The Teaching of Hazrat Inayat Khan
Vol. 11, Psychology
Vol. 11, Psychology
We hardly realize how much we depend in our everyday life upon suggestion, especially in forming our opinions of other people. Any praise or blame of a person that falls upon our ears soon appears to us as reality; and few there are in this world who reject this suggestion that comes to them from someone else though they are quite ignorant of the facts themselves. We may become quite prejudiced against someone whom we have never seen, never known, merely because of what another person has said. And the interesting part of it is that we are doubtful of praise, but credulous as to blame; the reason for this is that our experience makes us pessimistic.
All the wickedness and evil that we meet with in life impresses us and in time makes us feel that if anything exists it is wickedness, it is evil, and when we hear good of anyone we begin to doubt; we think that it is perhaps a mistake on the part of the person who tells us, that perhaps he is ignorant of the facts, or that we should wait till we know more about the man who is so good. But as to blame, we do not try to wait for the time when we can meet the man and get to know him and see where the blame lies; we believe it immediately.
When we consider the psychology of the crowd, we see how often great people who have really worked for their fellow-men, in whatever capacity, fall into disfavor when once people begin to speak against them! And at this time when our life in the world is very automatic and we all depend upon what the newspapers say, we collectively change our opinion of people, day after day. We neither know the cause of their being praised, nor do we know much about why they are blamed.
When people begin to realize what suggestion means, many react wrongly against it. For instance they think that to say to oneself, "I am well," is suggestion, and they wonder whether it is not wrong. But they do not know that from morning till evening we are impressed by suggestions coming to us automatically in different forms. The importance does not lie in receiving suggestions or in rejecting suggestions; it lies in understanding what will benefit us and what will be detrimental. Suggestions about haunted houses make people afraid or ill; because of such a suggestion they believe that the house is haunted, and that in itself is enough to make them feel ill.
Suggestions about difficulties we have to meet will produce difficulties. Suggestions made by people who say, "This person likes you," "That person dislikes you," all these things act so much upon a man that very often he becomes convinced of something before he even begins to try and find out the truth about it. Among a hundred people we will hardly find one who wishes to find out the truth before he accepts any suggestion; very often he does not even trouble about it. To believe in something as soon as another has said it, and to form an opinion immediately is the easier way: it saves him from troubling any more about it. That is why we readily accept a suggestion; and so our whole life is full of suggestions. It is hard on the person about whom we form an opinion just by hearing something against him. In any of the different capacities, whether he be our relation, our friend, our servant, or our superior, in any such case it proves to be unjust. And it does not end there. When once a person has heard something against someone else and has formed an opinion about it, his opinion acts upon that person and makes him what the other thought him to be.
In this way many do not develop in themselves a sense of justice, a capacity for understanding rightly, because they are dependent upon what others say. And when a man is in a high position where he has to do with many people and his opinion counts, his opinion changes the condition of their lives; when that man lightly forms an opinion only from hearing about someone, many people under him suffer. This often happens with people in high positions. When they have neither time nor inclination to take the trouble to find out about others who are dependent on them or who work under them, and when they change their opinion just because another person has said something, it becomes very difficult. Often most devoted and faithful friends have broken their friendship because of this weakness of accepting a suggestion from another. Between relations and friends it happens frequently that there comes a break without reason.
The best way to react against suggestion is to try and find out the facts. But very often what a person does is to try and find out the facts in the light of that suggestion. It is just like the story of Othello, who when he begins to enquire about Desdemona interprets everything in the same light as it was suggested to him.
According to metaphysics one way of removing the effect of suggestion from the mind is by concentration. There are two things one can accomplish by concentration: one is to establish a thought in one's mind, and the other is to remove a thought from one's mind. Concentration helps one to accomplish both these things, and then one is able to remove any thought one wishes from one's mind, and to implant a thought which one wishes to keep in one's mind.
But besides this, from a moral point of view one should close one's ears and eyes to all that is disagreeable, inharmonious, and ugly, to all that sets one against another, and one should not take notice of it. There is much beauty to be observed in our lives, if we can only turn our eyes away from all ugliness, from all that is undesirable, and fix our eyes on all that is beautiful and agreeable. For if we want to feel hurt and insulted and troubled, there is not one thing only, there are a thousand things that trouble us, and the only way of getting over them is not to notice them.
Some people always seem to prefer the opposite to a given suggestion. That is another weakness. It not only shows that they do not trust another person, but that they do not trust themselves either. The natural or normal state of mind is to have mastery over things, over conditions, and if a suggestion comes from another person, to think about it. By thinking about it we do not need to believe it, but we need not act against it. For all things are a suggestion, whether they be good or bad. It is not that suggestions are always wrong; suggestions are often very good; but when a person is always against any suggestion, he will reject all that is good because he is afraid.
There are many people in this world who will defend themselves before they are attacked; no one has any intention of attacking them but they are already on the defensive. There are people who before anyone has insulted them are on the warpath; even before anyone insults them they imagine that someone had that intention. These are wrong tendencies of the mind, and they should be fought against in order to keep the mind clear. To clear the path of life, the mentality must be kept clear.
To keep a harmful suggestion out of one's mind means a struggle, but if a person does not know how to struggle he will continue the same suggestion by this very struggle. For instance a person who is struggling against his illness and is saying to himself, "I am not ill. I am not ill," since both the words not and ill are there, he continues both. Or a person who is in poverty and who says, "I am not poor," the poor is there besides the not, and his poverty will stay with him. While he is struggling against it he keeps it all the time before his mind; although he does not want it, yet it is there. It is in his own consciousness and he cannot get rid of it. One should act wisely in regard to suggestion.
The nature of the mind is such that the first suggestion makes a deep impression, and the following suggestion can only make little impression. Therefore, if once a person is impressed by a wrong thing and has formed a wrong opinion it is most difficult to change it. Besides there are people who sit upon their opinions. They do not hold an opinion, the opinion holds them, and once they have formed an opinion nothing can change it, for it is a dead opinion, just like a rock. Where the rock is placed, the rock lies; it is not a living being that walks and moves.
Humanity suffers greatly by this weakness which persists in the human race; and as there is a lack of psychological knowledge in the world it spreads and goes on more and more every day. In ancient times humanity suffered because it had to depend upon the opinion of one man, but now humanity suffers because it has to depend upon the opinions of ever so many people, working automatically all the time. During the last years how many personalities came out to shine before the world, how many became popular for some time, and how many fell into disfavor! The reason is that the crowd works automatically and does not know the reality. What it knows is what it is told. If through the newspapers or in any other way an opinion is formed, it becomes the opinion of the mob. And often it is not right; seldom can it be true. For the betterment of humanity people should be taught to understand from. childhood what the automatic working of mind is, and what a difference there is between it and the working of mind with will.
Can one overcome everything by suggestion? It can be done; but it cannot be said. There are many very great things that can be accomplished; but when one wants to speak about them, it is too difficult. Not only will others not believe it, but a man will not be able to believe it himself if he begins to speak about it. If they were left unsaid, greater things could be done than one's imagination can conceive.