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NERVOUS ILLS
THEIR CAUSE AND CURE

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

1922

 

CHAPTER XII

IS THE SUBCONSCIOUS A PERSONALITY?

        The problem that interested me most was to come into close contact with the subwaking self. What is its fundamental nature? What are the main traits of its character? Since in hypnosis the subwaking self is freed from its chains, is untrammeled by the shackles of the upper, controlling self, since in hypnosis the underground self is more or less exposed to our view, it is plain that experimentation on the hypnotic self will introduce us into the secret life of the subwaking self. For, as we pointed out, the two are identical.

        I have made all kinds of experiments, bringing subjects into catalepsy, somnambulism, giving illusions, hallucinations, post-hypnotic suggestions, etc. As a result of my work one central truth stands out clear, and that is the extraordinary plasticity of the subwaking self.

        If you can only in some way or other succeed in separating the primary controlling consciousness from the lower one, the waking from the subwaking self, so that they should no longer keep company, you can do anything you please with the subwaking self. You can make its legs, its hands, any limb you like perfectly rigid; you can make it eat pepper for sugar; you can make it drink water for wine; feel cold or warm; hear delightful stories in the absence of all sounds; feel pain or pleasure, see oranges where there is nothing; you can make it eat them and enjoy their taste, In short, you can do with the subwaking self anything you like. The subwaking consciousness is in your power, like clay in the hands of the potter. The plasticity of the subconscious is revealed by its extreme suggestibility.

        I wanted to get an insight into the very nature of the subwaking self; I wished to make a personal acquaintance with it. "What is its personal character?" I asked. How surprised I was when, after a close interrogation, the answer came to me that there cannot possibly be any personal acquaintance with it,―for the subwaking self lacks personality.

        Under certain conditions a cleavage may occur between the two selves, and then the subwaking self may rapidly grow, develop, and attain, apparently, the plane of self-consciousness, get crystallized into a person, and give itself a name, imaginary, or borrowed from history. This accounts for the spiritualistic phenomena of personality, guides, controls, and communications by dead personalities, or spirits coming from another world, such as have been observed in the case of Mrs. Piper and other mediums of like types; it accounts for all the phenomena of multiple personality, simulating the dead or the living, or formed anew out of the matrix of the subconscious.

        All such personality metamorphoses can be easily developed, under favorable conditions in any psychopathological laboratory. They can be easily formed, by suggestion in trance, hypnotic, and waking states. The newly crystallized personality is, as a rule, extremely unstable, ephemeral, shadowy in its outlines, spirit-like, ghost-like, tends to become amorphous, being formed again and again under the influence of favorable conditions and suggestions, rising to the surface of consciousness, then sinking into the subconsciousness, and disappearing, only to give rise to new personality-metamorphoses, bursting like so many bubbles on the surface of the upper stream of consciousness.

        There are cases when the personality of the individual is changed, or more personalities are formed. This metamorphosis may be brought about artificially, by suggestion, either direct or indirect. This is often brought about in a state of hypnosis when any number of personalities may be formed at the will of the hypnotizer who may create them deliberately; or they may become formed by subtle indirect suggestion, coming from the hypnotizer, of which he himself is not fully conscious; or the personalities may be formed by auto-suggestions. Such phenomena may be regarded as the artefacts of Psychopathology.

        There are again cases which are no play-personalities depending on hypnotic suggestion, or suggestion in waking life, but which are really due to pathological agencies. The former, due to suggestion, are suggestion-personalities, the latter, due to pathological agencies, are pathological personalities. The formation of multiple personality by means of suggestion does not belong to our present subject.

        I have discussed these facts of suggestion personalities in my volume, "The Psychology of Suggestion," and other works. The pathological multiple personalities are of immense interest from many standpoints which we need not go into just at present, since our object is rather the causation, not the nature and character of the personalities themselves.l

        The subwaking self is extremely credulous; it lacks all sense of the true and rational. "Two and two make five." "Yes." Anything is accepted, if sufficiently emphasized by the hypnotizer. The suggestibility and imitativeness of the subwaking self were discussed by me at great length. What I should like to point out here is the extreme servility and cowardliness of that self. Show hesitation, and it will show fight; command authoritatively, and it will obey slavishly.

        The sub waking self is devoid of all morality. It will steal without the least scruple; it will poison; it will stab; it will assassinate its best friends unhesitatingly. When completely cut off from the waking person, it is precluded from conscience.

 

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1. The subject of pathological multiple personalities is discussed in my work, "Multiple Personality."

 

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