Autosuggestion is a process in which the subconscious internalizes repetitive thoughts as a result of an effort on the part of the individual to alter mental associations. Using autosuggestion, people can fixate on a belief, an action, or an opinion. This concept in psychology is used in some types of psychotherapy and is also a component of many self improvement programs which claim that people can “think themselves better.” The efficacy of such programs is a matter of debate. Some forms of autosuggestion do appear to have an effect, while others are more dubious.
The concept of autosuggestion arose in the latter half of the 19th century. Researchers were interested to know why hypnosis worked and why some people appeared to more susceptible or suggestible than others. One theory put forward was the idea of autosuggestion, that people with a conscious will to change or be affected by hypnosis would be more susceptible to hypnotic techniques. Essentially, people could convince their minds to accept something using internal pressure, rather than being influenced by someone on the outside.
One common use of autosuggestion is in a self improvement program where someone is encouraged to read an affirmation before bed and to repeat it while going to sleep. The goal is to change the thought processes in the mind so that someone starts to embody the information in the affirmation. Programs such as “think and grow rich” rely on the idea of autosuggestion, arguing that people must change their mindset in order to accrue wealth.
Some forms of meditation also utilize autosuggestion. For example, a meditation routine could include a practice in which someone imagines growing heavier or lighter. In this case, the person is not literally getting lighter and heavier with the meditation, but autosuggestion can make it feel this way. Likewise, meditation practices can also encourage people to do things like feel hotter and cooler with autosuggestion. These practices are used to help people grow calmer, and some studies suggest that meditation with autosuggestion can in face be very effective for some people.
Numerous self help books focus on the power of positive thought and the idea that people can enact changes in their lives with positive thinking, a form of autosuggestion. Some people respond positively to such programs and experience benefits, whether because of beneficiary qualities in these programs or a placebo effect. Others do not. It would appear that perhaps some people are more susceptible to autosuggestion than others.