Psycho-Cybernetics Summary (Timeless Wisdom, Improved)

An updated and improved version of Psycho-Cybernetics summary. Now, it’s 4,000+ words, more actionable, and includes a PDF (link at the end). It takes 13 minutes to read and 21 days to make the cybernetic mechanism a subconscious mental habit.

This summary squeezes out the best actionable insights from the book. Use it to quickly spot your self-esteem issues, remodel the self-image that’s holding you back in life, and activate your success mechanism.

Some people sleepwalk through their days, dreaming of a better life.

They never reach where they want to be. When they could have easily realized their full potential if they had only made one change in their self-perception. You might know someone like that.

This summary is designed to get anyone to start what Psycho Cybernetics suggests as soon as they finish reading it.

“Your self-image determines your self-worth.” — Maxwell Maltz, “Psycho-Cybernetics”

Short Summary of Psycho-Cybernetics

Psycho-Cybernetics is a self-help book written by Maxwell Maltz. It reveals how we can activate our intrinsic self-improvement and success-achievement mechanism to achieve our major life goals. Maltz shows how an adjustment to our self-image can help us overcome failures and live happier, richer lives.

In Psycho-Cybernetics: A New Way to Get More Living out of Life, the surgeon-turned-author Maxwell Maltz shares his groundbreaking work on how to leave your past failures behind and achieve seemingly unattainable goals.

His research found an automatic success mechanism, that he called “cybernetics.” His observations led him to the main idea behind Psycho-Cybernetics, that the human mind can be reprogrammed to help people get better at what they do.

Mind it, Maltz drew conclusions based on evidence and rational thought, not the nonsensical bluster of toxic positivity.

In his own words, Maltz wrote the book for “steering your mind to a productive, useful goal, so you can reach the greatest port in the world: peace of mind.”

How can psycho-cybernetics change your life?

Psycho-cybernetics is a mechanism of self-improvement and success-achievement based on changing one’s self-image. It teaches how to create a positive mindset and self-image, set major life goals, use self-discipline to defeat complacency and procrastination, and help people live a richer, happier life.

Ultimate Summary of Psycho-Cybernetics

Psycho Cybernetics is a self-help book that uses methods of mind control to achieve success. It was first published in1960, written by Maxwell Maltz, a plastic surgeon.

It is one of the best-selling self-help books of all time. The book has been translated into more than 25 languages and has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide.

Psycho-Cybernetics explains how success is not only achievable but also surprisingly simple. Let’s dive in to learn more.

What Is The Book “Psycho-Cybernetics” About?

Many regard Psycho-Cybernetics as the mother of all self-help books.

Maxwell Maltz was a successful cosmetic surgeon when he wrote it. It was the result of his research through the years of observing multitudes of patients.

Maltz explains how we may train our minds to think like goal-achieving machines by simply changing how we perceive ourselves. He suggests that once we upgrade our self-image, it will inevitably lead us to immense success in life.

Maltz coined the phrase “psycho-cybernetics” to assemble a set of ideas into a working mechanism to help us rethink our opinion of ourselves and achieve happiness with success. He tells us we can change our self-image to shape our destiny.

What Is The Basis of Psycho Cybernetics?

Maltz points out that in his cosmetic surgery practice, most clients came to him, not for work on their faces, but with the request to fix their personalities. That request by his patients became the basis of Psycho-Cybernetics.

Maltz’s book intelligently blends machine principles and self-image psychology. He shows how to leverage your unconscious mind to achieve goals and successes, even if you have a long history of failures.

Moreover, he helps you grasp and absorb the system, so you may surely make your life far more prosperous and meaningful than it is now.

Self-Image of A Failure: An Example

The elephant in the picture below sits sadly because he is unable to free himself. Note that the rope is tied to a tiny peg, and the elephant can easily pull it out. But it makes no attempt.

learned helplessness
Big elephant — Small peg. (Source: Psychology Spot)

When the elephant was being trained many years ago, that rope used to be tied to a large tree trunk. No matter how hard it tried, the jumbo could never uproot the tree and free itself.

Over the years, this self-limiting belief made a permanent home in his head. Now, even when the rope is tied to a small peg, the jumbo believes it cannot be pulled out with any amount of force.

It doesn’t even make an attempt to liberate itself. The jumbo has already learned that no matter how much effort it puts in, the results are not under its control.

Positive psychologist Martin Seligman labeled this tendency Learned Helplessness” after extensive research on dogs in the late1960s.

Seligman saw that after repeated failures, even when it has a chance to escape, the phenomenon of learned helplessness stops a caged dog from acting to protect itself.

Seligman’s idea was similar to Maltz’s.


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Maltz suggested that our self-limiting negative beliefs are at the root of our failures and disappointments.

How Psycho-Cybernetics Can Help You Succeed

Here are some things you can learn from Psycho-Cybernetics:

  • You’ll understand how your self-image and thinking patterns influence your success and failure.
  • You’ll learn how to improve your life by changing your beliefs, mindset, behavior, and habits.
  • You’ll find out how you may turn your losses and frustrations into successes and fulfillment.

Maxwell Maltz was a plastic surgeon. He reshaped (“redesigned”) people’s faces to enhance their looks.

He noticed that some people completely abandoned their previous personas and lifestyles after having plastic surgery on their faces. It was as though they had changed into entirely different people.

He suspected that these people had changed their personas for reasons other than their more attractive looks following surgery. He set out to find the answer.

Maltz found the human mind operates like a “servo-mechanism” or “cybernetics.” Once we set up a servo-mechanism with instructions, it works on its own to reach the end-point goal. And so, Psycho-Cybernetics was born.

His greatest finding was this:

We can apply the machinic cybernetic system to our brains and achieve anything we want.

We can make the mind act as an automatic goal-striving machine to manifest and establish success or failure, happiness or unhappiness.

He wrote:

“Servo-mechanisms are so constructed that they automatically “steer” their way to a goal, target, or “answer.” When we conceive of the human brain and nervous system as a form of servo-mechanism, operating with Cybernetic principles, we gain new insight into the why and wherefore of human behavior. I choose to call this new concept “Psycho-Cybernetics”: the principles of Cybernetics as applied to the human brain.”

How Psycho-Cybernetics Works

First, we feed the mind with certain beliefs and images. Then our mind, as a cybernetics system, intuitively instructs our body to carry out all the actions required to produce the exact result.

Whether our beliefs are positive or negative, wanted or unwanted, the system will assume responsibility, act on these, and take us to our goals.

Maltz realized that the human mind works much like an automated machine, and we can apply the cybernetics principles to turn it into a goal-achieving powerhouse.

The whole sequence works as follows:

Self-image ⇒ Psycho-Cybernetics ⇒ Success/Failure

  • Step 1: First, you have to realize what’s wrong. Start with the self-image you already have in your mind. Notice if your self-image is that of a failure who thinks like “I have failed so many times; how can I ever achieve anything?”
  • Step 2: Then, create a brand new, positive self-image. Feed your brain instructions that support this new image. Within weeks, it will start changing your body’s automatic actions and lead you on a path to your goals.

How To Create A Brand New Self-Image

Our experiences shape our self-images. Like that helpless jumbo elephant above.

We draw mental pictures of ourselves based on our experiences, particularly those from our childhoods. We may have forgotten many of those events, yet they all played a role in shaping our self-image.

So now, as grown-ups, those self-images unconsciously steer us to live the way we live our lives.

Our past guides our future behaviors, without our conscious realization. Those self-images push us towards success if we had many successes in the past, or failure if we have a long history of failures.

Maltz was one of the first authors to bring to public attention how our self-image has immense control over our ability to achieve our desired goals. Self-image is the mental picture we create of ourselves that we base on our strengths, weaknesses, performances, and successes.

Psycho-Cybernetics asks,

“Who do you see in the mental mirror?

Your self-image is a picture of the person you are to yourself, not how others see you or how you present yourself to others. Only when you see your true self in your mind’s mirror can you understand what needs to be redrawn for a self-image of happiness and success.

To see your self-image clearly, ask yourself these questions:

  • Who am I, really?
  • What type of person am I to myself?
  • What stories do I tell when asked who I am?

Those answers tell you who you see in the mirror — your self-image. This image holds all your beliefs based on your experiences, successes, and failures. We always carry around this mental picture of ourselves.

A self-image can be mostly positive, overtly negative, or anything in between; that is insignificant. More importantly, we must understand that we keep acting according to the image we create of ourselves.

To quote Maltz,

“The “self-image”, the individual’s mental and spiritual concept or “picture” of himself, was the real key to personality and behavior. Change the self-image and you change the personality and the behavior.”

Now, this explained what Maltz’s patients went through after reconstruction surgeries.

Those who took care to adjust their self-image following the procedures had changed their personalities. And those who did not, they stayed the same.

To really live, that is to find life reasonably satisfying, you must have an adequate and realistic self-image that you can live with. You must find your self acceptable to you.

— Maxwell Maltz

Maltz explains it with an example from his friend’s life. Dr. Alfred Adler, a time-honored psychiatrist, neurologist, and founder of the School of Individual Psychology, was poor at math in his school. Adler’s teacher believed he had no talent for the subject.

Adler accepted his teacher’s judgment of him as his self-image. He kept getting low grades in the subject. Over time, it filled him with a sense of inferiority complex and a belief that he can never be good at math.

One day, his teacher put up a complex equation on the board. Suddenly, Adler understood how he could solve it. And he solved it.

This incident gave him newfound self-assurance. It helped him break free from his cage and, eventually, modify his mental image of himself.

You may have made a mistake, but this does not mean you are a mistake. — Maxwell Maltz

My-Copy-Psycho-Cybernetics
Psycho-Cybernetics: Maxwell Maltz (Audible Audiobook)

Adler later worked on his most famous concept — inferiority complex — and argued how it plays a crucial role in shaping one’s personality.

Your self-image is a picture of the person you are to yourself. It holds all your beliefs based on your experiences, successes, and failures.

How Do You Practice Psycho Cybernetics?

How can you make your new self-image start attracting success?

Our self-image is the main target of our goal-striving machine. Whatever it is, the psycho-cybernetics system goes out of its way to shape our lives as accurately as that image. So, our actions, feelings, behavior, and even our limitations are always consistent with our self-image.

No matter how good or bad you made your self-image, your cybernetics, or the subconscious mind system always act upon it automatically.

The “self-image” sets the boundaries of individual accomplishment. It defines what you can and cannot do.

Now, if you have a negative self-image, it comes from the negative beliefs you hold about yourself. But notice this: your negative beliefs are not a result of your experiences. Your experiences are just events — they come with neither negativity nor positivity attached to them.

What makes them positive or negative is how you interpret them. It is the self-interpretation and self-talk that lead to the conclusions you draw from them. See below how it happens:

Experiences ⇒ Conclusions ⇒ Beliefs ⇒ Self-image

Now, often, we falsely remember things that are not facts and did not happen at all. Researchers found the brain frequently confabulates. It fabricates imaginary experiences as compensation for gaps in memory. These false memories then become our beliefs.

Now, the opposite is also true. By interpreting your experience in a positive light, you can have positive self-beliefs. This can lead you to have an overall positive attitude and ultimately build a positive mindset that stands strong even in hard times. You can do this by rethinking the entire experience rationally and logically.

So, we can change our self-image if we’d like to. Maltz assures us, “The self-image can be changed. Numerous case histories have shown that one is never too young nor too old to change his self-image and thereby start to live a new life.”

You make mistakes, mistakes don't make you - Maxwell Maltz

And once you change your beliefs, you change your self-image. So, if you replace your negative self-talk and negative thoughts with optimistic and positive thinking, you can improve your self-image and be happier. Maltz confirms, “Once the concept of self has changed, other things consistent with the new concept of self, are accomplished easily and without strain.”

Any of us can bring about this change. There is no exception to this.

To achieve this, however, the first step is to stop comparing ourselves to others. And create a better self-image that is so unique to us.

Maltz writes, “You as a personality are simply not in competition with any other personality because there is not another person on the face of the earth like you.”

The truth about you is this:
You are not inferior.
You are not superior.
You are simply “You”.

Maltz presents Psycho-Cybernetics as a concept of how our brains work. He said the human brain works like a machine. And like a machine, when there is positive feedback, the brain keeps doing what it has been doing. But when there is negative feedback, the brain stops doing what it has always done, changes its behavior, and ‘corrects its course’—all automatically.

Once you accomplish a correct or “successful response,” the brain stores it in memory for future use. Thereafter, whenever you face a similar task again, your brain pulls out the memory and makes you go through the learned behavior.

Learned behavior is a way of working that a person develops because of experience. Learned behaviors contrast with inherited behaviors, which are genetically hard-wired, and we can perform them with no previous experience.

Sometimes, drug and alcohol abuse in persons appears to be learned behaviors. Research suggests children whose parents used marijuana have an increased likelihood of abusing alcohol and substance as teens or young adults.

Think a little about it this time because your nervous system now acts as an automatic response mechanism that already has a set of instructions to carry out. By applying psycho-cybernetics, we can better understand why and how humans behave the way they do.

Humans have a built-in mechanism for success.

Maltz advises us to start with our brilliant capability of imagination to activate this mechanism. Your brain cannot distinguish between an imagined and a real event. As a result, it reacts based on what you believe to be real.

Research by Dr. Theodore X. Barber at the American University in Washington during the 1950s found that hypnotized patients could easily undergo surgery without anesthesia. This phenomenon of hypnosurgery takes a person to imagine they have received anesthesia, and therefore, will not feel any pain during the surgery.

Once a patient believes they have received an anesthetic, their brain stops processing the pain signals from the nerves.

Humans may not be machines, but we can consider our mental processes to be mechanized. By using cybernetic principles to understand this machine thinking, we can overcome negative ideas about ourselves, enhance our self-image, and live a fulfilling, successful life.

So, once you train your brain to believe you can succeed and be happy, you see more successes and joys coming your way.

how to learn the happiness habit - Psycho-Cybernetics
Author’s copy of Psycho-Cybernetics

Achieving Your Goals of Success And Happiness

Most of us think of happiness in terms of future goals, and that is the wrong approach.

We think we’ll be happy once we get a new partner, a better job, or a bigger home. By doing that, we are tying up our happiness to a future goal, which is wrong.

Being happy is something we must practice in the present moment.

If we lose our happiness when the driver behind us honks like a maniac, it’s because we choose to react to it with annoyance and frustration. We can, instead, notice that his honking is just honking — and we may respond in a better way to it without losing our cool.

He could squish the car-horn buttons as hard as he wants, but he can never push your buttons unless you allow him to. No matter how hard anyone tries to stress you out, if you know the coping mechanism that Maltz suggests, you can reduce your stress and choose peace even in such times of negativity and toxicity.

An incident from the life of America’s greatest inventor, Edison, provides a splendid example in Maltz’s book.

Edison’s laboratory was once destroyed by fire. Unfortunately, he had no fire insurance on his multi-million dollar lab. As he stood there watching the fire consume all of his work, he resolved to begin reconstructing his lab the next day.

Happiness and unhappiness are internal feelings. Edison avoided unhappiness by refusing to dwell over an irretrievable loss.

Your happiness is a product of your thoughts and attitudes. Happy people are happy because they source their happiness from within themselves. They do not look towards outside events to fix their well-being.

Maltz says a few things about happiness that may find the positive psychologists of our day nod in agreement. For starters, he suggests when we are happy, we can think, perform, feel, and fare better.

Scientific experiments have shown that it is absolutely impossible to feel fear, anger, anxiety, or negative emotions of any kind while the muscles of the body are kept perfectly relaxed.

— Maxwell Maltz

Research & Anecdotes In Psycho-Cybernetics

▪ Maltz mentions the Russian psychologist Kekcheyev’s finding when thinking pleasant thoughts, people could see better, taste, smell, and hear better, and detect finer differences in touch.

▪ He writes Dr. William Bates’ experiments found that eyesight improves as soon as a person is thinking pleasant thoughts or watching pleasant scenes.

▪ He writes about research by Margaret Corbett, who found when the subjects were thinking pleasant thoughts, their memory improves by significant amounts.

▪ He mentions the Harvard psychologists who found there is a correlation between unhappiness and criminality. They found that most criminals came from unhappy homes and had a history of unhappy relationships.

▪ As Maltz writes, a ten-year-long Yale study on frustration found that much of our immorality and hostility to others is due to our own unhappiness.

▪ He quotes Dr. John A. Schindler, who said, “unhappiness is the sole cause of all psychosomatic illnesses, and the only cure is happiness.”

▪ Maltz quotes William James, “The attitude of unhappiness is not only painful, it is mean and ugly. What can be more base and unworthy than the pining, pulling, mumping mood, no matter what outward ills it may have been engendered?”

▪ He also brings in Blaise Pascal, “We are never living, but only hoping to live; and, looking forward always to being happy, it is inevitable that we are never so.”

Actionable Advice For Success From Psycho-Cybernetics

  1. Create believable and achievable goals and targets. Success begins with effective goal-setting.
  2. Keep your goals focused on the end rather than the means. Once you have fixed the end goal, the cybernetics system will find ways to take you towards it. It is automatic.
  3. Mistakes will happen on the way to your success, and they are feedbacks to fine-tune and autocorrect. Errors handled this way are positive reactions that propel you towards your goal.
  4. Let your past mistakes stay in the past, and do not let them direct your future. Instead, focus on the present choices that push you towards your goal.
  5. Trust your journey. Psycho-Cybernetics is a process that works. So, trust it before starting on the journey to your goals. Let it work automatically rather than try hard to make it work.

Principles To Live By According To Maxwell Maltz

1. Free yourself from the fears of past failures.

Our past mistakes were our learning modules. We learned from them and became better. We do not remember them for the results they produced, or the fears the shudders they give us remembering those consequences. Furthermore, we must keep these lessons in mind and discard the fears of our failures.

2. Believe you can change yourself for the better.

People who think they can bring about a positive change in themselves, are the ones who manage to do so. It is almost impossible for others to change us if we, ourselves, do not believe we can change.

3. Trust your mind’s cybernetic system.

Once we finalize the issue we need to focus on, we need to think about it deeply, exploring it from all angles. Thereafter, we should clear out our minds of all doubts and worries about the results. We might even choose to forget the issue for a while.

And then come back to it in some time. We will find our mind has automatically zeroed in on a solution.

4. Imagine a positive version of yourself.

Maltz says our imaginations are stronger than we estimate them to be. Maltz points out that our brain cannot differentiate between imagination and reality.

Whatever blueprint we supply it with (via our thoughts and beliefs), creates a reality exactly as that blueprint. When we imagine ourselves as incapable of being successful or as persons who are always going to be unhappy, we become that.

Instead, if we create a strong positive image of ourselves in our minds (positive self-image), we become that flourishing winner.

5. Do not defer your happiness; be happy today.

Never postpone your happiness. Don’t think you can’t allow yourself to be happy until you hit a certain goal, bag a certain deal, or own a certain thing.

Do not link your happiness to success. Success does not bring you happiness (find out why). If you are not a happy person, then success will not cheer up your unhappy self.

Be happy today while going through your struggles.

6. Aim to achieve the seven well-being needs.

Maltz enumerates the seven needs we should aim at fulfilling to improve our wellbeing: 1. Love, 2. Security, 3. Creative Expression, 4. Recognition, 5. New experiences, 6. Self-esteem, 7. Positivity about the future.

Your new self-image must be positive in each of those seven areas.

How Psycho-Cybernetics Has Survived Decades

Psycho Cybernetics has the rare honor of being a timeless nonfiction book. It matters because usually, fiction outlives nonfiction. Let’s break this down.

Some books from the sixties that are still in demand today are:

The first five of those seven works are fiction. People have mostly bought fiction books throughout the last five decades. So, as you can see, fiction outlives nonfiction.

Now, a generation is an average period during which children who are born become adults, and begin to have their own children. If we were to take each generation comprising about 25 years, then fifty years means two generations.

Just look around — you will find some of the best nonfiction books of the Silent Generation did not cross over to Generation X. In that list above, only the last two are nonfiction. Psycho-Cybernetics is one of them, and that is quite a marvel!

5 FAQs On Maxwell Maltz & Psycho-Cybernetics

1. What does Psycho Cybernetics talk about?

Maxwell Maltz coined the term “psycho-cybernetics” to describe our minds’ automatic success mechanism, and how we might harness it to achieve our goals. He was the first popular author to show how a person’s self-image has immense power over their ability to realize any goal.

2. Is Psycho Cybernetics worth reading?

Psycho-Cybernetics is worth reading because it shows how we can activate our inbuilt success mechanism (“cybernetics”) to achieve happiness and success in life. Its principles can be applied to many life domains, like personal development, relationships, and business. Its techniques help in fulfilling our seven needs, like love and security.

Psycho-Cybernetics, one of the best-selling self-help books of all time, teaches how to break out of ruts and reach peaks of success. It shows how to find the root causes of our failures and then reveals how to overcome them to live a more fulfilling life.

3. Is Psycho Cybernetics a good book?

Maxwell Maltz’s Psycho-Cybernetics is a great self-help book that reveals how the act of re-imagining oneself positively can help one accomplish desired success in real life. The book contains proven principles and tactics to help create success in one’s life, even if one has been a failure. The core idea behind Psycho-Cybernetics is that the human mind can be reprogrammed to help people get better at anything they do, whether it is their careers, sports, or personal relationships.

4. Who was Maxwell Maltz?

Maxwell Maltz was a cosmetic surgeon who used hypnosis for surgical procedures. He published Psycho-Cybernetics: A New Way to Get More Living Out of Life in 1960, while he still practiced surgery. The book became a bestseller and was named one of the 50 Best Self-Help classics of all time.

Maltz was born in Brooklyn, New York on November 8th, 1909. He graduated from high school at age 15 and went on to study at Columbia University where he received his medical degree in 1934.

However, rather than his surgical feats, the world knows him more for writing a self-help book that Tony Robbins and Brian Tracy borrow from. Psycho-Cybernetics has never been out of print, and you can still find a copy on the shelves of any bookstore.

5. What is Cybernetics?

Cybernetics is the system of instructions, actions, and feedback of automated machines that get them to fulfill their tasks effectively. Translated from Greek, cybernetics means “a helmsman who steers his ship to port.”

Final Words

The most delightful surprise in life is to suddenly recognise your own worth.

— Maxwell Maltz

Download the PDF version: Psycho-Cybernetics Summary – PDF by THB.

Remember, the book continues to live and breathe through more than six decades of readers. How many can compare to that?

Raising your self-worth and improving your self-image will eventually make you feel good overall, have a more empathetic and altruistic attitude towards others, and build up your inventory of positive emotions.

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How To Be Successful In Life: 50 Efficient Tips

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Author Bio: Written and reviewed by Sandip Roy — medical doctor, psychology writer, and happiness researcher. Founder and Chief Editor of The Happiness Blog. Writes on mental health, happiness, mindfulness, positive psychology, and philosophy (especially Stoicism).


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