The book Psycho Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz is one of the great references in personal development. It was first published 60 years ago, in 1960.
Maxwell Maltz, before becoming known for this book, was first a renowned cosmetic surgeon. At first glance one might think that the fields of cosmetic surgery and personal development are unrelated.
However, Maxwell Maltz understood that these two subjects were very closely related. He realized that performing operations on his patients did not help them every time. Some people regained confidence only a few days after an operation, others did not, and some even disagreed that there had been any improvement at all; even though the operations were quite successful.
He consequently became aware of the importance of self-image and its crucial role in building self-confidence:
The image of oneself poses the limits of the achievement of an individual. It defines what you can and cannot do. Expand the image you have of yourself and you will expand the limits of what is possible.
The self-image is the key to human personality and human behavior. Change the self-image and you change the personality and the behavior.
Psycho cybernetics Chapter 1: The self-image: your key to a better life
Self-image is built on our beliefs, which are themselves formed from our past experiences. We do not question these beliefs but, on the contrary, constantly act to validate these beliefs, whether true or false.
Self-image is the key to living a better life thanks to 2 discoveries:
- All your actions, emotions, behaviors, your abilities are always consistent with the image you have of yourself.
- The self-image can be changed regardless of the age of the person concerned. It is never too early or too late to live a new life.
The self-image: the real secret
The secret is this: To really “live,” that is, to find life reasonably satisfying, you must have an adequate and realistic self-image that you can live with. You must find yourself acceptable to “you.” You must have a wholesome self-esteem. You must have a self that you can trust and believe in. You must have a self that you are not ashamed to “be,” and one that you can feel free to express creatively, rather than hide or cover up. You must have a self that corresponds to reality, so that you can function effectively in a real world. You must know yourself—both your strengths and your weaknesses—and be honest with yourself concerning both. Your self-image must be a reasonable approximation of “you,” being neither more than you are nor less than you are.
Psycho cybernetics Chapter 2: Discovering the Success Mechanism within You
Every living being has within him or her a built-in guidance system to help him or her achieve his or her goals. In animals, we speak of “instincts” that guide them and allow them to adapt successfully to their environment. The built-in mechanism in animals is limited to finding food and shelter, avoiding or overcoming enemies and hazards, and procreation to insure the survival of the species.
But animals cannot choose their goals. Humans, on the other hand, have something extra: creative imagination. Therefore, humans are more than creatures, they are also creators. The human being can direct his mechanism of success by using imagination.
This success mechanism is comparable to a machine because it allows you to go towards a precise objective; it is oriented towards the result.
This is the concept of Psycho-cybernetics: the principle of cybernetics applied to the human brain. It does not mean that a human being is a machine, but rather that the human being has a machine in him that he uses.
Psycho cybernetics Chapter 3: Imagination: The First Key to Your Success Mechanism
Imagination plays a far more important role in our lives than we realize. It is used for every action we take. We act or do not act, not because of will, but because of imagination.
A human being always acts and feels in accordance with what he imagines to be true about himself and his environment.
We act or feel emotions not in relation to what things really are, but in relation to the image our mind has of those things. Realizing this gives us the power, the lever to change our personality.
Why not imagine yourself successful?
Realizing that our actions, feelings, and behavior are the result of our own images and beliefs gives us the lever that psychology has always needed for changing personality.
It opens a new psychological door to gaining skill, success, and happiness.
Mental pictures offer us an opportunity to “practice” new traits and attitudes, which otherwise we could not do. This is possible because, again, your nervous system cannot tell the difference between an actual experience and one that is vividly imagined.
If we picture ourselves performing in a certain manner, it is nearly the same as the actual performance. Mental practice helps to make perfect.
Psycho cybernetics Chapter 4: Dehypnotize Yourself from False Beliefs
When you believe something about yourself and if you are convinced that it is true, then it has the same power over you as the words of a hypnotist have over a hypnotized person.
Numerous studies have shown that the vast majority of poor grades in school are due in part to the image and “definition” that the student has of himself.
Relaxation is essential to get rid of false beliefs because beliefs have effortlessly formed themselves.
How to use relaxation to dehypnotize yourself
Physical relaxation plays a key role in the dehypnotization process. Our currently held beliefs, whether good or bad, true or false, were formed without effort, with no sense of strain, and without the exercise of “willpower.” Our habits, whether good or bad, were formed in the same way. It follows that we must employ the same process in forming new beliefs, or new habits—that is, in a relaxed condition.
It has been amply demonstrated that attempting to use effort or willpower to change beliefs or to cure bad habits has an adverse, rather than a beneficial, effect.
Physical relaxation the, along with training, leads to mental relaxation, which in turn leads to better control of our mechanism of success.
Psycho cybernetics Chapter 5: How to Utilize the Power of Rational Thinking
All learning is done through a process of “trial and error”. We try something and if the feedback is negative, then we correct the shot and start over again in a different way, until we reach the desired result.
Once an error is detected, we must recognize it as such, use it to improve the next attempt, but also “forget” that error so as not to “learn” how to make that error and thus avoid repeating it.
In the same way, our past failures should not harm us as long as we direct our thoughts towards the goal to be achieved.
Examine and reevaluate your beliefs
To eliminate beliefs, we only have to ask “why?” Why do we believe we can’t?
Then ask yourself, “Is this belief based on an actual fact or on an assumption—or a false conclusion?”
Then ask yourself the questions:
1. Is there any rational reason for such a belief?
2. Could it be that I am mistaken in this belief?
3. Would I come to the same conclusion about some other person in a similar situation?
4. Why should I continue to act and feel as if this were true if there is no good reason to believe it?
And go back to the source: is this belief based on real facts or on a supposition and a false conclusion?
Psycho cybernetics Chapter 6: Relax and Let Your Success Mechanism Work for You
Our trouble is that we ignore the automatic Creative Mechanism and try to do everything and solve all our problems by conscious thought, or “forebrain thinking. And it is true that it is through these conscious thoughts that we set our goals and use our imagination.
But it is not with these conscious thoughts that we can actually do all the work.
Don’t be too careful
Yet that is precisely what modern man tries to do: solve all his problems by conscious thought.
Modern man tries to solve everything with his conscious thoughts. He then becomes too anxious and worries too much about the results.
The secret of creative thinking and creative doing
Yet, as artists, writers or researchers describe it, it is when they relax after consciously preparing a problem or work that inspiration arrives, after they have directed their desire and all the information they have towards the goal.
Many creators report that they get their best ideas either in the shower, while walking along the beach, or otherwise being in or around water. Perhaps the “flow” of water leads to the flow of ideas.
The other “activity” that often leads to creative insights is sleeping. If you have a question you’d like an answer to, or a project you’re working on that you’d like to accomplish with greater ease, you can instruct your mind before going to bed to be open to useful information and to remember it upon awakening. Keeping a notepad and pen on your nightstand to record the insights as they come is a good idea. When you use this approach, you can quickly find yourself getting ideas that greatly surpass anything that comes to you while awake
You are a creative worker
The mistake one makes is to believe that this process of “unconscious cerebration” is reserved for writers, inventors and creative workers. The mechanism of success within us can work in the same way to produce creative actions and ideas.
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Psycho cybernetics Chapter 7: You can acquire the habit of happiness
Happiness is not something to be earned or earned. Nor is it a moral issue. Happiness is simply a state of mind in which our thinking is pleasant.
Most of the time, the things that make us unhappy are not the things themselves but the way we perceive them.
We need to get used to seeing the good things in everything, and keep our thoughts pleasant most of the time. This is probably the only way to cultivate the habit of happiness. Happiness is not something that happens to you or that someone gives you, it is something you do to yourself.
It is a matter of selection, attention and decision: most facts can justify a pessimistic or optimistic attitude. And it’s not a matter of right or wrong, both exist and are real.
It is simply a matter of choice that is, choosing what you want to keep in mind.
How to learn the happiness habit
Our self-image and our habits tend to go together. Change one and you will automatically change the other.
Habits are consistent with our self-image and our entire personality pattern. When we consciously and deliberately develop new and better habits, our self-image tends to outgrow the old habits and grow into the new pattern.
What we need to understand is that these habits, unlike addictions, can be modified, changed, or reversed simply by taking the trouble to make a conscious decision—and then by practicing or “acting out” the new response or behavior.
Psycho cybernetics Chapter 8: Ingredients of the “Success-Type” Personality and How to Acquire Them
One of the most effective means of helping people achieve an adequate or successful personality is to first of all give them a graphic picture of what the successful personality looks like. The creative guidance mechanism within you is a goal-striving mechanism, and the first requisite for using it is to have a clear-cut goal or target to shoot for.
A good personality is one that allows one to deal effectively and appropriately with reality and the environment. A good personality gives you satisfaction when you achieve the goals that are important to you.
The picture of success
The SUCCESS personality is composed of :
Sense of direction
Sense of direction: Choose your goals well – choose new ones when previous ones are reached – always have a project.
Understanding: having a good understanding of problems – avoiding misunderstandings – taking care of one’s communication and empathy (putting oneself in the place of the other: what does he really mean? How does he or she feel about the situation? – Accepting the truth whether it is good or bad – Honesty with oneself
Courage: to have the courage to act, to take action, to move forward – to accept to make mistakes sometimes
Compassion: respect for others and their needs – our feelings about ourselves are similar to feelings about others – stop judging and condemn others for their mistakes
Esteem: to have a good opinion of oneself – to stop carrying a mental image of oneself as defeatist and worthless person – to stop dramatizing and presenting oneself as an object of injustice and pity – to appreciate others more.
Self-confidence: remembering one’s successes in the past – learning from one’s mistakes and eliminating them
Self-acceptance: accepting oneself for what one is – tolerating imperfections – differentiating what one is, from one’s behavior. In short, accept yourself as you are—and start from there. Learn to emotionally tolerate imperfection in yourself. It is necessary to intellectually recognize our shortcomings, but disastrous to hate ourselves because of them.
Psycho cybernetics Chapter 9: The Failure Mechanism: How to Make It Work for You Instead of Against You
The failure-type personality also has its symptoms. We need to be able to recognize these failure symptoms in ourselves so that we can do something about them.
The picture of failure
Here are the symptoms of failure:
Frustration, hopelessness, futility
Loneliness (lack of “oneness”)
These symptoms are initially used to solve a problem and then mistakenly adopted as solutions.
In order to get rid of them, we must first of all understand them. Then we can realize that they are inappropriate.
We must use these signals to warn us of the danger. Recognize them as undesirable [they don’t bring real happiness]. Then take action immediately to counter each of these signals with another signal from the Mechanism of Success.
Just like negative indicators in front of a car driver; we all know that he does not look at the control panel exclusively and continuously. To do so might be disastrous. He must focus his gaze through the windshield, look where he is going, and keep his primary attention on his goal—where he wants to go. He merely glances at the negative indicators from time to time. When he does, he does not fix upon them or dwell upon them. He quickly focuses his sight ahead of him again and concentrates on the positive goal of where he wants to go.
Psycho cybernetics Chapter 10: How to Remove Emotional Scars, or How to Give Yourself an Emotional Face-Lift
After being emotionally hurt by others, we often form an “emotional scar” that is supposed to protect us. However, very often these scars play against us. They prevent us from moving forward.
Three Rules for Immunizing Yourself Against Emotional Hurts
1. Be Too Big to Feel Threatened
Be “too big” to feel threatened – that is, have a strong ego. It is a well-known psychological fact that the people who become offended the easiest have the lowest self-esteem. We are “hurt” by those things we conceive of as threats to our ego or self-esteem.
2. A Self-Reliant, Responsible Attitude Makes You Less Vulnerable
Have a responsible attitude by knowing how to count on oneself. Those who are passive and dependent on others spend their lives turning against others, against luck and circumstances.
3. Relax Away Emotional Hurts
Release emotional wounds. We are actually hurt, not by others or what they say but by our own reactions and attitudes.
How to remove old emotional scars
We can prevent, and immunize ourselves against, emotional scars by practicing the three foregoing rules. But what about the old emotional scars which were formed in the past—the old hurts, grudges, grievances against life, resentments?
Once an emotional scar has formed, there is but one thing to do and that is to remove it by surgery, the same as a physical scar.
In order to heal old emotional scars, you must learn to forgive 100%, with no strings attached.
“I can forgive but not forget” actually means that you don’t want to forgive.
To truly forgive others, one must learn not to judge or condemn others [despite their faults or mistakes].
Psycho cybernetics Chapter 11: How to Unlock Your Real Personality
When we say that a person “has a good personality,” what we really mean is that he has freed and released the creative potential within him and is able to express his real self.
Conversely, the person with a “poor personality” does not express the creative self within. He has restrained it, handcuffed it, locked it up and thrown away the key. People, who are said to have little or no personality, in fact have an inhibited personality. Symptoms include shyness, guilt, insomnia, nervousness, irritability and frustration.
A person’s inhibition is due to too much negative and excessive feedback.
Ease comes from ignoring such negative and excessive feedback. This requires learning to stop constantly wondering what others think or will think of what you are doing and focus on what you want to do.
If you are inhibited, you need to learn to be less careful, to be less conscientious, to practice speaking before thinking. The world needs a little bit of inhibition, yes, but not you.
Psycho cybernetics Chapter 12: Do-It-Yourself Tranquilizers That Bring Peace of Mind
Tranquilizers reduce or eliminate our responses to certain stimuli. But tranquilizers do not change the environment because the disturbing stimuli are still there. We are still able to recognize them intellectually, but we do not respond to them emotionally.
Overreacting to certain stimuli is a bad habit that can be cured. For example, immediately answering a ringing phone is a habit. And this habit can be stopped or changed.
How to extinguish conditioned responses
In the same way that we cannot answer a phone call by choice, let it ring without reacting, quietly, it is possible not to react to certain stimuli in our environment, or simply to extend the time before reacting: this simple delay breaks the automatism of our conditioning.
We can then extinguish the conditioned response if we make a practice of relaxing instead of responding. We can, if we wish, just as in the case of the telephone, learn to ignore the “bell,” and continue to sit quietly and “let it ring.” A key thought that we can carry with us to use whenever we are confronted by any disturbing stimulus is to say to ourselves, “The telephone is ringing, but I do not have to answer it. I can just let it ring.”
It is just as important to reset its mechanism by inner relaxation, before starting something new when we change tasks, situations, and environment. Indeed, these require different adjustments of mood and state of mind.
Psycho cybernetics Chapter 13: How to Turn a Crisis into a Creative Opportunity
In stressful or difficult situations, some people lose their means completely, while others achieve great feats.
The difference between these two categories does not depend on the quality of the people, who under normal conditions are capable of the same things.
The difference depends on how they have learned to react to crises.
In order to react well in the face of crises, it is necessary to:
1. Learning certain skills in a stress-free environment: We need to learn certain skills under conditions where we will not be over-motivated; we need to practice without pressure.
2. Learn to react to crises with a proactive and “aggressive” attitude, rather than a defensive one: We need to learn to react to crises with an aggressive, rather than a defensive, attitude; to respond to the challenge in the situation, rather than to the menace; to keep our positive goal in mind.
3. Learn to recognize crises for what they really are, so as not to react to each challenge as if it were a matter of life and death. We need to learn to evaluate so-called crisis situations in their true perspective; to not make mountains out of molehills, or react as if every small challenge is a matter of life or death.
Psycho cybernetics Chapter 14: How to Get That Winning Feeling
Your automatic Creative Mechanism is teleological. That is, it operates in terms of goals and end results. Once you give it a definite goal to achieve, you can depend on its automatic guidance system to take you to that goal much better than you ever could by conscious thought.
We must activate our creative mechanism and think of the final result as already being a reality in the present. We need to imagine the goal clearly so that it appears real to our brain. So real that the emotions felt must be those that would be present if the goal was already achieved.
When we feel really confident and when the feeling of success is really present and strong, we can’t go wrong. The feeling of victory tells us that we are on the right track.
We can also use our past successes to reactivate the mechanisms we have experienced.
By remembering the details, feelings and emotions of these past successes, one re-develops the attitude and sense of victory. And with repetition, you engrave the process and atmosphere of success in your brain.
Psycho cybernetics Chapter 15: More Years of Life and More Life in Your Years
To live longer, you must create within yourself a desire to live more. Creativity is an essential characteristic of the force of life. And the essence of creativity is to seek a purpose.
People with creative occupations not only live longer, but are also productive longer.
You have to develop a “nostalgia for the future,” rather than for the past. This helps to stay productive and to maintain vitality, to be enthusiastic. Create a desire to live more and you will get more life.
The ideas and exercises in this book have helped many of the author’s patients “get more living out of life.” It is his hope, and his belief, that they will do the same for you.
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