In the nineteenth century two scientists called Vogt and Brodmann of the Berlin Neuro-Biological Institute discovered that some of their patients were able to put themselves into semi-hypnotic states. They also discovered that this condition had a positive, healing effect. Patients who were able to calm and relax themselves were far less likely to need medical attention than patients who were continually feeling harassed and anxious.
In the 1930s a German psychiatrist rediscovered the work of Vogt and Brodmann. Impressed by it he decided to investigate the therapeutic possibilities of this type of self-hypnosis.
Eventually he called the approach ‘autogenics’ and it became known as ‘autogenic training’.
Autogenic training is a treatment programme designed to help patients who are suffering from symptoms produced by over-exposure to stress. Patients usually select themselves for autogenic training and there is no formal diagnostic regime associated with the technique.
Described by some observers as a Western version of yoga and transcendental meditation, autogenic training consists of six basic exercises. The patient repeats to himself the phrase which makes up each exercise until he is experiencing the suggested effect. Then he goes on to the next exercise.
The six phrases used by autogenic practitioners are (with some slight variations):
1. My arms and legs are heavy...
2. My arms and legs are warm...
3. My heart is calm and regular...
4. My breathing is calm and regular...
5. My abdomen is warm...
6. My forehead is cool...
I know of no specific dangers associated with autogenic training.
Autogenic training is no better, and probably no worse, than any other form of relaxation therapy. I believe that the useful effects that are undoubtedly associated with its use are due not to the ‘magic’ of the incantations or to the skills of the practitioner involved but to the body’s innate capacity for self-healing. In my view it is the patient’s own healing strengths which are responsible for any success associated with the remedy.