Psycho Cybernetics By Maxwell Maltz: Book Review

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Best for:

Those who can weed through woo-woo and religious ideas and want to learn about a framework for self-esteem and how it affects outcomes.

Difficulty to digest:

This book is moderately-easy to digest. The difficulty comes from the use of uncommon terms which are not linked to concrete science or facts. While a few of these run throughout the book, you don’t need to be completely bought into them to understand the useful components.

Key Insights:

Psycho-cybernetics is full of information about how our self-image and beliefs dictate the way we act and interact with the world. Throughout the book, Maltz covers many different ideas on how to improve your self-image, as well as the benefits of doing so. 

Beliefs Rule Our Lives

Maltz starts with an explanation of how as a plastic surgeon he saw people change or not change based primarily on their beliefs – not their physical appearance. He inferred we act according to our internal beliefs, that’s why hypnosis works. He then goes on to explain we don’t have to be hypnotized professionally to be hypnotized. Many of us believe we’re inferior because we compare to others or pretend ideals.

He says we can program our beliefs through synthetic experience like visualization. He then moves into the power of using visualizations. By sitting and imagining who you want to be, you can create new ‘memories’ of yourself. He says you can also practice skills through mental repetitions, without engaging in the actual act.

Rationality Can Build Belief

He then talks about using rational thought to improve our belief in ourselves. Asking questions about beliefs like is this rational and would I treat a friend this way? We can question thoughts that leave us weak and replace them with empowering thoughts.

Don’t Try Too Hard

Maltz argues we can solve problems through relaxation like naps or deep breathing. Too much conscious effort doesn’t always work. When we focus on one thing at a time we have a much better change of getting it done, but it can also overwhelm us. There are benefits in mindfulness and focusing only on what you can control. He uses the example of a roulette wheel. There you can control the bet, not the outcome. Once the wheel starts, there’s nothing you can do besides stress yourself out.

There’s a chapter on releasing inhibition by reducing self consciousness and acting more impulsively. This is dependent on your baseline but the book states most people should act more impulsively. Worrying about how others will perceive you causes most people to participate in unnatural actions, which can often cause the very thing they’re afraid of. Maltz recommends talking louder and finding ways to turn off self-criticism.

You Always Choose To Respond

One chapter is about our ability to not respond. He gives the example of a ringing phone. The phone is a stimulus we can answer or choose not to respond. We can use that phone example to extend to other stimuli – responding is always our choice. Maltz advises we build a safe space in our minds to relax and not let anything bother us. Imagine it as a foxhole or a home base. We can then use this home base to ignore things as we see fit. 

The book also discusses a framework for success – goal setting, realistic reflection, compassion toward others, and self-esteem. He emphasizes focusing on successes, while learning from mistakes. It ends by saying we get as much life as we need for our goals. You can make an old man young and a young man old by the level of activity and drive they have.

There is quite a bit of information and various frameworks in this book. The heaviest theme, however, is improving your self esteem so that you can become happier and more effective. The more you believe in yourself the better outcomes you’ll have, by default. Beyond that, there are many techniques you can use to improve your self-esteem and Maltz covers many of them.

Other considerations:

Psycho cybernetics has principles that can be applied to a wide variety of individuals, but some of the writing invokes Christian underpinnings. If you can get around that, a lot of the arguments and ideas stand alone as useful advice

As with many books in this genre there are references to some ideas which are woo-woo. Take the information with a grain of salt, as it may not all be accurate. Be especially wary of concepts that don’t intuitively make sense or those that don’t come with a clear explanation. As always, if you’re skeptical, do further research!

Applicable Content:

This book talks heavily about creating a positive and empowered self-image. What activities do you participate in which make you feel more powerful? How can you leverage those events to create more positivity in your life as a whole?

Visualization and relaxation are seen here as key creators of self-esteem and happiness. If you’d like to try these techniques, set yourself a timer for 5 minutes. During that time, close your eyes and either focus on your breathing or something you’d like to accomplish. See how that makes you feel!

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