Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/837

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
813
THE SELF AND ITS DERANGEMENTS.

Great changes in one's circumstances and surroundings are often connected with similar changes in the self-consciousness. A journey to a foreign land, the sudden death of a relative or friend, a great disappointment in love or in business, or an equally great and unexpected success—all these necessarily involve the demolition of many of one's most permanent habits, plans, and expectations. There may follow a period of confusion in which the self of the present moment looks back upon the self of the past as a very different being.

Analogous changes take place normally in the course of life with the constant addition of new experiences and development of new instincts. The sense of self usually changes imperceptibly to keep pace with these new growths, but sometimes the change can be felt. The young man or young girl sometimes notices it during or at the close of the period of adolescence, and we frequently become conscious of it at other times, when something brings very clearly to mind the events of years ago. Not long since I ran across a book over which I used to pore as a child, but had not seen for years; when I opened it, my present self for just one moment fell away, and I was again a child of eight. It was a strange experience, and the childish self that then for a second or two lived again was much more unlike the present I than I commonly think of it as being.

If our memories are constituent parts of our self-consciousness, it follows that any extensive abolition of memories will impair or destroy a man's sense of self. This is so common a phenomenon that I need not quote illustrations. More interesting are those cases in which certain portions of a person's memory are abolished and restored at varying intervals, especially when illusory memories and other delusions are commingled with the memories that remain. In such cases we get true modifications of the patient's personality. One of the best known of these cases is that of Ansel Bourne.[1]

Mr. Bourne lived in a village near Providence, R. I. On January 17, 1887, he went to Providence, drew five hundred and fifty-one dollars with which to pay for a farm he intended to buy, and then disappeared. About two weeks later he appeared in Norristown. Pa., styling himself A. J. Brown, rented a room, divided it in two by curtains, lived and slept in the rear room, and opened a little shop in the front for the sale of toys, confectionery, notions, etc. During the six weeks he lived there no one noted anything unusual in his demeanor.

"On the morning of Monday, March 14th, about five o'clock, he


  1. This account is abridged from Dr. Richard Hodgson's paper, A Case of Double Personality, in The Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, vol. vii, pp. 221-257.