Affirmations, Sigils: Influencing The Unconscious

During the early 1900s, the French pharmacist Émile Coué noticed that when he spoke highly of a medicine that he was dispensing, the patient tended to recover quicker than if he said nothing. In other words, Coué noticed the “placebo effect.” 

Recognizing that the mind (our expectations, beliefs, emotions, and so on) affected our health and well-being, and realizing that influencing the unconscious mind could help us to live better lives, Coué created the affirmation “every day, in every way, I am getting better and better.” 

This, in turn, influenced the positive thinking movement, as well as the training of professional sportspeople and athletes, business and entrepreneurialism, and many other competitive fields.

Today, even outside of such fields, many people use affirmations to help improve themselves in some way. If, for example, an individual wants to switch from eating junk food to eating a healthy diet, they might say an affirmation such as “I enjoy, and want, healthy, nutritious food.” Or if someone wants to focus on their business, they might use a mantra such as “It is easy for me to focus on my business and to be productive every day.”

Often, affirmations are said while the individual is still waking up or as they are about to fall asleep. The belief is that the affirmation will be planted into the subconscious mind (or the unconscious mind), like a seed, and will gestate and grow in it, ultimately influencing the desires and behavior of the individual for the better. 

Around 1913, about a decade before Coué was promoting his method, the English artist and visionary Austin Osman Spare was writing about his “sigil method” of influencing the unconscious. In a short sentence, Spare would write out what he wanted to happen. He would then remove all of the repeating letters in the sentence so that there was only one of each. Then he would group them together and would start abstracting the letters until he had created a kind of symbol. 

Unlike Coué, Spare believed that for a desire to occur in reality, the seed had to be implanted into the unconscious and the desire forgotten. 

Who was right?

Spare’s method for shaping the unconscious mind is certainly the most creative and, historically, the most interesting. It may well produce some unexpected results. But nearly everything worth having has to be worked towards consciously. 

Skills in every area of life require hours and hours of “conscious practice.” You can’t become a bodybuilder by planting a sigil in the unconscious and then not working out for six months. You can’t become an entrepreneur by planting a sigil in the unconscious and then not doing anything in business after that. You have to not only practice every day, you have to evaluate what went right, what went wrong, what can be improved, where you are in relation to your goals, and so on. 

Coué’s method of affirmations might really influence the subconscious. But saying an affirmation — that the individual can achieve his or her goals — is also a helpful conscious tool in self-development and in making progress towards our goals. The conscious and the subconscious have to be in alignment, just our actions have to be in alignment with our goals. 

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