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THE PSYCHOLOGY OF SUGGESTION
Boris Sidis, Ph.D.
© 1898. New York, D. Appleton and Company.
THE TRAITS OF THE SUBCONSCIOUS SELF
WE are now in a position to characterize the underground self.
The subwaking self is stupid; it lacks all critical sense. A thing must be told to it plainly in all details, and even then it follows more the letter than the spirit of the suggestion. I remind the reader of Prof. W. James’s subject who smoked but "one" pipe the whole day, and also of my own subject, who, on being suggested not to have any slight headache, next day came complaining of violent pain. The lack of critical sense is well brought out in the following experiment:
"Mr. V. F. is hypnotized and is suggested to be Sam Smith, a bootblack, ten years of age.
Exp. What is your name?
Sub. Sam Smith.
Exp. Your occupation?
Sub. A bootblack.
Exp. How old are you?
Sub. Ten years,
Exp. What is your father's name?
Sub. (Gives his father's correct name.)
Exp. How is it that your name is Sam Smith and your father's is different?
Sub. I do not know.
On another occasion I made the following experiment on the same subject:
Exp. Are you alive?
Exp. No, you are dead.
Sub. Yes, I think I am dead.
Exp. How long is it since you died?
Sub. A few days ago.
Exp. From what disease?
Sub. I do not know; just died.
Exp. Can you hear and feel me?
Exp. But how can you feel if you are dead?
Sub. I do not know.
The subwaking self is ready to take any suggestion, no matter how ridiculous or painful the suggestion is.
Mr. Y. F. is hypnotized and is suggested that on awakening he should light the gas and bow to the light whenever the door is opened. On awakening he at once rushes to light the gas, and is at last satisfied when he sees the flame.
Exp. What did you light the gas for?
Sub. I do not know, unless I wanted to light my pipe.
Exp. But you have no pipe.
Sub. That is true, but then I can light a cigarette. (Takes a cigarette from my table, lights it, and begins to puff.)
The reason here given by the subject is extremely stupid, because he could far easier light directly the cigarette with the match, and, besides, the gas jet was so high up that he had to give a good jump to reach it.
I then opened the door. The subject bowed to the light. I opened the door again; again the subject bowed to the gas jet. Each opening of the door was followed by a polite bow to the fire.
Exp. Why do you bow to the fire?
Sub. I do not know. I suppose I am practising. I do not know. I feel like a chump while I am doing it.
Exp. Why are you doing it? Can you give any reason?
Sub. None, except that I want to.
Exp. Have you any desire to do it?
Sub. Yes, I think it is a nice thing to do.
I take the hand of the subject, put it on the table, and tell the hypnotic self that the pencil is a lighted candle, the flames issuing from the point. When I now touch any part of the subject's body with the point of the pencil the self screams from great pain. I tell the self," You have a toothache," and he does get the ache.
The subwaking self is extremely credulous; it lacks all sense of the true and rational. "Two and two-make five." "Yes." Anything is accepted if sufficiently emphasized by the hypnotizer. The suggestibility and imitativeness of the subwaking self was discussed by me at great length. What I should like to point out here is the extreme servility and cowardliness of that self. Show hesitation, and it will show fight; command authoritatively, and it will obey slavishly.1
The subwaking self is devoid of all morality; it will steal without the least scruple; it will poison; it will stab; it will assassinate its best friends without the least scruple. When completely cut off from the waking person it is precluded from conscience.2
The subwaking self dresses to fashion, gossips in company, runs riot in business panics, revels in the crowd, storms in the mob, and prays in the camp meeting. Its senses are acute, but its sense is nil. Association by contiguity, the mental mechanism of the brute, is the only one that it possesses.
The subwaking self lacks all personality and individuality; it is absolutely servile; it works according to no maxims; it has no moral law, no law at all. To be a law unto one's self, the chief and essential characteristic of personality, is just the very trait the subwaking self so glaringly lacks. The subwaking self has no will; it is blown hither and thither by all sorts of incoming suggestions. It is essentially a brutal self.
The primary self alone possesses true personality, will, and self-control. The primary self alone is a law unto itself―a person having the power to investigate his own nature, to discover faults, to create ideals, to strive after them, to struggle for them, and by continuous, strenuous efforts of will to attain higher and higher stages of personality.
Zwei Seclen wohnen, ach! in meiner Brust,
1. This is well
illustrated in the experiments on my subject A. Fingold, see Chapter XXIV.
2. See an interesting article by Liébault in the Zeitschrift für Hypnotismus for April and May, 1895.
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