Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Abnormal states, Hypnotism

There are certain abnormal mental states that deserve a passing notice. The chief physical change in sleep is a large reduction of blood in the brain. Its external features are the suppression of voluntary action and of the action of the senses. There may always remain, and there certainly often remains, the play of the imagination known as dreaming. The mental action seems to be sympathetic with the bodily state, and to be attended with very little control. While complete sleep involves the large arrest of voluntary life incident to muscular repose, there are many partial forms of it. The senses may remain cognizant of very many events; a slight uneasiness or a gentle push may call forth a change of position. "Words may be spoken; or, more rarely, words may be listened to and answered, if introduced in the line of existing impressions.

In somnambulism these states of partial wakefulness assume an extreme and troublesome form. They are characterized by an unusual acuteness of impression in some directions, with the ordinary want of it in other directions. The dividing line between waking and sleeping, active and dormant, powers is drawn with unusual decision, and in a new direction. Incident to this is also a new relation of voluntary to involuntary action, the latter taking up what usually falls to the former.

Hypnotism, mesmeric states, table-tipping, second-sight, and kindred facts, are phenomena of somewhat the same order. They involve an unusual suspension of some powers, and an unusual activity of others. Normal associations in the action of faculties are broken up, and abnormal ones take their place. They are induced and established by unbalanced tendencies, by inheritance, by habit. Revery a like condition in a very moderate degree.

A succession of images is vividly present to the mind, while the action of the senses and of the will is suspended. The degree of excitement to which an abnormal state may bring a faculty or a sense is sometimes illustrated in sickness. The slightest light or the least sound may be intensely painful, and passing events may impress themselves in quite a new way on the feelings. The nervous system under excitements or tension takes on an action quite novel to it. In hypnotism and mesmerism an abnormal state of wakefulness and of repose is induced by artificial means, the activity of certain faculties being as remarkable as the suspension of others. In the mesmeric state the patient for we may fitly call the person subject to such disordered action in a patient becomes inattentive to the ordinary conditions of action, and highly sensitive to those which proceed from the person inducing the state. In hypnotism there is a like suspension of habitual sensations, and a kindred attention to other relations determined by previous association. "We may ally the action to that by which we listen intently without seeing, or look through one eye to the exclusion of objects in the other. The states implied in hypnotism, while akin to these, are much more extreme, much more abnormal.

In these and kindred conditions unconscious and automatic connections gain ground on conscious and voluntary ones. The eye, our most voluntary sense, is least attentive, while touch, or rather the organic stimuli allied to it, may be very active. Persons who have united hands thus become the unconscious mediums of impressions passing from an active agent at one extremity to a passive agent at the other; and the latter, abnormally sensitive, marks the slightest change in the former. The least movement accompanying the recognition of the right word or the right letter on the part of the active agent, is transferred to the passive agent, and he, when allowed a choice of actions, words, or letters, reads correctly the mind of the 'former by virtue of impulses which quite escape ordinary observation.

In table-tipping, by mechanical tests, pressure is shown to be present when the parties to it are wholly unaware of it, and are exercising a measure of volition against it. Involuntary states triumph over voluntary ones; confused, secondary and unconscious ones over clear and conscious ones. In the planchette we have a visible record of automatic impressions escaping from the control of the voluntary life. Those who are the most coherent, rational, and self-guided in action are the least subject to these abnormal conditions, while those most impressible, excitable, weakest in their voluntary life, are especially liable to them. By repetition these states gain power with a corresponding loss of self control. Notwithstanding the exalted susceptibility implied in them, they are to be regarded as intellectually and spiritually unwholesome. In these states, the automatic life, the life of obscure, physical impressions, gains ground on the reflective life, in a confused and confusing way. (1) There is a new and abnormal division of activities between the two; (2) in the unconscious life there is intense activity in unusual directions; (3) in the conscious life, unusual inertness in usual directions.

 John Bascom's (1827-1911) -The science of mind (1881)
(the "often unrecognized father of New Thought.")

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