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NERVOUS ILLS
THEIR CAUSE AND CURE

Boris Sidis, Ph.D., M.D.

1922

CHAPTER XI

THE CONDITIONS AND LAWS OF SUGGESTION

        In order to bring to the fore subconscious activities with their reflex, automatic psycho-motor reactions by removal of the upper consciousness I have found requisite, in my investigations, the following conditions:

        Normal Suggestibility,―Suggestibility in the Normal, Waking State.

(1) Fixation of the Attention.
(2) Distraction of the Attention.
(3) Monotony.
(4) Limitation of Voluntary Activity.
(5) Limitation of the Field of Consciousness.
(6) Inhibition.
(7) Immediate Execution of the Suggestion.

        Abnormal Suggestibility,Suggestibility in Hypnotic and Trance States:

(1) Fixation of the Attention.
(2) Monotony.
(3) Limitation of Voluntary Activity.
(4) Limitation of the Field of Consciousness.
(5) Inhibition. 

        The nature of abnormal suggestibility, the result of my investigations, is a disaggregation of consciousness, a cleavage of the mind, a cleft that may become ever deeper and wider, ending in a total disjunction of the waking, guiding, controlling guardian-consciousness from the automatic, reflex, subconscious consciousness.

        Normal suggestibility is of like nature,―it is a cleft in the mind. Only here the cleft is not so deep, not so lasting as in hypnosis or in the other subconscious trance states. The split is but momentary. The mental cleavage, or the psycho-physiological disaggregation of the superior from the inferior centers with their concomitant psychic activities is evanescent, fleeting, often disappearing at the moment of its appearance.

        The following laws of suggestibility were formulated by me:

        I. Normal suggestibility varies as indirect suggestion and inversely as direct suggestion.

        II. Abnormal suggestibility varies as direct suggestion and inversely as indirect suggestion.

        A comparison of the conditions of normal and abnormal suggestibility is valuable, since it reveals the nature of suggestibility and discloses its fundamental law. An examination of the two sets of conditions shows that in abnormal suggestibility two conditions, distraction of attention and immediate execution are absent, otherwise the conditions are the same. This sameness of conditions clearly indicates the fact that normal an abnormal suggestibility flow from some one common source, that they are of like nature, and due to similar causes.

        Now a previous study led us to the conclusion that the nature of abnormal suggestibility is a disaggregation of consciousness; a slit produced in the mind, a crack that may become wider and deeper, ending in a total disjunction of the waking, guiding, controlling consciousness from the reflex consciousness. Normal suggestibility is of a like nature. It is a cleft in the mind. The cleft is not so deep, not so lasting as it is in hypnosis, or in the state of abnormal suggestibility. The split is but momentary, disappearing almost at the very moment of its appearance.

        This fleeting, evanescent character of the split explains why suggestion in the normal state, why normal suggestibility requires immediate execution as one of its indispensable conditions. We must take the opportunity of the momentary ebb of the controlling consciousness and hastily plant our suggestion in the soil of reflex consciousness. We must watch for this favorable moment, not let it slip by, otherwise the suggestion is a failure. Furthermore, we must be careful to keep in abeyance, for the moment, the ever active waves of the controlling consciousness. We must find for them work in some other direction, we must divert, we must distract them. That is why normal suggestibility requires the additional conditions of distraction and immediate execution. For in the waking state the waking, controlling consciousness is always on its guard, and when enticed away, leaves its ground only for a moment.

        In normal suggestibility the psychic split is but faint; the lesion, effected in the body consciousness, is superficial, transitory, fleeting. In abnormal suggestibility, on the contrary, the slit is deep and lasting,―it is a severe gash. In both cases, however, we have a removal, a dissociation of the waking from the subwaking, reflex consciousness, suggestion becoming effected only through the latter. For suggestibility is the attribute of the subwaking, reflex consciousness.

        A comparison of the two laws discloses the same relation. The two laws are the reverse of each other, thus clearly indicating the presence of a controlling, inhibiting, conscious element in one case, and its absence in the other. In the normal state we must guard against the inhibitory, waking consciousness, and we have to make our suggestion as indirect as possible. In the abnormal state, on the contrary, no circumspection is needed; the controlling, inhibitory, waking consciousness is more or less absent. The subwaking, reflex consciousness is exposed to external stimuli, and our suggestions are therefore the more effective, the more direct we make them.

        Suggestibility is a function of disaggregation of consciousness, a disaggregation in which the subwaking, reflex consciousness enters into direct communication with the external world. The general law of suggestibility is:

        Suggestibility varies as the amount of disaggregation, and inversely as the unification of consciousness.

 

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