Imagination Trumps Will Power
By Atom Bergstrom
Émile Coué (Self-Mastery Through Conscious Autosuggestion, 1922) wrote …
“Suppose that we place on the ground a plank 30 feet long by 1 foot wide. It is evident that everybody will be capable of going from one end to the other of this plank without stepping over the edge. But now change the conditions of the experiment, and imagine this plank placed at the height of the towers of a cathedral. Who then will be capable of advancing even a few feet along this narrow path? Could you hear me speak? Probably not. Before you had taken two steps you would begin to tremble, and in spite of every effort of your will you would be certain to fall to the ground.
“Why is it then that you would not fall if the plank is on the ground, and why should you fall if it is raised to a height above the ground? Simply because in the first case you imagine that it is easy to go to the end of this plank, while in the second case you imagine that you cannot do so.
“Notice that your will is powerless to make you advance; if you imagine that you cannot, it is absolutely impossible for you to do so. If tilers and carpenters are able to accomplish this feat, it is because they think they can do it.”
“Absolutely impossible” is a bit of a stretch, but the point is well taken.
The somnambulist in the following example was not hypnotized or Mesmerized by anyone.
Except himself? Or some supernatural force? Or some of both?
According to “Somnambulism,” The Journal of the American Medical Association, Jun. 19, 1915 …
“A young man with advanced mitral stenosis [a narrowing of the heart’s mitral valve] had severe congestion of the liver and kidneys, and ascites [abnormal accumulation of fluid in the abdominal cavity], compensation having entirely failed. At the slightest physical exercise there was arrhythmia and the much dilated heart was so incompetent that he was unable to take more than a few steps without help. The man in the next bed noticed about 1 a.m. one night that the young man’s bed was empty and the nurse found at 3 a.m. that a window nearby was open. Suicide was suspected and the yard and the building were thoroughly searched in the dark, cold, rainy night but no trace of him could be found until 5 a.m., when he knocked on the outside of the window of another ward on the same floor and was taken in. He complained only of cold and fell asleep at once, and was unable to explain the occurrence when he roused. The window ledges were narrow and slippery and about one yard apart. It must have required considerable physical exertion to step from one to another, and yet for four hours the young man must have been circling the wall several stories above the ground. The pulse was found only transiently 20 beats above what it had been the day before, and the blood pressure had dropped from 115 to 110 mm. Hg: no other change could be detected. It is evident that in the somnambulistic state there are no nervous inhibitions, and hence the sum total of the work imposed on the heart by physical exertion is less. The physical exertion is made without any superhuman muscular movements, and hence makes less demands on the heart.”