Psycho-Cybernetics is a term coined by Dr. Maxwell Maltz. Psycho-Cybernetics focuses on how you can use your mind to steer yourself towards positive goals and success. Maltz was the first researcher and author to explain how self-image has complete control over an individual’s ability to achieve any goal. Based on his outline of self-image, he also provides several suggestions for how you can utilize your self-image to improve your chances of success.
About Maxwell Maltz
Maxwell Maltz was an American cosmetic surgeon and author. Maltz’s books, especially Psycho-Cybernetics, are claimed to have inspired the modern self-help book genre. Maltz graduated from Columbia University with a degree in medicine in 1923. After graduating, Maltz trained to be a plastic surgeon. His experiences within the surgery inspired his thoughts surrounding self-image and success.
Experience Is Important
“Human beings always act and feel and perform in accordance with what they imagine to be true about themselves and their environment.” – Maxwell Maltz
Dr. Maltz was a plastic surgeon. Throughout his time working in this field, he realized that people would have plastic surgery. Still, their inner feelings and attitudes would remain the same. After these experiences, Maltz came across cybernetics. Cybernetics is the actions and requirements of machines that allow them to complete tasks effectively. Then, Maltz realized that these same processes could be applied to how people achieve success or failure.
Maltz outlines that people’s experiences are similar to machine programming. Your experiences will lead to specific outcomes. Importantly, these experiences, like programming, can be changed. Maltz encourages us to consider how we can use our experiences to provide ourselves with successful outcomes. However, he also encourages you to read this book with experience in mind. Hence, he suggests you actively read the book by taking notes.
Change Your Success Mechanisms
“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 your self acceptable to you.” – Maxwell Maltz
Maltz points out that we each have a self-image that is developed based on our past experiences. Your self-belief will guide how you live your life. Subsequently, some people are perpetually successful, while others seem to fail continually. Their past experiences, success or failure, are guiding their future behaviors.
Maltz learned that most people aim to change their self-image by making external changes, such as through plastic surgery. On the other side, some people encourage positive thinking about the future but do not address their self-image beliefs. Both of these types of people are destined to fail. Instead, Maltz suggests that true happiness comes from achieving an adequate self-image you can live with.
In this book, the subconscious is viewed as a mechanism controlled by your mind. Hence, the function of your subconscious depends upon the goals you set. These goals are developed through your self-image. Based on these assumptions, your self-image is dictating the limits of your accomplishments.
Maltz outlines five fundamentals of setting up effective success mechanisms:
- Create goals and targets that you believe you can potentially achieve. Success mechanisms rely on goals.
- Make sure that your goals are focusing on the end rather than the means. Your mechanism will find a way to work if you are supplying your goals.
- Making mistakes feeds your autocorrect. This is a positive reaction that helps you redirect towards your goal.
- Forget your past errors and move on. You should be focusing on the final successful choice that will lead you towards your goal.
- Trust the process without worrying about having to adjust it. Let your mechanisms work rather than making them work.
The Importance Of Imagination
Our reactions to our environment are generally automatic and without thought. Therefore, we react based on our internal systems. Hence, the most important thing is what you believe to be true. These beliefs are what create the reaction. A wide variety of studies have found that mental practice can improve performance. Therefore, you must practice correcting your mental image of a specific action. Making changes to what you believe is far easier than just trying harder. Instead of excessive effort, you can relax and enjoy the process.
Maltz encourages you to alter your self-image to improve your outcomes. Merely seeing yourself differently will help you to act differently and improve your life. Therefore, avoid being too harsh on yourself and maintain a conservative optimistic attitude. It is easy to develop a feeling of inferiority when we have measured ourselves against someone else’s expectations. Instead, you should believe in whom you know you are and who you can be.
Relaxation is crucial when seeking to alter one’s self-image. Maltz outlines that your imagination is key in encouraging relaxation. For example, he suggests that you get comfortable and consciously relax each muscle group in your body. Then, practice positive and calming mental images over and over. Over time, these mental images will align with your physical feelings.
Using Rational Thinking And Relaxation
”Scientific experiments have shown that it is absolutely impossible to feel fear, anger, anxiety, or negative emotions of any kind while the muscles of the body are kept perfectly relaxed.” – Maxwell Maltz
Rational thinking is an effective tool for changing your beliefs and behaviors. For example, rationality allows you to realize that negative unconscious thoughts do not always have to be resurfaced to move on. Instead, it is more rational to only focus on the mistakes that will help orient you towards your goals. Even these mistakes should be forgotten once you have practiced obtaining your goals.
Maltz suggests that personal success can be created by purging all negative memories. When you start feeling negative, you should look for the cause of this negativity. More often than not, this negativity will be irrational. Therefore, use rational thinking to show the absurdity of your negativity. You should repeat this practice whenever negative thoughts or memories surface. In this space, encourage rational and positive beliefs.
Maltz provides four questions you could ask yourself to evaluate whether a belief should remain:
- Is there any rational reason for such a belief?
- Could it be that I am mistaken in this belief?
- Would I come to the same conclusion about some other person in a similar situation?
- Why should I continue to act and feel as if this were true if there is no good reason to believe it?
You should be angry about these negative beliefs. These beliefs are the main thing standing between you and success. Therefore, allow this anger to surface and use it as motivation to create new beliefs. In addition to this anger, you should also accompany your rational thoughts with feelings and desires. Try to get excited about your desires. If you can make this transition, you will be dwelling on positive and desirable goals rather than negative ones.
Maltz highlights that rational thoughts are essential when you are establishing your goals and dismissing negative self-images. However, you should not let rational thoughts dictate your entire life. If you continuously focus on rationality, then you will be anxious and stressed. Therefore, once you have set up rational goals, you need to just let go and allow success to come to you. This act of letting go is what encourages the spontaneity and creativity fundamental to success. Part of letting go includes avoiding multitasking. Multitasking takes your focus away from the moment and increases worry and stress.
Happy Habits Breed Success
“Happiness is not something that is earned or deserved. Happiness is not a moral issue, any more than the circulation of the blood is a moral issue…Happiness is simply a “state of mind in which our thinking is pleasant a good share of the time.” If you wait until you “deserve” to think pleasant thoughts, you are likely to think unpleasant thoughts concerning your own unworthiness.” – Maxwell Maltz
Happiness is natural and only leads to positive behaviors: unselfishness, creativity, and helpfulness. However, happiness must be practiced and learned. Maltz describes learning to be happy as being free from the habit of responding negatively to the external things in our environment. Plus, being happy involves separating facts from opinions. Finally, working towards your goals is another action that encourages happiness. As your thoughts about events lead to happiness, you should aim to see negative experiences en route to a goal as challenges rather than setbacks.
Maltz provides a reminder for readers that they can use to identify what success looks like:
- Sense of direction – Maintaining your personal focus and goals.
- Understanding – Being able to separate fact from fiction, including accepting your errors and correcting them.
- Courage – Having the courage to act on your goals and beliefs to make them a reality.
- Charity – Start by treating others with even more kindness than you currently do. If you treat others with more kindness, then you will start treating yourself with more kindness.
- Esteem – Have a healthy picture of who you are. If you can appreciate your own strengths, then you will be able to appreciate other people.
- Self-confidence – Your self-confidence will grow as you gain more successful experiences. Also, you can maximize your self-confidence by remembering your past successes and forgetting your failures.
- Self-acceptance – Accept yourself for who you are. Remember that creating a better self-image does not create new abilities, talents, or powers.
Avoid Emotional Scars
“Forgiveness, when it is real and genuine and complete, and forgotten – is the scalpel which can remove the pus from old emotional wounds, heal them, and eliminate scar tissue.” – Maxwell Maltz
Individuals with weak self-image are more likely to become emotionally damaged during challenging experiences. This is because your response to experiences is what leaves you with emotional scars. Therefore, Maltz suggests practicing relaxation as a way of preventing emotional scars from forming.
As well as preventing emotional scars, Maltz provides guidance on how to remove emotional scars that have already formed. Specifically, he describes forgiveness as a scalpel to remove emotional wounds. You can start forgiving others and yourself once you realize that unforgiveness only leaves you with a debt of emotion. You should never leave space for hatred or condemnation. Forgiving yourself involves accepting that you have made mistakes. Plus, understanding that blaming yourself achieves nothing. You are the one who makes mistakes, rather than mistakes making you. Subsequently, Maltz explains that you make mistakes; you are not a failure.
Inhibition will leave you worried about what other people think of your mistakes. Self-consciousness (monitoring what you do because of how others might see you) can lead to inhibition. Again, the best approach to tackle self-consciousness is to engage with relaxation techniques. Maltz suggests remembering a time and place when you felt comfortable and supported. Your self-consciousness will begin to fade once you have recreated the feelings you felt at that time. Then, you can start practicing disinhibition by being less careful and concerned about what other people think.
Remove Bad Conditioning
Most of your responses to the environment will be conditioned. They are reactions you have learned and complete automatically. Some conditioned responses will have a negative effect on your life. However, you can unlearn conditioned responses. Maltz suggests that you start by delaying your response to a stimulus. This period of non-responding is a form of relaxation and will encourage positive feelings.
Find the Good in Everything
Crises are generally viewed as a universally negative event. However, Maltz defines a crisis as a situation that can make or break you. Suppose you learn to react appropriately to crises. In that case, you can obtain strength, power, and wisdom that you could not have otherwise obtained. To learn to turn a crisis into an opportunity, you need to start reacting to all challenges in the same way you would respond to a crisis. In effect, these reactions are your fire drills before the crisis that is a fire. Learning the actions without stress will allow you to naturally respond to a crisis despite being under greater pressure.
Maltz suggests that readers learn to react actively to crises. Specifically, adopting a combined attitude of calmness, confidence, and competence.
“This means maintaining an aggressive, a goal-directed attitude, rather than a defensive, evasive, negative one: “No matter what happens, I can handle it, or I can see it through,” rather than, “I hope nothing happens.” – Maxwell Maltz
Small Successes Will Make Your Life Better
“I believe that there is ONE LIFE, one ultimate source, but that this ONE LIFE has many channels of expression and manifests itself in many forms. If we are to “Get More Living out of Life,” we should not limit the channels through which life may come to us. We must accept it, whether it comes in the form of science, religion, psychology, or what not.” – Maxwell Maltz
Over time, adopting a failure mechanism will have a significant impact on your life. You will have poor health and wellbeing. Additionally, you will heal slower than people who have a positive mindset. This is something that Dr. Maltz observed in his patients.
Maltz provides seven needs that you should aim to fulfill to better your wellbeing:
- Creative Expression
- New Experiences
- Positivity about the future
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