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Chapter XVIII - How Suggestion is Used

Chapter XVIII

How Suggestion is Used



Let us now consider the various forms of application of suggestion in everyday life. They are several and for convenience I separate them into three forms, or groups, i. e., (1) Involuntary Suggestion; (2) Voluntary Suggestion; and (3) Auto?Suggestion. Let us now consider the first form:

Involuntary Suggestion.—By this term I mean the use of suggestion involuntarily; without a particular purpose; or unconsciously. We are giving suggestions of words, manner, action, etc., every moment of our lives. And these suggestions are constantly being accepted by those around us. We are constantly influencing those with whom we come in contact, the greater part of the work being performed unconsciously by us. We are acting as living inspiration for some, and living discouragement for others, according to circumstances. Our moods, actions, words, appearance, manners, etc., act as suggestions to those around us. I am not now speaking of the effect of mentative currents, etc., but of mental suggestion, pure, and simple.

A business house is permeated by the personality of its head, and his personal characteristics impress themselves upon those under him, by the means of suggestion. He sets the gait of the place. If he is active, and enterprising, so are the workers employed by him; and if he is careless and shiftless, so will they be apt to be. We affect those around us by our mental attitudes, manifested in action, and they affect us—if we allow them to do so.

Children are quite amenable to suggestion of this sort, being natural imitators, and they soon take on the mental attitude of the parents toward them. If the parent treats the child as being beyond control, the child will respond; if the child be considered obstinate, etc., he will take on the suggestion, and the original trouble will be magnified. People talk before their children, little realizing that the little minds are very suggestible, and are constantly taking suggestive color from those around them. People should endeavor to present to their children only the best, positive, helpful, uplifting, and encouraging mental states. They should avoid giving the child the impression that it is “bad,” or “mean,” or “deceitful,” or “shy,” or anything of that sort. The child will be apt to accept the suggestion coming from a source that it naturally looks to for information, and it will be very apt to proceed to act upon the suggestion and make the words of the parent come true. I have heard of children who had become so impressed with their parents’ suggestion that they “would come to some bad end, yet,” that they had to fight against it the balance of their lives. Sow the suggestive?seeds that you desire to sprout into reality—be careful to select the right kind. This subject of suggestion to children can be merely alluded to here, for it would fill a book of itself. I felt impelled to say a few words about it in this lesson, because my experience has taught me its extreme importance.

This is the rule of Involuntary Suggestion: Our words, actions, manner, tones, appearance, and general personality convey suggestions to those around us, inducing mental states in accordance therewith.

Therefore, act out only the character that you wish to impress upon the world—and act it the best you know how. The world will connect you with the part you are playing, according to the suggestions thus made—sometimes you will get a better verdict than you really deserve; sometimes a worse one, but in either event, your mental attitude, reflected by your involuntary suggestions, will have caused the verdict, whatever it may be. Therefore, form a correct mental attitude, based upon some ideal of the part you wish to play—and then play it out to the best of your ability. Observe the outward appearance of the part you are playing, for this is what the world sees first, last and all the time—and you are judged by your suggestive “make?up,” and stage action. Act well your part, for thereupon rests the verdict of the audience.

The second form of the application of suggestion is: Voluntary Suggestion.—This form of the application of suggestion is manifested in cases in which the suggestion is deliberately and purposely made with the end of impressing other persons. Its manifestations may be grouped into three classes, as follows: (a) Suggestive Treatment; (b) Hypnotic Suggestion; (c) Suggestion in the form of Personal Influence. By (a) Suggestive Treatment I refer to the practice of Mental Suggestion used as a form of “treatment” for physical ills, or mental deficiencies, etc. The treatments for physical ills come under the term of “Mental Therapeutics,” and will be spoken of in the chapter bearing that title. Treatment by suggestion for mental deficiencies, etc., is a branch of science that is rapidly coming to the fore. For some time it was clouded by its mistaken connection with hypnotism, but now that it has been divorced therefrom it is being used to a much greater degree by scientists in all parts of the world. Its principle rests on the fact that brain?centers and brain?cells may be “grown,” developed, and increased by properly directed suggestions, so that one may be practically “made over” mentally. New qualities may be induced, and objectionable ones decreased. Objectionable habits and traits may be eliminated, and desirable ones substituted or newly induced.

The wonders of this form of practical psychology are being unfolded rapidly, and a great era is before us in this branch of science. The broad principle of the “treatment” lies in the fact that the mental states induced by the proper suggestion tend to exercise and develop the portion of the brain in which they are manifested. Hence the theory once understood, and the best method adopted, the rest of the treatment becomes as simple as developing any muscle of the body by the appropriate exercise. I call this form of treatment “Brain Building,” by suggestion, etc.

(b) Suggestion in Hypnotism is a subject that I shall merely refer to here, for this is not a manual of hypnotism. Sufficient it is to say that hypnotism is a combination of the use of mentative energy in a certain form, coupled with suggestion. It is a proven psychological fact that in the hypnotic condition, all suggestions have a greatly exaggerated effect, and a suggestion that would scarcely be noticed in the ordinary state becomes a strong motive force to one in the state of hypnosis. In this state the most absurd suggestions are accepted, and acted upon— the most extraordinary delusions are entertained—and the suggestions of future action, or post?hypnotic suggestions, are made effective. I wish to caution my students against allowing themselves to be hypnotized for experimental or other purposes. It is conducive to negative conditions, and I heartily disapprove of the practice. I would not allow anyone to hypnotize me, and I would urge upon my students a similar attitude toward “experimenters.” The best effects of suggestion may be obtained without hypnosis—the latter is merely an abnormal and morbid state, most undesirable to normal people. Let it alone!

(c) Suggestion in Personal Influence is referred to in other parts of this work, and appears more fully in the chapters treating of Personal Influence, for it belongs to that phase of the general subject.

The third form of application of Suggestion is what is known as: Auto?Suggestion.—By this term is mental self?suggestion, or suggestions given by one to his own mind. This is a most interesting and important phase of the subject, and will be dealt with fully in the chapters on Mental Architecture, etc., under which head it falls. It is by auto?suggestions that so many people have “made themselves over,” mentally, and have become that which they willed to be. Its principles are precisely the same as in the other forms of suggestion, except that the treatment is given by one’s self instead of by another person.

The vehicles of suggestion, i. e., the voice, the manner, etc., have been alluded to in other chapters as we proceeded. An eminent teacher of the use of suggestion in commercial pursuits, in speaking of the effect of suggestion in inducing mental states, says: “You can make a man think with you if you work on his feelings or higher nature, even though you run counter to his ordinary judgment. If in this way you can dazzle his reason sufficiently, you can spur him to almost any action of which man is capable.” And this teacher is perfectly right in his statement, although he follows the old “subjective mind” idea and identifies “feeling” with the “higher nature,” instead of treating it as belonging to the emotive pole of mentation. And, if I may be pardoned, I would suggest that the above statement would be a little nearer the true state of affairs if he had said:

“You can make a man feel with you if you work on his emotive mentality,” etc.

The teachers of Business Psychology very ably instruct their pupils in the art of suggestion in the process of making sales. They instruct the salesmen to first gain the prospective customer’s “attention,” then “arouse his interest,” then awaken “desire,” and then—close the sale. These steps in the psychology of salesmanship apply equally well to the science of advertising, or any other appeal to the minds of people, and are logically correct. The attention once gained, the mind becomes more or less receptive; the mind once receptive, interest is aroused and a greater degree of receptivity is induced; interest is gradually led to desire, induced by the subtle suggestion of words and the exhibition of the article to be sold; and at last, when the proper psychological state is aroused, the trained salesman gently but firmly gives the positive suggestion of authority, or demand, pointing to the place where the customer must sign his name, thus using suggestion along both the lines of acquiescence and imitation—and the order is taken. Did you ever subscribe to a book at the solicitation of a good book agent? Well, if you did, and will let your mind run backward over the proceeding, you will see how the above rule works in practice. (1) Attention, (2) Interest, (3) Desire, (4) Sale—these are the steps of salesmanship by suggestion; and advertising sales as well. Great is suggestion in business!

I have known salesmen to gently suggest the closing of a sale by handing the customer a fountain pen, placed at the “suggestive slant,” at the same time pointing to the space on the order blank, with the “take?it?for?granted” tone and utterance:

“Sign right here, please!”—and it was signed. The largest employers of agents have regular training schools, in which the new agents are given the benefit of the experience of the old hands at the business—and some of these old hands could give a professional suggestionist points on his own science. The agent is told how the different classes of people act, the objections they will be likely to raise, and how the trained agent may overcome these obstacles by clever work, including, of course, an intelligent use of suggestion. The average person would be surprised at the ideas advanced and the knowledge of suggestion possessed by some of these men.

One of these agents once told me that one of the first things he learned when starting to work was that the agent should never permit the customer to take his “prospectus,” or sample pages, in his own hands. He said to me: “I always keep the prospectus in my own hands, for if I let it get away from me I will have lost the power of controlling the attention and interest of the customer. He will then have the matter in his own hands, and will have gotten away from me—he will then do the leading, instead of my doing it. I always keep the upper hand of my man or woman. I do the leading, guiding, directing and influencing myself—I keep the controlling gear in my own hands, always.” And, in the science of advertising, also, there is a constant use of suggestion—usually conscious and premeditated. This is taught in the “courses” and “schools” of advertising, and the “ad. men” are well grounded on the subject. The use of the “direct command,” as the “ad. men” call it, is very common. People are positively told to do certain things in these advertisements.

They are told to “Take home a cake of Hinky?dink’s Soap tonight; your wife needs it!” And they do it. Or they see a mammoth hand pointing down at them from a sign, and almost hear the corresponding mammoth voice, as it says (in painted words): “Say, you! Smoke Honey?Dope Cigars; they’re the best ever!!!” And, if you manage to reject the command the first time, you will probably yield at the repeated suggestion of the same thing being hurled at you at every corner and high fence, and “Honey?Dope” will he your favorite brand until some other suggestion catches you. Suggestion by authority and repetition, remember; that’s what does the business for you! They call this “the Direct Command” in the advertising schools. Then there are other subtle forms of suggestion in advertising. You see staring from every bit of space, on billboard and in newspapers and magazines: “Uwanta Cracker,” or something of that sort—and you usually wind up by acquiescing. And then you are constantly told that “Babies howl for Grandma Hankin’s Infantile Soother,” and then when you hear some baby howling you think of what you have been told they are howling for, and then you run and buy a bottle of “Grandma Hankin’s.”

And then you are told that some cigar is “Generously Liberal” in size and quality; or that some kind of cocoa is “Grateful and Refreshing”; or that some brand of soap is “99.999% Pure”; and that some pickle man makes “763 Varieties”; etc., etc., etc. Only last night I saw a new one—“Somebody’s Whisky is smooth,” and every imbiber in the car was smacking his lips and thinking about the “smooth” feeling in his mouth and throat. It was smooth—the idea, not the stuff, I mean. And some other whisky man shows a picture of a glass, a bottle, some ice and a syphon of seltzer, with simply these words: “Oldboy’s Highball—That’s All”! All of these things are suggestions, and some of them very powerful ones, too, when constantly impressed upon the mind by repetition. They “get in their work” on you.

A writer on the psychology of advertising advises, among other things, that advertisements of articles to eat or drink should contain the words calculated to induce the feeling of “taste” in the minds of the readers. “Sweet,” “refreshing,” “thirst?quenching,” “nourishing,” etc., etc.—how suggestive they are! And how effective! How do they act? you ask. How? Well, this way—just you read these words: “A nice, big juicy lemon— tart and strong—I can taste it now!” Just imagine these words accompanied by a picture of a man squeezing the juice of a lemon into his mouth, and where are you? I’ll tell you where— your mouth is filled with saliva, from the imagined taste of the tart lemon juice! Now, isn’t it? Tell this to some of your friends and see how it works. I once heard a story of a bad little boy, who would stand in front of a “German band,” with a lemon to his mouth, sucking away vigorously. Result: The mouths of the musicians became filled with so much saliva that they could not play on. Exit boy, with Professor Umpah, the bass?horn player, in full pursuit, the air being filled with “Dunner und Blitzen!” and worse. Just suggestion!

I have known of dealers in Spring goods to force the season by filling their windows with the advance stock. I have seen hat dealers start up the straw hat season by putting on a straw themselves, their clerks ditto, and then a few friends. The sprinkling of “straws” gave the suggestion to the street, and 202 How Suggestion is Used the straw hat season was opened. Business men understand suggestion. Even the newsboys understand it. The best ones are above asking as the novices do, “Want a paper, mister?” or worse still, “You don’t want a paper, mister, do you?” The good ones say, instead, boldly and confidently, “Here’s your paper, mister!” sticking it under your nose—and you take it. Let me tell you a tale about a “barker” at a pleasure resort in Chicago, several years ago. He was the best I ever heard. Here is the story—it’s a true one:

This man was the “barker” or “spieler” for one of the attractions of the place, the “pony ride” attraction. Many were the ponies lined up to carry the children around the ring, for a nickel a ride. The “spieler” would wait until a crowd of children, with or without their parents, would enter the place and then he would begin in the strongest, most strenuous, rasping, suggestive tone: “Ride, ride ride! Have a ride, take a ride, have a ride, take a ride! Anybody, everybody; anybody, everybody! Ride, ride, r?r?r?r?r?r?ride!!!! Anybody rides, everybody rides—rides, rides, rides—rides, rides, rides—r?r?r?r?r?r?rides! Take a ride, have a ride, take a ride, have a ride, take a ride, have a ride? Anybody, everybody, anybody, everybody—ride, ride r?r?r?r?r?r?r?r?r?ride! R?r?r?r?r?r?r?r?r?r?r?ride! R?r?r?r?r?r?r?r?r?r?r?r?r?r?ride!” He would keep this sort of thing up for several minutes, apparently without taking a fresh breath. The very air seemed to quiver and vibrate in the rhythm of his “r?r?r?r?r?r?ide, r?r?r?r?r?r?ide!” And every child within hearing who could raise a nickel would surely ride! The word “ride!” positively, authoritatively and constantly repeated, was one of the most startling exhibitions of this form of suggestion that I have ever seen or heard. I have heard many imitators of this “spieler,” but have never met his equal. Perhaps he has now passed on to some higher form of usefulness—he was worthy of it. He was a master, surely.

I have seen men in bowling alleys caused to make false plays by some bystander suggesting the false shot. The same thing is true in shooting galleries, etc. You have but to look around you and see these, everyday instances of suggestion, in some form or other. Induced feeling, remember! That is the key of all manifestations of suggestion. Look out for it! And, in conclusion, I know of a little boy who exemplified the law of suggestion one April Fool’s Day by placing a sign on the coat?tail of another boy.

The sign read “kick me!” And they did! The skillful lawyer uses suggestion in his work in examining or cross?examining witnesses. He suggests things to a suggestible witness, and coaxes and leads him on to admissions and statements that he did not intend making—sometimes statements that are not strictly correct. Such a one will say, “You did so and so,” or “You saw so and so, didn’t you?” etc., the direct statement made in an authoritative manner, causing the suggestible witness to acquiesce. Look out for this confident, authoritative manner, in a lawyer or anyone else. It is calculated to lead one into acquiescence, for man is “an obedient animal,” and it is “so much easier to say Yes! than No! when you see that Yes! is expected.” It is charged that police detectives have worked false “confessions” out of suggestible criminals in this way, by keeping hammering away at them until their wills are worn out, and they would say “Yes!” to escape further questioning, like the girl who finally accepted the lover’s repeated proposal in order to get rid of him. This firm, decided, authoritative statement or demand, when allied to the law of repetition, has caused much mischief in the world, and many have “given in” to it, to their sorrow. I trust that these warning words will save some other trouble of this kind. When the law is once understood it is comparatively easy to escape the suggestion. The strength in the suggestor of this kind lies in the ignorance of the person suggested. Forewarned is forearmed, in this case.

I have heard of business men who would instruct their clerks to ask questions of their customers in this way: “You like this pattern, do you not?” or “This is a beautiful shade, is it not?” etc., etc., etc. Do you see the point? The statement is made first, and the question is asked right on top of it. Isn’t it easier to say Yes! than No! to this kind of a question? (See there, now, I asked the question in that way, myself, although I had no intention of doing so. I took my own suggestion.) In this connection I may add that it is a well known psychological fact that, when two persons are conversing, the one standing, or sitting higher than the other, has the advantage of a certain positive attitude or position. And the person seated below the speaker is forced into a relatively passive or negative condition, or position. That is, everything else being equal, the person elevated will be positive to the other, and the one seated on a lower level will be passive, relatively. The raised platform of the teacher, speaker, preacher, etc., has a good psychological basis. And the power that a lawyer feels when “talking on his feet” to the jury seated in front of him is a manifestation of a law that he may not be aware of—but the judge has the best of the lawyer, for the latter must look up to him when he talks.

Try the experiment of practicing the above position with some friend, first one being seated and then the other, and see how you can actually feel the difference between the two positions. The raised position of clerks in the large stores, and the low seats so accommodatingly placed for the customers, have good reasons. If you ever feel that some one is placing you in a negative or passive condition, rise to your feet, and you will feel doubly strong and forceful. This is a little hint that may be worth many times the price of this book to you, some of these days. Look over the foolish things that you have been talked or influenced into, and see if you were not seated and the other person standing, or seated higher than you. This is a little thing—but it works big results, sometimes. Better heed it.

There is a great difference in the suggestibility of persons, some being almost immune from suggestion, while others are so suggestible that they have but to be told a thing in a positive, forceful, confident, authoritative tone and manner, to accept the suggestion, particularly if it be repeated several times. They will likewise readily absorb the suggestions of imitation and association. But I have told you about this elsewhere in this lesson. Study those around you, and you will soon discover the different degrees. The hypnotic “subject” is at the extreme negative end of the scale.

I now wish to call your attention to what may be called “future?suggestion,” or, as the hypnotists call it “post?hypnotism,” etc. Future suggestions are like seeds planted in the mind, which grow, blossom and hear fruit at some future time. The hypnotists produce this phenomena by giving the subject, while in the hypnotic condition, the suggestion that at a certain time, either in a few minutes, or hours, or days, he will do certain things, or feel certain things. But the newer school of psychologists have discovered that these future suggestions may be made in the ordinary receptive state, just as is the case with any of the other forms of mental suggestions, and the result will be the same as that obtained by the hypnotists, in spite of their theories and methods.

I do not purpose going into detail regarding this class of phenomena, because all that is necessary to be said can be comprised in the following two statements: (1) That, generally speaking, all the phenomena of the ordinary immediate mental suggestion may be produced as future suggestion; and (2) that all the phenomena of future?suggestion, produced by the suggestor upon another person, may be likewise produced by auto?suggestions, that is, by the person inducing suggestions in himself.

Many foolish suggestions are given in everyday life along the lines of future suggestion, and alas! many of them are accepted carelessly, owing to a lack of knowledge of the principle. How many times has it been said to an impressionable young bride, “Never mind, you’ll grow tired of him after a while,” etc. Or to a man, “Wait until the novelty wears off and you’ll see how sick of the job you’ll get.” Or, “You’ll lose your interest and enthusiasm, by?and?by.” Or, “You’ll find him out after a while and will see 206How Suggestion is Used that he’s not what he seems.” And so on—you may add to these instances from your own experience. And too often these suggestions are recalled and have a tendency to cause the person to “make them come true.” Many fortune?tellers’ prophecies have been made come true in this way by impressionable and ignorant people. I have given you a key to this principle now— heed the lesson! If you feel that an attempt at future impression is being made on you neutralize it with a mental “No, I won’t”!

That is the antidote for the bane. The second principle in the statement made several paragraphs further back—i. e., that all the phenomena of future suggestion may be duplicated by auto?suggestion, or suggestions made by oneself—is true and worthy of consideration. You make up your mind that you must awaken to catch a train at four tomorrow morning and you awaken in time. You have set your mental alarm clock. If you have an engagement at three this afternoon you may set your alarm as follows (talking to yourself, of course): “Now, see here! Remember that you must see Smith at three this afternoon—three, three, I say! Remember now, three, I say”! And if you impress it sufficiently strong upon your mind, a little before three you will begin to feel uneasy, and then suddenly your Smith engagement will “pop” into your mind from your sub?conscious region, and you will reach out for your hat and overcoat Mental alarm?clock, remember! That tells the whole tale.

You see, the experimenter giving future suggestions simply sets the mental alarm?clock going along the lines of suggestion. He makes the mental suggestion and attaches it to the mental alarm?clock—when the alarm goes off the suggestion emerges into the field of consciousness and acts just as if it had been freshly made. That’s the whole story in plain, homely terms.

But don’t be frightened, you timid people. Remember this, that you will not accept a future suggestion unless you would also accept a present suggestion—the degree of “suggestibility” is the same in both cases. The only reason a future suggestion has the advantage over a present one is that it is more subtle, and people are not as much on guard about future things as they are about things to be “done right now.” You will resent a suggestion that you “Do this thing right now,” while you pay but little attention to the earnest suggestion that “in a year from now you will feel so?and?so about this matter,” and dismiss the subject with a shrug of the shoulders, instead of saying, at least mentally, “No, I won’t”! The present suggestion is apt to attract your attention the more forcibly, because it is more apparent— while the future suggestion is more “insinuating.” But now that you know the facts of the matter you may laugh at them both, and take the sting out of them by your little “No, I won’t”!

And, just one word more. If you feel that you are harboring any future suggestions made on you in the past, but upon which the alarm has not yet gone off, you may kill them by direct self?suggestion, or auto?suggestions to the contrary. That is, you may say “I shall not act upon any adverse suggestions that may have been made to me—I will them out of my mind—I kill them this moment by the power of my will.” And at the same time make a mental picture of the suggestion being obliterated by the action of your will, just as the chalk mark is erased from the blackboard by the passing over it of the eraser. Try this plan and be free!


Page last modified on Friday 18 of January, 2013 05:57:59 MST