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SYMPTOMATOLOGY, PSYCHOGNOSIS, AND DIAGNOSIS OF PSYCHOPATHIC DISEASES

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

Boston: R. Badger, 1914

 

CHAPTER VI

PSYCHOGNOSIS AND THE HYPNOIDAL TWILIGHT STATE

IN the hypnoidal state chips of former outlived experiences come under certain conditions to the surface of consciousness. What these conditions are we have described in this work. We can only add that in the hypnoidal states lost memories can be reproduced. The patient is put under conditions favorable to the induction of hypnoidization and is asked to make mental efforts to bring up the lost psychic content. Once the patient discovers the successful working of this method, he begins to notice auto-hypnoidization, thus bringing to light many hidden memories and finally bringing about a synthesis of the dissociated subconscious moments.

      Memories in hypnoidal states may be induced spontaneously without the patient actually intending it and sometimes under the influence of mental strain, excitement, or effort. The hypnoidal states may come up in a rush, as if hampering flood gates have broken down, and become associated and synthetized with the present functioning moment, with the present state of self-consciousness.

      I shall give here an account of the hypnoidal states as first observed by me in the classic case of the Rev. T. C. Hanna. When in the hypnoidal state any scene or word or name came up before his mind, it was completely wanting in the elements of recognition and familiarity. A name, for example, came up before his mind; when asked of what he was thinking, he would simply give the name, but when we pushed our inquiry further and asked as to the meaning of the word, he replied he did not know. When told it was the name of a person or of an object, he was greatly surprised that what appeared to him as a combination of "nonsense syllables," arbitrarily arising in his mind should have a definite meaning. When he was asked if he had any vague feeling of ever having heard the word before, he invariably replied in the negative.

      Still more remarkable was the fact that at times, in the hypnoidal states, an entire scene or event arose before his mind; he could describe the scene or the event of his former life-experience exactly as he saw it in his mind's eye; he could describe minutely all the details and yet he had not the slightest trace of recognition that the incident was a former experience of his own. It was to him like arbitrary combinations of images and ideas, somewhat in the way as they take place in our waking reveries or in the dream states of sleep.

      As an example of such hypnoidal states, we may mention the mental condition of the patient during the recital of a Hebrew passage. Being a minister and having studied Hebrew at Yale, Mr. Hanna in his secondary state was tested with texts from the Hebrew Bible, texts with which he had been familiar in his previous life. What happened was striking in the extreme. During the recital of the Hebrew phrase, a flood of Hebrew passages came into his mind: He recited them aloud in that solemn intonation in which the Hebrew Bible had been studied by him in college. When asked the meaning of the phrases, he was at a loss, he had not the slightest notion what that all meant. It was to him a sort of "speaking with tongues affair, a mere conglomeration of meaningless syllables, mere gibberish. As in the phenomenon of "speaking with tongues" the patient was frightened at the sudden outburst of a flood of meaningless jargon.

      Moreover, the memory for the part read to him was not bad, he was able to repeat each word and sometimes a couple of words and even a phrase as it came from the reader of the text. The texts brought up in the hypnoidal state were gone from his memory as soon as he delivered them, only a few distorted words could be gotten out of him; the rest vanished from his memory.

      It was also of importance to notice that instead of imitating the reader who recited the texts to him, as one should expect in a case of imitating unknown words and phrases, the patient had a different inflection and a widely different pronunciation from those of the reader. They were resurrected memories of a buried personality, memories which lightning-like flashed on and vanished from the patient's mind.

      The unexpected sudden change in tone and manner of the patient's recital of the Hebrew phrases which in the hypnoidal state arose from the patient's subconsciousness were striking in the extreme. His voice became strong and sonorous, he recited impressively, as though from the pulpit. It seemed as if the words and phrases burst forth spontaneously and involuntarily in a moment of inspiration.

      As an instance of another hypnoidal state we may mention the following: Miss C. to whom the patient was greatly devoted in his former life, and whom he married after the complete cure and restoration of his former personality, was a perfect stranger to the secondary personality. In one of the experiments this young lady was directed to take the patient's hand and sing a hymn which the young man had heard in his former, primary, personal existence, but had not heard since the injury.

      The patient was told to remain quiet and listen attentively to the hymn. During the song the patient remained passive, his whole attention was concentrated on the song. When the hymn was finished, he was asked whether he had ever heard anything like it before, he looked at us in bewilderment. When asked what had come into his mind during the singing, he gave two words which turned out to be names of people. The patient did not know the meaning of the words and certainly did not suspect that they were names. We learned from the family that the names were those of choir-singers whom he knew some three years ago. The names flashed from the subconscious on the patient's memory, but without the slightest sense of recognition.

      I bring the experiments from the Hanna-case, because of its extreme form of dissociation the characteristics of the hypnoidal state stand out clear and distinct, more so than they do in other cases in which the state of dissociation is comparatively slight. In the ordinary psychopathic cases the hypnoidal state does not present such a complete lack of recognition, still the memories appearing in such states are vague, fragmentary, being apparently devoid of all meaning, "perfect nonsense" as the patient often puts it, and as such tend to fade, like the shadowy experiences of the dream states, into oblivion.

      The chance phrases however are not accidental occurrences, they refer to the patient's former experiences, and give an insight into the very depths of the patient's subconscious life-activity. The hypnoidal state, the state in which all those vague, fragmentary, subconscious memories occur is one of the most potent instruments of Psychopathology and Psychotherapeutics.

 

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