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Boris Sidis, M. A., Ph.D.,
SUBMERGED EXPERIENCES OF LAPSED PERIODS
UPON the 28th he was again hypnotized. At this time the following lapsed periods emerged: "It was in the back room upstairs; we had a pint of beer and were playing cards, and I had only one glass, when I fell down. Then the woman she says, 'What is the matter with William?' and her husband he say, 'Nothing is the matter. He will be all right. It is just as he had it downstairs.' But she was afraid, and then they carried me to the bed. No, a man came in and helped the other man, and he took me around the waist and laid me on the bed, and I looked around, but I didn't say anything, and then I went to sleep. Yes, I remember it all. There was the same bad taste in my mouth and throat, just like the bad meat; the same bad taste that I had in the bar-room just before the time I fall down first."
After a short interval the next attack was attempted. With greater ease and facility he proceeded:
"It was on the St. Louis, in the fire-room. I was drawing fire, when I feel that bad taste in my mouth like rotten meat, and I go for a drink of water, and I fall. A man takes hold of my arm and drags me to the hall, and they ask, 'What is the matter?' and then they leave me and go away. I saw a trimmer, and he asked them, 'What is the matter?' After that I climbed up the ladder to the deck, and came back without seeing anyone, and go to the fire-room, and they ask me how I was and I say 'All right,' and then I wake up."
After his awakening, the patient apparently amplifies the account given during hypnosis, By careful comparison, however, it was found that the amplification did not hold as regards the memories brought out during hypnosis. It was effective only for those memories immediately preceding and following the attack, which had particularly suffered by reason of the dissociation, but which themselves had not been dissociated, or if so, but very slightly, Such states would ordinarily be regarded as epileptic" psychic equivalents." As a matter of fact, the very motor attacks were not of an epileptic nature, but of the character of functional psychosis.
The next revival of lapsed content was attempted on the 30th.
At this time, in hypnosis, the patient said: "It was in Harlem River Park; yes, it was after I came back on the steamboat. I was sitting at the table with a girl―not my old girl,―and then the bad taste come in my mouth, and I get up and say, 'I go to walk in the garden.' Then I walk up and down the garden. No, I see no one I know. They did not look at me much, but make way for me, and I think about the girl and how I can leave her. Yes, the table was on one side, and I walk all around, and when I wake up I was in the middle of the garden, near the bar. No, I had not drank much beer, only one glass. The girl was not my first girl. I remember it all now," This woman has been seen, and has given a statement supporting in full the patient's account. Being the first attack which she had ever witnessed, it was particularly striking. She described his appearance, the fixity and blankness of his eyes, his sudden departure, his walking up and down the garden. When he came back to her and sat down he did not know that he had left her, could recall nothing as regards it, and was greatly frightened. He had had but one glass of beer.
After awakening from his hypnotic state, there was the usual recapitulation with customary detail and vividness. The patient said: "When I came back to the girl she asked where I had been, and I said, 'Right here,' and then she told me, and I told her not to let me do that again." This last memory emerged in the post-hypnotic state. It is, however, probable that the patient woke up in the garden, and that the time intervening between this awakening and the point at which he found himself beside the girl had been slightly dissociated, the patient still having been in a state of confusion.
A few days later, the patient reported having had two attacks. In the first, he was standing at the lunch bar, eating a raw-meat sandwich, heavily seasoned. He felt dizzy, but had no bad taste in his mouth, no fetid smell, no nausea. He sat down in a chair and was unconscious for two minutes. It was told him that during that time he attempted to remove his shoes. In the second attack, there was no aura nor any unconsciousness, merely a passing dizziness.
Further recovery of the amnesic content proceeded as follows:
"It was on the elevated platform, down-town side. I was with a girl. I was sitting beside her on a bench talking about coming to see her again, then I lost my mind. I remember now wanting to go away with her, but she laid her hand on my arm; I remember I sat at her left side, and she said, 'I will go home with you,' and I said I was all right, and I woke up." "The next time I was at Emil's, a friend of mine; we were playing cards, and I lost my mind again; his wife was scared, and she said to carry me to the bed, and he say, 'Never mind, he will soon be out.' I remember how she looked. Yes, I tasted the bad taste of the meat this time and the other."
After a brief interval, he said: "It was in the shipcommissioner's office; I taste a bad taste, and then I sit on a bench, and then I fall down on the floor. Yes, I see what they do; the commissioner, he hollered to the man, 'What is the matter with that man? come help me.' And they come, and pick me up and put me on a bench. Then the commissioner, he tell the other man to get a glass of water, that he knows me; and then the other man he asks about me. Then I sit there still, and they put the discharge in my pocket, and then the commissioner tells the other man to take me to the doctor's. Then he leads me to the doctor, down the stairs, and when I get on the street I wake up."
A period of seven months intervened between these two last attacks. During this time, he had been engaged in the Spanish War.
Dating from the 18th of November, investigation has been pushed more rapidly. Under hypnosis, the following memories emerge:
"Yes, I was walking up and down the bar-room, and talking, when I taste the bad taste in my mouth, and I think I go up stairs and lie down; when I get up to the sixth stair, I get dizzy and fall back, then the barkeeper he run out for help, and Steffer, he come and they took me on a chair near the door; then I sat down and looked at them, and the barkeeper, he said to Steffer, ‘I think he break his bones'; and Steffer, he say, ‘No, for he is in no pain; we take him up to bed and leave him there an hour.' Then they carry me up and lay me down, and the barkeeper, he say, 'It is lucky he not break his neck,' and then I goes to sleep."
The barkeeper verified the details of this attack. He said that the patient fell back with great force, and lay for several moments entirely unconscious, and that he recalled speaking to another man about it as the patient lay there.
The patient in hypnosis continues: "I was sitting playing cards, and a friend of mine and a boss was sitting there, and then I had a cramp, and dropped the cards, and fell back in the chair, and my friend, he asked the boss, 'What is the matter with William?' and the boss, he say, 'Let him be, he get it often, he be all right.' I tried to get off my shoes, because I had some pain in the small toe, and then they stopped me on that by holding my arms, and then I wake up. I had the bad taste too." It is to be noted in the next memories that the moment of falling asleep is as clearly demarcated from the termination of the dissociated period as is the moment of awakening.
He said: "I was on the St. Louis, coming off the watch, and I go to the wash-room, and get my shirt off, and start to wash, and then I drop down. Beside me stands Ted Horner and an Irishman, named Kennedy. The Irish fellow, he say to the other, ‘What is the matter with that fellow?' 'Fred,' he say, 'never mind him, he will be all right.' Then they lift me up and take me to the forecastle and put me to bed. The Irish fellow, he say, 'I go for a doctor,' and Horner, he say, ‘Let him be, never mind.' They was sitting around the table, and they ask, 'What is the matter?' I said nothing, and soon I went to sleep. I saw Horner standing beside me, as I went to sleep."
The emergence of the dissociated subconscious memories is far easier than at the beginning of the investigation. The recovered subconscious memories have never again lapsed.
In the next hypnosis work was continued as before.
He said: "I was standing in the saloon after my trip, standing in front of the bar, and I have an argument about the war. Then I get excited and fall down in front of the bar. The boss come around and tell the man to leave this man alone, for he knows what is the matter with him. Then he get hold of my shoulders and put me in the chair, and he says to the man, 'Let him sleep here a little bit.' The other men were looking at me, but I said nothing. Then two fellows get hold of my hand and keep them open, for I kept my hands dosed, because I had a sort of pain that kept the fingers together. As the men stood there looking at me, one said, 'I wonder where he get that sickness from,' and the other say, 'It is a bad thing for that man,' and then soon I wake up."
After a short interval patient continued: "I was sitting at the table in the bar-room, playing cards, and I feel bad with a bad taste, and I tell the man I don't feel good, and that he should wait. The boss he come out and ask me, 'What is the matter, William ?' And he come in front of me and say, 'William, what are you looking for?' I was looking through my pockets. I tell him I have a letter this morning, and I was looking for it. And he says, ‘You have got him in your pocket,' and I say, 'No, I can't find him,' and he get hold of my hands and keep them away from my pockets, and then I remember some one else saying that when he goes up stairs he had it in his hand. The boss told him to 'Watch him, that he don't fall out of the chair, and then soon he wake up.'"
We have in these subconscious memories an example of a consistent psychological explanation of those peculiar movements so often described as occurring in epilepsies. This closing of hand, clutching of fingers, fumbling through pockets, all of which actions would be usually regarded as "purposeless," movements characteristic of epileptic seizures, are really the psychomotor manifestations of lapsed dissociated memories.
The patient was again seen early in December. He reported having had four attacks, upon the 22d, 25th, 26th, and 27th of November. All of these attacks were readily recovered in hypnosis. The attack upon the 22d had occurred on a street car. The lapse was very brief. On the 25th, it had occurred in a saloon. The subsequent amnesia was very slight, as he recalled nearly all the details. Those upon the 26th and 27th were mere attacks of dizziness, with no loss of consciousness. No aura was present. These attacks of dizziness were found to be very persistent.
The revival of the subconscious memories is continued: "I was on board the Paris. I go on watch and start to clear up the fire. I had out half the fire, when I dropped down in the corner. The trimmer he called out for a fireman for the centre boiler. He said, 'Come here, quick, and look what is the matter with William,' and he say, 'Take hold of his arm and pull him this side.' They get hold of both arms and pull me back in the corner. The trimmer he asks the fireman, 'Shall I send for the engineer?' He say, 'No, leave him here alone. Go ahead and get the steam up. He will be all right in a couple of minutes.' The trimmer he started to clear the fire, and the fireman came in with a cup of water and asked, if I wanted a drink. Then I waked up after that, as he stand in front of me with the water."
"It was in the bar-room, along with Henry Barr, after I come home from the ship. Then I get paid off and sit playing cards with two friends, and when we were playing a half an hour I feel bad and put my head on the table. One fellow, named Fred, he called the boss and say, 'Henry, come here quick, William get it again,' and then he get hold of my two hands and pull the fingers straight. I thought I had the cards in my hand. The boss he said, ‘Don't ask William to play cards again, for every time he plays he gets that sickness.' Then one fellow say, ‘We did ask him if he feel all right, and he say "Yes," so we play.' Then I wake up."
There is to be noted here the clutching of the hands as a motor phenomenon analogous to the phenomena previously mentioned. The patient's appearance was greatly improved, the apathy, depression, and tendency towards a state of dejection diminished in intensity. This state of depression is found to be largely dependent on the particular state of mental dissociation. Not only is there a dim knowledge of the occurrence of the attacks, but there is as well a faint apprehension of the submerged experiences by the waking consciousness. The gap is dimly felt. At times the subconscious memories almost emerge. The patient has frequently said that just before falling asleep, it seems as if he could almost remember. When he, however, attempted this, all was dark. Moreover, his depression was most acute upon awakening; his thoughts were very confused. Especially has this been the case after a night of singularly distressing dreams. These dreams might well contain much of the lost memories. The hiatus upon awaking was deep; the recall was faulty. The change in these factors was being effected by reason of the wider synthesis.
On the 5th of December, work was continued along the same line.
He said: "I was in front of the house, standing and speaking to a man, when I feel bad and drop down there. He opened the door and called, 'Come out here, somebody, William is sick.' A fellow come out and get hold of my arms and lift me up and put me on a chair at the table. And he say to the boss: 'That fellow is getting worse all the time. That is the second time he get them here from the trip.' Then two were standing in front of me looking at me, and they tell me that I had best go upstairs; the boss, he tell them, 'Leave that man alone, let him come to himself'; and then I get off the chair and walk up and down, and then I wake up when I was walking."
After an interval, the next revival of attacks was entered upon.
He said: "I was on board the Paris, and we left Southampton for New York. The first watch, I come up and go to the wash-house and start to wash, and fall down there; the fellow he get hold of my arm and he try to lift me up, and he couldn't get me up, and he was standing alongside of me watching me. I lay there about a minute, and I get up and go out, and a fellow came after me, as I was going down to the sailors' room. He say, 'Come this way, this is your room'; and he get hold of my arm and pull me to the other door, and get in front of me and get me down the stairs, and put me in the bottom bunk. The other men, they ask him what is the matter with me, and he say: ‘He is all right; let him lay there; in a minute he will be all right.' I wake up soon."
The next attack recalled was as follows: "I come home from work in the factory at Staten Island; I have the bad taste in my mouth, and I drop down in front of the house; I have been laying there one minute, and a man come out and look at me, and he called his wife, saying: 'Come out here and see what ails this man; he says here in front of the house.' His wife, she say, 'What can that be?' Then the man said to her, 'Come out and get hold of him, and we will get him in the house.' And they pull me in the house and leave me on the floor, and his wife say, 'Go get something to put under his head.' I lay there a minute, and then I wake up and walk out."
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