George W 1856-1940 Jacoby.

Suggestion and psychotherapy online

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it has been removed. That shows that the habit
of feeling something in one part of the body or
another may be the direct cause for sense percep-
tion. Simple imagination, an entirely internal idea,
may dominate perception to such an extent that
sensations of pain, intense disorders of function,



58 SUGGESTION

even death, may result. Such extreme cases, to
which we will again refer, are numerous in literature.

That every thought, every association of ideas,
is a brain vibration by which molecular movements
are set up in the nerve cells is true even when the
perception has not been caused directly by a sen-
sory impression or when the perception directly
follows a simple memory picture, or when it is
based on a sense deception. Hence, although emo-
tional processes, under the influence of material-
istic views, were regarded as secondary to bodily
phenomena, Berger has demonstrated in a con-
vincing manner that the physical changes in the
brain all are of secondary nature and subsidiary to
psychic processes.

The question as to the nature of the material
brain processes which accompany mental action is
far from being solved, as Bumke rightly empha-
sizes. We cannot expect th^ methods of investiga-
tion of brain physiology, no matter how exact they
be, to be able as yet to explain in every detail the
causal connections of brain processes and mental ac-
tion and their psycho-physical mutational relations.

We may as well admit that thus far in the field
of physiological psychology we hardly have ad-



COURSE OF MENTAL ACTIVITY 59

vanced beyond recognition of simple facts of ex-
perience. Thus, for instance, we do not even
know with certainty how color concepts arise in
the brain. We only know that color is present
neither in the object nor in the rays of light; that
it is an excitation of the retina, or, rather, of the
endings of the optic nerve in the retina, although
there is not the slightest consciousness of any con-
tact between the retina and the vibrating waves
of ether. While unable to give a detailed account
of the manner of production of concepts, but firmly
confident that exact methods of investigation must
bring about a solution of the problem, we will con-
tent ourselves for the present with recognition of
the fact that sensory impressions furnish the ma-
terial from which the mind constructs for itself a
concept or idea of the external world.

Concepts are compound formations from ele-
mentary sense impressions. One perception does
not follow directly upon another, but perceptions
are connected with one another according to certain
laws and rules. The laws governing associative
combination of concepts must be considered next.

Every concept calls up as its successor either a
concept which is similar in contents or sound of



60 SUGGESTION

words, or a concept with which it has simultane-
ously arisen. Similarity and simultaneity of im-
pressions, therefore, are the basis of so-called con-
cept association, association of ideas.

In the first case the concept of a yellow object
may be followed by that of gold, or the concept of
a part by that of the whole, and yice versa. Anal-
ogously, a concept will produce its opposite, or the
similarity of a word alone may lead to the serial
placing of ideas otherwise unrelated. The asso-
ciation of ideas according to the principle of simi-
larity was recognized even in the time of Aristotle,
who adduced this example: Milk — white — air —
moist — autumn, etc.

Quite as common and just as important in our
conscious mental life are associations of the second
kind, those based on the simultaneity of sensory
impressions. Thus a single line of a poem re-
calls the remaining ones, a part of a well-known
melody brings back the entire tune, the concept of
an acquaintance calls up the idea of his dwelling, a
view of a country previously seen restores the con-
cept of the life and activity of its population, etc.

Not infrequently concepts seem to spring up in
our consciousness entirely without cause, being



COURSE OF MENTAL ACTIVITY 61

produced neither by external impressions nor by
other related concepts — independent ideas, so to
speak. If, however, we make a thorough search,
the apparently broken chain of concepts may again
be united so that, by tracing the course of ideas
backward, we are able to discover the natural re-
lationship between the , seemingly fortuitous "sud-
den idea" and those which preceded it. Freud's
method of "psycho-analysis," of which we will
speak in more detail in another chapter, is based
upon this fact.

Olfactory impressions have a remarkable faculty
of reproducing concepts and pictures which in the
past were simultaneously present with them. With
truly magical effect the fragrance of a perfume may
bring into the light of consciousness from the
recesses of the memory the concept of a person, of
all his attributes, and of our mutual relationships.
Finally, to explain certain independent concepts
which arise in us without any discoverable cause, we
must remember that under the threshold of con-
sciousness in the subconscious realm there is a con-
stant play of processes, and that this occasionally
assumes such proportions that these processes be-
come perceivable by our consciousness.



62 SUGGESTION

Sense perceptions and concepts are always ac-
companied by positive emotional tones of pleas-
ure or of displeasure. These emotional tones also
leave their imprint in the form of memory pict-
ures. We are angry or we are pleased, we are
ashamed or we are contented, in the recollection
of certain happenings. Certain emotions which
are useful because of their origin and persistence
as part of the struggle for existence, and which
serve partly for the protection of the individual,
partly for the benefit of the direct descendants,
partly for the advantage of society, are known as
feelings of instinct, and are congenital. Repre-
senting the inherited experience of centuries, they
guide us in avoiding the injuries and the dangers
which threaten the existence of man. Moral sense,
or conscience, also is based, according to Exner,
upon perceptions that must be classed with those
social instincts which were developed in the strife
for existence.

Instincts, therefore, consist in the automatic per-
formance by man of what is appropriate in a way
which is entirely independent of any process of
consciousness.

The entire emotional life of man and all of his



COURSE OF MENTAL ACTIVITY 63

actions are dominated by tones of feeling, by the
transmission of feelings of pleasure and of dis-
pleasure from one concept to another. Therein
mainly lies the cause of our sympathies and an-
tipathies, of our prejudices for or against persons
or things. Every concept is modified by numerous
emotional tones, which vary both in quantity and
quality, derived from the impressions which have
caused the primary concept, as well as from the
transmission of numerous associative connecting
concepts. Thus arise all the complicated feelings
and moods which, with their many shadings, are
nearly always found in developed conceptional
life.

The rapidity with which ideas flow, varying as
it does with the individual, and not always re-
maining the same even in any one person, is in-
fluenced to a high degree by the emotional tone.
If one is in a joyous mood, ideas flow freely and
easily, one arising from the other; a depressed
mood, on the other hand, dams the stream of ideas.
In its most extreme form the latter condition is
shown in the morbid increase of the basal emotions.
In the depressed person, the sufferer from melan-
cholia, the course of ideas is greatly retarded; the



64 SUGGESTION

thoughts drag lazily and the depressive picture is
retained with tenacity in consciousness. On the
other hand, in mania, in which a causeless, joyous
excitement predominates, the associations, being
frequently produced by mere external similarity
of words, are accelerated to such an extent, and
the coupling together of thoughts is so rapid, that
a mental state ensues which may best be described
by the words "flight of ideas."

Naturally, practice is another great influence in
the flow of our associations. Associations which
have taken their course countless times in a similar
form will flow with lightning-like rapidity, while
new, unfamiliar chains of thought must be ardu-
ously formed. The adept chess-player sees at a
glance many possible combinations of the figures on
the board, while the beginner regards each piece
and slowly evolves each possible move.

It is a sign of disordered thinking when thoughts
come so abruptly that the transition from one idea
to another can no longer be recognized. Through
the orderly current of concept flow we must be
able to trace a logical connection of thought, which is
like a thread of brighter color in a mass, and which,
while it may skip immaterial connecting links of



COURSE OF MENTAL ACTIVITY 65

associated ideas, must never lose sight of the ma-
terial connection of concepts.

In the waking, fully conscious state it is the will
which weaves that thread. The association laws,
after all, give us only the form, not the contents of
thought. They teach us how we associate, but
not what we associate. In every concept the con-
necting possibilities are innumerable, but only cer-
tain thought connections are chosen, and the more
frequently they are selected, the more infallibly do
they recur. Here habit and practice play a large
role, as already indicated. Our interest directs us
in connecting the significant ideas and in disre-
garding others, and when this process is repeated
again and again, certain currents of thought are
gradually made to flow with the precision and regu-
larity of clockwork.

Whether we choose one idea or another from
the endless variety of association-material which
is furnished and proffered by the sense perceptions
and memory pictures is not determined by associa-
tion laws, but by the personal will. It is the will
which brings order into chaos, combining the per-
cepts into correct concepts by means of which we
are able to pass from positive things to those which



66 SUGGESTION

are uncertain and need to be proved. It Is the
will which occupies a directing position in the
midst of the entire mental action, which weaves a
fabric from the momentary sense impressions and
from the memory pictures stored up in the brain
cortex, and which controls the emotions that ac-
company our perceptions and prevents them from
obtaining undue influence over our actions.

Again, it is the will which produces attention,
the power of thought concentration, by means of
which we are enabled for long periods of time to
direct the sensory apparatus and the conceptional
contents in a certain direction, without allowing
ourselves to become confused or to deviate from
things material to those which are immaterial.
The acme of mental action is represented by ap-
perception, that clear conception of ideas carried
to our consciousness by sensory impressions com-
bined with dependent judgments and conclusions.

Here again we must emphasize the fact that we
know nothing of the manner or method by which
sensory impressions become transformed into con-
scious perceptions. The mechanism of thought
differs from that of the most complex and perfect
machine in this feature: No matter how well the



COURSE OF MENTAL ACTIVITY 67

latter may operate and fulfil the most complicated
functions, it never possesses any consciousness of
its own activities.

For the time being we must content ourselves
with accepting this self-consciousness of mental
action as a fact proved by experience. To how
great an extent mental processes are dependent on
the conditions of bodily organs is strikingly shown
by a fatigued brain. It is in direct proportion to
the increase in the degree of fatigue that the brain
loses the capability of recognizing clearly the per-
ceptions produced by sensory impressions. Atten-
tion, without which apperception is impossible,
wanes with an increase in the degree of brain
fatigue. This fatigue may be measured in a simple
manner by aid of perimetry or the test of the visual
field. By means of perimetry, for instance, we can
easily demonstrate in children that at the end of
the lesson which has fatigued them, when they are
unable longer to put forth the same amount of
attention as at the beginning, their field of vision
has become restricted in a marked degree. The
intimate relationship between mental action and
the nervous apparatus, therefore, has once more
been demonstrated clearly by the dependence of



68



SUGGESTION



attention and apperceptional capability upon the
intensity of sensory impressions.

The following incident exemplifies well the work-
ing of attention: Two telegraphers are occupied




Perimeter chart.
Normal field for white and colors. (Red, blue, and green.)

at their respective apparatus, the one receiving, the
other sending a despatch. Both are experts in their
work. The operator at the sending apparatus, in
the sounds coming from the receiving apparatus of
the other man, recognizes a familiar name and,
curious to know more, calls to the receiving oper-



COURSE OF MENTAL ACTIVITY 69

ator, who has transcribed the message, " What has
Jenny N. been doing now ? " To his astonishment,
his absent-minded colleague replied, " I don't know,
I wasn't paying attention," and keeps right on re-
ceiving and transcribing. This operator had been
receiving messages faultlessly, had been transcribing
them correctly word for word, had heard and an-
swered the question of his friend without interrupt-
ing his work, and, as he afterward admitted, had
been thinking of nothing else than his wife, who was
sick at home. This occurrence shows us an auto-
matic activity of the brain so perfected through
long practice that attention could be entirely ex-
cluded from the work in hand without in any way
disturbing the orderly process of brain function
involved in it.

From what already has been said the dual ac-
tivity of mental life becomes evident. The one
element, which may be designated the objective
activity, introduces to us the exterior world, while
the other, subjective mental activity, recognizes
itself. Just as the concepts of the objects which
lie outside of us furnish the building material for
thought, so the feeling of 'T' or of "self," which
is made up of emotional tones combined with



70 SUGGESTION

the sensory impressions that are transmitted to
consciousness, forms the basis of the ego. Ob-
jects presented to us and the feeling of ego now
stand opposed to each other as an outer and an
inner world respectively. The feeling of selfhood
is by no means born in us in its complete form.
Just as we must learn to orient ourselves in regard
to the objects in space, although the crude, vague
feeling of extension, of body, as such, is innate,
so we must learn to identify ourselves as indi-
vidual personalities, although the "I-ness" also is
indissolubly bound up with our nature.

Small children speak of themselves as individuals
standing outside of themselves. The philosopher
Fichte gave his friends a feast on the day his little
son for the first time referred to himself as "I."
The realization of plurality, of individual exist-
ences, which already is actually furnished with the
nature of our minds, is consciously expressed by
the individual personality, by the growing being,
as soon as he recognizes himself as " I.''

Therewith is taken the decisive step from simple
conceptional consciousness to the consciousness of
self. It is that which we call "I," or, psychologi-
cally, our "ego." Whatever the child feels, con-



COURSE OF MENTAL ACTIVITY 71

ceives, wills, from the time of the transition, it
feels, conceives, and wills in respect to its own "I.'^
While the child-being was still a neutral person,
it made no clear distinction between itself and
other objects. For such a being there existed only
a world of which it itself forms only a part. The
moment that the "I" awakens, all things are di-
vided into two worlds, an inner one, the *'I," and
an outer one, the "not I,'* a deep chasm separat-
ing the outer and the inner world, the foreign one
and one's own. The ego, having awakened into
self-consciousness, henceforth stands in the centre
of human mental action.

The ego, the individual mind, feels only itself
while it confronts everything else, perceives it. The
individual mind, however, tends toward a mainte-
nance of itself against the non-ego, the outer world.
The individual emotions and instincts are directed
toward satisfying the ego — they are egoistic.

It is free, uninhibited action or activity in ac-
cordance with the innermost natural laws and de-
sires that furnishes pleasurable feelings to the ego.
Limitations from the outside, by foreign power,
checking of natural desires and tendencies, produce
unpleasurable feelings. Since the earth, however.



72 SUGGESTION

furnishes only a limited space in which each indi-
vidual with the same desires and traits as those of
others also wishes to assert his own ego and to claim
for it the place which belongs to it, the natural
egotism necessarily leads to conflicts, to a competi-
tion, a battle, for the goods of the earth. On this
principle of struggle, which, again from selfish con-
siderations, leads to a recognition of foreign person-
alities, and which from considerations of utility
makes room for altruistic feelings and thus sets
barriers to the unrestrained activity of one's own
w^ill, depends the essence of existence, the entire de-
velopment of the many.

Brief consideration must be given, too, to articu-
late speech, one of the most important expressions
of mental activity, and one which distinguishes the
human being from the anthropoid ape and from
all other highly developed mammals. This fac-
ulty is dependent on a number of extraordinarily
complicated movements of lips, tongue, palate and
larynx. While the other expressional movements
which arise as associates of psychic processes, such
as laughing and crying, mimic movements of the
facial muscles, blanching or blushing of the face,
nodding and shaking of the head, gnashing of the



COURSE OF MENTAL ACTIVITY 73

teeth, etc., usually serve only for expressions of
the emotions and ensue more or less involuntarily,
articulate speech is employed entirely in accord-
ance with our own desires for the expression of
our sensations and ideas. Speech and thought de-
velop together and interdependently. Speech is of
the greatest significance for voluntary thought.

A long and complicated process of thought can
no more be carried out without the use of words,
whether spoken or unspoken, than a problem in
mathematics can be solved without the use of fig-
ures or letters.

The function of speech is situated in the cortex
of the cerebrum. In the posterior part of the third
or lower frontal convolution, the human being pos-
sesses a convolution which is entirely absent in the
ape. This is the speech centre of Broca, and de-
struction of it deprives man of his faculty of speech.

Memory pictures for sounds of words are pre-
serv^ed in a certain place of the temporal lobe.
Processes of disease in this location are followed
by a loss of memory pictures, and the result is that
words, although heard, are not apperceived. This
condition is designated as "soul-deafness."

In a subsequent chapter on the mind of the



74 SUGGESTION

child we will recur to the development of the fac-
ulty of speech. On the other hand, we cannot
enter upon a discussion of the freedom of the will,
notwithstanding its apparent importance. Here we
merely will say that the views of the older psychol-
ogy, which assumed a special will as the cause of
our actions, can to-day lay no claim to validity.
There exists no proof to support the assumption
that the brain cortex or any other portion of the
brain can produce a movement of itself without ex-
terior influence.

That which appears to us as free will is the re-
sult, so far as we now know, of processes in the
brain cortex which have resulted in consequence
of stimulation from the outer world. Our actions,
therefore, are the product, just as are our proc-
esses of thought, of existing necessities, and are
dependent on the law of causality.

It goes without saying that this law cannot be
called upon to excuse criminal acts; that, moreover,
legal accountability and responsibility for such acts
remain in full force, notwithstanding the determin-
ism of the will, unless pathological brain processes
whose existence can be proven unquestionably make
certain the diseased character of criminal acts.



PECULIARITIES OF MENTAL ACTIVITY 75

D. Peculiarities of Mental Activity
Some peculiarities of mental activity have already
been touched upon. We have seen how simple it is
to explain the perilous feats of the sleep-walker and
how "thought-reading" is accomplished in an en-
tirely natural way — through the reader's highly
developed faculty of observing expression-move-
ments which arise involuntarily.

In considering this subject we should also refer
to such "occult'' phenomena as telepathy, distant
action, spiritistic manifestations, etc. Of course,
before any serious attention can be paid to such
matters, the actuality of the occurrences must be
established beyond doubt. This has not been done
up to the present time.

As yet we have no positive or trustworthy evi-
dence that thought transference can be effected in
any other manner than by actual contact. Those
instances of thought transference at a distance
which are reported to have been observed are not
of sufficient force to counteract the suspicion that
self-deception or wilful trickery is involved in
them. Even if we did admit the possibility of
telepathy had been proven, we still should have



76 SUGGESTION

to uphold the fundamental law of all scientific in-
vestigation — that every manifestation which may
be perceived by our senses can be produced only
through natural causes. Science could never, with-
out sacrificing its very self, adopt the viewpoint
of the mystics, who are all too prone to explain
enigmatical happenings as demonstrations of the
supernatural.

Even to-day the judgment of men otherwise
exact in reasoning is obscured by the survivals of
a period of unbridled credulity, when all too much
readiness was shown in accepting incidents as
miraculous. Recognized authorities like Zoellner,
du Prel, Romanes, and others have not been able
entirely to free themselves of awe for mysticisms.

It cannot be repeated too often that human cog-
nition has its limitations, but these limitations are
being extended constantly through endeavors to
find natural explanations for actual occurrences.
Science cannot enter into any controversy with
mysticism. The absence of any common basis,
the complete difference in principles of recogni-
tion, render any mutual understanding impossible.
Science must insist that the question of a suspen-
sion of natural laws cannot arise even in relation



PECULIARITIES OF MENTAL ACTIVITY 77

to apparently wonderful happenings. It may well
be that our views regarding the laws of nature will
require modification as science progresses, but we
must keep uppermost in mind the fact that those
manifestations of mental life which still appear inex-
plicable are nevertheless subject to the laws govern-
ing all actual occurrences.

Flammarion, the noted French astronomer, has
attempted to explain telepathy and other "occult'*
phenomena as natural manifestations. He cannot
be classed among the mystics, for he takes direct
issue with them in acknowledging that exclusively
natural forces must play a part in the production
of thought transference at a distance. But he ac-
cepts such thought transference as a proven fact.
He says expressly that in telepathy the mind does
not disengage itself from the body and rush off
into space, nor does he believe any mental action
can be independent of the central nervous system.
Flammarion came to a recognition of telepathy as
a fact because of much evidence which he con-
sidered trustworthy, and he explains it to his own
satisfaction as follows:

"If we sound a string of a violin or a piano,
then another string at a certain distance will in-



78 SUGGESTION

tonate with it and adopt the tone of the first. A
wave movement of the air carries the tone with it.
If we set a magnetic needle into motion, a second
magnetic needle placed at a certain distance will


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Online LibraryGeorge W 1856-1940 JacobySuggestion and psychotherapy → online text (page 4 of 18)