This section is from the book "Handbook Of Suggestive Therapeutics, Applied Hypnotism, Psychic Science", by Henry S. Munro. Also available from Amazon: Handbook of Suggestive Therapeutics, Applied Hypnotism, Psychic Science.
Any method of getting an individual to act upon an idea or a series of ideas, be they true or false, either consciously or subconsciously, is hypnotism or suggestion. Suggestion, then, is a basil of all religions, creeds. dogmas, nonmedical and nonsurgical therapeutic systems, and all methods of education.
Suggestion is used both for the good and for the harm of human beings. It is used by everybody, and the really dangerous man or woman is the individual who is unconscious of its potency as a factor in both sanity and insanity, happiness or unhappiness, education or ignorance, truth or falsehood, health or disease, character building or moral perversion.
We frequently see fanatics upon various lines swaying and leading men and women into all kinds of incongruous paths and actions by their fanatical zeal, enthusiasm, and absurd devotion to some false theory or concept. The only protection for the individual is knowledge and experience, education and light, and the ability to think for and protect himself.
No special tact is required by a physician to use suggestion to fix the attention of his patient on such ideas as are desirable to influence his life and conduct for therapeutic purposes. The great thing to be desired is to have more regard for the welfare of your patient than for the remuneration for your services. .
We find everywhere pseudo-conscientious men in the medical profession who "have too high a regard for the truth" to use suggestion in a legitimate therapeutic manner for the helpfulness of their patients. Such men usually fasten a trivial functional disorder by the injudicious use of suggestion upon the consciousness of a patient, and make it a serious psychoneurotic condition by giving his disease a name and pointing out its serious pathology and consequences, simply giving a prescription to relieve a condition which he has made in reality ten times worse.
A North Carolina physician had a patient who was morbidly self-conscious of some functional disturbance, and, after going to leading men in several of the larger southern cities, he finally landed in Baltimore, where he secured an audience with one of the most widely known physicians in the history of the medical profession. The patient related his difficulty in getting relief, and told how he had gone from place to place, and how the physicians did not agree, and how some called his disease one thing and some another. The physician stripped him, gave him a careful examination for two or three minutes, and said, "All right, sir; put on your clothes."
He seated himself to write a letter, and by the time his patient was dressed he said, "Give me twenty dollars, please," which was promptly handed over to him. Then, with one hand on his doorknob and the other on the patient's shoulder, he looked him squarely in the face and said to him, "My friend, go home and read only the book of St. James, call yourself a - fool, and let doctors alone."
The door was opened, and the man was out of the physician's office before he realized it, another patient having gone into the consulting room. The gentleman reminded the office attendant that the doctor had forgotten to give him a prescription, and he was informed that he must now wait until all present had gone in before he could have another audience.
Over and over did he revolve that advice, "My friend, go home and read only the book of St. James, call yourself a - fool, and let doctors alone." The gentleman grew too nervous to sit still, and decided to take a walk and return an hour later, but, while walking alone on the streets of Baltimore, blind and deaf to everything that he saw and heard, the meaning of that advice at last dawned upon his consciousness and he began to laugh.
He then decided it would not be necessary to return to the physician's office, and he took the next train for his home, all the while remembering that his family physician had told him that his disease was more "in his head" than otherwise. The meaning of the advice given by his family physician was now clear to him, and he realized for the first time that he did not have a brain disease, and that what the eminent physician really meant was that his condition was the result of an unbridled imagination, or, to speak in modern psychological phraseology, due to a morbid self-consciousness.
He reached his home with his head up, wearing a smile like a headlight on a steam engine, and, though three years had elapsed, the gentleman yet laughed at how easily he had been cured by finding a man with courage and honesty sufficient to tell him that he had been acting a - fool and should let doctors alone. No doubt he was also instructed to quit reading patent medicine advertisements and modern mind cure theories.
Now, that is just the point. People so often need advice, assurance, ideas, persuasion, or shocking - other names for suggestion - and not medicine or instruction in the pathology of their disease. The fact that a patient comes to you is ordinarily an acknowledgment that he is willing to take your advice, that he has confidence in you, and is willing to rely on your judgment.
Here I would add a word of caution. It is a great mistake to tell a patient that you can find nothing the matter with him - almost as bad as to exaggerate the seriousness of his symptoms. An individual with a functional disorder may not necessarily be suffering with insomnia, or have sustained a loss in weight, and yet be in the incipiency of a disease which, if not properly treated, may result in serious disorders of metabolism. He comes to you with subjective sensations, feelings, and impressions which annoy and depress him. He feels incapacitated for his work. Every problem of life is colored by the hue of his morbid subjective state, and when you tell him that you can find no cause for his trouble you only add to his morbidness and aggravate what may be the incipiency of a grave disorder. A good proportion of the more serious nervous and mental diseases begins in functional disturbances. The disorders of metabolism resulting in metabolic toxemia may begin in this way. These patients should be made to feel that they have your confidence and sympathy, as well as the benefit of your knowledge and skill as a physician.
Then you are in position to tactfully govern their habits of thought and conduct, and to help them to execute a plan of treatment that will bring about recovery.
Elimination is usually deficient, and the treatment needed in such cases tests the complete resources of the physician and embodies all therapeutic measures - medicinal, dietetic, physiological, and mechanical - as well as psychotherapeutic.
Frequently, work under the proper conditions is the only means of cure, and the far-reaching influence of the physician to secure the conditions necessary for the recovery of his patient is not out of place.
The proper treatment of disease is as varied in its application as are the wants and necessities of mankind.