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By Maxwell Maltz





First published in 1960, Psycho Cybernetics was written by Maxwell Maltz, a plastic surgeon and a psychologist. A loose translation of the term ‘cybernetics’ is “a helmsman who steers his ship to port” so the author explains that he coined the term ‘psycho-cybernetics’ to mean “steering your mind to a productive, useful goal so you can reach the greatest port in the world – peace of mind.”

In his work as a plastic surgeon, the author observed that even though surgery could change a patient’s physical appearance (mainly through the correction of deformities), the way the patient saw themselves often remained unchanged – there was no change in their life. In taking note of this, he began to realise that those who did change their lives after surgery did so because their idea of who they were also changed – they viewed themselves differently. This led to his research into self-image, another term he popularised, and to becoming the first to study and explain how an individual’s self-image has complete control over their ability to achieve (or fail to achieve) any goal.

As the front cover of this 2015 updated and expanded edition of the original book states, the contents will help the reader to tap into the power of their subconscious mind, allowing them to:

  • Improve their self-image

  • Learn to use their positive past

  • Set and achieve worthwhile goals

  • Develop compassion, self-respect, and forgiveness

  • Cultivate the power of rational thinking

  • And discover the key to a happier, more successful life.



My Top 3 Takes from the Summary

  • Your self-image is your golden key to a better life.

  • If your self-image is changed, so is your personality and behaviour. The self-image sets the boundaries for individual accomplishment. It defines what you can and cannot do.

  • The self-image is a premise, a base, or a foundation upon which your entire personality, your behaviour, and even your circumstances are built.



Tap Into the Power of Your Subconscious Mind

By taking a look at the main chapter titles, it’s possible to gain an overview of the book’s content and the insights shared by the author:

  1. The Self-Image: Your Key to a Better Life

  2. Discovering the Success Mechanism Within You

  3. Imagination: The First Key to Your Success Mechanism

  4. Dehypnotize Yourself from False Beliefs

  5. How to Utilize the Power of Rational Thinking

  6. Relax and Let Your Success Mechanism Work for You

  7. You Can Acquire the Habit of Happiness

  8. Ingredients of the “Success-Type” Personality and How to Acquire Them

  9. The Failure Mechanism: How to Make It Work for You Instead of Against You

  10. How to Remove Emotional Scars, or How to Give Yourself an Emotional Face-Lift

  11. How to Unlock Your Real Personality

  12. Do-It-Yourself Tranquilizers That Bring Peace of Mind

  13. How to Turn a Crisis into a Creative Opportunity

  14. How to Get That Winning Feeling

  15. More Years of Life and More Life in Your Years


As part of his research, Maxwell Maltz began to develop techniques designed to help improve and manage self-image. These included visualisation, mental rehearsal, and relaxation; techniques that have grown in popularity and are now commonly used by sports psychologists, self-help gurus, and performance coaches.

He writes: In order to understand self-image psychology, and use it in your own life, you need to know something of the mechanism it employs to accomplish its goal. There is an abundance of scientific evidence that shows that the human brain and nervous system operate purposefully in accordance with the known principles of cybernetics to accomplish goals of the individual. Insofar as function is concerned, the brain and nervous system constitute a marvellous and complex “goal-striving mechanism,” a sort of built-in automatic guidance system that works for you as a “success mechanism,” or against you as a “failure mechanism,” depending on how “YOU,” the operator, operate it and the goals you set for it.

The overarching message presented through the author’s research findings is that self-image is the key to our personality and behaviour, and if our self-image is changed, so is our personality and behaviour. He writes: The self-image sets the boundaries for individual accomplishment. It defines what you can and cannot do. Expand the self-image and you expand the “area of the possible.” The development of an adequate, realistic self-image will seem to imbue the individual with new capabilities, new talents, and literally turn failure into success.

Each chapter builds the reader’s understanding of how and why improved self-image leads to improvements in life, and exercises are provided to help bring about changes for the better. He writes: The self-image is changed, for better or worse, not by intellect alone, or by intellectual knowledge alone, but by “experiencing”… It is not the child who is taught about love but the child who has experienced love that grows into a healthy, happy, well-adjusted adult. Our present state of self-confidence and poise is the result of what we have experienced rather than what we have learned intellectually. This book has been designed not merely to be read but to be experienced. You can acquire information from reading a book. But to “experience” you must creatively respond to information. Acquiring information itself is passive. Experiencing is active. When you “experience,” something happens inside your nervous system and your midbrain… Tailor-made, prefabricated case histories have been kept intentionally to a minimum. Instead, you are asked to furnish your own “case histories” by exercising imagination and memory.



Defining Success


The author states that learning how to tap into the power of your unconscious mind holds the key to living a happier, more successful life, but he realises the importance of clarifying what he means by the words “success” and “successful” when they appear in the book. He explains that success is not about gathering prestige symbols, but about creative accomplishment. He encourages the reader to think in terms of attempting to become “successful” in life, rather than thinking in terms of trying to be a “success,”  pointing out that gathering symbols and badges of success will only lead to neuroticism, frustration, and unhappiness. Striving to be successful, on the other hand, is much more likely to lead to material success, and bring along with it satisfaction, fulfilment, and happiness. He writes: Creative striving for a goal that is important to you as a result of your own deep-felt needs, aspirations, and talents (and not the symbols which the “Joneses” expect you to display) brings happiness as well as success because you will be functioning as you were meant to function. Man is by nature a goal-striving being.





Self-image is described as a mental blueprint or picture of ourselves, and something we all carry around with us, whether we’re consciously aware of it or not. He writes: This self-image is our own conception of “the sort of person I am.” It has been built up from our own beliefs about ourselves. But most of these beliefs about ourselves have unconsciously been formed from our past experiences, our successes and failures, our humiliations, our triumphs, and the way other people have reacted to us, especially in early childhood. From all these we mentally construct a “self” (or a picture of a self). Once an idea or a belief about ourselves goes into this picture, it becomes “true,” as far as we personally are concerned. We do not question its validity, but proceed to act upon it just as if it were true.

To further explain his belief that improving self-image is a “golden key to living a better life,” he details two important discoveries:

  1. All your actions, feelings, behaviours – even your abilities – are always consistent with this self-image.

  2. The self-image can be changed.


What he means by this is that the way you think of yourself is the way you’ll act. So, if you think of yourself as someone who can’t do arithmetic, you’ll behave in a way that backs up your belief and you’ll be blinkered to any evidence that suggests your belief is untrue. He writes: In short, you will “act like” the sort of person you conceive yourself to be. The man who considers himself to be a “failure-type person” will find some way to fail, in spite of all his good intentions, or his willpower, even if opportunity is literally dumped in his lap. The self-image is a premise, a base, or a foundation upon which your entire personality, your behaviour, and even your circumstances are built. Because of this our experiences seem to verify, and thereby strengthen, our self-images and a vicious or beneficent cycle, as the case may be, is set up. For example, a schoolboy who sees himself as an “F”-type student, or one who is “dumb in mathematics,” will invariably find that his report card bears him out. He then has “proof.” Because of this objective “proof” it very seldom occurs to a person that their trouble lies in their self-image or their own evaluation of themselves.  

However, he goes on to point out that it’s never too late to set about changing your self-image, and through doing so, change your life. Change must come from more than positive thinking. Instead of thinking about what you want to accomplish, switch your focus to think about who you need to be to achieve what you want. For example, thinking, “I will get the job” is not enough on its own, your self-image must be one of you already having that job. Seeing yourself and believing in yourself as the right person for the job leads to acting like you’re the right person for the job. Until you believe in yourself as someone who can make it happen, it won’t happen.



Psycho-cybernetics was a new science at the time of this book’s first publication, but the author’s research findings and teachings have proved to be timeless, providing a tried and tested prescription for thinking and acting in a way that will bring about quantifiable results. His “success conditioning” may initially have been considered radical, but his ideas have since inspired many individuals from athletes to salespeople to ordinary people from all walks of life to change their self-image, break free from limiting beliefs, and thereby experience a more successful life.  

In the foreword written by Matt Furey, he states that psycho-cybernetics changed his life and this book can do the same for you, the reader. He writes: There are two kinds of self-help books; those you read and say, “What a great book,” and those you experience so profoundly your life is changed forever. When you truly experience a great self-help book, you can mark down the date you “accidentally” stumbled across it – or who referred you to it. You can also clearly determine the distinction between who you used to be, before you read the book, and who you are now. This is what will happen when you read Psycho Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz… As a result of people experiencing this book, readers in all walks of life have succeeded at higher levels than ever before. The self-help industry was itself changed, too. Today, virtually everything written and discussed about visualisation or mental imagery was directly influenced by Maxwell Maltz’s work and is deeply rooted in the principles of psycho-cybernetics.





Maxwell Maltz’s original text from 1960 has been added to with a new introduction and editorial commentary by Matt Furey, president of the Psycho-Cybernetics Foundation, making the book’s powerful message even more relevant to today’s reader.



Bio of the Author


Dr Maxwell Maltz (1899-1975) was an American cosmetic surgeon, author, and lecturer. His research into the psychological aspects of plastic surgery went on to inspire many subsequent self-help teachers, and his ideas are considered fundamental to the field of self-improvement.

Matt Furey is president of the Psycho-Cybernetics, a world titleholder in martial arts and wrestling, successful entrepreneur, and fitness author. He is committed to preserving and extending the legacy of Maxwell Maltz’s work.

Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz, 2015 updated and expanded edition, ISBN: 9-780-399-17613-5 is available to buy at Amazon.


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