Association of ideas plays a very important part in all our sentiments and actions, and this association is certainly strengthened by hypnotism. This explains the success of the treatment in many cases of drunkenness. A good plan in these cases is to suggest dislike for alcohol, and even vomiting at the taste of it. If the patient is then made to swallow a small quantity and sickness follows, and he is told, while in the hypnotic state, that such will be the invariable consequence of indulgence, we shall have established a train of very disagreeable associations which will for a long time, and perhaps always, be connected with the first step in alcoholic indulgence. It may be objected that the association of a drunkard's ideas with alcoholism cannot naturally be pleasant, as excess is always followed by illness. But ordinarily sickness and disgust come after excess, while hypnotism causes them to precede it. We frequently see the action of association of ideas where hypnotism is not in question at all.
For instance, I know a lady to whom the taste of strawberry -jam is most disagreeable and nauseating, because, as a child, on two or three occasions evil-tasting powders were given to her disguised in it.
The same lady tells me that the sight of a bottle from which she had been dosed with castor-oil used to arouse a feeling of nausea long after she had been emancipated from such compulsory medication. But similar instances are so common that they must occur to the mind of everyone.
In the combination of moral and physical influences thus produced we possess a very powerful lever. If a man has been made a drunkard through the solicitations of fast companions, his power of resistance is reduced to nil, and the offer of a drink has so often been followed by its absorption, that the sequence of events becomes automatic, an ideo-motor reflex action ; but let such a man be hypnotized, and in this state be told that alcohol is poison, and that to offer him a drink is to grossly insult him and we form a new inhibitory tract, which by repeatedly being traversed becomes well worn and habitual in place of the other. But it is plain that we must not expect immediate cure. Old channels cannot be destroyed, any more than new ones can be formed, in the course of a few days. I always tell my patients that it takes one month to get over the crude effects of confirmed alcoholism, three months for the liver, stomach, and other organs to recover their tone, and twelve months for the brain power and morale to be re-established.
One has only to tell the patient that if he takes beer or spirits they will at once cause him to vomit, and then on waking him compel him to drink a glass of beer to produce such an attack of nausea and sickness as he will remember for many a day. Even in such a case it will, no doubt, be possible for the subject to re-educate himself to like liquor, just as a schoolboy who will go on smoking, though every pipe at first makes him sick, may at last overcome the repugnance and become a confirmed smoker.
Sexual Perversion. — If hypnotism had done nothing more for medical science than bring such melancholy cases as the above within the scope of curative treatment, it would have conferred a lasting benefit on humanity. In even worse cases of perverted sexual instinct it is frequently successful.
Modern medicine teaches us that these perverted instincts depend upon a hereditary or acquired morbid condition of the brain and spinal cord, and constitute, in fact, a psychical disease. Hypnotic suggestion seems to act by checking excessive functional irritability, and by developing and bringing into play the inhibitory action of the higher brain centres, which have either not developed or have undergone impairment.
In treating cases of sexual inversion the hypnosis should be very profound, for one has to alter by suggestion a set of very deeply ingrained instincts and emotions.
TREATMENT BY HYPNOTISM AND SUGGESTION