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Boris Sidis, Ph.D.

Simon P. Goodhart, M.D.

© 1904




WE have until now mainly viewed psychic or moment content as passing from the centre to the periphery of consciousness through varying degrees of intensity, from maximum to minimum, the movement being from the conscious to the subconscious. There is no need, however, that this should always be the case. Experiences may first be perceived by the subconscious regions and then only transmitted to the conscious regions, the movement thus occurring in the opposite direction, from the subconscious to the conscious. Experiences, for instance, lived through in dreams, which belong to the subconscious states, may come to the surface as hypnoidal states and then become synthetized in the upper waking consciousness, or they may be lighted up in hypnosis and then permanently synthetized in the centre of consciousness.

            The following case, which I quote from my notes, may serve as an illustration:

            The patient suffers from headaches, which are sometimes very severe; feels pain on concentration of the mind. She often reads a page over and over again and is entirely unable to make out the meaning. She feels completely paralyzed in her will, and whatever she does is more of a mechanical affair to her. She has not the slightest interest in anything. When young, patient was very musical, but since her twenty-fourth year she lost her musical talent—at least, she feels she has not the power she possessed once. Her memory is growing worse since then, until she is now unable to remember anything. She can now read and play, but it is mechanical, without the power and feeling she possessed once. Her headaches are severe, dull, but rather irregular as to their onset. Patient is very restless in her sleep, moans, wakes up as if in a great fright, but does not remember the dreams. Sometimes she moans and cries in her sleep and has to be awakened by her husband. Occasionally she has periods of insomnia. She is a very active dreamer; the dream-life has become predominant and has absorbed and sucked down, so to say, the content of her waking consciousness.

            She went into a deep hypnotic state, and gradually the dream of the night before unfolded itself before the patient as if she were living the same experiences over again. “I see a very high tower—I am there—something I don’t like—the window—I feel—“ Patient became very agitated. She was quieted, and she went on: “I am in space—I am falling—I don’t know where I am—I can’t get down—I don’t know what keeps me there.” Patient became greatly agitated, greatly frightened, as one actually falling and becoming suspended in the air; she sighed and breathed hard. “I want to get down. I am hanging in the air,” she cried out in despair and fright. Patient, in great excitement and with her eyes closed, suddenly jumped from the couch. (Pulse about 90.) After a few moments, patient says: “Now I am down—I am on the ground. I hurt myself and got a headache.” The whole experience was of a very highly developed hallucinatory state, a hypnoidic state, which she was able to recollect on emerging from the hypnotic state.

            Similarly experiences first lived through in the subconscious states induced by alcoholic intoxication may be brought by hypnoidal states or by hypnosis into the focus of consciousness. Hypnoidal states are specially important; they are uprushes of the subconscious, and by means of them many a hidden and obscure region of the subconscious may be laid bare. Thus he Hanna case was largely marked by hypnoidal states. In another case of mine, characterized by subconscious lapses, furious maniacal outbreaks preceded by an aura, followed by long sleep of fifteen hours’ duration, and by complete amnesia of what had occurred during the lapses, the hypnoidal states were the only means by which the experiences, passed through during the subconscious lapses, became completely revealed. Similarly in another case of amnesia, the hypnoidal states have given glimpses into subconscious regions which even deep hypnosis could not reveal. There is no need of devoting space to the cases here, as our purpose is only to show that the movement of moments may originally occur in the reverse direction from the peripheral subconscious regions to the centre of consciousness, and also to indicate the fact of the great value of hypnoidal states in bringing about such a reversion of movements.

            The method of guesses is also valuable in the investigation, showing the reverse process of mental activity, the passage of a state that has been subconsciously experienced into the focus of consciousness. If in a case of psychopathic anaesthesia, a form of anaesthesia where sensibility of the anaesthetic spot is really present in the subconscious in a hyperaesthetic form, if the anaesthetic spot is stimulated, the patient is not aware of it; should he, however, be asked to guess, or to tell anything that happenes to come into his mind, he is often found to give correct answers even in minor details. The patient perceives subconsciously, and this perception, often in a slightly modified form, is transmitted to the upper consciousness, or to what for the present constitutes the patient’s principal moment consciousness or personality. If, for instance, the anaesthetic spot of the patient is pricked a number of times, the patient remains quiet and is seemingly insensible. Should we now ask the patient to tell anything that comes into his head, he will say “pricking,” and will be unable to tell why he happened to think of “pricking at all.” Should we now ask him to give any number that may enter his mind, he will give the correct number, once more not being able to give the reason why this particular number happened to enter into his mind, considering it a mere “chance number.” The subconscious sensations experienced are transmitted as ideas to the focus of consciousness. Sometimes instead of the particular idea being transmitted, only the general aspect of it reaches the focus. Thus , the patient may not be able to guess the particular nature of the stimulus, but may give the correct number of the unfelt stimuli, showing the reverse movement of the psychic state.

            This reverse movement of the psychic state, from the originally subconscious to the upper consciousness, is well manifested in a case under investigation. The patient’s field of vision is extremely limited. If objects are inserted in a zone extending from the periphery of the narrowed field to the utmost boundary of the normal field, and the patient is asked to tell anything that happen to enter the mind at that time, and to do it without any deliberation, the words, seemingly chance words to patient, are almost uniformly correct names of the inserted objects. On the periphery of that “subconscious” zone only general guesses are correct. Thus, if letters and numbers are inserted, the patient thinks of the particular letter or number, when exhibited within the “subconscious” zone. At the periphery of the zone, however, only the general character comes into the mind, namely, letters or numbers, but not the particular character itself. Some of the phenomena of paramnesia can be explained by this principle of reverse movement, when subconscious experiences transmitted to central consciousness appear under the form of “familiar” memories, such as was shown to be the case with the proofreader described in another chapter.


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