Psycho-Cybernetics Summary

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Author: Maxwell Maltz

A book about the concept of Self-Image and techniques such as visualization, mental rehearsal, relaxation to improve it.

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Why read this

5 key take-aways


Your self-image sets the limit of your possible achievements.

Self image = mental blueprint or How you view yourself.

Self image is made from beliefs which themselves are unconsciously formed from past experience,achievements, failures, childhood experiences.

We don’t questions the validity of these beliefs often.

Two points about self-image

1. Consistency Principle

You act to be consistent with your beliefs(Self-Image)

The important point is that you cannot act otherwise despite all your efforts or willpower.

The man who conceives himself a failure type will find some way to fail, in spite of all good intentions or willpower, even if the opportunity is dumped in his lap.

Self-Image sets a cycle of self fulfilling prophecy as you will always pick your experiences and validates your beliefs.

2. Self-Image can be changed.

Positive thinking is concerned with external situation such as “I will get the Promotion” but not with the “Self”.

“Self” as a core is not touched by Positive thinking.

Personality = System of ideas that much be consistent with each other. The ego ideal(Self image) is the base upon which other ideas/beliefs are built.

Prescott Lecky created a theory that we reject ideas inconsistent with the self-image.

Example: Lecky being a teacher tested his theory on students who had an inadequate self-image based on beliefs such as (“I don’t have a mathematical mind”).

Improving self-image improved their performance.

Imaginary ugliness is the result of poor self-image.

Self image must be

  1. Adequate
  2. Realistic

You must find your self acceptable to “you”.

When self-image is intact, you feel good. When self-image is threatened, you feel anxious and insecure.

Man has one mind not two. This mind can be summed as Brain+Nervous system which act similarly to any servo-mechanism.

Creative mechanism is impersonal. It works on the input and provides output depending on the type of input(Failure, Success).

Creative mechanism seeks goal set by mental images.

Input(Thoughts, belief, interpretations-> Creative Mechanism -> Output.

2. Success Mechanism

Man needs more than just survival goal.(Emotional, Spiritual needs)

Animals have instinct whereas man has more than instincts.

Man, on the other hand, has something other animals don’t. Creative Imagination. Thus, man of all creatures is more than a creature, he is also a creator.

How success mechanism works

Brain + Central Nervous System = Goal striving mechanism

Practical: A new mental picture

Your creative mechanism must have a goal or “target”. The goal must be concieved as “already in existence-now” either in actual or potential form. It operates by either 1) steering you to a goal already in existence or 2) “discovering” something already in existence.

  1. The creative mechanism must be oriented to “end result” goals. Don’t worry about “how”. Creative mechanism supplies the “means” according to the goal.

  2. Don’t be afriad of making mistakes, or of temporary failure. All servo-mechanism achieve a goal by negative feedback. They correct course based on the feedback.

  3. Skill learning is accomplished through trial and error, mentally correcting an aim after an error, until a “successful” motion, movement, or perfomance has been achieved. After that, further learning is accomplished by forgetting the error and remembering the successful response, so that it can be imitated.

  4. Don’t be too concerned, anxious whether it will work or not. Learn to trust your creative mechanism.

You must “let it work” rather than make it work. Creative mechanism works below the level of consciousness and works spontaneously according to present needs.

Ch3: Creative imagination

We act, or fail to act, not because of “will”, as to commonly believed, but because of imagination.

Doubt: Your nervous system cannot tell the difference between real and imaginary. Your nervous system reacts appropriately to what you think or imagine to be true.

Emotions are result of the thoughts. The thought is the true causative agent.

Outside world -> nerve impulse from sense organs -> (decode, interpret, > evaluate) in brain -> your response or reaction.

You act, and feel, not according to what things are really like, but according to the image your mind holds of what they are like. You have mental images of yourself, world, people and you act as though these images were truth.

unrealistic ideas or mental images leads to unrealistic reaction to our environment.

The real secret of mental picturing

Imagine things in your mind before doing them. Then creative mechanism does the job much better than you could do it by conscious effort or “willpower”.

Know truth about yourself

Most of us undersell ourselves.

How can you know the truth about yourself?

Psychology must turn to religious scriptures. If we believe that God created man, we can draw conclusion that God cannot create inferior product.

Note: This is a very weak argument based on an assumed premise("Religious scripture contain truth about man so it must be true").

Mental Practice:

Practice for 30 minutes.

  1. Relax yourself using some kind of meditation.

  2. Visualize yourself as the sort of person you want to be. See yourself acting, feeling,“being”, as you want to be. Imagine how you would feel if you were already that sort of person.

Example. If you are anxious, imagine yourself acting calmly and deliberately.

This builds new memories in the mid-brain.

Tips: If your mind wanders, do progressive muscle relaxation first. If you can’t imagine the goal, think of past success and replay the experience. Then, go to the future and picture how you want to be with the same feeling you felt in the past. Add emotion to what you are seeing in your mind’s eye

Practice everyday.

Ch4: dehypnotize from false beliefs

  • negative beliefs can be self-limiting.
  • Most people have hypnotized themselves by accepting ideas without much critical thinking.

Inferiority complex results not from facts or experiences but conclusion regarding facts.

It is not knowledge of actual inferiority in skill or knowledge that gives us an inferiority complex and interferes with our living. It is the feeling of inferiority that does this.

This feeling comes where we judge ourselves by other individual’s norms. We would always come out “second best”. As a result, we feel miserable and conclude that something is wrong with us.

False belief: I should be like everybody else.
Correct belief: Everyone is an individual. There are not fixed standards.

Feeling of inferiority leads to superiority complex as the person decides that the only way to feel good is to make himself as good as everybody else. This leads to neurosis where none existed.

How to use relaxation to dehypnotise yourself

Law of reverse effort: When the will and imagination are in conflict, the imagination invariably wins the day.

Dr Knight dunlap, a Psychologist who studied habits concluded that effort is deterrent to either breaking a bad habit or learning a new one.

Making an effort to refrain from the habit actually reinforced the habit. The best way to form a habit is to form a clear mental image of the desired result and to practice without effort reach the goal.

Physical relaxation bring mental relaxation and a relaxed attitude that enables us to better consciously control our automatic mechanism. It also influences in dehypnotizing us from negative attitude and reaction patterns.

Practice: How to use Mental Pictures to Relax

PRACTICE EXERCISE: (Practice for ~ 30 minutes daily) Seat yourself comfortably in an easy chair or lie down on your back. Consciously “let go” the various muscle groups as much as possible without making too much of an effort of it. Just consciously pay attention to the various parts of your body and let go a little. You will find that you can always voluntarily relax to a certain degree. You can stop frowning and let your forehead relax. You can ease up a little on the tension in your jaws. You can let your hands, your arms, your shoulders, legs, become a little more relaxed than they are. Spend about five minutes on this and then stop paying any attention to your muscles. This is as far as you are going to try to go by conscious control. From here on you will relax more and more by using your creative mechanism to automatically bring about a relaxed condition. In short, you are going to use “goal pictures,” held in imagination and let your automatic mechanism realize those goals for you.

Mental Picture No. 1

In your mind’s eye see yourself lying stretched out upon the bed. Form a picture of your legs as they would look if made of concrete. See yourself lying there with two very heavy concrete legs. See these very heavy concrete legs sulking far down into the mattress from their sheer weight. Now picture your arms and hands as made of concrete. They also are very heavy and are sinking down into the bed and exerting tremendous pressure against the bed. In your mind’s eye see a friend come into the room and attempt to lift your heavy concrete legs. He takes hold of your feet and attempts to lift them. But they are too heavy for him. He cannot do it Repeat with arms, neck, etc.

Mental Picture No. 2

Your body is a big marionette doll. Your hands are tied loosely to your wrists by strings. Your forearm is connected loosely by a string to your upper arm. Your upper arm is connected very loosely by a string to your shoulder. Your feet, calves, thighs, are also connected together with a single string. Your neck consists of one very limp string. The strings which control your jaw and hold your lips together have slackened and stretched to such an extent that your chin has dropped down loosely against your chest. All the various strings which connect the various parts of your body are loose and limp and your body is just sprawled loosely across the bed.

Mental Picture No. 3

Your body consists of a series of inflated rubber balloons. Two valves open in your feet, and the air begins to escape from your legs. Your legs begin to collapse and continue until they consist only of deflated rubber tubes, lying flat against the bed. Next a valve is opened in your chest and as the air begins to escape, your entire trunk begins to collapse limply against the bed. Continue with arms, head, and neck.

Mental Picture No. 4

Many people will find this the most relaxing of all. Just go back in memory to some relaxing and pleasant scene from your past. There is always some time in everyone’s life when he felt relaxed, at ease, and at peace with the world. Pick out your own relaxing picture from your past and call up detailed memory images. Yours may be a peaceful scene at a mountain lake where you went fishing.

If so, pay particular attention to the little incidental things in the environment. Remember the quiet ripples on the water. What sounds were present? Did you hear the quiet rustling of the leaves? Maybe you remember sitting perfectly relaxed, and somewhat drowsy before an open fireplace long ago. Did the logs crackle and spark? What other sights and sounds were present? Maybe you choose to remember relaxing in the sun on a beach. How did the sand feel against your body? Could you feel the warm relaxing sun, touching your body, almost as a physical thing? Was there a breeze blowing? Were there gulls on the beach? The more of these incidental details you can remember and picture to yourself, the more successful you will be. Daily practice will bring these mental pictures, or memories, clearer and clearer. The effect of learning will also be cumulative. Practice will strengthen the tie-in between mental image and physical sensation. You will become more and more proficient in relaxation, and this in itself will be “remembered” in future practice sessions.

How to utilize rational thinking

Fallacy: Rational has no control over unconscious process and that to change negative beliefs, feelings or behavior, it is necessary to dig material from unconscious.

Automatic mechanism is impersonal. It tries to react appropriately to your current beliefs and interpretations concerning environment. It works only on data that you feed it in the form of ideas, beliefs,interpretations, opinions.

Conscious thought is the control knob of the unconscious thought.

Regardless of past, a person has to start in present to acquire maturity so that the future may be better than the past. The present and future depend on learning new habits and new ways of looking at the old problems. There is no future in digging continually into the past. The underlying emotional problem is that the patient has forgotten how or probably never learned how to control his present thinking to produce enjoyment.

We will always have memories of past errors,failures, painful experiences as we learn by trail and error until successful response is accomplished. Thus, these negative experiences contribute to the learning process as long as they are used as “negative feedback data” and are seen as deviation from the positive goal as desired.

As soon as the goal is accomplished, the errors should be consciously forgotten and the successful attempt should be remembered.

If you continuously dwell on the error, then error or failure itself becomes the “goal” that is consciously held in imagination and memory.

Memories from past failures can affect present performance.

I failed yesterday so I will again today is irrational pattern.(same as CBT)

You are victimized only by the conscious thinking mind which has the power to draw conclusions not the unconscious mind.

Two lever of changing belief (Lecky)

  1. Feeling or belief that one is capable of doing his share, holding his end of the log, exerting a certain amount of independence.
  2. The belief that there is “something” inside you which should not be allowed to suffer indignities.

Examine your beliefs

Belief is the base of your feelings.

Whenever you have a I can't situation. Ask the following questions.

  1. Is there any rational reason for such a belief?
  2. Could it be that I am mistaken in this belief?
  3. Would i come to the same conclusion about some other people in a similar situation?
  4. Why should i continue to act and feel as if this were true if there were no good reason to believe it?

Arouse emotion like indignation or anger when you find an irrational belief.

The power of deep desire.

Rational thought needs to be accompanied with deep feeling and desire.

Exercise: Picture yourself what you would like to be, and assume for the moment that such things might be possible. Arouse a desire for these things. Become enthusiastic about them. Dwell on them and keep going over them in your mind.

This repetition makes the result more real to you and will generate appropriate positive emotions after a time.

Automatic mechanism works on the data. It will result in a failure if you continually hold negative attitude and habitually picture failing in your imagination.

It is the duty of your conscious mind to pass facts, truth, to form correct evaluations, estimations and opinions.

Optimistic autosuggestion(Emile Coue) :Always think of what you will have to do as easy and it will become so.


  • Don’t blindly accept people’s remarks about your appearance and feel inferior. Think rationally and accept facts only.
  • Never conclude I can't in advance without an evidence.

Decide what you want, select goals you wish to achieve and concentrate on these rather than what you don’t want.

Note: For example, if you want to reduce internet surfing. Think about what you want to do(reading) in that time instead of what you dont want(Internet surfing).

It is the job of your conscious mind to pay strict attention to the task at hand, to what you are doing and what is going on around you so that these incoming sensory messages can keep your automatic mechanism currently advised of the environment and allow it to respond spontaneously. In baseball parlance you must “keep your eye on the ball.” It is not the job of your conscious rational mind, however, to create or to “do” the job at hand. We get into trouble when we either neglect to use conscious thinking in the way that it is meant to be used, or when we attempt to use it in a way that it was never meant to be used. We cannot squeeze creative thought out of the Creative Mechanism by making conscious effort. We cannot “do” the job to be done by making strained conscious efforts. And because we try and cannot, we become concerned, anxious, frustrated. The automatic mechanism is unconscious. We cannot see the wheels turning. We cannot know what is taking place beneath the surface.

In short, rational thought selects the goal, gathers information, concludes, evaluates, estimates and starts the wheel in motion. It is no responsible for results. We must learn to do our work, act on the best assumptions available and leave results to take care of themselves.(Similar to Krishna’s Philosophy in Bhagavad Gita)