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Boris Sidis, Ph.D.

Simon P. Goodhart, M.D.

© 1904




THE psychological examination, the study of the hypnoidal and hypnoidic states, the marked intelligence of Mr. Hanna, clearly demonstrated to us that the forgotten memories were not lost, that the primary personality was buried deep down within the regions of his subconscious, and that he was in what may be termed a secondary state.

            Our line of work, therefore, lay clearly defined before us. The subconscious primary personality must be stimulated, brought to the surface as often as possible and finally the two personalities must be merged into one.

            As Mr. Hanna could not be put into the hypnotic state, it was necessary to find a course of procedure by means of which the buried personality could be brought to the surface.

            For the purpose of closer observation and experimentation, Mr. Hanna was brought to New York, where facilities were afforded for carrying on the work.

            Mr. Hanna was constantly under our immediate observation and was closely watched day and night. The method now to be employed was that of stimulation. The lost memories being present in a subconscious state, the object was to stimulate that subconscious state and force it to the surface of upper consciousness. This could be accomplished by suddenly bringing the young man into an entirely new and different environment which should afford to him a mass of new and intense stimuli. At home Mr.  Hanna was confined to a more or less monotonous and narrow sphere; living in a village, the scenes were daily the same; his existence lay in the same beaten track; his life was unvaried and uneventful. The faces he saw, the scenes and conditions about him, tended to perpetuate the same mental state. His mind was slumbering in the quiet puritanical environment in which he was leading a more or less vegetative existence.

            The lost memories existing in the subconscious were in an inert state and could not possibly come to life under the conditions in which he lived. It was necessary, therefore, to confront him with experiences which, although new to this secondary state, were nevertheless within the range of his former life experience, but such as to strongly interest him, impress, dazzle and bewilder him. A flood of experiences which the secondary state could not assimilate had to be suddenly forced into his mind. The secondary self would not absorb it; the experiences would be too sudden, too strange and vast. The secondary state would fall into the background, and make possible the emergence of the old primary personality.

            On the evening of his arrival, in the company of his brother, we took Mr. Hanna to a brilliantly lighted popular restaurant. The place was fairly alive with people, and during the dinner the general conversation was made lively and stimulating. Stories and anecdotes were told, followed by general laughter, which all but Mr. Hanna appreciated. Merry scenes and gay music added to the brilliancy. All this fairly bewildered the young clergyman. The stories, as a rule, failed to be understood by him, and he was sorely puzzled at the outbursts of laughter that followed. His secondary personality, never having had such experience, could not comprehend the meaning and significance of the various remarks and anecdotes. The fact that his own brother saw fun and humor in the stories puzzled him still more.

            Mr. Hanna heard the strains of a mandolin in an adjoining room. He thought the music “pretty,” but could not imagine the form and nature of the instrument which could produce such “peculiar, though pretty sounds.” He had not tasted coffee since the accident, it was entirely a new beverage to him. The coffee helped to stimulate him both psychically and physiologically. His curiosity and interest were aroused and became very active. His attention was acute, fairly tingling with alertness to new incoming impressions. The phonograph, among other things, greatly interested him. He was kept for three hours under the pressure of a mass of various psychic stimuli.

            The subconscious was thus stimulated into activity and finally came fully to light. It required some hours before the psychic stimuli became summated and brought to light the primary personality.

            Amnesia is a dissociation of consciousness. The mental state of Mr. Hanna being of that nature, and, furthermore, of the type which may be characterized as complete amnesia, the dissociation was necessarily of a complete character. That is, the plane of cleavage between the consciousness up to the time of the accident and that since the accident was of such a nature as to sever all association between the two. The dissociation that had occurred within his mind was such that the old memories were in a subconscious state, while those recently acquired belonged to his present self-consciousness. It is therefore clear that if these subconscious memories in the form of the primary personality would be stimulated to come to the upper consciousness, the newly acquired memories, the secondary personality, would sink in their turn into subconscious life.

            Now in the type of amnesia to which this case belongs two individual systems of psychic states carry on their functions in an isolated and independent manner; one is the primary and the other the secondary. The rise of one system will be accompanied by the fall of the other, and the result will be an alternation of personality.  Such was the course of the case.

            Mr. Hanna’s first night in New York was spent at the house of Dr. G. The room-companion of the patient was his brother, Mr. J. H. The brother was instructed to call us, should anything of interest occur during the night.


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