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Hypnotism: Its History, Practice and Theory


IV.— Curative value of Hypnotism

The intelligent action of the secondary self may be illustrated by the execution of certain post-hypnotic acts. Thus, one of my patients who, at a later period, consented to become the subject of experiment, developed an enormously increased power of time appreciation. If told, during hypnosis, for example, that she was to perform some specific act in the waking state at the expiration of a complicated number of minutes, as, for example, 40,825, she generally carried out the suggestion with absolute accuracy.

In this and similar experiments, three points were noted.

(1) The arithmetical problems were far beyond her normal powers;
(2) she normally possessed no special faculty for appreciating time;
(3) her waking consciousness retained no recollection of the experimental suggestions or of anything else that had occurred during hypnosis.

It is difficult to estimate the exact value of suggestion in connection with other forms of treatment. There are one or two broad facts which ought to be kept in mind.

1. Suggestion is a branch of medicine, which is sometimes combined by those who practise it with other forms of treatment. Thus it is often difficult to say what proportion of the curative results is due to hypnotism and what to other remedies.

2. On the other hand, many cases of functional nervous disorder have recovered under suggestive treatment after the continued failure of other methods. Further, the diseases which are frequently cured are often those in which drugs are of little or no avail. For example, what medicine would one prescribe for a man in good physical health who had suddenly become the prey of an obsession? Such patients are rarely insane; they recognise that the idea which torments them is morbid; but yet they are powerless to get rid of it.

3. In estimating the results of suggestive treatment, it must not be forgotten that the majority of cases are extremely unfavourable ones. As the value of suggestion and its freedom from danger become more fully recognised, it will doubtless be employed in earlier stages of disease.

4. It should be clearly understood that the object of all suggestive treatment ought to be the development of the patient's will power and control of his own organism. Much disease would be prevented if we could develop and control moral states.