Summary Written by Dennis Swennen
“You can be happy now as well as every single day you are working toward achieving your goals.”

- Psycho-Cybernetics, page xii

The Big Idea

Why is self-image so important?

"The self-image is the key to human personality and human behavior. The self-image sets the boundaries of individual accomplishment. It defines what you can and cannot do. Expand the self-image and you expand the area of the possible."- Psycho-Cybernetics, page xix

The fundamental lesson of psycho-cybernetics is that you have a self-image and that you can change your self-image. At any age, you can learn the knowledge that negative feelings can make your image shrink dramatically.

Maltz found that his plastic surgery patients often had expectations that were not satisfied by the surgery. This concentration on inner attitudes was essential to his approach, as he discovered that a person’s outer success can never rise above the one visualized internally.

You can use your imagination either constructively or destructively. You are the product of your imagination. What you learned in childhood makes up your beliefs and you start to act accordingly.

The advice is to turn your back on the failures of the past and to concentrate on the confidence of yesterday and use that confidence today, in your present undertaking. A mistake doesn’t make a failure: focus on your accomplishments instead. The secret of reaching self-fulfillment and success as a human being is by remembering only this:it is the opinion and image of yourself that counts. If you think well of yourself, and have the confidence of the memory of an accomplishment, you will succeed.

For example, as an adult, we can easily pick up a pen, compared to a child that zigzags with trial and error until they learn to successfully pick up the pen. If you want to achieve a goal, you have to call upon your past successes. If you call up your past failures you fail, even before your start. It’s impossible to think positive with negative feelings. You have a “Success Mechanism” within you, a self-serving mechanism that will steer your mind to a productive goal—if you let it.

Insight #1

Give Yourself an Emotional Face-Lift

"The real curative agent was the removal of emotional scars, the security against social cuts, the healing of emotional hurts and injuries, and the restoration of a self-image as an acceptable member of society."- Psycho-Cybernetics, page 168

Our self-image may be flawed. Emotional scars lead to the development of a scarred and bruised self-image, and prevent us from creative living. Furthermore the person with emotional scars not only has the self-image of a disliked and incapable person, they also have a hostile relationship with the world, instead of one based on giving, accepting, and cooperating.

Maltz provides numerous ways to heal our scars, to immunize ourselves against emotional hurts and to improve our self-image in order to open ourselves to more life, more vitality and more success. Here are a few:

Be too big to feel threatened. We are hurt by those things we see as threats to our ego or self-esteem. The cure for self-centeredness, self-concern, and all the ills that go with it, is the development of a healthy, strong ego by building up self-esteem.

Forgiveness, when it is real and genuine – and forgotten – is the scalpel that removes the pus from emotional wounds, heals them and eliminates the scar tissue. Forgiveness is not difficult, as long as we are willing to give up the condemnation of another and ourselves.

And last, relax away emotional hurts. Scientific experiments have shown that it is absolutely impossible to feel fear, anger, or negative emotions while the muscles of the body are kept relaxed. “No man is hurt but by himself,” said Diogenes. You can remain relaxed and free of injury. More on this below.

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Insight #2

Victory by surrender

"It has been amply demonstrated that attempting to use effort or willpower to change beliefs or to cure bad habits has an adverse, rather than a beneficial, effect."- Psycho-Cybernetics, page 65

We cannot arrive at creative thoughts by making a conscious effort. We block ourselves with strain or by exerting mechanical willpower. Creative performance is spontaneous and natural, as opposed to self-conscious and studied. Athletes and top performers are at their best when completely in relaxed control of the situation. Stress only makes things go worse and makes us perform below average.

Instead, focus on the process. Give your subconscious mind a task and then leave it with the job. Don’t go and interfere with your “Creative Mechanism,” but let it work by itself. It’s important to visualize the desired end goal beforehand and let your Creative Mechanism work with it. Too often we try to solve problems with conscious striving, where we think “we” can solve the problem.

Do you know how to steer your body to pick up a pen or how to hold and use your smartphone? No, you just give instructions and let your body handle the rest, you don’t interfere with the process but let it emerge naturally. Our system has learned from previous trial and error and by using negative feedback until we found a way to handle things in a successful way. Relax and have faith in your own nature.

“The mere reading of words will not show you or give you the experience of truth.” – page xi

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Maxwell Maltz

Maxwell Maltz was an American cosmetic surgeon and author of Psycho-Cybernetics (1960), which was a system of ideas that he claimed could improve one’s self-image. In turn, the person would lead a more successful and fulfilling life. He wrote several books, among which Psycho-Cybernetics was a long-time bestseller — influencing many subsequent self-help teachers. His orientation towards a system of ideas that would provide self-help is considered the forerunner of the now popular self-help books.

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