enters a state of anxiety and conflict, and then tries to escape from this by cutting itself off from the source of pressure and directing attention elsewhere. This is what happens, for example, when we involuntarily turn away from someone unpleasant or unintentionally forget to pay back a debt. The greater the coercion, the greater the tension, the more acute the torment and the more difficult it is to continue the coercion: hence the vicious circle experienced by unsuccessful pupils. But you have one trump card, a reversal of 180°: you can stop fighting back and just let yourself go, thus leaving the tension and torment inside you with nothing to do! Have you ever suddenly switched from an icy shower to a warm one? A similar swing of the pendulum from relative torment to relative bliss, only a small swing but big enough, is bound to occur during the second phase of the Echo-Magnet. In the stage of Emptiness you will feel fine and will be in a positive state of mind, that is, you will be receptive to the echo-invocation that will of its own accord urge you towards action, towards something you WANT to do.
Variations: The invocation can be made silently.
Take a deep breath and hold it. (This furnishes the brain with extra oxygen, thereby intensifying the effect). Sink into a state of emptiness as you exhale and resume normal breathing.
Verbal invocations may be replaced by visual ones: for instance, instead of saying "I'm writing", imagine yourself sitting at your desk writing or just your hand moving a pen over the paper; instead of “Calm”, use a visual image: a clear mountain stream or a patch of summer sky.
Experiment: Auto-Suggestion is as much a creative activity as writing poetry or inventing, indeed, it is a fundamental part of both these activities and, like any other form of creative work, is destroyed by a mechanical approach. There is no ready-made psychological technique to help you in all the situations you could conceivably come across, although with experience you can devise one for yourself.
Let us assume that you are someone who is over eager to please and that, when faced with responsibility, you are incapacitated by trying too hard (what you might call fruitless tension). Anyone who experiences this will recognise it immediately. The Echo-Magnet will work best for you if you put most emphasis on the emptiness rather than on the invocation stage, making quite sure that the emptiness stage is completely relaxed. Invocation works far too well for you as it is: the situation itself becomes the source of your invocation or, to be more accurate, of your DEBILITATION. Do not be frightened to let yourself go. (It will most benefit you, in particular, to work at cultivating a carefree attitude: you have the right to do so).
Once I had discovered the Echo-Magnet I finally forgot the agony of weak will and dozens of fellow sufferers have been cured in the same way. Easily and unobtrusively, the Echo-Magnet will always work for people who are apathetic, indecisive and who doubt their own willpower, also for anyone who finds it difficult to control concentration. But what am I talking about - DO NOT TAKE ANY NOTICE OF WHAT I HAVE BEEN SAYING! DO NOT BELIEVE A WORD OF IT! YOU SHOULD NOT PRACTISE THE ECHO-MAGNET UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES! DO NOT TRY DEVELOPING YOUR WILLPOWER! YOU COULD RUN THE RISK OF BECOMING A GENIUS! DO NOT LIBERATE YOURSELF - YOU MIGHT EVEN BE HAPPY!
PRACTICE = CREATION.
THE ECHO-MAGNET IN ACTION
COMBINATIONS WITH OTHER AUTO-SUGGESTIONS
• ‘Thanks to your Echo-Magnet I got through college, though for a while it had seemed impossible,’ a young man I met on holiday told me one day.
• ‘Your Echo-Magnet saved me from a lifetime of sexual problems, although it seemed pretty hopeless at one time,’ I was informed in a letter from abroad.
• ‘The Echo-Magnet achieved what the kilograms of tablets I took over ten years failed to do,’ a woman suffering from a severe form of phobia wrote to me.
This sort of feedback is, of course, music to a psychotherapist's ears. I would just like to point out that the Echo-Magnet works in essentially the same was as any Auto-Suggestion, whether verbal, visual or mental, the sole difference being that the former is further removed from the moment when the suggestion should start taking effect. Thus, the subconscious mind is afforded more time and freedom: we treat it with the tact and consideration a perspicacious manager uses in addressing a skilled worker.
The Echo-Magnet can be combined with Auto-Training exercises or employed separately for any purpose. Best results, however, are generally obtained if it is combined with relaxation, since this tends to intensify the emptiness phase and increase the immediacy of the effect: pure self-hypnosis.
Before an important event you know about in advance (an exam, a public appearance, a meeting with someone you love, an interview, a competition, a vital football match you are playing in, a visit to the dentist's, an operation, a journey you feel apprehensive about, and so on): sometime between thirty minutes and an hour, or maybe 10 - 15 minutes before the important event (experiment to find the time that is most effective for you), and preferably on your own, concentrate as hard as you can for 5 - 7 minutes on the essence of the task awaiting you. As vividly and in as much detail as possible, imagine yourself doing whatever you intend to do to perfection. If words help, then use as clear and concise a formula as you can, for example:
‘Calm. Attentive. Alert.’
‘Drive with ease and assurance’,
‘Be natural but not over familiar, efficient, but not unapproachable: sparkle’.
Or to help insomnia:
‘Fall into a deep sleep till 8.30 tomorrow morning. Wake up refreshed and full of energy’.
Repeat this four or five times with pauses of 10-20 seconds of light relaxation. Then for 4 - 5 minutes free all your muscles and your breathing, relax as fully as possible (with warmth, a cold forehead or heaviness if you have already acquired the techniques, but without additional Auto-Suggestion). Then stand up briskly and do a few light toning-up exercises for a couple of minutes. From this moment you can have complete faith in your subconscious: stop worrying about the future, forget about everything connected with the imminent event and do something totally different, or at most some simply mechanical preparations (although it is best to finish all this before the Echo-Magnet is set in motion). Have a shower, do some massage or some keep-fit, go for a walk, read, listen to music, relax, go to sleep as long as you are sure you will wake up in time: in a word, anything you like to take your mind off IT. When the time for IT arrives then tune yourself in with maximum concentration and alertness, forgetting about yourself and about succeeding and concentrating exclusively on the activity in hand or the person you are with, etc. (but not, of course, from the point of view of what kind of impression you are making).
If you feel yourself beginning to tense up shortly before IT is due to start, then immediately concentrate on relaxing and enter the situation in a state of relaxation (see Auto-Training Defence to follow). Remember that the main thing is to trust your subconscious! It will show its gratitude by responding immediately. Inner freedom above all!
The Echo-Magnet is universal, but it is not a good idea to follow blindly the very general outline given here: experiment to find what is best for you. Only you can decide which situations are most important to you (or which seem to be so) and what your weak points are. Echo-Magnet Auto-Suggestion can be used 2-3 times during the day, for example, if the evening or night promises to be particularly significant, but do not overload your subconscious too much or it may rebel. If you suffer from persistent insomnia it is a good idea to do Echo-Magnet Auto-Suggestion twice a day: first around midday and then again about an hour and a half before you would ideally like to fall asleep. If you should unexpectedly start feeling drowsy before the intended period has elapsed then, of course, give in graciously and be glad of the extra sleep!
Improvisation on the Echo-Magnet
(As related by a former patient and writer)
‘…Sometimes you just have to sit down and work after two or three sleepless nights (Auto-Training at such times is likely to send you to sleep) and so you sit there, racking your brains and writing the most utter rubbish or nothing at all: you just dry up totally. You feel that if you go on like that for much longer you will crack up completely.
But I am just wasting my time with this, there're far more important things I should be doing. I get up and start munching an apple (I always keep plenty of fruit at the ready) or I sit down at the piano or, if I really want to wind down, I undress and flop down on the floor to have a go at my New Yoga (i.e. yoga for those with a less than sylphlike figure). The basic principle in elementary stages is individual improvisation: have a heart-to-heart with your body.
'Right then, body, what do you want me to do? Come on, say something. I’m all yours.'
'I don’t know. Even I’m not sure what I want right now. I’m really knocked out by all this sitting around.'
'My God, you are stupid at times. Here I am, giving you a sporting offer… Shall I tell you what you need right now? '
‘Ok, concentrate hard. If I… put this leg… up on my left shoulder… like this…, and bend the other… in towards my stomach… like this… There, how's that?'
'No good at all. Although,… I don’t know, it isn’t so bad, only straighten your back. Pull your left leg down with your right hand. Now that’s more like it - amazingly comfortable. Hey, don’t rush. Let’s sit here like this for a while. Hold your breath. Mm. Very nice. Once again. Excellent. Stop. Now for something completely different: onto your stomach. Stretch your arms behind you and try to take hold of your heels. Keep trying. Stop. Now a shoulder stand followed by a bicycle. Wonderful!’
More often than not our body wants us to imitate our close relatives in the zoo (it is easy enough to guess why), but sometimes it prefers slithering around a little, or being a fish or even an invertebrate, a jelly fish, perhaps, or an amoeba. And suddenly, you feel a sharp jolt of energy. Quick! Not a trace of fatigue! All your tensions have disappeared and your fingers are itching for the pen. This is going to be GOOD, so hurry!"
Do you know how to be free? Are you sure you are not unconsciously forcing yourself to conform to a fixed image you have of yourself? Mental laziness often looks like serious concentration and cowardice can appear to be a conscientious fulfillment of duty. Are you sure you have not forgotten that you need never lose your greatest gift: your inner freedom?