MACLEAN'S REPORTS

Yon, too, could use a little Flower Power on yourself

JON RUDDY March 1 1969
MACLEAN'S REPORTS

Yon, too, could use a little Flower Power on yourself

JON RUDDY March 1 1969

Yon, too, could use a little Flower Power on yourself

“i WANT YOU to buy a flower every month,” said a pudgy, serene man with white sideburns. “Put it in a box with a note and mail it to yourself. When the parcel arrives read the note — ‘From an admirer’ — put the flower in your hair or your lapel, stand in front of a mirror and say to yourself, 7 deserve this flower.’ ”

The 200-odd recipients of this improbable advice, gathered in the Roof Garden at Toronto’s Royal York Hotel, were attentive, even rapt. For the speaker was no scheming florist but Dr. Maxwell Maltz, a plastic surgeon-turned-guru and the author of a book called Psycho-Cybernetics that has sold more than 3,000,000 copies in English (plus 1,000,000 in translations) since its publication in 1960. Dr. Maltz came to Toronto in January to launch Canada’s first PsychoCybernetics Workshop, which offers, for $150, 12 weekly group sessions in the Maltzian theory of self-fulfillment.

Psycho - cybernetics: like transcendental meditation and polyunsaturated corn oil margarine, the term has a nice, with-it ring — and has largely succeeded the other two as a topic to be trotted out at cocktail parties. Derived from the Greek word for steersman, cybernetics was basically a computer science until Dr. Maltz contrived “psycho-cybernetics” to express a sort of patented pursuit of happiness. Salesmen, housewives, businessmen and a respectable sprinkling of professionals have looked to it for confidence and self-esteem. Athletes, especially, have profited from its simple dicta.

“It shows you how to emphasize your good points and stop fretting about your weaknesses,” said Toronto Argonauts’ Jim Dillard last November, giving psycho-cybernetics most of the

credit for his suddenly revitalized game. Believers in Canada also include Terry Evanshen, Calgary Stampeders’ agile pass receiver, and Montreal Canadiens’ right-winger Bobby Rousseau. The book has swept the U.S. sports scene. To hear Green Bay Packers’ Bart Starr tell it, battles on the playing field are won in the pages of Maxwell Maltz. The doctor’s team is not, however, composed entirely of superstars. Tom Tresh of the New York Yankees — then batting a puny .211 — confessed his allegiance last summer, prompting observers to ponder whether Tresh could hit so much as a pop-up foul without Maltz.

The director of the Toronto workshop (Dr. Maltz foresees dozens more throughout Canada) is a self-taught native of New Brunswick named G. Ralph Albert who has given up his assignments as a management consultant to the hotel industry in order to preach what he practises. An apprentice cook at the age of 11, a baker at 20, Albert read up on psychology and hypnosis and overcame a speech impediment with what he calls “mental rehearsal.” This method of preparing oneself for stressful situations was later advocated by Maltz. “I have 20 years of experience in a five-year-old science,” says Albert, who has been conducting his own course in “Mind Power for Personal Progress.”

Maxwell Maltz himself is equally versatile. A New Yorker who has been trimming noses and lifting faces for more than 40 years, he has written 11 books and a Broadway play called The Lady Said Yes. (“The critics said no,” he says.) His latest stage effort, The Rumor About Romeo, will be produced in London this year.

The ideas contained in Psycho-Cybernetics are as straightforward as its title is abstruse, a combination that has undoubtedly contributed to its vogue. Dr. Maltz is fond of glib phrases — “turn the word ‘kill’ into ‘skill’ “brushing the teeth of the mind” — but offers no panacea. (When Ralph Albert suggested that he had helped a periodic schizophrenic, Dr. Maltz promptly replied, “I don’t believe it.”) The book borrows liberally from Russell’s The Conquest of Happiness, among others.

Nine out of 10 guests polled at the Royal York reception for Dr. Maltz said that, no, they would not be sending flowers to themselves. The tenth, a middle-aged insurance salesman out for a big year, said he planned to do so the very next day. “But don’t use my name,” he added. “I haven’t got all that much self-esteem.”

JON RUDDY