Home Boris Sidis Archives Menu Table of Contents Next Chapter
THE PSYCHOLOGY OF SUGGESTION
Boris Sidis, Ph.D.
© 1898. New York, D. Appleton and Company.
THE SUBWAKING SELF AND THE NORMAL INDIVIDUAL
THE subwaking self gets manifested in automatic writing, crystal-gazing, and hypnosis, but these phenomena do not occur in everyone. To prove, therefore, fully our proposition that the secondary self is part and parcel of our normal state, we must .make experiments on perfectly healthy and normal subjects who never dealt in crystal-gazing, shell-hearing, automatic writing, nor were they ever put into the state of hypnosis. I made three thousand laboratory experiments, eight hundred of which I made on myself and two thousand two hundred on fifty subjects, and the results gave direct and conclusive proof of the presence of the subwaking, subpersonal, hyperæsthetic self in our normal state. Since the results of my experiments tell us of the subwaking consciousness something more than its mere bare presence, I reserve the account of them for the next chapter, where the discussion of them will be more appropriate. Meanwhile the experiments of Binet will fully suffice for our present purpose. Binet set himself the task to find out "whether the phenomena of the duplication of consciousness are to be met with in healthy, nonhysterical individuals," or, in other words, whether there can be detected the presence of another self in perfectly healthy and normal subjects. He conducted the experiments in the following way:
"I requested my subjects," says Binet,1 "to whom, of course, no explanation was given of what was going to be done, to seat themselves before a table and leave their right hands to me, while I gave them something interesting to read. One of the experiments it appeared to me easiest to effect was that of the repetition of passive movements. A pencil being placed in the hand of the subject, who was attentively reading a journal, I made the hand trace a uniform movement, choosing that which it executes with most facility―for example, shadings, or curls, or little dots. Having communicated these movements for some minutes, I left the hand to itself quite gently; the hand continued the movement a little. After three or four experiments the repetition of the movement became more perfect, and with Mlle.g. at the fourth sitting the repetition was so distinct that the hand traced as many as eighty curls without stopping." Furthermore, there was a rudimentary memory of the movements imparted. "When the hand had been successfully habituated to repeating a certain kind of movement―for example, curls―it was to this kind of movement that it had a tendency to return. If it was made to trace the figure a hundred times and was afterward left to itself, the stroke of the figure became rapidly modified, and turned into a curl." This subwaking self, like a child, learned to use the hand and to write, and showed that it remembered what it once learned, and that it was easier for it to perform the acts once acquired.
"When any kind of movement had been well repeated it could be reproduced without solicitation every time a pen was put in the subject's hand and she fixed her attention on reading. But if the subject thought attentively of her hand the movement stopped.
"With a slight pressure I was able to make the hand go obediently in all directions, carrying the pen with it. This is not a simple mechanical compulsion, for a very feeble and very short contact is sufficient to bring a very long movement of the hand. The phenomena, I believe, can be approximated to a rudimentary suggestion by the sense of touch. Nothing is more curious than to see the hand of a person who is awake and thinks she is in full possession of herself implicitly obey the experimenter's orders."
Thus we find that by distracting the attention of the waking self we may gain access to the subwaking self of the normal individual and teach it to use the bodily organs which we place at its disposal to express itself. It can not attain, however, to any degree of efficiency, because the disaggregation effected is but slight and transitory―the controlling consciousness is wide awake. Meanwhile, during the time the secondary self takes its exercises in writing slight anæsthesia supervenes. Pain is not as well perceived, the æsthesiometer shows diminished sensibility.
Furthermore, Binet finds that "the more the subject is distracted (by reading, mental calculation, etc.) the more irregular become the voluntary movements of the hand, and if the distraction is very intense these movements may cease completely. On the contrary, the more distracted the subject is, the more regular and considerable become the automatic movements of the hand. The contrast is striking." Here once more we strike upon the truth, and this time in the case of perfectly normal people, that the growth and expansion of the subwaking consciousness is in inverse ratio to that of the waking self-consciousness.
However the case may be with this last proposition, one central truth remains firm, valid, unshaken, and that is the presence of a subpersonal self in normal life.
The results of laboratory experiments on perfectly healthy people in their normal waking state, the phenomena of hypnosis, of automatic writing, of crystalgazing, and of shell-hearing―all go to form a strong, irrefragable chain of evidence in support of the truth that behind the primary self a secondary consciousness lies hidden.
1. A. Binet, On Double Consciousness. Vide Binet, On Double Consciousness in Health, Mind, vol. xv.
Boris Menu Next