George W 1856-1940 Jacoby.

Suggestion and psychotherapy online

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tirely different interpretation must be given for
those cases of dual personality in which, through
accident or disease, certain association tracts have
been destroyed or barred out, so that the memory
images for certain periods of life cannot be re-
awakened by any known means.

Finally, let us take up briefly the differences


between auto-suggestion and foreign suggestion.
There are suggestions which arise apparently spon-
taneously, without any influence of other people,
which depend on an idea starting in the individual
himself, and are therefore designated as auto-
suggestions. The formation of an auto-suggestion
may be caused by an association of ideas. Take
the case of a person who has undergone «. painful
operation at the hands of a physician. Later, if
he is obliged again to consult the physician, the
auto-suggestion will arise that he must again sub-
mit to a painful operation.

Moreover, numerous pathological manifestations
depend on auto-suggestion caused by association.
The nervous vomiting which affects so many peo-
ple may well be caused by the fortuitous occurrence
of a single attack of vomiting after a heavy meal,
followed by the auto-suggestion that this vomiting
will recur after every subsecjuent meal. Numerous
idiosyncrasies against certain foods or odors are
perhaps to be explained in the same manner.
Furthermore, Moll calls attention to the fact that
the imperative concepts, obsessions, such, for in-
stance, as the fear of open spaces (agoraphobia),
owe their origin to auto-suggestion. The agora-


phobic patient becomes dominated by the idea that
he cannot traverse an open space, his own will is
too weak to withstand this auto-suggestion, and
every attempt to traverse an open space brings forth
the typical feeling of fear. Similarly, numerous
hysterical paralyses are dependent on auto-sugges-
tion. We shall become acquainted later with many
forms of disease whose ultimate causation is the
result of ideas produced through auto-suggestion.

That auto-suggestions may arise in consequence »
of sense deceptions is also undeniable. As opposed ^
to auto-suggestions which arise against one's will
stand those which are produced consciously by
one's will. Hirsch cites a drastic example, men-
tioned by his former teacher, the physiologist
Preyer, in his lectures as proof of the possibility of
an intentional auto-suggestion. Preyer recounted
that he never allowed his study to be heated, but I
utilized his will power — that is, his capability of
auto-suggestion — to eliminate the sensation of cold.
By means of the auto-suggested sensation of
warmth, it became possible for him to work in com-
fort in a cold room and to bathe in ice-cold water.

In the same category belongs the power, em-
phasized by Kant, of mastering one's disordered


feelings, by the mere exercise of will — that is, by
auto-suggestion. As a matter of fact, all sugges-
tions, even those which come from another person,
act through auto-suggestion, since even the foreign
suggestions must become fixed and elaborated,
must be adopted by the brain of the person to be
influenced, before they can become efficacious.

D. Suggestion — Its Past and Present

It has seemed advisable to me to defer a con-
sideration of the history of suggestion until the
reader has become acquainted with the terms and
definitions of the subject, instead of following the
usual custom of making use of such retrospect as
an introduction. Especially important did it seem
to me to show clearly at the start that certain func-
tions are of psychic causation, and therefore
amenable to psychic influence. The same con-
sideration also will constitute the basis for what
is to follow. Let us begin, therefore, with those
functional disorders which are of psychic produc-
tion, those caused by suggestion and which, as
already indicated, come under the designation
"psychic contagion."

From olden times there comes to us knowledge


of a species of psychic disorder which manifested
itself in a belief that the afflicted person had been
turned into a wolf or a dog. These patients, es-
pecially with the approach of spring, were sw^ayed
by an irresistible impulse to follow the habits of
wolves and dogs and to pass their nights in lone-
some burial places.

The old and wide-spread belief in the existence
of man-wolves seems to have furnished the basis
for this delusion. In not a few instances this
fancy has become epidemic and hundreds of per-
sons have become cannibals, going on all fours,
living in forests, and howling like wolves. Other
persons imagined themselves to be dogs and went
about snarling at all whom they passed. In some
cases, without having been bitten, or without even
having come in contact with dogs, they barked,
frothed at the mouth, and in every act simulated
rabies. This spurious hydrophobia, of course, had
nothing in common w^ith lyssa, or true rabies.

Zander relates that Marcellus of Sidoc in Pam-
philia, a Grecian physician of the time of Marcus
Aurelius, has described such a lycanthropic epi-
demic in hexameters, and from a later Arabic
author we learn that in the sixth centurv B. C.


this cynanthropy or lycanthropy was endemic. In
his "Contributions to the History of Medicine,"
Boettiger of Weimar adduces the oldest references
to wolf-madness from Grecian mythology, and
from this source we note that nearly all the barbaric
tribes of the Middle Ages were afflicted at some
time or other by this obsession.

Even in more recent times the man-wolf occupied
so prominent a place in connection with the prose-
cution of witches and sorceresses that there can
be little doubt that this form of mental disorder,
evidently due to hajlucinations caused by sugges-
tive or psychic contagion, must have been epidemic,
and that much of the belief in witchcraft and sor-
cery owes its origin to this cause.

In 1600 many scores of people in the Jura were
executed for lycanthropy, and about this time a
French judge named Boguet drew up a code in
which he permitted ordinary witches to be strangled
before they were burned, but provided that lycan-
thropes were to be burned alive.

Most noteworthy examples of the communica-
bility of morbid nervous manifestations and of the
wide distribution of such psychic epidemics are
furnished not only by the witchcraft prosecutions,


but also by the associations of flagellants, by the
children's crusades, and by the dancing madness of
the Middle Ages. Witches, who, in all probability,
were mostly hysterics, were supposed to be pos-
sessed or controlled by some evil spirit. All their
actions, their appalling cries, the contortions of
their bodies, the atrocities which they committed,
were the work of the devil within them. Exorcism
was the only cure. When this devil could not be
driven out, incarceration, racking, and burning to
death were the logical means of reaching the seat
of the trouble.

The records of these witchcraft prosecutions,
the drawings and paintings of that time, leave little
doubt that a large number of the witches were
sufferers from hysteria and that this disease fur-
nished fertile soil for the development of all manner
of sense deceptions and suggestions. Scourging,
or flagellation, having been encouraged by the
popes and prominent churchmen as a means of
religious discipline, for penance and expiation, be-
came popularized by the mendicant friars. In
1261, when Italy was under the bane of the greatest
profligacy, according to the Monachi Patavini
Chronica, a piety hitherto unknown suddenly over-


came first the inhabitants of Perugia, then the
Romans, and finally spread among almost all the
people of the country.

In processions of hundreds and thousands, at
night with burning candles, naked even in the most
severe winter, and headed by the priests bearing
crosses and flags, the gentry and the common
people, the old and the young, even children,
marched through the streets of the towns scourg-
ing their bare bodies until the blood flowed,
moaned and called upon God and His mercy, and
threw themselves upon the altars in supplication.
Some of these processions marched even over the
Alps, and found imitators in Carniola, Styria,
Austria, Bohemia, Moravia, and Hungary.

In 1348, in consequence of the desolating plague
called the "black death," which spread from Asia
through all of Europe, and which was looked on as
a divine visitation, these same scenes were repeated,
and this time Germany was not exempt. Associa-
tions of flagellants marched from place to place,
praying and scourging themselves with knotted
ropes. Like an avalanche these hosts grew and
spread, drawing every one with them.

Additional evidence of the power of suggestion.


or psychic contagion, is furnished by the so-called
children's pilgrimages, or children's crusades.
These were taken part in by thousands of young
people of both sexes, most of them between the
ages of twelve and eighteen. Aventinus, in his
Chronica, describes the first of these crusades,
which took place in the year 1212, the children
marching through Saxony, South Germany, and
over the Alps to the borders of the Adriatic.

Without a leader, without means of subsistence,
without money, sustained solely by their intense
enthusiasm, these young wanderers began their
pilgrimage for the purpose of delivering the Holy
Sepulchre from the dominion of the Turks. Soon
they were loined by men and women. Thieves
and scoundrels associated themselves with the
youthful crusaders, robbed, and plundered them.
Many died from want and deprivation; some
reached Genoa; others turned back, and, bare-
footed and hungry, exhausted from cold and
suffering, derided and insulted, they again reached
their homes.

A similar pilgrimage which started from Paris
fared no better. A pilgrimage of one hundred
children from Erfurt in 1237 also came to a tragic


end. These children started out dancing and
singing, but soon fell exhausted by the wayside;
many died, and, according to report, the others
became afflicted with a tremor which remained
with them for the rest of their lives. The last of
these pilgrimages set out in 1458 for St. Michael
in Normandy. Aventinus described this crusade
as follows:

"Unexpectedly the children came; they had to
run along. It was said that those who wanted to
go along, but were restrained, would die. Many
died of hunger, many were frozen to death, and
some were captured in France and sold into bond-
age; not one came back to its home. The mothers
could not hold back those who wanted to start.
There followed a great pestilence."

In this connection let us recall what we have
previously said regarding the power exerted by
erroneous ideas, even when they are in no way
dependent on organic disease of the brain. To-day,
when among civilized peoples the scepticism due to
cultural enlightenment has made the atmosphere
immune to such contagion, these children's cru-
sades are no longer possible. The same may be
said of the dance madness of the Middle Ages.


In the year 1374 scores of dance-mad men and
women appeared at Aix la Chapelle and danced
for hours in a wild delirium, in churches and on
the streets, until they collapsed from exhaustion.
In many of them there ensued a tense expansion of
the abdomen, of which they tried to rid themselves
by tight bandages, by blows and kicks. During
the activity of the dance, it seems, all sensory im-
pressionability was eliminated. The imagination
of the dancers held full sway. All manner of
visions were conjured up before their eyes; they
saw spirits whose names they muttered, and later
they said they had believed themselves to be im-
mersed in a stream of blood and had jumped so
high in order to avoid it. Others, in their trans-
ports, saw the gates of Heaven ajar, with the
Saviour and the Virgin Mother upon a throne,
ready to receive them. This dance-madness, in
many instances, was preceded by convulsions.

A fresh outbreak of this disease, which mean-
while had spread from Aix through Belgium and
Holland, and along the upper Rhine, occurred in
Strasburg in 1418. By order of the magistrate,
the dancers were led in troops to the Chapel of
St. Vitus in Zabern, there to be pacified by the


saying of mass, by prayers, etc. This dance-
madness became extinct with the close of the fif-
teenth century, but along the Rhine traces of its
existence are still to be found, as is shown bv the
annual saltatory procession to the grave of St.
Willibrad in Echternach.

These examples which we have presented are
instructive in many ways. Above all they show
how persons with but little strength of character
and of feeble will power — yes, even entire masses of
people — may, by means of any idea and the imita-
tive impulse, be stirred up to the commission of
even the most absurd deeds. But they also show
that the interpretation of these vagaries by the
people of the Middle Ages did contain a justifiable
nucleus. Ever since psychology and psychiatry
have been dominated by scientific tendencies, we
have endeavored to find a material substratum,
some organic alteration which might be held re-
sponsible for any disorder, not only of the body,
but also of the mind. Nevertheless, we are still
warranted to-day in stating it as a law that a num-
ber of functional symptoms and disorders are
psychically produced — needless to say, not by
means of demonic possession, as was the mediaeval


belief, but through the power of suggestion. The
significant difference between our explanations and
those of the mysticists, therefore, rests in this — that
ours is founded on natural psychical causes, while
theirs was based on supernatural and extrater-
restrial causes.

The justifiable nucleus of the otherwise abstruse
views of the Middle Ages, however, is to be sought
in the fact that disorders of function, disturbances
of body and brain action without any pathologico-
anatomical basis, do exist. This view must be
accepted as correct until the microscope and other
refined methods of investigation will have demon-
strated that these " functional" disorders and symp-
toms, too, are nothing else than manifestations of
morbidly altered structures. That time has not
yet come. If it be admitted that the people of the
Middle Ages were correct in their assumption that
hysteria and other neuroses were psychically in-
duced, then their mode of treatment by psychic
means cannot be considered at fault.

Diabolic possession can be treated only by ex-
orcism of the demon. Deride this as we may, we
cannot accuse our ancestors of having been illog-
ical in their conclusions. To-day, instead of exor-


cism, we employ another means of treatment, one
more in accord with our advanced knowledge, yet
withal a psychic one.

Natural causes demand natural remedies. Psy-
chic infection is quite as natural a process as is the
physical infection due to bacteria. Similarly, the
suggestion which we employ for the cure of such
psychic infection is no less a natural remedy than,
for instance, the Jesuit's bark used to cure malaria.

Fundamentally, therefore, nothing can be said
against the point of view of the Middle Ages.
Neuroses, being of psychic origin, may conse-
quently be influenced by psychic means. More-
over, the far past had other explanations also to
offer for the occurrence of hysteria and allied
neuroses than that of diabolic possession. Natural
causes, too, were acknowledged, and natural rem-
edies were employed.

Of all things let us not lose sight of the fact that
the cure or alleviation of disease through psychic
influence is by no means a product of modern
times. Inscriptions found on many of the most
ancient monuments bear witness to the success at-
tained in the cure of disease through mental influ-
ence. In fact, it may truthfully be said that the


methods of influencing the mind were better under-
stood thousands of years ago than they are to-day.
What seems most amazing, however, is the fact
that the sleep-Hke state which to-day is called hyp-
nosis was known to the ancients and was employed
by them for therapeutic purposes. Unquestion-
ably the "temple sleep" of the old Egyptians was
simply a hypnotic state. The priests, to whom, as
is well known, was allotted all treatment of disease,
were the ones to bring about this sleep. The pa-
tients were subjected to various preparatory cere-
monies, which probably served to augment their
faith and to increase their impressionability. It
is quite likely that the baths, the fasting, etc., which
formed part of the preparations for the ** temple
sleep," constituted, through their hygienic influ-
ence, an important factor in the production of
some of the cures of the priests. During this sleep
the patients, in answer to questions propounded by
the priests, proclaimed the remedies which would
restore them to health. These answers were con-
sidered oracular. It may also be assumed that the
information obtained by the priests during this
hypnosis furnished them with much knowledge of
the previous life, as well as of the ordinary men-


tal processes of the patients. Thus was gained
knowledge which became of the greatest value for
future suggestive treatment and which could not
have been obtained during the waking state.

Nor was the psychic aspect disregarded in the
application of other medical ordinances. Even
in the prescription of medicines, whose activity
was certainly not underrated, the physicians of
times long past deemed it useful to augment the
mental influence on their patients by the addition
of certain magic formulae to the recipe.

Among the Hebrews the practice of medicine,
exercised by the Levites, consisted in an appeal to
the Deity and in sacrificial offerings, for which,
when they were abolished in a later period, prayers
were substituted. In a similar manner the art of
healing among the old Greeks was clad in a religio-
mystical garb. The oracles of renown, those of
iEsculapius at Epidaurus and Pergamus, and that
of Apollo at Delphia, attracted sufferers from all
diseases from far and near.

In the case of the Greeks, too, as among the
Egyptians, the "temple sleep" revealed its powers.
Large "sleeping houses** were erected in the tem-
ples, and in these the patients, while in their sleep.


received divine utterances, probably suggestions by
the priests. A certain amount of reverence was
attached to this " temple sleep," too, by the Romans,
for whom the prognostications of the Sibyls, as
well, were of great significance. The peculiar con-
dition which overcame the Sibyls during their utter-
ances seems to have been closely allied to hypnosis,
if it was not an actual hypnotic state. The Persian
Magi also knew how to place themselves in a state
of hypnosis, using the method of fixation. The
Indian fakirs of to-day use the same method. So,
in the fourteenth century, the monks upon Mount
Athos, that body known as Omphalopsychites or
Hesychasts, placed themselves in a hypnotic state
by deep contemplation or by fixation of the navel.
Let us pass by that period during which Theo-
phrastus Paracelsus attempted to demonstrate the
influence which the astral bodies exercised on one
another, and, more particularly, on human beings
and their diseases, and therebv laid the foundation
for that doctrine of animal magnetism which in
1775 became generally known through the efforts
of the Viennese physician, Friederich Anton Mes-
mer, and which, though erroneous, must be recog-
nized as the forerunner of modern psychotherapy.


It was known long before Mesmer's time that
animals could be put into a hypnoidal state of pas-
sivity. As early as 1646, Kircher, a Jesuit priest,
had "mesmerized" chickens so that they remained
motionless in any posture in which they had been
placed. Two hundred years later, Wilson, in Lon-
don, followed up these experiments by imposing a
cataleptic state upon wolves, horses, and other ani-
mals. Further successful experiments of this kind
have been conducted by Verworrn, the renowned
physiologist of Goettingen, upon birds, snakes,
frogs, and guinea-pigs.

Hollander calls attention to the fact that in
Austria the law requires army horses to be mesmer-
ized in order to shoe them. This procedure was
introduced by a cavalry officer named Balassa,
for which reason it is now known as " balassiren."
By this method, says Hollander, "horse-tamers
tame the wildest colts and the most vicious horses
in an hour."

This "mesmerizing" of animals has nothing in
common with the suggestion exercised upon human
beings except the state of passivity of the will which
is thereby produced. Through fear or fright the
animal is thus placed in a condition of muscular


rigidity, known as catalepsy, during which it is
unable to resist anything which may be done with
it. Of course there is involved here no question
of any psychic contact, of any "rapport" between
the animal and the experimenter, yet remarkable
results have been achieved through such balassing,
or mesmerizing, of animals. Lion and other ani-
mal tamers, Hindoo fakirs, who at will place their
poisonous snakes into a state of complete immo-
bility or wildest furor, all exert their apparently
marvellous powers through a dominance achieved
by fixity of eye and general comportment. The
ruler of animals or of human beings always owes
his successful psychic influence in part to an impos-
ing dignity which he may possess; but that which
may be attained in animals only through fright
or fear is effected by the suggestionist of human be-
ings, through psychic contact, through the produc-
tion of certain ideas.

This doctrine of animal magnetism entered upon
a new phase when in 1814 Abbe Faria, of Paris,
expressed the conviction that a magnetic fluid did
not exist, but that the production of the phenomena
of animal magnetism was entirely dependent on
the will of the subject on whom the experiment


was being carried out. Since it is this principle
which constitutes the fudamental idea, as we have
already learned, in the causation of the manifesta-
tions produced by suggestion and psychotherapy,
we must accord to Faria the credit of having been
the first to recognize this truth. The views of
Faria having been adopted in France, more par-
ticularly by Bertrand and Noizet, the Paris Acad-
emy of Medicine in 1826 appointed a commission
to investigate the entire question of animal mag-
netism. Forty years previously, as a result of an
opinion given by this same academy, the employ-
ment of so-called magnetic treatment (mesmerism)
had been forbidden. Now the Paris commission
recognized as true, within the limits placed on it
by Faria, the manifestations produced by animal
magnetism. Preyer says that, if to-day we sub-
stitute the word "hypnotism" or "suggestion'' for
the word "magnetism" wherever it occurs in the
report of the French Academy, we should have no
reason to find ourselves in disaccord with the
thirty theses enumerated by that body.

Next to Faria, most credit is due to the English
surgeon, James Braid, for our advance in knowledge
regarding suggestion and hypnosis. Stimulated by


public exhibitions given by a French magnetist, La
Fontaine, Braid in 1840 began his independent
investigations, which culminated in the conclusion
that a person may pass into a sleep-like condition
as a result of intent fixation of a glistening object.
This state, to which Braid applied the designation
"hypnosis," was employed by him for the production
of ansesthesia, of which he made practical use in
his surgical operations. In his book, "Neuryp-
nology," published in 1842, Braid says that concen-
tration of the attention on the glistening point is
as necessary as fixation.

Although Braid was the first to explain clearly
the increase of suggestibility which is present dur-
ing the hypnotic state and to make use of this con-
dition of augmented suggestibility for therapeutic
purposes, yet he undoubtedly started from a false
premise. He considered the fixation, the physical

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Online LibraryGeorge W 1856-1940 JacobySuggestion and psychotherapy → online text (page 10 of 18)