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Boris Sidis, M. A., Ph.D., M.D.
William A. White, M.D., George M. Parker, M.D.

© 1908
Boston: Richard G. Badger




        WE have found that under certain conditions phenomena are induced of which the patient herself is not conscious. The patient carries out certain acts, does certain things, and is unable to know anything about them. Changes in sensibility are also induced―such, for instance, as anęsthesia, analgesia, etc. The question, therefore, before us is this: Are the acts of the patient of an automatic character,―a sort of reflex activity of the organism without any accompanying consciousness,―or have they a psychic concomitant? In other words, are the acts carried out by an unconscious, wound-up, physiological mechanism, or is there an accompanying intelligence, limited though in range, but rational enough to carry out the acts? In the cases of changes of sensibility,―such, for instance, as anęsthesia and analgesia,―the problem is of the same nature: Are the stimuli really not perceived by the patient,―such, for instance, as we find in the anęsthesia and analgesia of an organic character,―or are they only absent from the patient's limited personal consciousness, but perceived by dissociated subconscious systems? With this problem in mind the following experiments were performed:

        During the hypnotic state Dr. W., to whom the patient was accustomed, remained alone en rapport with her. She remained insensible to the touches and also the pricks and other pain stimuli given her by outsiders. She did not react to any stimuli coming from outsiders and in reply to an interrogation by Dr. W. said that she perceived nothing at all. The most painful stimuli seemed to have left her unaffected, showing that for all practical clinical purposes she had not felt them. To prove, however, that she did feel all these stimuli; that she really did hear what was said to her; that she really did perceive everything that was going on about her, being only seemingly unconscious of it, while the experiences were really present in and perceived by the subconsciousness dissociated from the upper consciousness, experiments were made by the methods of associative suggestion.

        The method of associative suggestion consists in the formation of a subconscious association between a subconsciously felt stimulus and a consciously experienced percept or concept. The subconsciously perceived stimulus is projected into the upper consciousness in the form of an idea, and the intermediate link is lost.

        Associative suggestion may be divided into mediate and immediate. The method of mediate associative suggestion consists not in the realization of the suggestion itself, but of something associated with it. The subject does not perceive certain stimuli directly, but reacts always in a definite form when these stimuli are impressed so that this reaction becomes associated with the stimuli.

        Immediate associative suggestion consists in the formation of associations between impressions of stimuli subconsciously felt and ideas corresponding to those subconscious perceptions in the patient's personal consciousness. The patient does not feel the stimuli, but when asked to tell the first idea that comes to her mind the ideas are found to correspond exactly with the stimuli.

        By these methods the following experiments were carried out:

        Dr. W. to D. F.: As soon as Dr. S. speaks to you, if you do not hear him, say, " No."

        Dr. S. spoke to her and asked her if she heard him and she immediately answered, "No."

        Dr. W. to D. F.: Dr. S. is in the room; you cannot hear anything he says, but when he counts up to five you say, "No"; and when he counts to ten, say, "Yes."

        Dr. S. talked to her, but no response. When he counted five, she said, "No"; and when he counted ten, she said, " Yes." Dr. S. presented acetic acid to nose; it produced a very slight reaction.

        Dr. W. told D. F. she could not feel pricks, but that every time Dr. S. pricked her she would count the numbers. This she did, but said she could feel nothing.

        Dr. W. to D. F.: You can hear nothing Dr. S. says, but he will ask questions, and you will give me the answers.

        Dr. S. asks, "How much is 4 times 4?" D. F. says, "16." Dr. S. asks, "How much is 5 times 5?" D. F. says, "25," etc., to many questions.

        Dr. S.: Do you hear me?

        D. F.: No.

        Dr. W. to D. F.: You feel nothing Dr. S. does.

        Dr. S. gives her electric current of great intensity. She does not react, as she would in the normal waking state, and says she feels nothing.

        Dr. W. says to D. F.: You cannot feel anything nor hear Dr. S. speak, but he will count and as he counts you will tell whether you feel pain, or want the electricity stopped.

        Dr. S. then used the electricity without counting and she said she felt nothing, and when he counted she said, "Electricity."

        Dr. W. told D. F.: When Dr. S. touches your hand you will feel nothing, but you will point out the place he touches.

        This she does, but says in answer to questions of Dr. W. that she feels nothing.

        Dr. W. told D. F. she could not hear Dr. S., but would tell Dr. W. everything that came in her mind. When Dr. S. told her she would like to take a walk, or read a book, she told Dr. W. that she would like to go for a walk, or read a book.

        These experiments indicate more or less clearly that experiences are actually present to the patient's consciousness, although the patient herself seems to be unconscious of them. The stimuli impressed on the patient's sense-organs are perceived, coordinated, recognized by systems dissociated from the principal functioning constellations constituting for the time present the patient's personal consciousness. That these dissociated systems are of a conscious nature is clearly seen from the fact that they are able to perceive different stimuli, such, for instance, as touch, pricking, electricity, etc., and furthermore are able to count and give answers to questions.

        The character of the methods employed in these experiments indicates at the same time that if there be a dissociation by habitual tracts there must be an indirect association by unhabitual tracts; for the answers and the fact that these stimuli were actually perceived could be brought out in an indirect way; the patient giving replies of such a nature as to clearly indicate the presence of these experiences in a subconscious form within her mind. The patient, for instance, is not able to feel touch or pain stimuli, but is still able to tell their number.

        The experiments carried on by the methods of associative suggestion show that the same holds true of more complex stimuli, such, for instance, as speech. The subconscious dissociated systems were able to comprehend speech and could give answers, although the patient herself was seemingly not directly conscious of them. Thus, for instance, when a question was propounded to her she apparently did not hear the words, did not hear even the sounds, and still she gave replies perfectly in accord with the questions, not being at the same time conscious of the meaning of the words which she uttered. The phrases in which she couched her answers were meaningless to her and when asked what she meant by the words and phrases said she did not know. When further asked why she made the remarks she answered that something unaccountable urged her to make them.


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