The Hypnotic State Continues
Here is another idea on ehat the hypnotic state might be.
For the time being, however, mesmerism is dead. But in its place, there arose other dangerous notions which detracted scientific attention from more tenable explanations of suggestion and hypnosis. Charcot and his Salpêtrière School, assuming that the trance is nothing but a state of artificial hysteria, have created the unfortunate concept of “mental dissociation.” In this view, the mind can be divided into two (or more) practically independent parts and function as such, though only one will command consciousness at a time. Today this concept of dissociation is being used in a variety of ways and under the guise of erudite language, as when it is said: “Hypnosis may best be characterized as a phenomenon entailing a splitting of consciousness in which the simultaneous and successive nexus of mental life is partially deranged.” I have read many a modern book on psychology but, heaven knows, I have not yet discovered what such phrases really mean. The idea of “split” and “divided” personality was made fashion¬able by striking studies of Morton Prince (particularly, in connection with the famous case of Miss Beau-champ), and further popularized by the psychoanalytic theory of the Unconscious. So-called “shell-shocks” of the war-time and hysterical amnesias seemed only to confirm this interpretation. And numerous psychiatrists succumbed to the temptation of fashionable theories and resorted to them to explain the phenomena of hypnosis. Witness, for instance, the following inter¬pretation of what happens during the trance: “You are in touch with the unconscious mind of the subject, which is just as capable of handling the body and is just as acute as is the individual’s conscious mind. . . This simple technique puts you in touch with the unconscious mind of the subject, which explains (sic!) the spectacular results which are observed. First of all, this unconscious mind is extremely suggestible . . .” What is it, mere naiveté?
How easily one succumbs to the apparent plausibility of such interpretation is obvious from the following case of “negative hallucination,” as related with com¬ments by W. McDougall: “I place five new postage stamps upon a white card and ask B (a hypnotized Hindu subject) to count them, which he does correctly pointing his finger to each in turn. I then point to two of the stamps and tell him they will be no longer there when he again looks at the card. I then ask him to count the three stamps again, and he points to and counts the three stamps and denies that the others are there. I then shuffle the stamps, while hidden from his vision, and ask him to count again. In spite of the changes of position of the stamps, B. still neglects and denies the two tabooed stamps. This illustrates two points: first, that the two stamps are really in some sense perceived; secondly, that they are perceived and finely discriminated from the other three; for, if they were not thus perceived and discriminated, they could not be singled out for neglect. But nevertheless, the two stamps are, in some sense, really invisible to the subject.
So, if it is not the unconscious mind what is it you may ask. Find out in my next post.Tags: charcot, hypnotic, mcdougall, state, unconscious