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Boris Sidis, Ph.D.

Simon P. Goodhart, M.D.

© 1904




PSYCHOPHYSIOLOGICAL dissociation is at the basis of the psychopathic states of functional psychosis. The occasion or the proximate cause of functional psychosis is invariably present in the dissociated psychopathic states. Thus, for instance, the event and circumstances that have given rise to functional psychosis can always be found, on investigation, in the dissociated moment. Tapping this dissociated moment by different methods, the detachable sensori-motor states with its memories are brought to light and a reassociation is made possible. Such a reassociation removes the psychopathic conditions and the anaesthesias and amnesias vanish. Cases of psychic epilepsy, the many forms of aphasias, fixed ideas and other mental and sensori-motor maladies of like kind may be brought as good illustrations of the truth of our proposition. The experiences and memories are present in the dissociated moment in a subconscious state and do not become synthetized in the functioning personal moment consciousness.

            What specially characterizes functional psychosis is the fact that its losses are not absolute, but relative only. What is absent in self-consciousness is present subconsciously. Neither the anaesthesias nor the amnesias are absolute. In fact, far from being the case that functional psychosis manifests itself in losses such as diminished or even total loss of sensibility or of memory, it can be shown that when the subconscious dissociated state is tapped by stimuli adequate to its functioning activity, that hyperaesthesia and hypermnesia take the place of anaesthesia and amnesia.

            The apparently anaesthetic spot is shown to be highly sensitive, far more so than in the normal state, and the seemingly lost tract of memories is present to the minutest details. Thus in the D. F. case, the visual stimulations that were outside of her greatly contracted field of vision were apparently not perceived by the patient. An examination, however, revealed that they were actually present in the patientís mind, but in such a condition as not to be directly reached by the active systems of associations constituting for the time being the patientís personality; in other words, the impressions, the sensory experiences existed in a detached form, in a form dissociated from the rest of the associative systems of the patientís personal mental activity. Once, however, these detached, dissociated systems were reached by stimuli appropriate to them; then it became clear that not only were the stimulations perceived, but the perception was highly delicate and sensitive. While the field of vision in self-consciousness became greatly contracted, that of the subconscious became enlarged beyond the normal. There was the anaesthesia for the contracted personal consciousness and hyperaesthesia for the dissociated consciousness.

            Similarly in the case of F., where whole tracts of memories were apparently completely lost from personal consciousness, they were found in all their manifold details in the subconscious, clearly revealing the important fact that here, too, personal amnesia is dissociated hypermnesia. The central truth of functional psychosis is psychophysiological dissociation giving rise to the two opposing and apparently contradictory sets of symptoms or manifestations. The threshold of sensitivity and recollection seems to move in two opposite directions; while there is a rise of threshold to maximum in the self-consciousness, there is also a fall of the threshold to minimum in the subconscious. This simultaneous rise and fall of thresholds for sensitivity and recollection may be regarded as the paradox of functional psychosis.

            The paradoxical side of this simultaneous rise and fall of the thresholds becomes perfectly plain and clear when we remember that all functional psychosis is a dissociation of mental systems. The dissociated system falling out of the main organization of the functioning systems gives rise to limited anaesthesia and amnesia. Reached, however, through appropriate and adequate stimulations, they reveal a full account of their very isolation and dissociation from the rest of functioning systems, disclosing their entire content, manifesting hyperaesthesia and hypermnesia. In reality, the two seemingly contradictory manifestations of rise and fall of threshold for sensitivity and recollection are both two sides of one and the same phenomenon; both are related to one and the same central fact of functional psychosisópsychophysiological dissociation, the dissociation and disaggregations of systems of central neural elements with their concomitant psychic systems or moments consciousness.1 

            The phenomena of simultaneous functioning of both personal consciousness and subconscious systems cannot be explained on the theory of emotionalism, and the facts, moreover, directly contradict that theory. Thus in the subconscious motor manifestations of automatic writing experiences are recorded by the patient, apparently in an automatic way, while he is busy reading or talking, the experiences being of a nature unknown to the patient, and the act of recording remains also unknown. The same experiences may also be manifested in the form of whispering, occurring in an automatic form, the patient remaining entirely unconscious of the whole occurrence. The theory of emotionalism has no explanation of these phenomena, but on the dissociation theory such phenomena should naturally be expected. The psychophysiological systems that have become dissociated carry on their functioning activity side by side with the main systems, with the personal consciousness.

            Furthermore, we should expect to find that the temporarily possessed by the subconscious dissociative systems, such, for instance, as the hand or the tongue, should for the time being fall outside the control and consciousness of the main personality. Now we actually find this to be the case. When the hand of the automatic writer is pricked, he does not feel it, though the dissociated consciousness does. On the theory of emotionalism, there is absolutely no reason why the facts should be of such a character.

            The same holds true in cases of amnesia, where the automatic writing records events, totally unknown to the subject, occurring during the time he is attentively reading or engaged in active conversation. Two streams of consciousness run here side by side; two moments are active simultaneously. The theory of emotionalism can give no reason for these phenomena. The theory of dissociation, on the contrary, not only explains them, but in fact makes them absolutely necessary.

            Instead of simultaneity, functional psychosis may present phenomena of succession of an alternate character. Memories may alternate, what is known to one state is unknown to the other. The alternate states may form series which know each other. What account can the theory of emotionalism give of these phenomena? None whatever! If an intense emotion brings about an amnesic state, then the removal of the emotion and the coming up into consciousness of the inhibited forgotten content should not be accompanied by a new amnesia. The theory of psychological dissociation once more can account fully for these phenomena, in fact, it requires their occurrence, if the theory is to be substantiated and verified at all. Two or more dissociated systems, two or more dissociated moments may function simultaneously or successively. When they do function in succession, what should happen? Naturally the phenomena of alternating amnesia.

            The interrelation of the alternating states may be of such a character that they may be completely unknown to one another; or they may be known to one, but not to the other. Thus the first series of states may not know the second series, nor the second the first; or while the first series does not know of the second, the second series does know the first. In the first case the dissociation is complete; in the second case, the dissociation is fully present in the primary series, but not in the secondary. Suppose, for the sake of illustration, consciousness consists of moments A, B, C, D, E, F, then in the case where the states are unknown the primary series may consist of A, B, while the secondary series consists of C, D, E, F; both series are independent and dissociated, and as such are unknown to each other. In the case, however, where the secondary knows the primary, but not the reverse, then the secondary consists of all the functioning moments, while the primary consists only of A, B, and as such it does not know the rest of the moments, C, D, E, F, etc. Now, while on the theory of dissociation we should expect such interrelation in the dissociated moments, on the theory of emotionalism, the phenomena of alternating memory-series and their interrelations remain an insoluble mystery.

            The secondary states may be wide and extensive enough to include the primary states, or they may be so narrow as to exclude them. In the former case, the secondary states may be regarded as more or less complete states, while the primary states are the incomplete ones. Frequently, however, both primary and secondary states are incomplete, and while they may have in common many of the lower automatic and secondary reflex psychic activities, they lack common elements of conscious memory, and hence there is no recollection of one series by the other. The whole series of primary states, however, represents a flowing, synthetic, organic unity with recognition and recollection of all the primary states; while all the secondary states form another independent, but also an organic unity, having recognition and memory for all the secondary states that enter the flowing unit. In other words, two personalities are formed which to all intents and purposes may be regarded as independent of each other, being unconscious of each other and having two separate centres of synthesis, giving rise to the phenomena known as double consciousness.

            If the cycle appears but once, we have monocyclical bimorphosis; if the cycle is repeated, polycyclical bimorphosis. There is, however, no reason why the separate series should be limited to two, although this is the most common occurrence. There may be many separate series, with as many independent foci of synthesis, giving rise to as many different individualities. In such a case we have the phenomena of multiple consciousness or of multiple personality; in short, the phenomena of polymorphosis. If the cycle occurs but once, then the polymorphosis may be said to be monocyclical; if the cycle is repeated, the polymorphosis is polycyclical.

            The formed personalities in polymorphosis act as independent individual beings and enter into relations, conversations and discussions with one another, the whole presenting a dramatic play in which many personages take active part, successively as well as simultaneously. Such, for instance, are those functional cases of multiple personality, reported by many writers, cases which to a certain extent may be reproduced artificially. These many personalities may fuse and form a new personality with all the contents of memory belonging to them, and as such may have recognition of all of them.

            At this point let me emphasize the fact which has been but too often entirely overlooked, namely, the fundamental difference between reproductive amnesia and that of a purely recognitive character. In amnesia of reproduction, the very contents of memory are lost, whether functionally or organically, whether relatively and temporarily or absolutely; in amnesia of recognition, the content of memory on examination can be shown to be present and reproduced, but it is not recognized as belonging to oneís past life. Amnesia of recognition is no doubt due to a great narrowing down of associative connections brought about by the process of functional dissociation, affecting the particular content. For recognition, as we have shown, is a function of associative systems, recognition becoming more localized in time and more specific in proportion to the number of associative interconnections. Recognitive amnesia depends on a very limited field of associative activity, or rather on a very great extent of dissociation, while amnesia of reproduction is the outcome of complete functional dissociation. In both cases the psychic content is retained; in one case it is reproduced only, but not recognized, in the other it is neither recognized nor reproduced.

            Now, in the phenomena of bimorphosis and polymorphosis, whether coexistent or successive, the same important distinction between amnesia of recognition and amnesia of reproduction should be maintained. This distinction gives us a wider, deeper and clearer view of the phenomena and their interrelation. These dissociated streams of thought, these various foci of mental activity, these individual moments developing into fully fledged personalities, since the detached fragments of the personal moment have a tendency to become personalities in their turn and thus reproduce the type of moment from which they have become detached, may stand in different relations to one another. The newly developed personality formed by dissociation may know the rest, but not recognize them, or it may not even reproduce them, in either case the rest are regarded as total strangers.

            The quasi-individualities formed may be sharply defined in character, with strong claims of being independent personalities, and though often bringing confusion in their wake, they are jealous of their independence and strenuously resist attempts at fusion. The quasi-personality puts forth claims of being an independent, objective individual and not even related to the patientís personality, of which it is really a constituent. The Flournoy case and other related cases are of this type of polymorphosis.

            In cases of polymorphic personality we usually find one or two predominating personalities, which present a high degree of stability and individuality, while the rest are unstable; they come and go and get character and individuality by insistent questioning and indirect suggestions given to them by outside people and their surroundings. There is no doubt that the very interplay of the principal dominating personalities as well as of the subordinate ones is in itself an important factor in the strengthening of the various crystallized individualities, which at first may come into being in a rather amorphous condition. The interrelation of these different quasi-individualities, though seemingly so aggressively independent, is really a very intimate one; they are all chips of the same block.



1 See part iii, chapters xi, xii.


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