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Boris Sidis, Ph.D.
Simon P. Goodhart, M.D.
THE STRUGGLE AND UNION OF ALTERNATING PERSONALITIES
MR. HANNA was now taken out for a walk, and on the way stopped at Dr. G.’s office, about 4.30 in the afternoon of June 14. A discussion arose between Dr. S. and Mr. Hanna on various topics relating to religious and ministerial duties. Mr. Hanna was in a pleasant mood; there was observed, however, some absent-mindedness, as if something was working in the subconscious regions of his mind. His mind was lucid; his argument, as usual, was clear and forcible.
At Dr. G.’s office, Mr. Hanna lay down upon a lounge to rest. He soon fell into a condition of what appeared to be deep abstraction. He complained of a severe headache, which, he said, was “all over the head.” The state of abstraction deepened; he turned his head away from us and lay immovable upon one side for some time. Although he was awake, he would not answer our interrogations and strongly resisted our efforts to change the position of his limbs.
In this condition Mr. Hanna remained for twenty minutes. The mouth temperature at this time was found to be 99.5 F., pulse 96 per minute.
When his brother addressed him, Mr. Hanna turned to him with eyes staring wildly, but did not reply. When an interrogation was put to him, he gazed in a dazed way at the question, but did not answer.
Five minutes later, when asked how he felt, he seemed to make an effort to comprehend, but still did not reply.
The pulse had dropped to 78; temperature remained as before.
We desired to ascertain whether Mr. Hanna could understand us and possessed voluntary control, at least of his eye muscles, because it was not possible to induce movements of other voluntary muscles. It was difficult to determine whether his failure to respond to our direction to him was due to loss of comprehension or to loss of voluntary control of his muscles. To determine this, a pencil was moved in various directions, and he was told to follow it with his eyes. At first he failed to respond, but later correctly used his eye muscles in looking at the pencil. There was no muscular paralysis, but rather want of comprehension.
A few minutes later he was able to answer “yes” and “no” to questions. It was necessary to repeat the questions four or five times before he grasped the meaning. We could not stimulate him to speak, although he apparently made every effort to do so. To determine whether Mr. Hanna’s mental faculties were intact, and whether he understood speech, we told him to answer “Yes” when a sentence given contained a proper combination of words, and “No” to an incorrect nonsense combination. For example, when we would say white is black, five times eight are ten, his answer was “No”; fire burns, five times eight make forty, his reply was “Yes.” His responses were uniformly correct, showing that comprehension was present.
During the entire time, Mr. Hanna was apparently in a state resembling that of mental stupor. His mind reacted sluggishly to the impressions from the external world; he was deeply absorbed within himself. Asked as to his headache, he replied “No,” meaning by it that he no longer suffered pain.
We wished now to learn whether he was in his primary or secondary state. To ascertain this, we put questions which would show familiarity with both states. His responses of “Yes” and “No” showed that he knew directly of both primary and secondary states. In order to be more certain, we spoke German to him. This language he knew only in the primary state, and he showed positive signs of comprehension. We asked questions concerning persons and events which had recently occurred in the secondary state and of which he had not been told when in the primary state. His correct responses proved to us beyond question that he now possessed knowledge of both states. In short, Mr. H. was in what we may term the complete state.
Gradually he began to recover his speech, but only slowly; he seemed to suffer from bradyphasia. The sentences in which he answered were short, and the words drawn out into their component syllables. Not only was he slow in his speech, but also in his movements, and in his reaction to external stimuli. His comprehension was dull, his mental activity was greatly retarded, his intellect was sluggish. This slowness of thought we may appropriately characterize by the term bradylogia.
At first we had to assist him to rise; he moved more or less mechanically until he seemed gradually to regain his power of voluntary locomotion.
He remained in this rather dazed state for about two hours. During this time he gradually came to himself, but his mental activity was greatly retarded, strongly contrasting with both his primary and secondary states. He was able to converse with us freely, but asked us to speak slowly and distinctly in order that he might comprehend what we said to him. This slowness of intellect had never before been manifested, neither in his normal state before the accident nor in the primary or secondary states. This condition gradually disappeared in the course of several weeks.
When Mr. Hanna was in a condition to enter into conversation with those about him, he was asked, if he could give an account of the peculiar state in which he had been in the afternoon. He told us he was fully conscious of all that had been said and done. When asked if he had voluntarily resisted our endeavors to flex his limbs and to turn him while he was lying upon the lounge, he answered that every movement at that time greatly disturbed him and acted painfully on his mind. What he meant by this will shortly be made clear to the reader. He was then asked to give a full account of his psychic state at that time; what his thoughts had been and through what experiences he had been mentally passing.
We were then informed that he was during those moments passing through an intense mental struggle; that it was a most critical period of his life. Here, also, we findthe central point of Mr. Hanna’s pathological state. Around this point of his life centres our interest, because it gives us a deep and clear insight into the nature of his subconscious state. Our observations that pointed to the presence of a slumbering, subconscious state of the lost experiences; our experiments on his memory, the hypnoidal and hypnoidic states that clearly revealed the actual existence of these memories and their possible rise to the surface of his life; our methods that had further substantiated our views by bringing about a crystallization of the two personalities that kept on, by constant stimulation, alternating in his upper consciousness; our methods employed with the object of bringing up simultaneously the two individualities having them confronted by each other, then forcing them into one synthetic living unity, all that was now once more substantiated by the crucial test of the expected and predicted final results, and by Mr. Hanna’s subjective account of them. The objective and subjective lines of evidence as to the nature of the pathological processes coincided; Mr. Hanna's subjective account corroborated our views of the case.
Mr. Hanna told us that while lying upon the lounge, he had engaged in one of the most intense struggles he had ever experienced. The two personalities, that of the primary and that of the secondary state, arose simultaneously and confronted each other. Each of them was the “I” of Mr. Hanna, and still they differed from each other. He could not choose one only, because each was of the same nature as the other; they could not be joined, because they were two quite different personalities. Still, different as they were, they were not independent. Both were the ego of Mr. Hanna, and yet each so differed from the other. The struggle produced intense perplexity and perturbation. He felt that the two lives were his, and that they had to be synthetized into one ego. This seemed as impossible as to unify two different individualities and make of them one person. One could not possibly be abandoned and the other taken, because both came up constantly before him as though proclaiming, “We are one, though different!”
It was a critical period for Mr. Hanna; he was in a condition which one in a normal state can hardly realize. Two different individualities claimed his personal self. It was a struggle for life between two individualities formed in a single mind; each one endeavored to gain ascendancy and to suppress, to crush the other; and still neither could be suppressed, because each was part and parcel of the other. There was only one way out of the difficulty, and that was the unification of the two. There was no alternative, the two had to be combined and form one ego. Mr. Hanna had reached a critical point, the situation was tragic and painful. Already in the psychological laboratory, before the painful and critical point came up, already there the conflict of personalities began. It was there for the first time that each of the separate, crystallized individualities caught, so to speak, a glimpse of each other; it was there, so he afterward told us, that the two lives came simultaneously before him, disappeared, rose, met, disappeared again, and finally, as the secondary state came uppermost, the primary state for the time being, seemed to be suppressed, fell into the subconscious regions; but it did not remain there long; it came to the surface, and with renewed vigor defended its claim for life. The struggle was again resumed and it was just this painful situation that expressed itself in his present psycho-physical state.
These two-formed individualities, seemingly mortal foes, confronted each other for a long period of time, and in their very struggle recognized their intimate relationship, if not their relationship of identity. It seemed as if each said to the other, “Thou art my mortal foe, and yet thou art the bone of my bones and the flesh of my flesh.” For each personality to crush, to suppress the other, was now out of the question; the difficulty, the problem for them, was how to form a unity; how to become synthetized into one conscious personality. The task was a difficult one, and could be achieved only at a loss of much mental energy. Hence the sluggishness of psychomotor activity, the slowness of movement, of speech, of reactions to external stimuli; hence the retardation of the whole stream of consciousness, the slow and difficult comprehension, hence the phenomena of bradyphasia and bradylogia.
Mr. Hanna gave us a personal account of his subjective experiences during the attack just described. The account was all the more valuable, because of his intelligence and excellent intellectual training.
We here reproduce verbatim his replies to our questions Mr. Hanna was asked to describe the manner in which he emerged into his present “complete” state. He replied: “While I was sitting in the chair and fell into that sleep from which you made so many efforts to awaken me, the two lives, that of the primary and of the secondary state (in each state he knew indirectly of the other by information from us), came up for the first time. What agitated me most was the problem, which of the two lives I had been living should be continued, which experiences I should accept as my own and make continuous. That was the first time I really had memory for the primary and secondary states simultaneously.”
Q. Did the two states appear to you as different, and in what way? A. They seemed as any memory of the past, just as anyone's past life appears to him. They were, however, different. I had to choose between the two, which seemed to me a task impossible to perform. For instance, it would be impossible for you to take Dr. G.’s life and join it to your own, and hence if such a problem were to arise you would have to choose between the two and accept only one. It would be impossible for you to take both; one must go.
Q. How did the two memories appear to you? A. As two different persons. That moment in the laboratory was the first time when they appeared together and yet were separate. When I saw these two lives, I felt myself constrained to choose. The two lives appeared distinct and separate. Reason told me I was one, but there appeared two egos, and hence I had to choose between them.
Q. How did you know the two lives both belonged to you if they appeared as two different personalities? A. The first thing that made me think so was that I remembered in my primary state that you told me of a secondary state, and in the secondary, of a primary state alongside of the secondary; hence, when two individualities, both known as my own, appeared together, I thought they must be mine. There was also an unexplainable feeling that both were mine.
Q. Were these differences as distinct as between two real Persons? A. I can’t surely say, but you remember and are sure of what happens in your life and cannot say why you are. When I was in the primary state, I had memory for everything in that state, and when in the secondary state, I had memory for everything which occurred in the secondary state. Now, when I was in that sleep condition in the laboratory, the two states were together each of precisely the same nature as it had been before; both states came together and were recognized. Before that, while in the one I did not recognize the existence of the other. I never realized that, if I should regain my memory, it would happen in such a strange way. I thought it would be like bringing up old memories as one ordinarily does. In reality, it was like bringing to vision an entirely new life. In each memory the life seemed within the same body physically, the same physical being. It seemed to me, on reasoning, as if these were two bodies alike, like twins, perhaps, beings that had lived entirely different lives, or like twins of the same body, with tastes and natures very similar that lead afterward become one. Mentally the two lives were very different; it was as if, for instance, you had the memory of your life and Dr. G.’s life as your own at once, or, better still, if you had the memory of Dr. G.’s experiences in another body similar to your own, bodies exactly alike, with similar dispositions, faculties and tastes. You would think it impossible to join the two lives into one; they would seem so discontinuous and different. It was a struggle for me to decide which to choose. I had to leave one, because it was impossible for me to take both, it seemed too great a strain to take both. You see how hard it would be to take your own and Dr. G.’s life and make both your own you would have to choose one.
Q. Which life did you prefer to accept? A. I was willing to take either. The struggle was not so much to choose one as to forget the other. I was trying to find which might most easily forget. It seemed impossible to forget one; both tried to persist in consciousness. It seemed as if each memory was stronger than my will, and still I had to determine which to drive away. Just before lunch yesterday, in the psychological laboratory, I chose the secondary life; it was strong and fresh and was able to persist. The primary was more clouded and easier to subdue. I tried alternately to throw away each, and succeeded at last in throwing away the primary and emerged into the secondary state. At Dr. G.’s office I had the same struggle over again.
Q. Why, when you were lying upon the lounge, did you resist our efforts to change your position? A. I wanted to be alone to decide which life to give up. At this time the question arose, whether I could not possibly take both, whether I should try and forsake either at all. I felt I must decide now whether to have this struggle daily, that is, to decide upon one only; I now wondered whether I might not accept both.
The first time the question arose I was in the intermediary state; the question was, Which of the two lives I should reject? The second question in my mind arose when I was at Dr. G.’s office. It was, whether I should take one or both lives. The second question was one that ought logically to have been decided prior to that considered the first time. I recognized that it was necessary to choose one or to take both. The question now was, whether one or both; the mental struggle was great, it was hard to decide. (Mr. Hanna found it extremely difficult to express the mental struggle of the two states.) I decided to take both lives as mine, because of the fear and anxiety that the struggle would be repeated again and again. The mental agony experienced in the struggle of the two lives was too great to endure; the decision had to be made. I determined to end the struggle, and make a final decision. I decided to accept both lives as mine—a condition that could. not be worse than the uncertainty I was in. I then felt that the oft-repeated struggle would ruin my mind. The struggle was very severe and the mental agony great.
It never seemed possible to me that loss of one’s memory could be so complete. I could not in either state prepare my mind for the amalgamation of the two states, because I couldn’t realize them both together. I have no retained both memories; I am sure both are mine. They are separate, and I cannot yet fit the two well together. For instance, I can remember the hours of the primary state of Sunday morning, but I cannot recall just where to fit them in, and I do not know whether to put them before or after going to church. (Mr. Hanna on the way to church, passed into the secondary state.) I cannot arrange the events in a chronological order. Secondary and primary states have breaks and intervals in them, as though there were periods of sleep. The secondary state is stronger and brighter, but not more stable.
Q. How about your picture dreams? A. I then called the vivid ones “dreams,” but I think I should now call them visions.
Mr. Hanna was reminded that in Plantsville Dr. S. had read the beginnings of Hebrew passages to him, and that he had continued the recital of the entire passage. He was now asked to describe his mental state at that time. He said:
“Yes, I remember that; it came to me then as when a quotation, for instance, is recalled to mind suddenly and one can’t remember where or when it was learned. One does not realize he has ever learned or heard it before; he can’t associate it in his experience. It came to me just like a mental flash. It startled me then, because for all the five weeks prior to that time and dating from the accident I had a clear recollection and association for all I knew; I had carefully retained all, but that flash of ‘unknown memory’ was a wonder to me. On reflection I realized it must belong to the past life about which I had been told so much.”
Q. Do you remember that you fell from the carriage? A. Yes, I remember falling out of the carriage.
Q. What is the next you remember about the fall? A. I remember my brother going to help me, and then I went to sleep.
Q. And when did you wake up? A. In about three hours.
Q. After you awoke, were you able to speak? A. No.
Q. Could you have spoken by force of will? A. No, I didn’t know a single word.
Q. Last night I asked you if you had made up your mind to have the two lives combined, is your mind made up fully now? A. Yes.
Q. Do you still consider them separate? A. I am sure they are both mine, but they are separate in this sense, that I cannot fit the parts of one into the space of the other. I do not know how to unify them. For instance, I can remember three hours when I was in the primary state one morning, but I do not know what date to fit that in. I remember rising, dressing and going to breakfast, and that is all I remember in the primary state, but I do not know when that was, what day that was. I have not learned to fit them in the chronological order. The secondary state has breaks in it that are like sleep, and the primary state has breaks in it also. I will have to learn the dates better before I am able to fit them together.
Q. Which of the two memories do you retain the most easily, the primary or secondary? A. Both alike, in a general way. The difference is that the secondary state is a little stronger and brighter, but it is no better maintained. There are more details in it, which I remember vividly.
Q. Have you any reasons more or less personal to care to remain rather in the primary or in the secondary state? A. No, I cannot choose now, I have decided.
Q. Have you any reasons, any personal reasons, to prefer to remain in the primary or in the secondary state or to retain both? 1 A. No.
Q. Last night you spoke to me as if you would like to remain in one state rather than the other; that there were two reasons why you would prefer to remain in the primary state rather than in the secondary? A. No, I meant to say that there were moral questions that have come up before me since I have joined both. For instance, these two men that I spoke of last night, and similar things.
Q. Well, explain if you can. A. It is this, there are two men who, since the two states are joined into one, give me good reasons to change my relations to them. They would have been my enemies if they could. In my secondary state, of course, I did not know that ; there was no one to tell me, and they took advantage of the secondary state, introduced themselves, and got promises that no one else would have been able to get. I tell you this as an example of questions that come in my mind since, because I have learned people differently in the secondary state, and compared with the complete state it makes quite a difference. Some people I cannot trust now that I did trust before. In my secondary state I believed every word they told me. I have simply given this to prove to you what has been passing through my mind since I have joined the two lives. It is a question to know what to do in this case. Whether to fulfill these promises I had made in one state and which I would not have made in my full state, or to try to compromise the two.
Q. Do you feel that you are responsible for the promises you have made in the secondary state? A. That is the question. You see, if they are contradictory, I cannot be responsible for both; but you can understand what a confusion there must be in a person’s mind, for everyone that I have met with, old or new friends, has been in certain relations to me. I am not speaking of anyone in particular, but it is very confusing, and it will be confusing and embarrassing for them, too, for they have been explaining things to me and teaching me like a child to talk, and so on.
Mr. Hanna gave the above account in a clear, precise way; slowly and apparently with mental effort, though with a full and exact idea of what he was intending to convey. The Two personalities have merged their individual minds into one personal consciousness. The two individual lives have gone to form the complete healthy life of one individual, the present Mr. Hanna.
1 Because of the sluggishness of the patient’s comprehension at this time, some of the questions were necessarily repeated.
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