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THE PSYCHOLOGY OF SUGGESTION
Boris Sidis, Ph.D.
© 1898. New York, D. Appleton and Company.
SUBCONSCIOUSNESS AND INSANITY
BEFORE we proceed to sum up the characteristics of the subconscious self I think it would be well to show of what importance the phenomena of post-hypnotic suggestion in general, and those of transformation of personality in particular, are in relation to many forms of insanity. There is, for instance, a form of mental alienation known under the name of "insistent ideas." From some source unknown to the patient an idea rises into consciousness with a persistency that can not be overcome. The idea haunts the patient like a ghost. A concrete case will bring this disease clearly before the mind of the reader.
A young man of intelligence, of good education, and free from hereditary tendency to neurotic affections, was pursuing his studies at college, when one day he heard his companions talking of the mysterious fatality connected with the number thirteen. An absurd idea took possession of his mind. "If the number thirteen is fatal," he thought to himself, "it would be deplorable if God were thirteen." 'Without attaching any importance to this conception, he could not prevent himself from thinking of it continually, and at each instant he accomplished mentally an act which consisted in repeating to himself "God thirteen," He began to attach a certain cabalistic value to this formula, and attributed to it a preservative influence. "I know perfectly well," he said, "that it is ridiculous that I should think myself obliged to imagine 'God thirteen' in order to save myself from being thirteen," but nevertheless the intellectual act was repeated without ceasing. Very soon he began to apply the same mysterious word to eternity, to the infinite, and similar ideas. His life was thus passed in mentally saying, "God thirteen! The infinite thirteen! Eternity thirteen!" The patient was fully aware of the absurdity of the idea, but still that idea continued to rise from the depth of his mind and insert itself into all his mental operations.
In impulsive insanity we meet with a similar state of mind. A seemingly unaccountable impulse suddenly seizes on the mind of the patient, an impulse which is sometimes so overwhelming that restraint is simply unthinkable. No sooner does the impulse come into consciousness than it works itself out with fatal necessity. It is a kind of emotional automatism. A young man, for instance, at the sight of a black silk dress is suddenly possessed by an impulse to ruin silk dresses, and he is bound to carry out his work of destruction whenever he is confronted with a dress of that material. "I was altogether excited by the sight of that handsome silk dress, and it was impossible for me to resist. I do not know why the idea ever came into my mind." A young lady at the sight of a have shoulder is suddenly seized by the impulse to bite, and she straightway sinks her teeth into the flesh of her victim.1
"E. D.," writes Dr. Stearns, "has been insane for several months. . ." He appeared to improve, when on one occasion, while he was standing in his room, his attendant advanced toward him with the intention of passing, when the patient suddenly drew back and struck the attendant a blow which brought the latter to the floor" Immediately after it was over the patient apologized, and said he was very sorry and quite ashamed of himself; he could not tell what had led him to strike, especially his attendant, with whom he was in the most pleasant relations, but the concept suddenly flashed upon and filled his mind as he saw him approach, and the impulse to strike became irresistible."2
Pyromania, or the impulse to incendiarism, kleptomania, or the impulse to steal, homicidal or suicidal impulses―all of them belong to that peculiar form of mental alienation that may be characterized as impulsive insanity.
Whence rise those insistent ideas, those imperative conceptions, those mysterious, unaccountable impulses? We can not ascribe these phenomena to the mechanism of associative processes; we can not say that some of the links in the chain of association became abnormally predominant, because those impulses are felt emphatically as having no connection with the association process going on in the consciousness of the patient. Those impulses are psychical parasites on the patient's consciousness. Ideas, impressions implanted in the subconscious self, when accidentally dissociated from the upper personality, rise to the periphery of consciousness as insistent ideas, imperative concepts, and uncontrollable impulses of all sorts and descriptions. In hypnotic, and especially in post-hypnotic, suggestion we find the key to all forms of conceptual and impulsive insanity.
When my subject, Mr. A. Fingold, was in a deep hypnosis and his subconsciousness was laid bare, I suggested to him that when he will wake up and hear a knock he shall drive away his brother and Mr. H. L. from the sofa on which they were sitting and lie down there. When Fingold woke up and the signal was given, he rushed to the sofa with such impetuosity that his brother was frightened and left the place at once. Mr. H. L. was rather tardy in his retreat. The subject angrily caught hold of his arm and pushed him away with such violence that poor Mr. H. L. flew to the opposite wall. The subject then stretched himself out on the sofa and felt satisfied. As in the case of impulsive insanity, the suggested impulse set on suddenly and was enacted with a like emotional automatism.
Experiments of like nature I have also performed on other subjects, and with like results. The suggested ideas buried in the depths of the subconsciousness frequently rise to the surface of the subject’s active life, and are realized with all the vehemence and fatality of an irresistible insane impulse.
The post-hypnotic suggestion may manifest itself in a different form. Instead of a sudden onset it may develop slowly, grow, and finally become uncontrollable. I hypnotized Mr. V. F., and suggested to him that a few minutes after awakening he should sit down on Miss B.’s chair; that if she would not like to leave he should make her go. A few minutes after awakening, Mr. V. F. turns to Miss B., whose acquaintance he made at the beginning of the experiments, with the following request:
V. F. May I sit on your chair?
B. Why do you want my chair? There are other chairs in the room; can't you take one of them?
V. F. Well, you take this one, will you?
B. No; I am very well satisfied with this one. Won't that one do you just as well?
V. F. No. I wish you would give it to me―won't you?
V. F. I think that one over there will be much more comfortable. I would rather have this one.
B. Why can't you let me sit here?
V. F. I can, but I would like to have the chair. I could throw you out, hut that would not be exactly square; but at the same time I want that chair.
B. Won't any other chair answer?
V. F. Yes, any other chair would answer my purpose just as well.
V. F. No, no claim or right, but I want it. Let me have it, won't you? You just like to tease me.
B. Why do you think so? To keep one's chair is not teasing.
V. F. You see, it works this way: you don't want the chair, and you know I want it, but you won't let me have it, and that amounts to teasing.
B. Why do you want it?
B. That is very little reason.
V. F. Yes, very little. You don't simply want to keep what you have; you don’t want to give it to me. That is your reason, is it not?
B. I am more comfortable here.
V. F. You are only teasing me. I can see your eyes twinkle. You look at Dr. Sidis and see what he thinks about it.
B. I won't give you this chair.
V. Is that your only reason?
B. What is your reason?
V. I have no reason. I have only a sneaking sort of desire to sit down in the chair.
The desire kept on growing. The subject pleaded for a seat in the chair with more and more urgency. He must have this particular chair, happen what may. The desire became an irresistible impulse. Mr. V. F. took a piece of cord, tied it round the much-longed-for chair, and exclaimed: "Now I will show you a modern Stonewall Jackson, If you don’t get up I shall pull you down. I'll count three." He counted one, two, and when he came to three he gave a strong pull, and pulled ant the chair from under Miss D. and sat down on it in great haste.
The evolution of the impulse was here a gradual one. Each rebuff served only to increase the intensity of the impulse, until at last the impulse became irresistible and the craved-for object as taken by main force. Thus we see that insistent ideas, imperative conceptions, and insane impulses in general work through the mechanism of the subconscious. An idea sunk into the disaggregated subconsciousness, like a post-hypnotic suggestion, struggles up as an insane impulse.
The phenomena of the subconscious give us an insight into the nature of paramnesia. Paramnesia, or illusions of memory, may be divided into positive or additive and negative or subtractive. In positive or additive paramnesia the patient recognises a new perception as having taken place within his former experience. The patient meets strangers as' old familiar acquaintances. Thus Jensen reports the case of a patient complaining to him: "Doctor, I feel so very strange to-day. When I stand like this and look at you, then it seems to me as if you had stood there once before, and as if everything had been just the same, and as if I knew what was coming."
An interesting case of paramnesia is reported by Dr. Arnold Pick in the Archiv für Psychiatrie for 1870. An educated man who seems to have understood his disease, and who himself gave a written description of it, was seized at the age of thirty-two with a singular mental affection. If he was present at a social gathering, if he visited any place whatever, if he met a stranger, the incident with all the attendant circumstances appeared so familiar that he was convinced of having received the same impression before, of having been surrounded by the same persons or the same objects, under the same sky and the same state of weather. If he undertook any new occupation, he seemed to have none through with it at some previous time and under the same conditions. The feeling sometimes appeared the same day, at the end of a few moments or hours, sometimes not till the following day, but always with perfect distinctness.3
Sander brings the case of an in valid who, upon learning of the death of the person whom he knew, was seized with an indefinable terror, because it seemed to him that he knew of the event before. "It seemed to me that at some time previous, while I was lying here in this same lied, X. came to me and said, 'Müller is dead.' I replied, 'Müller has been dead for some time.'"4
Similar cases of paramnesia occur also in normal life. Prof. Royce, in an interesting article, hallucinations of Memory and Telepathy,5 called attention to "a not yet recognised type of instantaneous hallucination of memory, consisting in the fancy at the very moment of some exciting experience that one has expected it before its coming." According to Prof. Royce, many facts of telepathy recorded by Gourney in his book The Phantasms of the Living belong to this last type of paramnesia.
In subtractive paramnesia, on the contrary, the patient has a false memory as to an event that had actually taken place in his experience. He is sure that the event has never occurred to him. Thus Wernicke brings the case of a patient who assaulted a public official and afterward could not be convinced that he had ever done anything like it, although he remembered well everything that happened at that time.
How shall we explain these interesting phenomena of paramnesia? We can not possibly agree with Ribot, who thinks that paramnesia is due to the fact that the memorial image evoked by the present perception is more vivid than the perception itself, and the result is that the present experience as the weaker and fainter one is considered a copy of the more vivid memorial image.
It does not require a deep insight to see the weakness of such a forced explanation. First of all, Ribot is wrong in identifying pastness with faintness. A faint perception is not a past perception. Second, even if we accept the proposition that faintness gives the feeling of pastness, Ribot is still wrong in his explanation. He simply did not analyze well the phenomena of paramnesia. In paramnesia the present perception has about it all the vivid feeling of presentness; what is added to it is the feeling that the perception has been experienced formerly. Were Ribot's account the true one, the present perception would not have been felt as present, but as past, and the evoked memorial image instead would have been felt as present, which is not the case. Besides, such a process would give rise not to paramnesia but to mere illusion. The phenomena of paramnesia are due to a disaggregation effected within the consciousness of the patient.
The disaggregated subconsciousness, on account of its wider range of sensibility, or on account of the temporary inhibition of the upper consciousness, gets the perception first, and after some appreciable interval it is transmitted with a feeling of pastness to the upper consciousness, which by this time already has its own direct perception. The present perception of the upper consciousness is then recognised―recognised as familiar, as having already been before within the experience of the patient. This transmitted message coming from the secondary to the primary self may be more or less instantaneous, or it may come some time after, as in the interesting case of the patient reported by Dr. Pick.
Subtractive paramnesia admits of still easier explanation if regarded from the standpoint of the subconscious. The disaggregated secondary consciousness possesses itself of certain details in experience that never reached the primary consciousness. The patient therefore with full right asserts that he is sure that the given details had never occurred within his self-conscious experience.
Subtractive paramnesia is analogous to the phenomena of negative hallucination which occur in posthypnotic or hypnonergic states.6
Turning now to demonomania and paranoia, we once more encounter the underground working of the subconscious self. In paranoia we find that an insistent idea or an imperative concept, often accompanied by illusions and hallucinations, and detached from the main stream of consciousness, gets inserted into the associative processes of the primary self. The idea soon gathers round itself cluster's of other ideas and forms a system tinged with emotional colour. The insistency and uncontrollableness of this slowly evolving disaggregated cluster give it all the characteristics of an external reality. Hence we have a more or less stable delusion of a systematized order. Ideas and impulses coming from the disaggregated subconscious self are projected outward, and ascribed to the activity of an external agency. Hence the ideas of persecution by hidden, mysterious enemies.
With the evolution of that subconscious cluster the primary self is weakened, a new specious personality is formed within the depths of the subconscious, a personality which rises to the surface of consciousness and occupies the whole field of mental vision, the old self existing in the background as memory. Hence we have the last stage of paranoia, known as the stage of transformation of personality.
To give the reader an idea of the mental malady known as paranoia, I select two cases from the reports sent to me for the Pathological Institute of the New York State Hospitals by Dr. Spellman, of Manhattan Hospital, Ward's Island, New York:
"Patient, B. F. Hunter, was admitted in 1895, aged thirty-seven. Memory perfect. He gives a full account of himself up to the year 1892. 'In 1892,' says the patient, 'I lived with Mr. C. Mr. C. went to the country, and I was to look after the place. One hot summer day when I was asleep a sharp, distinct voice called me. I went to look for the caller, but there was none outside. There was a man who lived in the house and who took care of the property. He would leave in the morning and come back at night. I asked him if he had called during the day, and he said he had not. At night I went down to my house and said to my wife: "Something very queer has happened. I heard a sharp, distinct voice call me, and when I looked out of the window I saw no one." Another time, about half past twelve in the night, I heard again a sharp, distinct voice call me, "Ben! Ben!" and when I looked out of the window I could see no one. This was the third time I had been called.
"'During Cleveland's second term, in 1892, one night while I lay in bed I saw Grover Cleveland in the Executive Mansion. Some other party stood behind me and said to me, "What do you see?" I said, "I see Grover Cleveland." "Go and tell him," said the person behind me, "that he will be the next President of the United States." About the 8th of March I sent a long letter to Mr. Cleveland. I don't know exactly what I said, but here are a few of the words: "On a certain day of the month God notified me to tell you that you would be the next President of the United States, and so you are. When God tells his servant to tell a man such things as I have told you there is something behind it unknown to human beings."
"'The next year, 1894, I wrote letters to all the governors of the States to the following effect: "It is hereby known to all nations, people, and things that there is a prophet among the people with bad tidings from God. Very respectfully, B. F. Hunter."
"’Last June, 1896, it was revealed to me that I was the prophet Nebuchadnezzar.'"
The other case reported by Dr. Spellman is also characteristic of paranoia, and points to the subconscious source whence the delusion originates.
"Solomon Monroe. Admitted January 6, 1897, aged thirty-four; nativity, Germany; salesman; Protestant; single; temperate. No hereditary tendencies are known to exist. The cause of attack is supposed to be lack of food. The patient states emphatically that he is Jesus Christ, and his general demeanour corresponds to his statement. He states as follows: 'I have told you that I am Jesus Christ. I have been Jesus Christ since my birth. I have not always known it, but found it out about six weeks before I came here. I received my proper enlightenment. I was educated in the common schools of Germany. Since coming to New York, about four and a half years ago, I have followed out a religions train of thought, teaching Bible classes, etc. I had hope; birthmarks on my body―viz., scars on my face and sign of a cross on my forehead and hands―confirmed my belief. I was anointed on my head. This anointment came during the night. Later the revelations came through my sight and ears. I have them now days and nights. God my Father holds constant communication with me. I am the same Christ treated of in the Holy Word, and this is my second coming. Father, Father, the Holy Spirit has always been within me.' The patient eats and sleeps well, and aside from his general exaltation of demeanour appears as other people."
The phenomena of personality-metamorphosis in hypnotic and post-hypnotic or hypnonergic states reproduce on a smaller scale the condition of paranoia. "We find in them the growth of systematized delusions culminating in the phenomenon of personality-metamorphosis. The reader is already acquainted with these facts from our previous experiments, and there is no use for me to bring here more of them. One thing is clear from the experiments, and that is the fact that the phenomena of personality metamorphosis are due to a specious parasitic personality formed within the depth of the disaggregated, whether by hypnotization or by disease―subconscious self. Dissociation of the subconscious is a requisite of paranoia.7
Prof. Josiah Royce, in his remarkable paper on Some Observations on the Anomalies of Self-Consciousness,8 maintains that self-consciousness is social consciousness, and whenever the derangement is in the mass of ideas involving social relationship there necessarily happens a transformation of personality. That may be. But Prof. Royce must still explain the fact why this change in the social consciousness should be felt as induced by mysterious revelations, uncontrollable, heavenly inspirations, and the activity of hidden agencies. How does it happen that an uncontrollable element, a "sort of non-ego," is formed within "the ego" of the patient? How do insistent ideas, imperative conceptions, irresistible impulses, seize on the consciousness of the patient? What is the source of the strange elements out of which paranoia evolves? This source is the disaggregated subconscionsness.9
When my work was already complete Prof. James called my attention to the recent work of Wernicke, Grundriss der Psychiatrie,10 in which the author discusses the phenomena of paranoia. It is interesting to observe that Dr. C. Wernicke is so near to the solution of the problem and still he does not see it in its full light. He characterizes paranoia as a "sejunction" of consciousness; He tells us that in the state of paranoia the patient is vexed by what Wernicke calls "autochthonic ideas"―ideas that arise from the depth of the patient's "sejuncted" mind, and which the patient projects outside him. I heartily agree with Dr. Wernicke, and I am glad to find that the work of such a great physiologist and psychiatrist falls in the same line with my own investigations. What, however, Dr. Wernicke does not see is the full meaning of "sejuncted consciousness," the fact that paranoia is essentially a diseased hypnoidic state, a pathological condition of the subconscious self.
The subconscious self must not be conceived as any distinct being; it is rather a diffused consciousness of any strength of intensity with a content rich and varied. The subconscious, as we have pointed out, is impersonal. Occasionally, however, it reaches the plane of self-consciousness, but then soon subsides again into its former impersonal obscurity. The subconscious self may become crystallized into a personality, but this personality is ephemeral, transient in its nature. Suppose, now, that the subconscious or secondary self is easily dissociated from the primary self or conscious personality; suppose, further, that within the bosom of the subconscious a new personality is in the process of formation―a personality no longer of an evanescent character, but of a stable nature―we shall then have a case of decomposition of personality. The newly forming parasitic personality will again and again obtrude itself on the primary consciousness, and time and again it will be beaten back into its subconscious obscurity. The patient will then consider himself as having a devil within him, a demon that fights and tempts his honest personality. If the parasitic personality grows in strength or the primary personality is weakened the patient may regard himself as double―the two personalities are of equal rank. It is not, however, only one personality, but two, three, and even more coexistent personalities may be formed within the womb of the subconscious. We have, then, the cases of the mental malady known under the name of demonomania.
Demonomania is a special form of paranoia; it is a decomposition of personality; it is the formation of new personalities within the depths of the subconscious. The patient claims to he possessed by a demon. The evil spirit sometimes recounts what be did on earth, and what be has done since he left it for the infernal regions. The attack throws the patient into a fury of excitement, into violent convulsions. In the presence of a stranger, especially of a priest, the violence of the convulsions is greatly increased. When the crisis is over the patient looks about with a somewhat astonished air, and returns to the work in which he was engaged at the beginning of the fit. The patient does not remember what he had said or done during the attack. In very rare cases, where there is memory, the patient asserts: "I know "well that he (the devil) has said so, or done so and so, but it was not I. If my mouth has spoken, if my hand has struck, it was he who made me speak and caused the blows." The patient is sometimes possessed not by one demon, but by many demons. The patient feels and hears them moving in his body.
S., forty years of age, is devoured by two demons who have taken up their abode in her haunches and come forth through her cars. Devils have made several marks upon her person, and her heart is daily displaced. She shall never die, though the devil may tell her to go and drown herself. She has seen the two devils by which she is possessed. They are cats, one of which is yellow and white, and the other black. She puts tobacco, wine, and particularly grease, upon her head and in her ears, to exorcise the devil. She walks constantly with naked feet in fair and rainy weather, and while walking picks up whatever comes in her way. She mislays her clothing; eats largely. She sleeps not; is filthy, emaciated, and her skin very much sunburnt. There is no coherence in the system of ideas that constantly occupies her mind.
A young man at Charenton has a dracq in his abdomen. The dracq or destiny enters his head, tortures him in a thousand ways during the day, and particularly in the night addresses and threatens him. If I ask this unfortunate young man what this dracq may be, "I know nothing about it," he replies, "but it is a destiny that has been imposed upon me, and everything has been done to deliver me from it, but without success."11
Prof. James, in his article, Notes on Automatic Writing,12 brings a very interesting case of personality or ego decomposition akin to demonomania, or demoniacal possession. The case is reported by Dr. Ira Barrows, of Providence. The record begins in the nineteenth year of the patient's age, and continues for several years. It runs as follows:
"September 17, 1860.―Wild with delirium. Tears her hair, pillow-cases, bedclothes, bath sheets, nightdress, all to pieces. Her right hand prevents her left hand, by seizing and holding it, from tearing out her hair, but she tears her clothes with her left hand and teeth.
"29th.―Complains of great pain in right arm, more and more intense when suddenly it falls down by her side. She looks at it in amazement. Thinks it belongs to some one else; positive it is not hers. Sees her right arm drawn around her spine. Cut it, prick it, do what you please to it, she takes no notice of it. Complains of great pain in the neck and back, which she now calls her shoulder and arm; no process of reasoning can convince her to the contrary. To the present time, now nearly five years, the hallucination remains firm. She believes her spine is her right arm, and that her right arm is a foreign object and a nuisance. She believes it to be an arm and a hand, but treats it as if it had intelligence, and might keep away from her. She bites it, pounds it, pricks it, and in many ways seeks to drive it from her. She calls it 'Stump,' ‘Old Stump.' Sometimes she is in great excitement and tears, pounding Old Stump. Says Stump has got this or the other that belongs to her. The history of September is her daily and nightly history till October 25th.
"November 12th.―From eleven to twelve at night sits up, apparently asleep, and writes with her paper against the wall. After she wakes seems to be unconscious of what she has written.
"From November 20th to January 1, 1861, raving delirium; pulls her hair nearly all out from the top of her head. The right hand protects her against the left as much as possible.
"February 1st to 11th.―Under the influence of magnetism writes poetry; personates different persons, mostly those who have long since passed away. When in the magnetic state, whatever she does and says is not remembered when she comes out of it. Commences a series of drawings with her right paralyzed hand, Old Stump. Also writes poetry with it. Whatever Stump writes, or draws, or does, she appears to take no interest in; says it is none of hers, and that she wants nothing to do with Stump or Stump's. I have sat by her bed and engaged her in conversation, and drawn her attention in various ways, while the writing and drawing has been uninterrupted.
"March 1861.―She became blind.
"January 4, 1862.―Is still blind; sees as well with eyes closed as open: keeps them closed much of the time. Draws in the dark as well as in the light. Writes poetry chiefly with the right hand, and often while it is dark. The hand writing differs greatly in different pieces.
"January 10th.―When her delirium is at it height, as well as at all other times, her right hand is rational, asking and answering questions in writing; giving directions; trying to prevent her tearing her clothes; when she pulls out her hair it seizes and holds her left hand. When she is asleep it carries on conversation; writes poetry; never sleeps; acts the part of a nurse as far as it can; pulls the bedclothes over the patient, if it can reach them, when uncovered; raps on the headhoard to awaken her mother (who always sleeps in the room) if anything occurs, as spasms, etc.
"January, 1863.―At night and during her sleep Stump writes letters, some of them very amusing; writes poetry, some pieces original. Writes Hasty Pudding, by Barlow, in several cantos, which she had never read; all correctly written, but queerly arranged―e.g., one line belonging in one canto would be transposed with another line in another canto. She has no knowledge of Latin or French, yet Stump produces the following lines:
"Sed tempus recessit, and this was all over,
"Et horridus anguis which they behold,
"Sic serpens mancbat, so says the same joker,
"Tunc plumbo percussit thinking he hath him,
"Neque ille secuti? no, nothing so rash,
"Quicumque non credat and doubtfully rails,
"Stump writes both asleep and awake, and the writing goes on while she is occupied with her left hand in other matters. Ask her what she is writing, she replies, 'I am not writing; that is Stump writing. I don't know what he is writing. I don't trouble myself with Stump's doings.' Reads with her hook upside down, and sometimes when covered with the sheet. Stump produces two bills of fare in French.
"Upon this one subject of her right arm she is a monomaniac. Her right hand and arm are not hers. Attempt to reason with her, and she holds up her left arm and says: 'This is my left arm. I see and feel my right arm drawn behind me. You say this Stump is my right arm. Then I have three arms and hands.' In this arm the nerves of sensation are paralyzed, but the nerves of motion preserved. She has no will to move it. She has no knowledge of its motion. This arm appears to have a separate intelligence. When she sleeps, it writes or converses by signs. It never sleeps; watches over her when she sleeps; endeavours to prevent her from injuring herself or her clothing when she is raving. It seems to possess an independent life."
Prof. James, who is in possession of the full record, adds "that Old Stump used to write to Miss W. in the third person as Anna."
Instead of being possessed by an evil spirit, as is usually the rule in Catholic countries, this patient was possessed by a good spirit, who took care of the patient and watched over her, and who, like spirits in general, claimed to be clairvoyant. This good spirit was probably a peculiarly crystallized personality formed of the sane remnants of the patient's subconscious self.
In the Journal of Nervous and Mental Diseases13 Dr. Irving C. Rosse describes the following interesting case of triple personality:
"M. L., age thirty-five; brasier; single; nativity, Connecticut; education, common school; religion, Roman Catholic. No hereditary or atavistic antecedents of note. His habits from earliest manhood have been of a kind that it would be charitable to designate simply as irregular. Alcoholic, nicotinic, and venereal excesses have been followed by persistent masturbation and constant erotic tendency.
"Nothing unusual occurred in his life until about 1884, when he got to drinking, became nervous, sleepless, and finally had mania a potu, with a series of epileptiform convulsions. His physicians prescribed more whisky and a hypodermic of morphine, which did not quiet him altogether, and while lying on the bed a 'picture form' appeared on the wall and gradually assumed the form of Lucifer, whose voice issued forth, saying, 'Who has hold of your blood―God, or the devil?' (the beginning of the delusional state as near as can be ascertained). Leaping from the bed, lie ran to a priest's house for protection from the Evil One. Subsequently was sent to a private asylum for four weeks; afterward under asylum treatment on three different occasions, about three years in all; finally, escaping and getting drunk, was arrested for using profane language on the street, and spent four weeks in jail. Regaining his liberty, worked as porter, Lucifer still pursuing him, but not so "troublesome as formerly. On speaking to a priest about the delusion, the patient was advised to stop drink. Shortly after went to New York, where he kept up his bad habits. At length returned to his home in Connecticut, insulted his mother, sister, and a young woman visitor, owing to which erotic conduct he was compelled to quit the paternal roof, ultimately bringing up in Boston, where he enlisted. in the Marine Corps. This last act was voluntary, and not the outcome of Lucifer's instigation as were the preceding acts, especially those of a criminal or sinful nature; but when asked by an examining officer if there had been anything the matter with him that would tend to disqualify him for military service, Lucifer spoke up and said 'No,' After enlisting he kept up his bad habits. He was transferred to Washington, where his erotic habits and eccentric conduct, particularly his speaking aloud to himself and gesticulating wildly while communing with Lucifer, attracted the attention of officers and men, and led to his being sent to a hospital.
"M. L. speaks of himself as au innocent person who is controlled by a spirit whom he calls 'the young man,' and who in his turn is under the influence of Lucifer, or, at any rate, is engaged in a continual struggle with the latter for supremacy in controlling the actions of L. The young man abuses himself sexually at times, but L. is not responsible for these actions. He does not see Lucifer, but hears him talking and roaring like a lion when opposed and angered. Lucifer tells him to kill the writer or other person finding out L.'s business, but he resists that advice.
"The patient is generally well conducted, and when not assisting at work about the ward will go to a secluded place, where he can be heard upbraiding Lucifer in a loud tone for attempting to control his speech and actions against his will, and tempting him to do things that he knows to be improper. The patient dwells a great deal on the importance of religious duties, earnestly wishes to comply with the rules of the Church, and believes that Lucifer can finally be expelled or chased out by a species of exorcism.
"Patient's memory is fair as regards dates, but he is indifferent to surroundings and to recent occurrences, political or other. Knew when Mr. Cleveland was President; don't know who is now and don't care, his only concern being to get his personality out of trouble, as he feels that he has to answer to God for being the cause of them. For the past six years he has been in league with Lucifer to 'down' L., but for the last six months he has endeavoured to give up his dealings with Lucifer awl to assist L. to return to God. He, as the' young man,' wants to become L.'s good angel. Formerly he was L.'s bad angel or evil counsellor, owing to some sinful act which placed him in Lucifer's power. At each attempt to emancipate himself from the power of Lucifer the latter tantalizes him in every conceivable way. He says Lucifer is afraid of God, but tries to bluff L. into the belief that God does not know and see all things. The patient keeps religious souvenirs about him, which displease Lucifer and induce 'kicking' on his part."
The phenomena of insistent concepts, of imperative ideas, of impulsive mania, of paramnesia, of paranoia and demonomania, can be fully reproduced in our laboratories. From the way we induce the phenomena artificially we can learn how they originate spontaneously. To bring about insistent concepts, irresistible impulses, and all kinds of changes of the ego, we must dissociate the secondary subconscious self from the primary controlling consciousness; we must then inoculate the subconscious self with the idea, impulse, or specious personality, and make a deep cleft between the two selves by enforcing amnesia, otherwise the suggestion will simply rise as a memory. Once, however, disaggregation is enforced, we can easily induce all kinds of insistent ideas, imperative concepts, all forms of irresistible impulses, all sorts of changes of personality; and we may assert that all these forms have at their basis a disaggregation of consciousness, a dissociation of the primary and secondary subconscious selves.
1. W. Hammond, A
Treatise on Insanity.
2. H. P. Stearns, Mental Diseases.
3. Ribot, Diseases of Memory.
4. Archiv für Psychiatrie, 1873, vol. iv.
5. Mind, xiii.
6. Subtractive paramnesia is a form of amnesia. For a fuller discussion of amnesia see Chapters XXI-XXIII.
7. The theory of Ribot, that metamorphosis of personality is due to a fundamental change in common sensibility, is more fanciful than it is commonly supposed, for that fundamental change remains yet to be proved. There may be a change in common sensibility without a transformation of personality, and also a transformation of personality without a change in common sensibility. Besides, Ribot's theory can not account for the phenomena of coexistent double or multiple personality.
8. The Psychological Review, November, 1895.
9. I may add that in a private talk with me Prof. Royce admitted that we must look for that source to the subconscious.
10. Theil II, Die Paranoischen Zustände, 1896.
11. Esquirol, Mental maladies.
12. Proceedings of the American Society for Psychological Research, vol. i.
13. March 1892.
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