Home     Boris Sidis Archives     Table of Contents     Next Chapter


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

© 1908
Boston: Richard G. Badger




        A SERIES of experiments was then carried on in the same line demonstrating the same truth, namely, the presence of experiences of which the patient was not directly cognizant, but which were nevertheless present to the patient's subconsciousness. In other words, the experiences existed in a state more or less dissociated from the stream of mental life that for the time being constituted the patient's personal consciousness.

        She was hypnotized by Dr. W. and it was suggested to her that she could not see Dr. S. or Dr. G. When Dr. G. pricked the sole of her foot she said she did not feel it, but occasionally there was slight transient dilatation of the pupil. She was then told that when Dr. S. touched her and knocked she would count, but that she could not hear the knock or feel the touch. She counted when Dr. S. touched her and knocked, but not unless these two signals went together. When Dr. G. touched her and Dr. S. knocked, she said nothing.

        Dr. S. and Dr. G., neither of whom she could see or her, talked to her and said funny things; she laughed, but said she heard nothing.

        Hyperęsthesia of smell, which is sometimes characteristic of the hypnotic state in the deepest stages, was tested. Drs. W., S., and G. each took a sheet of paper and held it in their hands until it was well warmed, then the subject was asked to smell of each of their hands and try and pick out the piece of paper belonging to each; several tests were made; with the exception of two cases the patient uniformly failed.

        An experiment was then made in which it was attempted to bring together the experiences dissociated from the patient's consciousness and those that constituted the normal stream of her personal life. The patient did not see anyone in the room with the exception of Dr. W. The experiment consisted in putting the patient into a strange, unusual emotional state, and observing whether she would then see the other persons in the room. This was done in the following way:

        Dr. G. went out, and in a few moments came back hurriedly, saying Dr. W. had just been telephoned for to come at once to Fiftieth Street. Dr. W. put on his hat and coat and started off, and Drs. S. and G. commenced making preparations to go also. The subject at first did nothing, but as the doctors began to leave she got progressively more and more disturbed, and finally put on her things, took umbrella and nurse's coat, and went with Dr. G. and Dr. S. When asked at this time if she saw Dr. S., she said "Yes" in a faint, hesitating voice. Drs. S. and G. met Dr. W. in the hall and all came back to the laboratory. The subject was then asked if she could see Dr. S.; she answered "No." Asked why she had her hat and coat on, she could give no explanation. She was awakened after the suggestion that she would feel well and sleep well at night. She had no memory of what had transpired.

        From this experiment we may infer that the patient could by a strong emotion be brought out, temporarily at least, from her hypnotic state and a synthesis of the dissociated subconscious systems could take place. It is highly improbable that she was during this time in her full waking state. This could be more or less seen from the way in which she acted, and also from the expression of her face. She was in a dazed condition, looking as if stupefied and stunned by the unexpected experiences. Furthermore, all memory was gone after she was awakened. This seems to indicate that the patient was really not in her normal waking state, although she seemed to have emerged from her habitual hypnotic condition. It is more probable that a new state was formed, different both from her waking and her habitual hypnotic state.

        What this experiment really does show clearly is the fact that the patient does perceive subconsciously stimuli which apparently do not reach her narrowed field of consciousness. These stimuli, under special conditions, such, for instance, as a strong emotion, may bring about a total change in the relations of the different systems of the patient's consciousness and result in a different mental state. Experiences dissociated and apparently unperceived will now become associated and synthetized in the newly formed mental state. The induced emotional state did not bring the patient to the original normal waking state.

        On awaking it was found, as pointed out, that the patient had lost all, memory as to what had happened. To show, however, that the memories were really present and not utterly lost, and under certain conditions could be brought to light, the following experiments were made:

        The patient was now set down to a table with a pen in her hand and with her eyes closed; she was asked to try and recall what had happened while asleep, but told to keep her hands quiet. She protested that she could think of nothing, but the hand wrote an account of the experiences she had just passed through. (See Figures 5, 6, 7, and 8.)




Boris Menu    Next