The Principles of Psychology, by William James

Chapter 27


Modes of Operating, and Susceptibility.

THE 'hypnotic,' 'mesmeric,' or 'magnetic' trance can be induced in various ways, each operator having his pet method. The simplest one is to leave the subject seated by himself, telling him that if he close his eyes and relax his muscles and, as far as possible, think of vacancy, in a few minutes he will 'go off.' On returning in ten minutes you may find him effectually hypnotized. Braid used to make his subjects look at a bright button held near their forehead until their eyes spontaneously closed. The older mesmerists made 'passes' in a downward direction over the face and body, but without contact. Stroking the skin of the head, face, arms and hands, especially that of the region round the brews and eyes, will have the same effect. Staring into the eyes of the subject until the latter droop; making him listen to a watch's ticking; or simply making him close his eyes for a minute whilst you describe to him the feeling of falling into sleep, 'talk sleep' to him, are equally efficacious methods in the hands of some operators; whilst with trained subjects any method whatever from which they have been led by previous suggestion to expect results will be successful. 1 The touching of an object which they are told has been 'magnetized,' the drinking of 'magnetized' water, the reception of a letter ordering them to sleep, etc., are means which have been frequently employed. Recently M. Liégeois has hypnotized some of his subjects at a distance of 1 ½ kilometres by giving them an intimation to that effect through a telephone. With some subjects, if you tell them in advance that at a certain hour of a certain day they will become entranced, the prophecy is fulfilled. Certain hysterical patients are immediately thrown into hypnotic catalepsy by any violent sensation, such as a blow on a gong or the flashing of an intense light in their eyes. Pressure on certain parts of the body (called zones hypnognes by M. Pitres) rapidly produces hypnotic sleep in some hysterics. These regions, which differ in different subjects, are oftenest found on the forehead and about the root of the thumbs. Finally, persons in ordinary sleep may be transferred into the hypnotic condition by verbal intimation or contact, performed so gently as not to wake them up.

Some operators appear to be more successful than others in getting control of their subjects. I am informed that Mr.Gurney (who made valuable contributions to the theory of hypnotism) was never able himself to hypnotize, and had to use for his observations the subjects of others. On the other hand, Liébault claims that he hypnotizes 92 per cent of all comers, and Wetterstrand in Stockholm says that amongst 718 persons there proved to be only 18 whom he failed to influence. Some of this disparity is unquestionably due to differences in the personal 'authority' of the operator, for the prime condition of success is that the subject should confidently expect to be entranced. Much also depends on the operator's tact in interpreting the physiognomy of his subjects, so as to give the right commands, and 'crowd it on' to the subject, at just the propitious moments. These conditions account for the fact that operators grow more successful the more they operate. Bernheim says that whoever does not hypnotize 80 per cent of the persons whom he tries has not yet learned to operate as he should. Whether certain operators have over and above this a peculiar 'magnetic power' is a question which I leave at present undecided. 2 Children under three or four, and insane persons, especially idiots, are unusually hard to hypnotize. This seems due to the impossibility of getting them to focus their attention continuously on the idea of the coming trance. All ages above infancy are probably equally hypotizable, as are all races and both sexes. A certain amount of mental training, sufficient to aid concentration of the attention, seems a favorable condition, and so does a certain momentary indifference or passivity as to the result. Native strength or weakness of 'will' have absolutely nothing to do with the matter. Frequent trances enormously increase the susceptibility of a subject, and many who resist at first succumb after several trials. Dr. Moll says he has more than once succeeded after forty fruitless attempts. Some experts are of the opinion that every one is hypnotizable essentially, the only difficulty being the more habitual presence in some individuals of hindering mental preoccupations, which, however, may suddenly at some moment be removed.

The trance may be dispelled instantaneously by saying in a rousing voice, 'All right, wake up!' or words of similar purport. At the Saléptrière they awaken subjects by blowing on their eyelids. Upward passes have an awakening effect; sprinkling cold water ditto. Anything will awaken a patient who expects to be awakened by that thing. Tell him that he will wake after counting five, and he will do so. Tell him to waken in five minutes, and he is very likely to do so punctually, even though he interrupt thereby some exciting histrionic performance which you may have suggested. -- As Dr. Moll says, any theory which pretends to explain the physiology of the hypnotic state must keep account of the fact that so simple a thing as hearing the word 'wake!' will end it.

Theories About the Hypnotic State.

The intimate nature of the hypnotic condition, when once induced, can hardly be said to be understood. Without entering into details of controversy, one may say that three main opinions have been held concerning it, which we may call respectively the theories of

1. Animal magnetism;

2. of Neurosis; and finally of

3. Suggestion.

According to the animal-magnetism theory there is a direct passage of force from the operator to the subject, whereby the latter becomes the former's puppet. This theory is nowadays given up as regards all the ordinary hypnotic phenomena, and is only held to by some persons as an explanation of a few effects exceptionally met with.

According to the neurosis-theory, the hypnotic state is a peculiar pathological condition into which certain pre-disposed patients fall, and in which special physical agents have the power of provoking special symptoms, quite apart from the subjects mentally expecting the effect. Professor Charcot and his colleagues at the Salpétrière hospital admit that this condition is rarely found in typical form. They call it then le grand hypnotisme, and say that it accompanies the disease hystero-epilepsy. If a patient subject to this sort of hypnotism hear a sudden loud noise, or look at a bright light unexpectedly, she falls into the cataleptic trance. Her limbs and body offer no resistance to movements communicated to them, but retain permanently the attitudes impressed. The eyes are staring, there is insensibility to pain, etc., etc. If the eyelids be forcibly closed, the cataleptic gives place to the lethargic condition, characterized by apparent abolition of consciousness, and absolute muscular relaxation except where the muscles are kneaded or the tendons struck by the operator's hand, or certain nerve-trunks are pressed upon. Then the muscles in question, or those supplied by the same nerve-trunk enter into a more or less steadfast tonic contraction. Charcot calls this symptom by the name of neuro-muscular hyperexcitability. The lethargic state may be primarily brought on by fixedly looking at anything, or by pressure on the closed eyeballs. Friction on the top of the head will make the patient pass from either of the two preceding conditions into the somnambulic state, in which she is alert, talkative, and susceptible to all the suggestions of the operator. The somnambulic state may also be induced primarily, by fixedly looking at a small object. In this state the accurately limited muscular contractions characteristic of lethargy do not follow upon the above-described manipulations, but instead of them there is a tendency to rigidity of entire regions of the body, which may upon occasion develop into general tetanus, and which is brought about by gently touching the skin or blowing upon it. M. Charcot calls this by the name of cutaneo-muscular hyperexcitability.

Many other symptoms, supposed by their observers to be independent of mental expectation, are described, of which I only will mention the more interesting. Opening the eyes of a patient in lethargy causes her to pass into catalepsy. If one eye only be opened, the corresponding half of the body becomes cataleptic, whilst the other half remains in lethargy. Similarly, rubbing one side of the head may result in a patient becoming hemilethargic or hemicataleptic and hemisomnambulic. The approach of a magnet (or certain metals) to the skin causes these half-states (and many others) to be transferred to the opposite sides. Automatic repetition of every sound heard ('echolalia') is said to be produced by pressure on the lower cervical vertebræ or on the epigastrium. Aphasia is brought about by rubbing the head over the region of the speech-centre. Pressure behind the occiput determines movements of imitation. Heidenhain describes a number of curious automatic tendencies to movement, which are brought about by stroking various portions of the vertebral column. Certain other symptoms have been frequently noticed, such as a flushed face and cold hands, brilliant and congested eyes, dilated pupils. Dilated retinal vessels and spasm of the accommodation are also reported.

The theory of Suggestion denies that there is any special hypnotic state worthy of the name of trance or neurosis. All the symptoms above described, as well as those to be described hereafter, are results of that mental susceptibility which we all to some degree possess, of yielding assent to outward suggestion, of affirming what we strongly conceive, and of acting in accordance with what we are made to expect. The bodily symptoms of the Salépêtrière patients are all of them results of expectation and training. The first patients accidentally did certain things which their doctors thought typical and caused to be repeated. The subsequent subjects 'caught on' and followed the established tradition. In proof of this the fact is urged that the classical three stages and their grouped symptoms have only been reported as spontaneously occurring, so far, at the Salpétrière, though they may be superinduced by deliberate suggestion, in patients anywhere found. The ocular symptoms, the flushed face, accelerated breathing, etc., are said not to be symptoms of the passage into the hypnotic state as such, but merely consequences of the strain on the eyes when the method of looking at a bright object is used. They are absent in the subjects at Nancy, where simple verbal suggestion is employed. The various reflex effects (aphasia, echolalia, imitation, etc.) are but habits induced by the influence of the operator, who unconsciously urges the subject into the direction in which he would prefer to have him go. The influence of the magnet, the opposite effects of upward and downward passes, etc., are similarly explained. Even that sleepy and inert condition, the advent of which seems to be the prime condition of farther symptoms being developed, is said to be merely due to the fact that the mind expects it to come; whilst its influence on the other symptoms is not physiological, so to speak, but psychical, its own easy realization by suggestion simply encouraging the subject to expect that ulterior suggestions will be realized with equal ease. The radical defenders of the suggestion-theory are thus led to deny the very exist- ence of the hypnotic state, in the sense of a peculiar trance-like condition which deprives the patient of spontaneity and makes him passive to suggestion from without. The trance itself is only one of the suggestions, and many subjects in fact can be made to exhibit the other hypnotic phenomena without the preliminary induction of this one.

The theory of suggestion may be said to be quite triumphant at the present day over the neurosis-theory as held at the Salpétrière, with its three states, and its definite symptoms supposed to be produced by physical agents apart from co-operation of the subject's mind. But it is one thing to say this, and it is quite another thing to say that there is no peculiar physiological condition whatever worthy of the name of hypnotic trance, no peculiar state of nervous equilibrium, 'hypotaxy,' 'dissociation,' or whatever you please to call it, during which the subject's susceptibility to outward suggestion is greater than at ordinary times. All the facts seem to prove that, until this trance-like state is assumed by the patient, suggestion produces very insignificant results, but that, when it is once assumed, there are no limits to suggestion's power. The state in question has many affinities with ordinary sleep. It is probable, in fact, that we all pass through it transiently whenever we fall asleep; and one might most naturally describe the usual relation of operator and subject by saying that the former keeps the latter suspended between making and sleeping by talking to him enough to beep his slumber from growing profound, and yet not in such a way as to wake him up. A hypnotized patient, left to himself, will either fall sound asleep or wake up entirely. The difficulty in hypnotizing refractory persons is that of catching them at the right moment of transition and making it permanent. Fixing the eyes and relaxing the muscles of the body produce the hypnotic state just as they facilitate the advent of sleep. The first stages of ordinary sleep are characterized by a peculiar dispersed attitude of the attention. Images come before consciousness which are entirely incongruous with our ordinary beliefs and habits of thought. The latter either vanish altogether or withdraw, as it were, inertly into the background of the mind, and let the incongruous images reign alone. These images acquire, more-over, an exceptional vivacity; they become first 'hypnagogic hallucinations,' and then, as the sleep grows deeper, dreams. Now the 'mono-ideism,' or else the impotency and failure to 'rally' on the part of the background-ideas, which thus characterize somnolescence, are unquestionably the result of a special physiological change occurring in the brain at that time. Just so that similar mono-ideism, or dissociation of the reigning fancy from those other thoughts which might possibly act as its 'reductives,' which characterize the hypnotic consciousness, must equally be due to a special cerebral change. The term 'hypnotic trance,' which I employ, tells us nothing of what the change is, but it marks the fact that it exists, and is consequently a useful expression. The great vivacity of the hypnotic images (as gauged by their motor effects), the oblivion of them when normal life is resumed, the abrupt awakening, the recollection of them again in subsequent trances, the anæsthesia and hyperæsthesia which are so frequent, all point away from our simple waking credulity and 'suggestibility' as the type by which the phenomena are to be interpreted, and make us look rather towards sleep and dreaming, or towards those deeper alterations of the personality known as automatism, double consciousness, or 'second' personality for the true analogues of the hypnotic trance. 3 Even the best hypnotic subjects pass through life without anyone suspecting them to possess such a remarkable susceptibility, until by deliberate experiment it is made manifest. The operator fixes their eyes or their attention a short time to develop the propitious phase, holds them in it by his talk, and the state being there, makes them the puppets of all his suggestions. But no ordinary suggestions of waking life ever took such control of their mind.

The suggestion-theory may therefore be approved as correct, provided we grant the trance-state as its prerequisite. The three states of Charcot, the strange reflexes of Heidenhain, and all the other bodily phenomena which have been called direct consequences of the trance-state itself, are not such. They are products of suggestion, the trance-state having no particular outward symptoms of its own; but without the trance-state there, those particular suggestions could never have been successfully made. 4

The Symptoms of the Trance.

This accounts for the altogether indefinite array of symptoms which have been gathered together as characteristic of the hypnotic state. The law of habit dominates hypnotic subjects even more than it does waking ones. Any sort of personal peculiarity, any trick accidentally fallen into in the first instance by some one subject, may, by attracting attention, become stereotyped, serve as a pattern for imitation, and figure as the type of a school. The first subject trains the operator, the operator trains the succeeding subjects, all of them in perfect good faith conspiring together to evolve a perfectly arbitrary result. With the extraordinary perspicacity and subtlety of perception which subjects often display for all that concerns the operator with whom they are en rapport, it is hard to keep them ignorant of anything which he expects. Thus it happens that one easily verifies on new subjects what one has already seen on old ones, or any desired symptom of which one may have heard or read.

The symptoms earliest observed by writers were all thought to be typical. But with the multiplication of observed phenomena, the importance of most particular symptoms as marks of the state has diminished. This lightens very much our own immediate task. Proceeding to enumerate the symptoms of the hypnotic trance, I may confine myself to those which are intrinsically interesting, or which differ considerably from the normal functions of man.

First of all comes amnesia. In the earlier stages of hypnotism the patient remembers what has happened, but with successive sittings he sinks into a deeper condition, which is commonly followed by complete loss of memory. He may have been led through the liveliest hallucinations and dramatic performances, and have exhibited the intensest apparent emotion, but on waking he can recall nothing at all. The same thing happens on waking from sleep in the midst of a dream -- it quickly eludes recall. But just as we may be reminded of it, or of parts of it, by meeting persons or objects which figured therein, so on being adroitly prompted, the hypnotic patient will often remember what happened in his trance. One cause of the forgetfulness seems to be the disconnection of the trance performances with the sys-tem of waking ideas. Memory requires a continuous train of association. M. Delboeuf, reasoning in this way, woke his subjects in the midst of an action begun during trance (washing the hands, e.g.), and found that they then remembered the trance. The act in question bridged over the two states. But one call often make them remember by merely telling them during the trance that they shall remember. Acts of one trance, moreover, are usually recalled, either spontaneously or at command, during another trance, provided that the contents of the two trances be not mutually incompatible.

Suggestibility. The patient believes everything which his hypnotizer tells him, and does everything which the latter commands. Even results over which the will has normally no control, such as sneezing, secretion, reddening and growing pale, alterations of temperature and heart-beat, menstruation, action of the bowels, etc., may take place in consequence of the operator's firm assertions during the hypnotic trance, and the resulting conviction on the part of the subject, that the effects will occur. Since almost all the phenomena yet to be described are effects of this heightened suggestibility, I will say no more under the general head, but proceed to illustrate the peculiarity in detail.

Effects on, the voluntary muscles seem to be those most easily got; and the ordinary routine of hypnotizing consists in provoking them first. Tell the patient that he cannot open his eyes or his mouth, cannot unclasp his hands or lower his raised arm, cannot rise from his seat, or pickup a certain object from the floor, and he will be immediately smitten with absolute impotence in these regards. The effect here is generally due to the involuntary contraction of antagonizing muscles. But one can equally well suggest paralysis, of an arm for example, in which case it will hang perfectly placid by the subject's side. Cataleptic and tetanic rigidity are easily produced by suggestion, aided by handling the parts. One of the favorite shows at public exhibitions is that of a subject stretched stiff as a board with his head on one chair and his heels on another. The cataleptic retention of impressed attitudes differs from voluntary assumption of the same attitude. An arm voluntarily held out straight will drop from fatigue after a quarter of an hour at the at most, and before it falls the agent's distress will be made manifest by oscillations in the arm, disturbances in the breathing, etc. But Charcot has shown that an arm held out in hypnotic catalepsy, though it may as soon descend, yet does so slowly and with no accompanying vibration, whilst the breathing remains entirely calm. He rightly points out that this shows a profound physiological change, and is proof positive against simulation, as far as this symptom is concerned. A cataleptic attitude, moreover, may be held for many hours. -- Sometimes an expressive attitude, clinching of the fist, contraction of the brows, will gradually set up a sympathetic action of the other muscles of the body, so that at last a tableau vivant of fear, anger, disdain, prayer, or other emotional condition, is produced with rare perfection. This effect would seem to be due to the suggestion of the mental state by the first contraction. Stammering, aphasia, or inability to utter certain words, pronounce certain letters, are readily producible by suggestion.

Hallucinations of all the senses and delusions of every conceivable kind can be easily suggested to good subjects. The emotional effects are then often so lively, and the pantomimic display so expressive, that it is hard not to believe in a certain 'psychic hyper-excitability,' as one of the concomitants of the hypnotic condition. You call make the subject think that he is freezing or burning, itching or covered with dirt, or wet; you can make him eat a potato for a peach, or drink a cup of vinegar for a glass of champagne; 5 ammonia will smell to him like cologne water; a chair will be a lion, a broom-stick a beautiful woman, a noise in the street will be an orchestral music, etc., etc., with no limit except your powers of invention and the patience of the lookers on. 6 Illusions and hallucinations form the pieces de résistance at public exhibitions. The comic effect is at its climax when it is successfully suggested to the subject that his personality is changed into that of a baby, of a street boy, of a young lady dressing for a party, of a stump orator, or of Napoleon the Great. He may even be transformed into a beast, or an inanimate thing like a chair or a carpet, and in every case will act out all the details of the part with a sincerity and intensity seldom seen at the theatre. The excellence of the performance is in these cases the best reply to the suspicion that the subject may be shamming -- so skilful a shammer must long since have found his true function in life upon the stage. Hallucinations and histrionic delusions generally go with a certain depth of the trance, and are followed by complete forgetfulness. The subject awakens from them at the command of the operator with a sudden start of surprise, and may seem for a while a little dazed.

Subjects in this condition will receive and execute suggestions of crime, and act out a theft, forgery, arson, or murder. A girl will believe that she is married to her hypnotizer, etc. It is unfair, however, to say that in these cases the subject is a pure puppet with no spontaneity. His spontaneity is certainly not in abeyance so far as things go which are harmoniously associated with the suggestion given him. He takes the text from his operator; but he may amplify and develop it enormously as he acts it out. His spontaneity is lost only for those systems of ideas which conflict with the suggested delusion, The latter is thus 'systematized'; the rest of consciousness is shutoff, excluded, dissociated from it. In extreme cases the rest of the mind would seem to be actually abolished and the hypnotic subject to be literally a changed personality, a being in one of those 'second' states which we studied in Chapter X. But the reign of the delusion is often not as absolute as this. If the thing suggested be too intimately repugnant, the subject may strenuously resist and get nervously excited in consequence, even to the point of having an hysterical attack. The conflicting ideas slumber in the background and merely permit those in the foreground to have their way until a real emergency arises; then they assert their rights. As M. Delboeuf says, the subject surrenders himself good-naturedly to the performance, stabs with the pasteboard dagger you give him because he knows what it is, and fires off the pistol because he knows it has no ball; but for a real murder he would not be your man. It is undoubtedly true that subjects are often well aware that they are acting a part. They know that what they do is absurd. They know that the hallucination which they see, describe, and act upon, is not really there. They may laugh at themselves; and they always recognize the abnormality of their state when asked about it, and call it 'sleep.' One often notices a sort of mocking smile upon them, as if they mere playing a comedy, and they may even say on 'coming to' that they were shamming all the while. These facts have misled ultra-skeptical people so far as to make them doubt the genuineness of any hypnotic phenomena at all. But, save the consciousness of 'sleep,' they do not occur in the deeper conditions; and when they do occur they are only a natural consequence of the fact that the 'monoideism' is incomplete. The background-thoughts still exist, and have the power of comment on the suggestions, but no power to inhibit their motor and associative effects. A similar condition is frequent enough in the waking state, when an impulse carries us away and our 'will' looks on wonderingly like an impotent spectator. These 'shammers' continue to sham in just the same way, every new time you hypnotize them, until at last they are forced to admit that if shamming there be, it is something very different from the free voluntary shamming of waking hours.

Real sensations may be abolished as well as false ones suggested. Legs and breasts may be amputated, children born, teeth extracted, in short the most painful experiences undergone, with no other anæsthetic than the hypnotizer's assurance that no pain shall be felt. Similarly morbid pains may be annihilated, neuralgias, toothaches, rheumatisms cured. The sensation of hunger has thus been abolished, so that a patient took no nourishment for fourteen days. The most interesting of these suggested anæsthesias are close limited to certain objects of perception. Thus a subject may be made blind to a certain per-son and to him alone, or deaf to certain words but to no others. 7 In this case the anæsthesia (or negative hallucination, as it has been called) is apt to become systematized. Other things related to the person to whom one has been made blind may also be shut out of consciousness. What he says is not heard, his contact is not felt, objects which he takes from his pocket are not seen, etc. Objects which he screens are seen as if he were transparent. Facts about him are forgotten, his name is not recognized when pronounced. Of course there is great variety in the com- pleteness of this systematic extension of the suggested anæsthesia, but one may say that some tendency to it always exists. When one of the subjects' own limbs is made ansthetic, for example, memories as well as sensations of its movements often seem to depart. An interesting degree of the phenomenon is found in the case related by M. Binet of a subject to whom it was suggested that a certain M. C. was invisible. She still saw M. C., but saw him as a stranger, having lost the memory of his name and his existence. -- Nothing is easier than to make subjects forget their own name and condition in life. It is one of the suggestions which most promptly succeed, even with quite fresh ones. A systematized amnesia of certain periods of one's life may also be suggested, the subject placed, for instance, where he was a decade ago with the intervening years obliterated from his mind.

The mental condition which accompanies these systematized anæsthesias and amnesias is a very curious one. The anæsthesia is not a genuine sensorial one, for if you make a real red cross (say) on a sheet of white paper invisible to an hypnotic subject, and yet cause him to look fixedly at a dot on the paper on or near the cross, he will, on transferring his eye to a blank sheet, see a bluish-green after-image of the cross. This proves that it has impressed his sensibility. He has felt it, but not perceived it. He had actively ignored it, refused to recognize it, as it were. Another experiment proves that he must distinguish it first in order thus to ignore it. Make a stroke on paper or blackboard, and tell the subject it is not there, and he will see nothing but the clean paper or board. Next, he not looking, surround the original stroke with other strokes exactly like it, and ask him what he sees. He will point out one by one all the new strokes slid omit the original one every time, no matter how numerous the new strokes may be, or in what order they are arranged. Similarly, if the original single stroke to which he is blind be doubled by a prism of sixteen degrees placed before one of his eyes (both being kept open), he will say that he now sees one stroke, and point in the direction in which the image seen through the prism lies.

Obviously, then, he is not blind to the kind of stroke in the least. He is blind only to one individual stroke of that kind in a particular position on the board or paper, -- that is, to a particular complex object; and, paradoxical as it may seem to say so, he must distinguish it with great accuracy from others like it, in order to remain blind to it when the others are brought near. He 'apperceives' it, as a preliminary to not seeing it at all! How to conceive of this state of mind is not easy. It would be much simpler to understand the process, if adding new strokes made the first one visible. There would then be two different objects apperceived as totals, -- paper with one stroke, paper with two strokes; and, blind to the former, he would see all that was in the latter, because he would have apperceived it as a different total in the first instance.

A process of this sort occurs sometimes (not always) when the new strokes, instead of Being mere repetitions of the original one, are lines which combine with it into a total effect, say a human face. The subject of the trance then may regain his sight of the line to which he had previously been blind, by seeing it as part of the face.

When by a prism before one eye a previously invisible line has been made visible to that eye, and the other eye is closed or screened, its closure makes no difference; the line still remains visible. But if then the prism is removed, the line will disappear even to the eye which a moment ago saw it, and both eyes will revert to their original blind state.

We have, then, to deal in these cases neither with a sensorial anæsthesia, nor with a mere failure to notice, but with something much more complex; namely, an active counting out and positive exclusion of certain objects. It is as when one 'cuts' an acquaintance, 'ignores' a claim, or 'refuses to be influenced' by a consideration of whose existence one remains aware. Thus a lover of Nature in America finds himself able to overlook and ignore entirely the board- and rail-fences and general roadside raggedness, and revel in the beauty and picturesqueness of the other elements of the landscape, whilst to a newly-arrived European the fences are so aggressively present as to spoil enjoyment.

Messrs. Gurney, Janet, and Binet have shown that the ignored elements are preserved in a split-off portion of the subjects' consciousness which can be tapped in certain ways, and made to give an account of itself (see Vol. I. p. 209).

Hyperæsthesia of the senses is as common a symptom as anæsthesia. On the skin two points can be discriminated at less than the normal distance. The sense of touch is so delicate that (as M. Delboeuf informs me) a subject after simply poising on her finger-tips a blank card drawn from a pack of similar ones can pick it out from the pack again by its 'weight.' We approach here the line where, to many persons, it seems as if something more than the ordinary senses, however sharpened, were required in explanation. I have seen a coin from the operator's pocket repeatedly picked out by the subject from a heap of twenty others, 8 by its greater 'weight' in the subject's language. -- auditory hyperæsthesia may enable a subject to hear a watch tick, or his operator speak, in a distant room. -- One of the most extraordinary examples of visual hyperæsthesia is that reported by Bergson, in which a subject who seemed to be reading through the back of a book held and looked at by the operator, was really proved to be reading the image of the page reflected on the latter's cornea. The same subject was able to discriminate with the naked eye details in a microscopic preparation. Such cases of 'hyperæsthesia of vision' as that reported by Taguet and Sauvaire, where subjects could see things mirrored by non-reflecting bodies, or through opaque pasteboard, would seem rather to belong to 'psychical research' than to the present category. -- The ordinary test of visual hyperacuteness in hypnotism is the favorite trick of giving a subject the hallucination of a picture on a blank sheet of card-board, and then mixing the latter with a lot of other similar sheets. The subject will always find the picture on the original sheet again, and recognize infallibly if it has been turned over, or upside down, although the bystanders have to re-sort to artifice to identify it again. The Subject notes peculiarities on the card, too small for waking observation to detect. 9 If it be said that the spectators guide him by their manner, their breathing, etc., that is only another proof of his hyperæsthesia; for he undoubtedly is conscious of subtler personal indications (of his operator's mental states especially) than he could notice in his waking state. Examples of this are found in the so-called 'magnetic rapport.' This is a name for the fact that in deep trance, or in lighter trance whenever the suggestion is made, the subject is deaf and blind to everyone but the operator or those spectators to whom the latter expressly awakens his senses. The most violent appeals from anyone else are for him as if non-existent, whilst he obeys the faintest signals on the part of his hypnotizer. If in catalepsy, his limbs will retain their attitude only when the operator moves them; when others move them they fall down, etc. A more remarkable fact still is that the patient will often answer anyone whom his operator touches, or at whom he even points his finger, in however concealed a manner. All which is rationally explicable by expectation and suggestion, if only it be farther admitted that his senses are acutely sharpened for all the operator's movements. 10 He often shows great anxiety and restlessness if the latter is out of the room. A favorite experiment of Mr. E. Gurney's was to put the subject's hands through an opaque screen, and cause the operator to point at one finger. That finger presently grew insensible or rigid. A bystander pointing simultaneously at another finger, never made that insensible or rigid. Of course the elective rapport with their operator had been developed in these trained subjects during the hypnotic state, but the phenomenon then occurred in some of them during the waking state, even when their consciousness was absorbed in animated conversation with a fourth party. 11 I confess that when I saw these experiments I was impressed with the necessity for admitting between the emanations from different people differences for which we have no name, and a discriminative sensibility for them of the nature of which we can form no clear conception, but which seems to be developed in certain subjects by the hypnotic trance. -- The enigmatic reports of the effect of magnets and metals, even if they be due, as many contend, to unintentional suggestion on the operator's part, certainly involve hypersthetic perception, for the operator seeks as well as possible to conceal the moment when the magnet is brought into play, and yet the subject not only finds it out that moment in away difficult to understand, but may develop effects which (in the first instance certainly) the operator did not expect to find. Unilateral contractures, movements, paralyses, hallucinations, etc., are made to pass to tile other side of the body, hallucinations to disappear, or to change to the complementary color, suggested emotions to pass into their opposites, etc. Many Italian observations agree with the French ones, and the upshot is that if unconscious suggestion lie at the bottom of this matter, the patients show an enormously exalted power of divining what it is they are expected to do. This hypersthetic perception is what concerns us now. 12 Its modus cannot yet be said to be defined.

Changes in the nutrition of the tissues may be produced by suggestion. These effects lead into therapeutics -- a subject which I do not propose to treat of here. But I may say that there seems no reasonable ground for doubting that in certain chosen subjects the suggestion of a congestion, a burn, a blister, a raised papule, or a bleeding from the nose or skin, may produce the effect. Messrs, Beaunis, Berjon, Bernheim, Bourru, Buret, Charcot, Delboeuf, Dumontpalier, Focachon, Forel, Jendrássik, Krafft-Ebing, Liébault, Liégeois, Lipp, Mabille, and others have recently vouched for one or other of these effects. Messrs. Delboeuf and Liégeois have annulled by suggestion, one the effects of a burn, the other of a blister. Delboeuf was led to his experiments after seeing a burn on the skill produced by suggestion, at the Saléptrière, by reasoning that if the idea of a pain could produce inflammation it must be because pain was itself an inflammatory irritant, and that the abolition of it from a real burn ought therefore to entail the absence of inflammation. He applied the actual cautery (as well as vesicants) to symmetrical places on the skin, affirming that no pain should be felt on one of the sides. The result was a dry scorch on that side, with (as he assures me) no after-mark, but on the other side a regular blister with suppuration and a subsequent scar. This explains the innocuity of certain assaults made on subjects during trance. To test stimulation, recourse is often had to sticking pills under their finger-nails or through their tongue, to inhalations of strong ammonia, and the like. These irritations, when not felt by the subject, seem to leave no after-consequences. One is reminded of the reported non-inflammatory character of the wounds made on themselves by dervishes in their pious orgies. On the other hand, the reddenings and bleedings of the skin along certain lines, suggested by tracing lines or pressing objects thereupon, put the accounts handed down to us of the stigmata of the cross appearing oil the hands, feet, sides, and forehead of certain Catholic mystics in a new light. As so often happens, a fact is denied until a welcome interpretation comes with it. Then it is admitted readily enough; and evidence judged quite insufficient to back a claim, so long as the church had an interest in making it, proves to be quite sufficient for modern scientific enlightenment, the moment it appears that a reputed saint can thereby be classed as 'a case of hystero-epilepsy.'

There remain two other topics, vis., post-hypnotic effects of suggestion, and effects of suggestion in the waking state.

Post-hypnotic, or deferred, suggestions are such as are given to the patients during trance, to take effect after waking. They succeed with a certain number of patients even when the execution is named for a remote period -- months or even a year, in one case reported by M. Liégeois. In this way one can make the patient feel a pain, or be paralyzed, or be hungry or thirsty, or have an hallucination, positive or negative, or perform some fantastic action after emerging from his trance. The effect in question may be ordered to take place not immediately, but after an interval of time has elapsed, and the interval may be left to the subject to measure, or may be marked by a certain signal. The moment the signal occurs, or the time is run out, the subject, who until then seems in a perfectly normal waking condition, will experience the suggested effect. In many instances, whilst thus obedient to the suggestion, he seems to fall into the hypnotic condition again. This is proved by the fact that the moment the hallucination or suggested performance is over he forgets it, denies all knowledge of it, and so forth; and by the further fact that he is 'suggestable' during its performance, that is, will receive new hallucinations, etc., at command. A moment later and this suggestibility has disappeared. It cannot be said, how-ever, that relapse into the trance is an absolutely necessary condition for the post-hypnotic carrying out of commands, for the subject may be neither suggestible nor amnesic, and may struggle with all the strength of his will against the absurdity of this impulse which he feels rising in him, he knows not why. In these cases, as in most cases, he forgets the circumstance of the impulse having been suggested to him in a previous trance; regards it as arising within him-self; and often improvises, as he yields to it, some more or less plausible or ingenious motive by which to justify it to the lookers-on. He acts, in short, with his usual sense of personal spontaneity and freedom; and the disbelievers in the freedom of the will have naturally made much of these cases in their attempts to show it be an illusion.

The only really mysterious feature of these deferred suggestions is the patient's absolute ignorance during the interval preceeding their execution that they have been deposited in his mind. They will often surge up at the preappointed time, even though you have vainly tried a while before to make him recall the circumstances of their production. The most important class of post-hypnotic suggestions are, of course, those relative to the patient's health -- bowels, sleep, and other bodily functions. Among the most interesting (apart from the hallucinations) are those relative to future trances. One can determine the hour and minute, or the signal, at which the patient will of his own accord lapse into trace again. One can make him susceptible in [the] future to another operator who may have been unsuccessful with him in the past. Or more important still in certain cases, one can, by suggesting that certain person shall never be able hereafter to put him to sleep, remove him for all future time from hypnotic influences which might be dangerous. this, indeed, is the simple and natural safeguard against those 'dangers of hypnotism' of which uninstructed persons talk so vaguely. A subject who knows himself to be ultra-susceptible should never allow himself to be entranced by an operator in whose moral delicacy he lacks complete confidence; and he can use a trusted operator's suggestions to protect himself against liberties which others, knowing his weakness, might tempted to take with him.

The mechanism by which the command is retained until the moment for its execution arrives is a mystery which give rise to much discussion. The experiments of Gurney and the observations of M. Pierre-Janet and others on certain hysterical somnabulists seem to prove that it is stored up in consciousness; not simply organically registered, but that the consciousness which thus retains it is split off, dissociated form the rest of the subject's mind. We have here, in short, an experimental production of one of those 'second' states of the personality of which we have spoken so often. Only here the second state coexists as well as alternates with the first. Gurney had the brilliant idea of tapping this second consciousness by means of the planchette. He found that certain persons, who were both hypnotic subjects and automatic writers, would if their hands were placed on a planchette (after being wakened from a trance in which they had received the suggestion of something to be done at a later time) write out unconsciously the order, or something connected with it. This shows that something inside of them, which could express itself through the hand alone, was continuing to think of the order, and possibly of it alone. These researchers have opened a new vista of possible experimental investigations into the so-called 'second' states of the personality.

Some subjects seem almost as obedient to suggestion in the waking state as in sleep, or even more so, according to certain observers. Not only muscular phenomena, but changes of personality and hallucinations are recorded as the result of simple affirmation on the operator's part, with-out the previous ceremony of 'magnetizing' or putting into the 'mesmeretic sleep.' These are all trained subjects, however, so far as I know, and the affirmation must apparently be accompanied by the patient concentrating his attention and gazing, however briefly, into the eyes of the operator. It is probable therefore that an extremely rapidly induced condition of trance is a prerequisite for success in these experiments.

I have now made mention of all the more important phenomena of the hypnotic trance. Of their therapeutic or forensic bearings this is not the proper place to speak. The recent literature of the subject is quite voluminous, but much of it consists in repetition. The best compendious work on the subject is 'Der Hypnoismus,' by Dr. A. Moll (Berlin, 1889; and just translated into English, N. Y., 1890), which is extraordinarily complete and judicious. The other writings most recommendable ape subjoined in the note. 13

Most of them contain a historical sketch and much bibliography. A complete bibliography has been published by M. Dessoir (Berlin, 1888).

1 It should be said that the methods of leaving the patient to himself, and that of the simple verbal suggestion of sleep (the so-called Nancy method introduced by Dr. Liébault of that place), seem, wherever applicable, to be the best, as they entail none of the after-inconveniences which occasionally follow upon straining his eyes. A new patient should not be put through a great variety of different suggestions in immediate succession. He should be waked up from time to time, and then rehypnotized to avoid mental confusion and excitement. Before finally waking a subject you should undo whatever delusive suggestions you may have implanted in him, by telling him that they are all gone, etc., and that you are now going to restore him to his natural state. Headache, languor, etc., which sometimes follow the first trance or two, must be banished at the outset, by the operator strongly assuring the subject that such things never come from hypnotism, that the subject must not have them, etc.

2 Certain facts would seem to point that way. Cf., e.g., the care of the man described by P. Despine, Étude Scientifique sur le Somnambulisme,p. 286 ff.

3 The state is not identical with sleep, however analogous in certain respects. The lighter stages of it, particularly, differ from sleep and dreaming, inasmuch as they are characterized almost exclusively by muscular inabilities and compulsions, which are not noted in ordinary somnolescence, and the mind, which is confused in somnolescence, may be quite clearly conscious, in the lighter state of trance, of all that is going on.

4 The word 'suggestion' has been bandied about too much as if it explained all mysteries: When the subject obeys it is by reason of the 'operator's suggestion'; when he proves refactory it is in consequence of an 'auto-suggestion' which he has made to himself, etc., etc. What explains everything explains nothing; and it must be remembered that what needs explanation here is the fact that in a certain condition of the subject suggestions operate as they do at no other time; that through them functions are affected which ordinarily elude the action of the waking will; and that usually all this happens in a condition of which no after-memory remains.

5 A complete fit of drunkenness may be the consequence of the suggested champagne. It is even said that real drunkenness has been cured by suggestion.

6 The suggested hallucination may be followed by a negative after-image, just as if it were a real object. This can be very easily verified with the suggested hallucination of a colored cross on a sheet of white paper. Tile subject, on turning to another sheet of paper, will see a cross of the complementary color. Hallucinations have been shown by MM. Binet and Féré to be doubled by a prism or mirror, magnified by a lens, and in many other ways to behave optically like real objects. These points have been discussed already on p. 128 ff.

7 M. Liégeois explains the common exhibition-trick of making the subject unable to get his arms into his coat-sleves again after he has taken his coat off, by an anæsthesia to the necessary parts of the coat.

8 Precautions being taken against differences of temperature and other grounds of suggestion.

9 It should be said, however, that the bystander's ability to discriminate unmarked cards and sheets of paper from each other is much greater than one would naturally suppose.

10 I must repeat, however, that we are here on the verge of possibly unknown forces and modes of communication. Hypnotization at a distance, with no grounds for expectation on the subject's part that it was to be tried, seems pretty well established in certain very rare cases. See in general, for information on these matters, the Proceedings of the Sec. for Psych. Research, passim.

11 Here again the perception in question must take place below the threshold of ordinary consciousness, possibly in one of those split-off selves or 'second' states whose existence we have so often to recognize.

12 I myself verified many of the above effects of the magnet on a blind-folded subject on whom I was trying them for the first time, and whom I believe to have never heard of them before. The moment, however, an opaque screen was added to the blindfolding, the effects ceased to coincide with the approximation of the magnet, so that it looks as if visual perception had been instrumental in protecting them. The subject passed from my observation, so that I never could clear up the mystery. Of course I gave him consciously no hint of what I was looking for.

13 Binet and Féré, 'Animal Magnetism,' in the International Scientific Series; A. Bernheim,' Suggestive Therapeutics ' (N.Y., 1889); J Liégeois 'De la Suggestion' (1889); E. Gurney, two articles in Mind, vol. ix. -- In the recent revival of interest in the history of this subject, it seems a pity that the admirably critical and scientific work of Dr. John Kearsley Mitchell of Philadelphia should remain relatively so unknown. It is quite worthy to rank with Braid's investigations. See "Five Essays" by the above author, edited by S. Weir Mitchell, Philadelphia, 1859, pp. 141-274.

Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 21:14