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HYPNOTISM


hypnosis and in some allied states. Any one may readily work out for himself the application of the theory to the explanation of the power of the operator's suggestions to control movement, to induce anaesthesia, hallucinations and delusions, and to exert on the organic processes an influence greater than can be exerted by mental processes in the normal state of the brain. But the positive evidence of the occurrence of dissociation is a matter of great psychological interest and its nature must be briefly indicated. The phenomena of automatic speech and writing afford the best evidence of cerebral dissociation. Many persons can, while in an apparently normal or but very slightly abnormal condition, produce automatic writing, i.e. intelligibly written sentences, in some cases long connected passages, of whose import they have no knowledge, their self conscious intelligence being continuously directed to some other task. The carrying out of post-hypnotic suggestions affords in many cases similar evidence. Thus a subject may be told that after waking he will perform some action when a given signal, such as a cough, is repeated for the fifth time. In the post-hypnotic state he remains unaware of his instructions, is not conscious of noting the signals, and yet carries out the suggestion at the fifth signal, thereby proving that the signals have been in some sense noted and counted. Many interesting varieties of this experiment have been made, some of much greater complexity; but all agreeing in indicating that the suggested action is prepared for and determined by cerebral processes that do not affect the consciousness of the subject, but seem to occur as a system of processes detached from the main stream of cerebral activity; that is to say, they imply the operation of relatively dissociated neural systems. Many authorities go further than this; they argue that, since actions of the kind described are determined by processes which involve operations, such as counting, that we are accustomed to regard as distinctly mental in character and that normally involve conscious activity, we must believe that in these cases also consciousness or psychical activity is involved, but that it remains as a separate system or stream of consciousness concurrent with the normal or personal consciousness. In recent years the study of various abnormal mental states, especially the investigations by French physicians of severe forms of hysteria, have brought to light many facts which seem to justify this assumption of a secondary stream of consciousness, a co- or sub-consciousness coexistent with the personal consciousness; although, from the nature of the case, an absolute proof of such co-consciousness can hardly be obtained. The co consciousness seems to vary in degree of complexity and coherence from a mere succession of fragmentary sensations to an organized stream of mental activity, which may rival in all respects the primary consciousness; and in cases of the latter type it is usual to speak of the presence of a secondary personality. The co consciousness seems in the simpler cases, e. g. in cases of hysterical or hypnotic anaesthesia, to consist of elements split off from the normal primary consciousness, which remains correspondingly poorer; and the assumption is usually made that such a stream of co-consciousness is the psychical correlate of groups and systems of neurones dissociated from the main mass of cerebral neurones. If, in spite of serious objections, we entertain this conception, we find that it helps us to give some account of various hypnotic phenomena that otherwise remain quite inexplicable; some such conception seems to be required more particularly by the facts of negative hallucination and the execution of post-hypnotic suggestions involving such operations as counting and exact discrimination without primary consciousness. Supernormal Hypnotic Phenomena.-The facts hitherto considered, strange and perplexing as many of them are, do not seem to demand for their explanation any principles of action fundamentally different from those operative in the normal human mind. But much of the interest that has centred in hypnotism in recent years has been due to the fact that some of its manifestations seem to go beyond all such principles of explanation, and to suggest the reality of modes of influence and action that science has not hitherto recognized. Of these by far the best attested are the post-hypnotic unconscious reckoning of time and telepathy or “thought-transference ” (for the latter see TELEPATHY). The post-hypnotic reckoning and noting of the lapse of time seems in some instances to have been carried out, in the absence of all extraneous aids and with complete unconsciousness on the part of the normal personality, with such extreme precision that the achievement cannot be accounted for by any intensification of any faculty that we at present recognize or understand. Thus, Dr Milne Bramwell has reported the case of a patient who, when commanded in hypnosis to perform some simple action after the lapse of many thousands of minutes, would carry out the suggestion punctually to the minute, without any means of knowing the exact time of day at which the suggestion was given or the time of day at the moment its performance fell due; more recently a similar case, even more striking in some respects, has been carefully observed and described by Dr T. W. Mitchell. Other reported phenomena, such as telaesthesia or clairvoyance, and telekinesia, are hardly sufficiently well attested to demand serious consideration in this place.

Medical Applications of H ypnotism.-The study and practice of .hypnotism is not yet, and probably never will be, regarded as a normal part of the work of the general practitioner. Its successful application demands so much time, tact, and special experience, that it will probably remain, as it is now, and as it is perhaps desirable that it should remain, a specialized branch of medical practice. In England it is only in recent years that it has been possible for a medical man to apply it in his practice without incurring professional odium and some risk of loss of reputation. That, in certain classes of cases, it may effect a cure or bring relief when all other modes of treatment are of no avail is now rapidly becoming recognized; but it is less generally recognized that it may be used with great advantage as a supplement to other modes of treatment in relieving symptoms that are accentuated by nervous irritability or mental disturbance. A third wide field of usefulness lies before it in the cure of undesirable habits of many kinds. Under the first heading may be put insomnia, neuralgia, neurasthenia, hysteria in almost all its many forms; under the second, inflammations such as that of chronic rheumatism, contractures and paralyses resulting from gross lesion of the brain, epilepsy, dyspepsia, menstrual irregularities, sea-sickness; under the third, inebriety, the morphia and other drug habits, nail-biting, enuresis nocturna, masturbation, constipation, facial and other twitching. In pronounced mental diseases hypnotism seems to be almost useless; for in general terms it may be said that it can be applied most effectively where the brain, the instrument through which it works, is sound and vigorous. The widespread prejudice against the use of hypnotism is no doubt largely due to the marvellous and (to most minds) mysterious character of the effects producible by its means; and this prejudice may be expected to diminish as our insight into the mode of its operation deepens.. The more purely bodily results achieved by hypnotic suggestion become in some degree intelligible if we regard it as a powerful means of diverting nervous energy from one channel or organ to others, so as to give physiological rest to an overworked organ or tissue, or so as to lead to the atrophy of one nervous habit and the replacement of it by a more desirable habit. And in the cure of those disorders which involve a large mental element the essential part played by it is to drive out some habitually recurrent idea and to replace it by some idea, expectation or conviction of healthy tendency.

It seems clear that the various systems of 'fmind-curing” in the hands of persons lacking all medical training, which are now so frequently the cause of distressing and needless disasters, owe their rapid spread to the fact that the medical profession has hitherto neglected to attach sufficient importance to the mental factor in the causation and cure of disease; and it seems clear, too, that a more general and more intelligent appreciation of the possibilities of hypnotic treatment would constitute the best means at the disposal of the profession for combating this

growing evil.