PSYCHOTHERAPY SCIENTIFIC AND RELIGIOUS

A Broad Perspective on Mental Healing

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382          PSYCHOTHERAPY : SCIENTIFIC AND RELIGIOUS chap.
regarded merely as autosuggestion, it is probable that prayer must always be more effective than autosuggestion deliberately and self-consciously carried out. For precisely that element which was seen to be most essential and most difficult to attain in reflective autosuggestion the abandonment of voluntary effort is provided naturally by the mental attitude of prayer. We may take as an example of this, the familiar experience which is heard again and again in the testimony of religious converts who say, ' I struggled against such and such sin, but its power over me only grew greater. Then, I realized that I could not conquer in my own strength and I gave up struggling and left it in the hands of the Lord, and the burden of my sin rolled away/
Without prejudice to the religious explanation of the convert, may we not see in this a working of psychological mechanisms ? First, there is the spontaneous autosuggestion that he will fall into his habitual sin, which, by the law of reversed effort, becomes strengthened by a voluntary struggle against it. Then in prayer he saturates his mind with the thought of the desired improvement, while his trust in an omnipotent God Whose grace can save him from sin, makes possible that abandonment of voluntary effort which was impossible in his preliminary period of struggle. So unconsciously he has produced in himself the conditions for effective reflective autosuggestion, and he finds himself freed without effort from a sin against which his efforts were unavailing. Thus, religious faith provides in perfection the conditions for the subjective working of prayer to become effective as autosuggestion ; conditions, let it be noted, which cannot be reproduced by using the form of prayer without the faith. By a kind of transference, the soul in prayer ' casts all its care \ the burden of its anxiety or guilt or shame ' upon Him Who careth for it' ; the inner