George W 1856-1940 Jacoby.

Suggestion and psychotherapy online

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The weakling alone is discouraged by failure.
The physician never is apathetically resigned, but
ceaselessly strives onward along the road which his
desire to triumph over disease and suffering bids
him take.

Special objections to psychotherapy may be
raised. With a certain amount of justice it may
be said this branch of therapeutics has not yet
earned its right to recognition. It may be said
that medicinal therapeutics, surgery, all physical
means of treatment act by material effects which
may be seen, felt, or recognized in some other way.
It may be argued that the basis of the psycho-
therapist's work still is insecure, while the surgeon
who removes a malignant growth, opens an abscess,
sews up a wound, or ties a bleeding artery is acting
in accordance with the requirements of exact sci-
ence, and the physician w^ho combats an infectious
disease by means of the cori^sponding antitoxin,
who reduces fever by a withdrawal of heat, who
makes use of quinine in the treatment of malaria.


etc., is sustained by medical and physical laws, op,
at any rate, by practical experience. It may be
contended that in psychotherapy the material, the
physical basis is wanting; that it appeals essen-
tially to the idea, to the power of imagination, to
belief; that it makes use of no other method than
that of declaration; that it is comprehensible how
the medicaments of the physician or the knife of the
surgeon produce curative physical changes, but it
seems entirely incomprehensible that bodily dis-
orders which have defied other methods of treat-
ment can be influenced by psychotherapy, by a
simple declaration.

Such scepticism would be fully warranted were
we to maintain that organic tissue changes can be
done away with by means of psychic treatment.
But, as we have shown before, psychotherapy can
have for its object only the cure of functional dis-
eases and functional symptoms, diseases of the
imagination, which despite their immaterial basis
are perceived as actual diseases. Still, psycho-
therapy bears no impress of the mystical as do the
faith and mind cures of confused theorists. Its
results, indeed, may be the same as those attrib-
uted to the waters of Lourdes or the holy coat of


Treves, but it does not ascribe them to miracles,
to supernatural occurrences, but shows them to be
in conformity with natural laws w^hich enable us
to understand the contraction of a muscle when it
is stimulated by an electric current or the palpita-
tion of the heart under the stress of emotion.

In the chapter which is to follow we shall show
that ignorance or disregard of these laws of nat-
ure involves psychotherapy in precisely the same
dangers as it does the practice of medicine in any
form by the unqualified. Here it need merely be
stated that psychotherapy is based on no other
principles than those which must guide all thera-
peutic methods.

The same given causes under the same given
conditions must always produce the same effects.
Therein lies the justification for psychotherapy, if
any outside its practical successes be demanded.

Certainly Christian Science, as well as all other
forms of faith and prayer cures, is psychotherapy
just as much as the latter may be looked on as cure
by faith in that it is dependent on faith in the sug-
gested idea. All suggestion remains ineffective in
the absence of faith, in the absence of its accept-
ance by the patient. That it can, however, exert


most astounding influence on the functions of the
body, when once it is firmly established in the
brain, has already been shown by various signifi-
cant examples. Is there any reason, then, why this
influence of mind or imagination on the bodily
functions should not be utilized therapeutically?

Scepticism is permissible only toward that form
of psychotherapy which ascribes cures to a miracle,
to a supposed response to prayer in the shape of
supernatural intervention between man and the
order of nature, with a suspension of causal laws.
Later we shall discuss in detail the aberrations which
have resulted from this pseudo-psychotherapy,
which, on the one hand, claims to cure all diseases
indiscriminately by means of faith, and, on the
other, has a fundamental disregard for all of nat-
ure's remedies. Faith in any therapeutic proced-
ure, when employed under conditions which the
experienced physician recognizes as suitable for
suggestive influence, is classed by scientific psy-
chotherapy with the natural remedies. Scientific
psychotherapy, moreover, differs from Christian
Science in limiting itself to the use of suggestion
only in suitable cases, at the same time allowing
full latitude in every instance to any other method


of treatment and considering it thoroughly warrant-
able to reinforce the action of any medicinal agent
by arousing a belief in its curative virtues.

The previously cited principle that the expecta-
tion of the occurrence of a certain physiological or
psychological effect tends to bring about that effect
becomes of practical import in the exercise of psy-
chotherapy. -

Recovery is what an invalid anticipates and
hopes for. It is evident, therefore, that in psy-
chotherapeutic treatment a belief in recovery is to
be suggested above all else. As Moebius says,
"Faith is the simple mental remedy, whether it
is faith in recoverv or faith in this or that curative
procedure." No matter under what guise the sug-
gestions which are to arouse or to augment this
faith in recovery have been employed, it is always
the anticipation of improvement which causes
their beneficial action.

Daily life furnishes numerous examples of this
palliative and curative influence of faith. How
many minor ills are ameliorated by the mere assur-
ance that they are of no import and will pass away ?
Is the mother's statement to her child suffering
from headache that the pain soon will cease any-


thing but psychotherapy? Is not consolation in
misfortune or in sickness also a remedy that acts
through suggestion? Our friends comfort us in
our physical and mental sufferings because they
know that consolation lessens distress and amelio-
rates the condition of body and mind.

If the reassurance of a friend whom we know
not to be competent in medical matters can pro-
duce alleviation in many diseased states through
the suggestion which it carries, how much more
potent must be the suggestion conveyed by the
physician who wears the garb of authority! Should
it astonish us if many remedies which the adept
physician prescribes carry with them a suggestive
influence in addition to their physiological one?
The patient is anxiously intent upon carefully fol-
lowing every detail of the medical ordonnance; he
counts each single drop, carefully adds and stirs
the water, imbibes the mixture, and then awaits
the improvement, which often sets in before there
can be any actual remedial effect of the medicine,
any question of its assimilation by the tissues of
the body. Of course, it must not be thought that
all remedies act by means of suggestion. The ma-
teria medica contains tested remedies so specific in


their action that such a supposition would be

Here again it is not out of place to lay stress on
the fact that a reversal of any physiological drug
action through suggestion, as, for instance, a sudo-
rific effect from atropine or a laxative one by means
of tannin, can never be produced. When all has been
said, however, there still remain numerous remedies
which, in all probability, carry with them simply a
suggestive action. Otherwise, how could we under-
stand the daily advocacy of new remedies, said to
be of extraordinary efficiency? As a matter of
fact, the early employment of such remedies is
attended with unusual success; physician and pa-
tient are gratified that a specific has been found at
last. Soon, however, that enthusiasm wanes; dis-
passionate discrimination takes its place and it is
seen the efficiency of the remedy was due entirely
to faith in its activity, and that both efficacy and
faith had passed away simultaneously. Not only
to many patent medicines and to the panegyrics of
charlatans, whose cleverly worded advertisements
create about the undiscerning public an atmosphere
of suggestion, are such effects of faith due. It
cannot be denied that critical and sceptical physi-


cians frequently are the victims of self-deception
which also is sure to influence the public tem-
porarily. It is clear, however, that no scientific
and conscientious physician will prescribe, merely
to produce a suggestive influence, a remedy of
whose inefficacy he is convinced. Such action
cannot be justified in any circumstances. Science
should never prostitute itself to become the tool of
wilful deception, even if it is of no importance to
the patient whether his improvement be due to the
remedy itself or to a belief in its curative virtues.

The domain of psychotherapy is ample without
resorting to any such means. All the complaints
due to actual disease, but which are magnified by
mental processes which cannot be comprehended
by the patient, all the functional disorders of neur
rasthenics, hysterics, etc., the many associated symp-
toms of organic disease due to fear and apprehen-
sion of future occurrences, to introspection and to
erroneous deductions from readings of varied nature,
properly belong in that domain, and there psy-
chotherapy will find a fruitful and grateful field for
the exercise of its influence.


C. Dangers of Psychotherapi/

That psychotherapy has its dangers has already
been stated. This may be understood easily if we
but consider that treatment by suggestion is simply
a part of general therapeutics. Just as the surgeon
first must learn all about the operations which he
is to perform and as the physician must know the
toxic action of all drugs which he employs, so must
the psychotherapist be well informed as to the nu-
merous precautions which the practice of his branch
entails. Every specialist at least must have such
knowledge of his special branch as will enable him
to make correct diagnoses and to institute proper
treatment in extraordinary cases, and to do that
with greater precision and certainty than can be
expected of the general practitioner. What would
be thought of a surgeon who is not thoroughly
versed in topographical anatomy, or who is not
master of the operative technique? What of the
clinician who cannot differentiate a bronchial from
a cardiac asthma? Similarly the psychotherapist
has missed his vocation if he is not the possessor,
in addition to a good general medical education,
of special knowledge of the psycho-physiological


laws, of the functions of the mind and the nervous
system and their reciprocal relations under physi-
ological as well as pathological conditions.

All dangers which may possibly follow the em-
ployment of treatment by suggestion are attribu-
table, without exception, to incapability or neglect
on the part of the psychotherapist. Morphine in
the hand of the physician is a remedial blessing,
in that of an inexperienced layman or a criminal a
lethal poison. Psychotherapy when employed by
the incompetent becomes a curse instead of a bless-
ing. For the psychotherapist who is not properly
schooled, the practice of suggestive therapeutics
will be nothing more than uncertain and haphaz-
ard experimentation in the course of which, when
favored by chance, he may occasionally obtain a
certain degree of success. As a rule, however, he
will cause only harm.

The greatest danger lies in making an error in
diagnosis, in a failure to recognize the disease actu-
ally existing. The scientifically trained physician
is only exceptionally liable to err in this manner;
the lay practitioner, on the other hand, cannot
reasonably be expected to possess any accurate
knowledge of the complicated conditions met with


in disease, or any capability of differentiating be-
tween organic and functional disorders, and, there-
fore, will usually be in error. Such error will
cause the patient to conceive himself to be afflicted
with the disease which has been ascribed to him.
Thereafter it will be easy for him to obtain informa-
tion concerning the symptoms of that disease
through popular scientific writings, and, provided
his belief in the faulty diagnosis be sufficiently
strong, he will not fail to discover those very symp-
toms in himself. ^Meanwhile the real disease re-
mains uncared for, and, the proper moment for ther-
apeutic inters'ention having passed, may become
refractory to therapeutic influence of any kind.
The damage thus has been increased twofold. Not
only has the patient not been freed from his pri-
mary trouble — the malady, on the contrary, having
been aggravated — but he also has had thrust upon
him another which, albeit one of the imagination,
is experienced as an actual disease.

These remarks bear particularly upon the ad-
herents of Christian Science and upon visionaries
of other kinds who, as a matter of principle, dis-
parage the employment of all therapeutics and,
looking on disease as a visitation, perhaps a pun-


ishment for sin, expect a cure to be wrought indis-
criminately and solely through faith and prayer.
It goes without saying that for such persons a cor-
rect diagnosis is not of the slightest import. Let
it be stated parenthetically, how^ever, that the
majority of church congregations, irrespective of
creed, have taken a stand against believers in such
mistakes, and have expressly recognized the obliga-
tion to employ the remedies furnished by science,
instead of awaiting hopefully the intervention of
miraculous happenings.

Since in psychotherapy no instrument or chemical
substance is used, but simply assertions which may
be considered entirely harmless, it may be asked
how can there be any danger at all in the use of
suggestive treatment, no matter how incorrectly
employed ? It is precisely in those so-called harm-
less assertions that the danger lies. Adopted by the
person who is being treated, they become fixed in
his brain, are transformed into perceptions, and im-
pulses of the will, and thus under certain conditions
may develop into a controlling power over the entire
personality, and, through the resultant influences on
the functions of the body, may carry in their wake
disorders which have not been present before.


Special precautions are required in the use of
hypnotism. Incorrect employment of it may bring
about permanent harm. Through hypnosis the
impressionability for suggestive influence becomes
increased. The person in that state, consequently,
subordinates his will to that of the hypnotist more
readily than during the waking state. The object
of all psychotherapy should be the strengthening of
the patient's will. ^Yhen that object has been de-
feated and the will power enfeebled, the fault lies
in the method employed. True, the hypnotized
subject can never become a volitionless automaton.
No hypnotist can coerce him to commit deeds
which are repugnant to his fundamental character
and which he could not have been induced to com-
mit during the waking state. Still, a conscience-
less hypnotist can designedly and permanently
weaken the will of a patient and place him in a
condition of abject dependence in order to take
advantage of him for selfish ends. Hysterics who
have been frequently hypnotized acquire an aug-
mented suggestibility, not only in their relations to
the hypnotist, but to every one else, so that even in
the ordinary occurrences of every-day life their
thoughts, feelings, and actions may be swayed


easily. Such subordination of the will must be
prevented under all circumstances, for the only
justifiable object of suggestion and hypnosis must
be to effect a cure. Once that object is ignored all
dangers incident to psychotherapy will surely arise.

In certain conditions it may be excusable for a
physician to institute hypnotic experiments for
purposes of study, and that will be justifiable if
care is taken to exclude all harmful influences.
But the use of hypnotism can be characterized
only as deprecable and unwarrantable when, as
has been done, a neurasthenic patient is led
through suggestion to have the experience of a
raging storm, during which the house is struck by
lightning, and, through reacting to such sugges-
tions as though to an actual occurrence, is over-
come by terror from which he never recovers; or
when, for the purpose of studying post-hypnotic
phenomena, the hypnotist arouses sense decep-
tions which leave the patient in a state of fright.

Among the dangers of hypnosis mentioned by
many authors must be classed the artificial produc-
tion of hysteria. Others claim, because of their
observations, that hypnotism is responsible for
disorders of intelligence, for nervousness and head-


aches. Still others contend that hypnosis has been
the productive cause of harmful auto-suggestions,
or that the suggestions implanted during the hyp-
nosis have a tendency to recur during the waking
state, even without the special command of the

All these ill effects and dangers, however, are rocks
on which none but the inexperienced are wrecked,
while the trained and adept psychotherapist, he who
but rarely makes use of hypnotism, knows how to
avoid them. For the psychotherapist who practices
with a thoroughly conscientious observance of the
responsibilities involved, suggestion during hyp-
nosis or during the waking state always represents
simply a curative procedure, the dangers of which
fade into thin air when the art of diagnosis is com-
bined with the knowledge of therapeutic laws.

Z). Christian Science, Faith and Prayer Cures

Twenty centuries of progress in the training of
thought and in the discernment of nature^s proc-
esses has not been sufficient to free mankind of
the idea that the omnipotence of God must dis-
close itself, as well as in many other ways, by a
constant regulation of the functions of the human


body in health and disease. And wherever we
find that idea firmly implanted we also find the
outcropping of superstition, with the wonder cures
dependent on it. Hence, even in this era of en-
lightenm'ent and precise, unprejudiced investiga-
tion, we find the most pregnant scepticism and
the most crass superstition existing side by side.
That condition simply proves that history repeats

In a preceding chapter we spoke of the temple
sleep, a function which two or three centuries be-
fore the Hippocratic era — at a time, therefore,
when Greek culture was dominated by theistic
principles — represented a factor in the art of
medicine the employment of which was fully war-
ranted. As Magnus very justly states, this temple
sleep must be looked on as evidence of a faith
notable particularly for the depth and fervor of
the sentiment which prompted it; of a faith, it is
true, which was arUess and childlike, but always
touching. At that time this function contained as
yet no trace of superstition. It represented the
pure and uncorrupted expression of the belief then
current that human art was futile against all dis-
ease, and that help could be had only from the


gods, who were credited with regulating and, in
fact, producing even the smallest detail of mun-
dane occurrences.

An abrupt change in that situation came when
medicine perceived that the manifestations of
disease were not the results of supernatural inter-
ference with the functions of the human body, but
disturbances of bodily life produced by terrestrial,
natural factors. That point of view was first de-
fended in the writings of Hippocrates, and thereafter
the temple sleep, which previously might have been
excusable because of the lack of proper understand-
ing of the occurrences of nature, lost all right of
being. The more intelligent comprehension of
those occurrences should have caused the temple
sleep to disappear absolutely from the art of medi-
cine; but, as that did not occur, it necessarily de-
generated into a superstitious imposture. No one
but the priests can be blamed for this unfortunate
condition. They, above all others, should have
directed into proper channels the beliefs of the sick
and the infirm who, in childlike piousness, crowded
the temples in search of health. By not doing
that, and by trying in every possible way to main-
tain among the masses the old belief in the thera-


peutic capabilities of the gods, the priests made
themselves disseminators and allies of superstition.
With the decline of antique culture and religion,
the temple sleep by no means disappeared; it
merely became altered in form and continued to
persist, under the name of church sleep, as belief
in the miraculous powers of saints and relics, and
ultimately as the Christian Science of modern times.

These facts are of great importance in making
the ultimate estimate of Christian Science, faith
and prayer cures, because a correct decision must
be based on the question whether those cults are
governed by a lack of appreciation of the true
facts, or, knowing them, are the purveyors of wilful

Notwithstanding the belief in the potency of the
temple sleep was thoroughly shaken as early as the
sixth century before the Christian era, the priests
were untiring in their endeavors constantly to re-
inforce this credence by all manner of superstitious
practices. The sixth marble votive tablet found
in the yEsculapian sanctuary at Epidaurus gives
evidence of the kind of miraculous occurrences
reported by the priests. It was their custom to
record on such tablets, reports of the cures which


took place in their sanctuaries. It is narrated on
this sixth tablet that a blind man, Hermon by name,
had regained his sight through sleep in the temple.
But, it seems, Hermon was rather parsimonious,
for he departed without showing, in coin of the
realm, his appreciation of the miracle which had
befallen him. Doubtless this ingratitude greatly
offended the god, for he forthwith deprived Her-
mon of his vision again. Another temple sleep,
together with an adequate monetary contribution,
was required to mollify him and induce him once
more to restore Hermon's sight.

Let us take note here of various instances which
Magnus has critically recorded in his book on-^
superstition in medicine. Mummolus, who was
sent by King Theudebert as ambassador to Em-
peror Justinian (527-565 A. D.), was much harassed
by pains due to stone in the bladder, and on the
ambassadorial journey suffered from such an attack.
He must have been in great agony, for he made his
will without delay. He then was advised to spend
a night of sleep in the church of St. Andrew at
Patras, where the saint then was accomplishing
most wonderful cures. Mummolus, racked by
pain and fever, had his bed made on the stone


tiles of the sanctuary and there awaited further
happenings. At midnight the sick man suddenly
was awakened by a strong desire to urinate, and
soon passed a stone of such size that it fell with a
ringing sound into the urinary vessel. From that
hour Mummolus, who only shortly before had de-
spaired of life, was restored to health, and soon
afterward he started on his homeward journey.

Fedamia, a woman living in Brioude, the capital
of the modern department Haute Loire in France,
had been paralyzed for years. The church of St.
Julian then enjoyed a large reputation in Brioude,
and, as Fedamia was penniless, her relatives took
her there so that, even if she could not regain her
health, she could at least earn some money by
church beggary. For eighteen years she followed
that pursuit. Then, on a Sunday night, when she
was sleeping in the colonnade adjoining the church,
there appeared a man who took her by the hand
and led her to the tomb of St. Julian. There she
prayed most devoutly, and while doing so she felt
an actual load fall from her limbs. All this, of
course, happened in a dream, but when the in-
valid awoke she was well again and, to the aston-
ishment of the assembled people, was able to walk

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Online LibraryGeorge W 1856-1940 JacobySuggestion and psychotherapy → online text (page 12 of 18)