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

© 1922



        In "The Psychology of Suggestion," I pointed out the conditions of normal and abnormal suggestibility. Among these conditions, monotony and the limitation of voluntary movements play an important role. Any arrangement of external circumstances, tending to produce monotony and limitation of voluntary movements, brings about a subconscious state of suggestibility in which the patient's mental life can be influenced with ease.

         I find that in the subconscious hypnoidal state consciousness is vague and memory is diffused, so that experiences apparently forgotten come in bits and scraps to the foreground of consciousness. Emotional excitement is calmed, voluntary activity is somewhat passive, and suggestions meet with little resistance.

         The induced subconscious hypnoidal state is a rest state, a state of physical and mental relaxation. It is a state of rest and relaxation that is specially amenable to psychotherapeutic influences. The important results obtained by me led to a closer study of what I then thought was a peculiar mental state designated by me as the subwaking, or the hypnoidal state.

         The subwaking, or the hypnoidal state is essentially an intermediary state belonging apparently to the borderland of mental life. On the one hand, the hypnoidal state touches on the waking condition; on the other it merges into sleep and hypnosis. A close study of the hypnoidal state shows that it differs front the hypnotic state proper and that it can by no means be identified with light hypnosis.

         In my years of work on patients and subjects, I have observed the presence of the hypnoidal state before the development of hypnosis and also before the onset of sleep. When again the hypnotic or sleep state passes into waking, the hypnoidal state reappears. The hypnoidal state then may be regarded as an intermediate and transitional state.

         A somewhat related state has been long known in psychological literature as the hypnagogic state which precedes the oncome of sleep and is rich in hallucinations known under the term of hypnagogic hallucinations. In coming out of sleep, a closely related state may be observed, a state which I have termed hypnapagogic. In both states, hypnagogic and hypnapagogic, dream-hallucinations hold sway.

         The hypnagogic and hypnapagogic states do not belong to light hypnosis, as it can hardly be claimed that men fall into light hypnosis twice, or possibly more than that, every day of their life. We do not go into light hypnosis with every nap we take. We do, however, go into the hypnoidal state when we pass into sleep or come out of sleep. Every drowsy state has the hypnoidal state as one of its constituents; every sleep state is preceded and followed by the hypnoidal state.

         Hypnosis may be regarded as belonging to the abnormal mental states, while the hypnoidal state is more closely allied to waking and sleep, and belongs to the normal, physiological, mental states. At first, I regarded the hypnoidal state as peculiar, but as I proceeded with my observations and experiments I could not help coming to the conclusion that the hypnoidal state is found in all the representatives of animal life and is as normal as waking and sleep.

         The hypnoidal state may be said to partake not only of the nature of waking and sleep, but also to possess some characteristics of hypnosis, namely, suggestibility. It is clear that, from the very nature of its mixed symptomatology, the hypnoidal state is variable and highly unstable. The hypnoidal state may be regarded in the light of an equivalent of sleep. Like sleep, the hypnoidal state has many levels of depth. It differs, however, from sleep in the rapidity of oscillation from level to level.

         In the experiments of various investigators, the depth of sleep is found to be represented by a rapidly rising curve during the first couple of hours, and by a gradually descending curve during the rest of the hours of sleep. No such regularity of curve can be found in the hypnoidal state. The depth of the hypnoidal state changes very rapidly, and with it the passive condition and suggestibility of the patient.

         For many years investigations of the hypnoidal state were carried out by me on subjects and patients, adults, and children. The work was entirely limited to the study of such states as found in man. Having found that during the hypnoidal state the condition of suggestibility is quite pronounced for therapeutic purposes, and having effected many cures of severe psychopathic maladies ranging throughout the whole domain of hysterical affections, neurasthenia, obsessions, drug habits, especially alcoholic ones, the hypnoidal state has become, in my practice, quite an important therapeutic agent. Other investigators have obtained some excellent results with the hypnoidal state in their treatment of various functional, psychopathic maladies.

         Thus far, the work with the hypnoidal state has been confined entirely to observations and experiments on human subjects and patients, and also to the treatment of man's psychopathic ailments. I undertook a series of experiments on sleep, both from a phylogenetic and ontogenetic standpoint, following up the conditions and manifestations of sleep in the ascending scale of animal life, from the frog to the guinea pig, through the cat, the dog, to the infant and the adult.

         My experiments clearly prove that the hypnoidal state is by no means confined to man, but is also present in animals. This is important since it indubitably shows how widely spread the hypnoidal state is throughout the domain of animal life. Moreover, the experiments clearly prove that the further down we descend in the scale of animal organization, the more prominent, the more essential, does the hypnoidal state become.

        The conclusion is forced upon me that the hypnoidal state is the primitive rest-state out of which sleep has arisen in the later stages of evolution. We may say that sleep and hypnosis take their origin in the hypnoidal state.1 Sleep and hypnosis are highly differentiated states; they have evolved out of the primitive, undifferentiated, hypnoidal state which is essentially a subwaking rest-state characteristic of early and lowly-organized animal life. The hypnoidal state is the primordial sleep state.

         The development of the hypnoidal state into sleep has proven itself useful in the struggle for existence of the higher animals; it has, therefore, become fixed as the rest-state, characteristic of the higher representatives of animal life. Hypnosis and other trance-states, variations of the primitive hypnoidal rest-state, have become eliminated as useless and possibly harmful to the normal life adjustments of the higher animals and can only be induced under artificial conditions in but a fraction of the human race.

         The hypnoidal state is the normal rest-state of the lower vertebrates and invertebrates. The rest or sleep state of the lower animals is a sort of passive waking state,―a subwaking state which has survived in man as the hypnoidal state. Of course, the state has been largely modified in man by the course of evolution, but it can still be clearly detected, just as the tail of the simian can be discerned in the human coccyx, or as the structure of the prehensile hand of the quadrumana can be still clearly traced in the foot of man. Waking, hypnoidal, and sleep-states may be termed normal states, while hypnosis and various other trance-states may be termed subnormal states.

        The relation of the hypnoidal state to waking, sleep, hypnosis, and other subconscious states may be represented by the diagram on following page.

        The hypnoidal state is normal, it is present in all representatives of animal life.

        Sleep, hypnosis, and trance-states are variations of the fundamental hypnoidal state. The sleep-state has proven useful and has become normal in the higher animals, while hypnosis like animal "cataplexy" and the various forms of trance-states, likewise variations of the fundamental hypnoidal state, characteristic of man, have not proven of vital value, and have fallen below the normal stream of consciousness with its concomitant adaptive reactions.

        The hypnoidal state is brief, variable, and unstable, They who have observed the rest-states of the lower metazoa can form a clear idea of the nature as well as of the biological significance of the hypnoidal state in the life of the lower animals. The animal is at rest for a brief period of time as long as it remains undisturbed by external conditions of its environment, or by internal conditions, such as hunger, sexual impulses, or other internal disturbances. Soon the animal begins to move, sluggishly at first, and then more quickly, and if there are no disturbing stimulations, comes to rest, to be again disturbed from its rest-equilibrium by the varying conditions of its environment.

        The resting state is brief, irregular, differing from the waking state in but slight relaxation, in comparatively slow reactions to stimulations, and in a passive condition of the muscular system. Respiration is regular, and diminished in rate. The heart beat is slightly decreased, and general katabolic activity is somewhat reduced.

        The animal, however, is quite alive to what is going on. The animal rests, watching for danger.

         Resting and active states alternate periodically, if possible, but usually are irregular. The resting state is but a passive condition in which the animal may be considered to hover between waking and what we describe in the case of the higher animals as sleep. Sleep, in its proper sense, does not exist among the lower representatives of animal life.

         This state of hovering between waking and sleeping, the characteristic of the hypnoidal state, is no doubt of paramount importance in the life-existence of the lower animals, considering the numerous dangers to which they are continually exposed. The animal must always be on the watch, either for food or for foe. It can only rest or "sleep" with its eyes wide open. The hypnoidal "sleep" can be best characterized as a subwaking, "twilight" rest-state.

         I demonstrated in my experiments that the animal, while in the hypnoidal, subwaking rest-state, is apt to fall into a cataleptic state, especially when the movements are suddenly and forcibly inhibited. This cataleptic state, which reminds one of the hypnotic state, may be observed in the lower animals, such as the frog, the snake, the lobster, the bird, and, to a slighter degree, even in the higher animals, such as the guinea pig, the cat, the dog, especially in the young ones, such as the kitten, the puppy, and the infant.

         There is little doubt that the cataleptic state into which animals fall during the hypnoidal rest-state is of some protective value in their life. The animal "freezes," "feigns death," and is thus either enabled to remain undetected by the animal on which it feeds or, what is still more important, is enabled to remain unnoticed by it's enemy and thus escape certain death. The subwaking, hypnoidal state may be regarded as the fundamental rest-state of lower animals, and is characterized by a mixed symptomatology of waking, sleep, and hypnosis.

         The hypnoidal state is a powerful instrument in the tracing of the past history of the growth and development of the symptoms of psychopathic or neurotic cases; and practically is of far greater value, inasmuch as the hypnoidal state has proven to be an easy agency in effecting a cure, and bringing about beneficial results in otherwise uncontrollable cases.

        For the present, we can only say that the hypnoidal state is found in man but in a rudimentary condition. It is a vestige of man's primitive, animal ancestors. The hypnoidal state is brief, variable, forming the entrance and exit of repose,―the portals of sleep. The primordial rest-state has shrunk to a transitory, momentary stage in the alternation of waking and sleep. The subwaking, hypnoidal rest-state shrinks with the increase of security of life.



1. Prof. Ed. Claperèdé of Geneva University, Switzerland, and Anastay seem to favor some similar view.


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