George W 1856-1940 Jacoby.

Suggestion and psychotherapy online

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is not projected outwardly, but is wiped out, and
the recognition of the deception ensues. In hyp-
nosis, where the active attention is distracted from


the sensory organs and control, therefore, is lack-
ing, all is different. The picture of the dog actu-
ally is projected outwardly; a visual hallucination
arises. Such sensory deceptions, accepted during
hypnosis, often produce in their turn a very in-
tense reflex action upon the organism, entirely anal-
ogous to that which occurs when the ideas are
produced by actual sensory perceptions. Thus,
if a cold bath be suggested to a hypnotized person,
the adoption of the suggestion is demonstrated not
only by the typical facial expression which is an
outer reflection of the inner shudder, but also by
the goose-skin which is produced thereby.

Furthermore, tears may be drawn from the eyes
of a hypnotized subject simply by the suggestion
of physical or mental pain. We see from this that
those disorders which are based on imagination
alone, and which, according to Rosenbach, may
be designated ideational diseases, are really per-
ceived as actual illness.

This fact is of the greatest importance in treat-
ment. Patients suffering from such "imaginary"
diseases will never be cured simply by passing over
their complaints with a smile or a shrug of the
shoulder, or by attempting to talk them out of


the belief that they are ill. On the contrary, they
must be treated as the really sick persons that they
are, requiring sympathy and medical attention just
like other persons who are ill. We must always
keep before us the fact that the personal conscious-
ness, the "ego," controls the adoption of external
impressions, modifies the course of ideas, and acts
determinatively on our actions. Only thus can it
be explained that pains arise or disappear through
suggestion alone, that persons or things may be
falsely recognized, that objects which do not exist
may be assumed to be actually present, that dis-
orders of motion may be produced or removed,
that the contents of consciousness may be altered,
even to the extent of the effacement of the entire
personality, etc.

In this connection it is of interest to consider
in greater detail the special relationships between
suggestion and hysteria. In his contribution to
psychotherapeutics, which he entitles "The Path-
ological Principles and Fields of Psychotherapy,"
Prince takes the ground that hysteria is based on
a dissociation of personality. \Mien the memory
seems for long periods of time to have disappeared,
when the feeling predominates that certain move-


ments cannot be executed, when sensation to pain
apparently no longer exists in certain parts of the
body, or when the sufferer from hysteria feels as
though a ball were sticking in his throat, the con-
dition can be accounted for only as the result of
dissociation. Certain ideas have become discon-
nected from the contents of consciousness. They
have entered the subconscious, and, therefore, do
not respond to the corresponding stimuli.

Prince very justly emphasizes the fact that dis-
sociation, in itself, is a function of the normal
brain mechanism, just as is association, and exists
for the purpose of facilitating the adaptation of
the individual to the constant change in his envi-
ronment. A pathological impress is created only
through that excess of dissociation which renders
orderly association impossible and which abolishes
the unity of the personality. That any such ex-
cess can be a question only of purely functional
disorder is proven by the fact that hysterical pa-
ralyses, amnesia, ansesthesia, etc., may be pro-
duced or removed by means of suggestion in the
waking as well as in the hypnotic state.

It must not be overlooked that the potency of
a suggestion depends finally on the personality of


the suggester. Above all he must be enveloped,
in the eyes of the person to be influenced, by a
halo of authority.

There are persons who captivate our admiration,
whom we face with timidity, enthusiasm, or fear,
who exert over us a mysterious power, and whom
we blindly believe without requiring demonstra-
tive proof. Such fascinating personalities some-
times exert an influence over others merely by
force of their dramatic talent, without themselves
being convinced of the truth of their words, and
they are born suggesters. Others who honestly
believe in the truth of their own ideas possess no
powers of suggestion at all, because they are un-
able to impress any one with their beliefs, in con-
sequence perhaps of their insignificant appearance
or of their timidity.

It has previously been said that suggestion has
no power over strong characters. Practically, this
fact is almost a negligible quantity, for individuals
with unalterable ideas are exceedingly uncommon.
No person is completely unreceptive of the sugges-
tive influence which lurks about him, infiltrates his
thoughts, emotions, and will, and insinuates itself
into his subconsciousness.


We must remember, furthermore, how great is
the number of those moral cripples who, as Bechte-
rew says, are kept from profligacy, theft, and other
crimes only through fear of legal punishment.
To dispose such individuals to the execution of
crimes which they would otherwise have avoided,
would it not be sufficient to suggest to them ex-
emption from punishment, suggestively to allay
their fear of prosecution, and at the same time to
present to their imaginations certain advantageous
phases of the criminal acts? This question in-
volves the fact that, where criminal acts are com-
mitted under the force of suggestion, the mere
fact that the suggested idea has been adopted is
sufficient proof of the previous existence of a
criminal tendency. Legal responsibility for such
acts, therefore, is by no means nullified, even if
suggestion cleared the way for them. Mitigating
circumstances; however, may well be pleaded and
recognized — the same mitigation which the law
usually accords to one weak enough to allow him-
self to be tempted by a stronger personality.

The character which a person receives as a life
estate gives to his manner of living a certain physi-
ognomy, impresses its seal upon it, and constitutes


the hidden spring which regulates his conduct and
action. The stronger this spring the more is the
individual governed by it, rather than by external
influences, just as a rifle ball is deflected the less
easily from its course the greater the force which
drives it from the barrel.

Unfortunately the natures which triumph over
every temptation and avoid every misstep are ex-
tremely rare. There are people who seem to be
immune from perversion, but for the majority life
is a series of compromises, because they lack the
power to adapt the environment to themselves, and
must therefore adapt themselves to the environ-
ment. In this throng of feeble-willed persons,
who unopposingly submit to external influences
and, through cowardice, yield to foreign power,
who allow themselves to be swayed by other minds,
are to be found all varieties of natures — from those
good but timid ones which accept every idea forced
upon them with assurance to those who, from in-
consistency and irritability, are constantly chang-
ing their opinions.

This character weakness, whether it be more
or less abject, or more or less radical, always has
the result of making its possessor impressionable


and receptive of suggestions from the surrounding
world. If such persons are placed among favor-
able surroundings, under the influence of good
suggestions, they will become honorable — at any
rate, before the law. If they are brought into un-
favorable surroundings, where they will be sub-
ject to noxious suggestions, they will easily fall
into devious paths. We know that criminal ten-
dencies frequently are kept in restraint if the op-
portunity for criminal acts is wanting, or if the
individual is not exposed to any great temptation.

Lombroso tells of a man whom he knew person-
ally as occupying a highly respected position, and
who, in a moment of confidence, confessed to the
scientist: "If I had not been born rich, I would
have stolen."

Weakness of character and of will, as it is en-
countered particularly in hysterics, produces a high
degree of receptivity for suggestive influence, in a
good as well as in a bad sense. The surrounding
conditions exert their influence in allowing the man-
ner of living of these unstable individuals to be
swerved, now in one direction, now in another.

How often, for example, do we hear that young
people, through reading criminal novels and other


lurid writings, through seeing obscene pictures,
through lascivious stage productions, through im-
proper moving pictures, received the first impetus
to a life which finally brought them into conflict
with the criminal law! Quite as many facts, on
the other hand, may be adduced to show that liter-
ature and art, words and example, may also exert
an ennobling and strengthening influence upon
weak characters.

What has thus far been said shows, at any rate,
that suggestions, whether they emanate from a
novelist or an actor, from parents or educators,
from friends or from people of whom one stands in
awe, whether they infiltrate our perceptions by
direct contact or by pictures or printed matter,
whether they influence us perniciously as a " psychic
infection," or whether they exert their beneficial
effect in the form of a psychic curative remedy, do
play an extraordinarily large role in the life of
every person.

B. Scope of Suggestion

We have seen how great a power ideas, with
their accompanying tones of emotion, may wield
not only over our thoughts and actions, but also


over the functions of our bodily organs. The to-
tality of our mental activity depends on nothing
but ideas. Even when an idea is not the result of
an actual stimulus, when it is dependent on simple
imagination or is produced through sense decep-
tion, it gives rise to the sensations which specifi-
cally go with it when there is an actual stimulus.
A person who believes he has been pricked by a
pin feels the sting and makes a movement of pro-
tection. One who believes his food to have been
prepared in a disgusting way experiences repug-
nance and may vomit solely in consequence of the
idea. In a series of tests of the electrical excita-
bility of various persons, Dubois used a non-active
unconnected battery, and yet he found that most
of his subjects, thoroughly believing the electric
current had been applied, were able to give accu-
rate descriptions of sensations which might have
been expected only from an active battery and
which ranged from a slight tingling or burning up
to unbearable pain.

Man feels what he conceives as soon as he is
entirely convinced of the correctness of his concep-
tion. Simple imagination, the mere expectation
that a certain thing will happen, suffices in most


instances to alter bodily functions, to produce or
allay sensations of pain, or to bring about other
conditions conforming to those which would re-
sult from a real experience of the thing imagined.
From that it will be appreciated that the pos-
sibilities of suggestive influences are exceedingly
numerous. Especially for pedagogy do those pos-
sibilities furnish a responsive field of action, and
therefore they should be of great interest to par-
ents, teachers, and educators. We hope at a fut-
ure time to take up a consideration of suggestion
as a factor in instruction.

Suggestive possibilities, however, have distinct
limitations, set by the laws of nature. We can
produce false concepts and sensory deceptions, with
their accompanying sensations, or remove such con-
cepts by awakening contrary conceptions, but we
cannot bring about any organic change by means
of suggestion. Kant, in the work previously alluded
to, speaks advisedly of "disordered feelings" which
can be overcome by the mere exercise of the will,
rather than of disease. An example which proves
the rule is that of a celebrated university professor
who, although suffering from an incurable and
extraordinarily painful disease, was able to lecture


regularly up to within a short period before his death.
The distraction which this occupation in his special
field afforded to him and the intense interest he took
in his youthful auditors enabled him to forget his
pain as soon as he was on duty. But the disease
itself followed its inevitable course.

In the process of recovery from disease the emo-
tional state of the patient plays a not unimportant
role. Depressed feelings and hopelessness militate
against the recuperative process, buoyant fortitude
and a cheerful mood foster it. To that extent the
course of disease certainly may be influenced by
the use of suggestion.

Bodily functions may be affected by means of sug-
gestion, though organic changes cannot be brought
about. A patient may be made to believe, on re-
ceiving a subcutaneous injection of water, that
there has been an injection of morphine, and the
conviction that the opiate will have its natural ef-
fect may lead him soon to go to sleep. But it is
not possible for imagination to reverse the natural
effect when a real drug is used. In a constipated
person the ailment cannot be relieved by the ad-
ministration of tincture of opium, with the accom-
panying suggestion that an aperient is being given,


nor can diarrhoea be checked by giving jalap un-
der the name of a constipating dose. Similar exam-
ples could be given without stint. Pilocarpine
might be administered to a tuberculous patient
troubled with night sweats, atropine to a sufferer
from chills, and so forth, and each administration
accompanied by a suggestion contrary to the physi-
ological and therapeutical attributes of the specific
remedy, but the expectation that our entire drug
treatment might be turned topsy turvy by such
means would in all cases meet with disappoint-
ment. Notwithstanding all contrary suggestions,
these medicaments would act in accordance with
the laws of chemical affinity.

The fact that no incongruous action of medicines
nor organic change of the tissues can be produced
by imagination alone is of fundamental significance
as regards suggestion in general, and as regards
its therapeutic application in particular. One les-
son that it gives is that the action of drugs may be
enhanced by means of suggestion, though it cannot
be reversed.

By arousing in the patient the positive expec-
tation that the action peculiar to the remedy will
set in, suggestion actually does promote indirectly
the cure of bodily diseases and the removal of or-


ganic disorder. The connection of this psychic
curative factor with physical processes of disease
may be recognized, therefore, if we keep in mind
that the regulation of bodily functions cannot but
influence the retrogression of organic changes, and
that the removal of functional disorders, particu-
larly, constitutes one of the chief fields for treat-
ment by suggestion; and if at the same time we re-
call not only that bodily states act on the state of
mind sometimes exhilaratingly, sometimes depres-
sively, but also that, conversely, the mental state
influences the physical processes.

We must never lose sight of the fact, however,
that psychic influence alone is not capable of pro-
ducing anatomical changes. No kind of sugges-
tion can produce a sarcoma or other new formation,
nor can it cause the removal of an existing one.
Tumors do disappear without surgical intervention,
though very rarely, and certain tumors clinically
diagnosed to be cancerous have disappeared with
or without the use of drugs. Just what led to the
nutritional change which caused the atrophy of
such tumors cannot be stated, but we have no
reason to suppose that suggestion alone was a ma-
terial factor in their disappearance.

Krafft-Ebincr and Forel have instituted detailed


experiments to ascertain whether there is a possi-
bility of causing organic change by suggestion.
They are said to have succeeded, by the power of
suggestion alone, in producing blisters on the skin,
as well as burns and hemorrhages. Those effects
were produced merely by laying a piece of paper
on the skin. The blister appeared when the sub-
ject was informed that a mustard plaster was ap-
plied, the burns were produced by attributing to
the paper the qualities of glowing metal, and the
hemorrhages by attributing to it the qualities of
the cupping-glass. Even assuming the deception
in each case was a complete success and that the
effect logically to be expected ensued, and ignor-
ing the fact that Krafft-Ebing and Forel themselves
admit these experiments rarely were successful
and that, when they were successful, had to be
most sceptically received, the result does not by
any means overthrow the rule that organic changes
cannot be produced by suggestion alone. In our
opinion it is an ample explanation in these in-
stances to say that it was a hypersemia due to
suggestion, and, therefore, a functional change in
the circulation of the blood, which caused the
hemorrhages and the alterations in the skin.


Incidentally it may be said that the so-called
maternal impressions of pregnant women, the sup-
posed causation of malformation of new-born chil-
dren by alarming visual impressions received by the
mothers during pregnancy, have been proven fic-
tions. All in all, it is not going too far to assert
that, according to the present status of science,
the direct production of organic changes lies en-
tirely beyond the possible effects of suggestion.

In considering the possibilities of suggestion, w^e
must not overlook the question whether suggestion
is capable of causing a person to perform any se-
lected act. As is well known, the Nancy school,
supported chiefly by Li^bault and Bernheim, holds
that the possibilities of suggestion are unlimited,
and that, especially by means of the hypnotic state,
every individual may be rendered completely devoid
of any personal will. Against that contention we
would mention the. fact that, notwithstanding the
astonishing effects of suggestion, the hypnotized
subject is not a complete automaton, not a mechan-
ical toy, in the hands of the hypnotizer.

No matter how powerful a suggestion may be, it is
by no means received to the extent of extinguishing
completely the subject's moral individuality, and


it cannot force a person to any act which he never
would commit when completely conscious. A per-
son thoroughly opposed to a certain idea cannot
be compelled to act in accordance w^ith that idea,
even when it is forced on him by means of sugges-
tion. The suggestion must be in accord with the
innermost nature of the individual. For that rea-
son not all suggestions are obeyed, but only those
which the hypnotized person might in certain cir-
cumstances carry out on his own initiative at any

According to Li^bault, the hypnotized person fol-
lows the suggestion blindly — ^'he carries out what
he has been enjoined to do with the fatality of a
falling stone." It is quite true that certain facts
seem to prove the truth of these words. Gilles
de la Tourette, in his work on suggestion from the
stand-point of medical jurisprudence, cites various
interesting experiments in which the hypnotizer suc-
ceeded in effacing completely the independence of
the individual, and in causing him to cast aside
fundamental moral principles. At the command
of the hypnotist, a girl known as righteous shoots
at her mother; a young man of conduct above sus-
picion administers poison to his aunt; a lady kills


a physician who treated her unsuccessfully; an-
other poisons a person entirely strange to her.

Even admitting that such cases, in which the
hypnotized person accepts suggestions thoroughly
contrary to his moral feelings, have occurred, we
must agree with de la Tourette and the physicians
of the Salp^triere that such instances not only are
exceedingly infrequent, but that in each of them
it is only with the greatest difficulty that the will
of the hypnotized person can be obliterated. He
yields only after opposition, and frequently there
ensues a hysterical attack which proves how diffi-
cult it was for him to obey. That attack is re-
garded by de la Tourette as a retarded revolt of
the organism against a deed which filled it with

As is shown by his opposition to a suggestion
disagreeable to him, the hypnotized person always
remains an individual with a will of his own. His
surrender under pressure proves nothing more than
the existence of individual frailty; by no means does
it prove that suggestion is omnipotent. The nor-
mal "I" always exists alongside the abnormal
"I" created by the hypnotist. This abnormal "I"
can be led to do something deeply repugnant to


the normal "I," but only under conditions which
might be compared to those which are present
in inebriety.

Suggestion, however, may weaken the will to
such an extent that it can no longer be determined
whether the will still exists. During hypnosis,
things take place under the influence of the hyp-
notist's will which, for other reasons, take place in
dreams, sleep-walking, or intoxication. The per-
son in any of the three latter states does things
which he would not do when in a normal condition.
But his "I," much as it may be pathologically al-
tered, nevertheless is constantly present; it is modi-
fied, but not effaced. It is easier to induce any one
to commit acts ordinarily repugnant to him when
he is in a state of hypnosis than when he is in any
other condition, but even in hypnosis he will always
manifest his proper nature, just as in sleep or in
inebriety. It may be said, therefore, that under the
influence of suggestion a person will show against
which acts his innermost nature revolts. Conse-
quently any crime willingly committed while in a
state of hypnosis will always be caused partly, per-
haps only to a minimal extent, by the organic
disposition of the individual, for if this organic


disposition were not present, the individual would
have withstood the suggestion.

Just as alcohol, in proportion to the duration and
the strength of its influence, will paralyze or dimin-
ish the moral control which we possess as a result
of inheritance or training, and which prevents us
from following criminal impulses, so it may be said
in relation to suggestion that, during hypnosis, the
transition from an idea to an act will be the more
prompt the fewer the obstacles and the inhibitory
feelings which must be overcome to permit the
suggested idea to rule alone in the narcotized con-
sciousness. Let us not forget, however, that even
in the deepest hypnosis a person cannot be driven
to the commission of deeds which he would not
have committed entirely independently of sugges-
tion as soon as he had lost his self-control.
. The alleged power of Hindoo fakirs to place
themselves in a condition of apparent death has
been mentioned by authors of note as a striking
example of the scope of suggestion.

According to N. C. Paul, cited by Bunge,
"fakir" is an Arabic word which signifies "mendi-
cant." The term has been applied to the Hindoo
mendicants and jugglers — more particularly to the


juggler adherents of the Yoga philosophy, those
who have adopted as their aim in life the Yoga,
that mystic fusion with the deity and the complete
abnegation of sensuality by dominance of the mind
over the body. Fakirs, therefore, are more cor-
rectly called Yogis. Reliable evidences of their
accomplishments are very sparse, notwithstanding
the statements of spiritists and theosophists that
demonstrations of the Yoga are frequent in India.
It is said some of the Yogis, by means of prolonged
castigation, put themselves into a sleep which bears
the impress of asphyxiation, with apparent cessa-
tion of heart and respiratory action. The Yogi
immures himself in a narrow subterranean cell in
which the temperature is unchanging, takes very
little nourishment, cuts through the band under the
tongue, then draws out the tongue repeatedly un-
til it becomes elongated so he is able to double it

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Online LibraryGeorge W 1856-1940 JacobySuggestion and psychotherapy → online text (page 8 of 18)