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A transference of libido to human and divine parent-substitutes is thereby hindered; the masochistic tendency towards death1 is increased by the loss of sadistic and aggressive outlets; and the feeling of impotent inferiority is induced by the lack of proper narcissistic sublimations.
(c) The moral conscience, by constantly increasing prohibitions, tends to produce a morbid intensity of guilt and fear.
Knowing that the will-drill method of cure tends to increase the doubts and fears upon which the attention is fixed, M. Coué relies on the power of verbal imagination to avoid the conflict with the will and to attain the end he desires. The auto-suggestive technique is simple. The subject repeats morning and evening, when as nearly asleep as possible, the general formula, "Day by day, in every way, I am getting better and better." This may be supplemented by particular formulae for specially desired alterations in mental and bodily functions. As an aid to the effortless use of the formula, a string with 20 knots is passed through the hand to mark the 20 repetitions that are required to insure the impression of the words.
The emphasis laid on words and acts is most significant for the psycho-analytic understanding of this method and its popularity. When a woman consulted M. Coué, he asked her to make no arduous search for the repressed desires that made her speech "a flood of complaint." “Madame,” he interrupted, "you think too much about your ailments, and in thinking of them you create fresh ones." The technique tends to revive the infantile use of magic words and gestures, which accompany the slightly qualified belief in the child's omnipotence. Mr Brooks seems to realize this when he follows M. Coué in advising "the infantile mode of repeating the formula" which "puts one in touch with deep levels of the Unconscious where the child-mind still survives" (p. 84). This certainly harmonizes better with the primitive processes evoked than Prof. Baudouin's advice to repeat the formula in the manner of adult piety with all the words separately stressed.
We conclude that what distinguishes this method from other forms of suggestion is not the absence of transferred object libido, but the subordination of this to a large increase in the expression of narcissistic libido. With the revival of infantile narcissism goes an indulgence of negative hallucinations such as mark the period before the development of the reality principle. The imagination is used to promote the belief that all is well and that pain and suffering will disappear.
It seems possible to state more exactly in terms of libido quantities, 1 Freud, Jenseits des Lust prinzips, p. 54.
the way in which the transference of parent libido makes possible the conscious increase of narcissism. On p. 82 of his recent work on Massenpsychologie und Ich Analyse Freud shows that falling in love exercises an important influence upon the ego-ideal and consequently upon the conduct. When the love-object takes the place of the ego-ideal, the lover ceases to criticize not only the loved object, but also his own deeds done for the beloved. Acts that the lover could not or would not do without this motive, now seem possible and lawful. A quantity of the lover's libido is released from the censorship of the ego-ideal when a person is found for its embodiment. So long as the ego-ideal was largely a personal imagination, the ego was in constant fear of losing it by unworthy acts: when the ego-ideal is transferred to another person, the ego needs a smaller quantity of sado-masochism to chasten and control the repressed desires. The first love objects in the family could only be loved with much renunciation of crude desire; the new love object may allow a direct outlet of genital sexuality in the lover. While the initiator of an auto-suggestive process does not allow an outlet for uninhabited adult. sexuality, he does allow an outlet for infantile narcissistic omnipotence and inattention to evil. The traditional divine parent-substitutes in this way work wonders for their sons; the new substitutes who authorize auto-suggestion enable the followers of their instructions to work wonders for themselves. The hetero-suggestions of modern civilized society allow an abnormally small amount of positive libido to find direct and sublimated expression. Consequently too much force is consumed in the work of building defences against illegitimate love and hate; and neurotic symptoms are the almost universal result.
The initiator of auto-suggestion who receives the transferred objectlove is an authority who, unlike the childhood authorities, wills the power and the pleasure of his pupil, and therefore breaks his pupil's habit of masochistic renunciation, adopted as an expiation for rebellion in the past. The suggestor not only removes the quantity of libido used for masochistic and anxious barriers against narcissistic expression; he also draws off a part of the masochistic libido upon himself in the form of loyalty. For, as Dr Ferenczi remarks, in confirmation of Freud's view, "the hypnotic credulity and pliancy take their root in the masochistic component of the sexual instinct," which takes pleasure in obeying the parents1. By a reduction of the fear and the sado-masochism, which are the chief weapons in the neurotic war upon health and life, the symptoms tend, at least for a time, to disappear.
1 Freud, Jenseits des Lust prinzips, p. 68.
On the basis of the foregoing sketch of the libidinous forces involved in consciously induced auto-suggestion, it is possible to judge the value of this method of prophylaxis and psychotherapy. It is necessary first, however, to be sure of the meaning of the practice to be judged. Both the terms 'imagination' and 'auto-suggestion' seem to be ambiguous and even to refer to widely different mental processes. We cannot therefore be satisfied with M. Coué's sincere purpose to replace wrong imagination by right thought, unless we are sure that the 'right' is also the psychophysically healthy. It is best for our purpose to avoid ethical terms, and to consider the auto-suggestive imagination in its action upon the libido.
Sometimes and in some persons auto-suggestive imagination is a repressive force in the service of the conscious ego-ideal with its inhibitory action upon the libidinous impulses. The effect of auto-suggestion in this sense is to increase the ego-dominance. At other times and in other persons auto-suggestive imagination is used as an expressive force in the service of the unsatisfied libido of auto-erotic and allo-erotic complexes. The effect of auto-suggestion in this sense is to increase the libido dominance.
Referring to auto-suggestions that produce symptoms similar to the neuro-psychic inhibitions of hypnosis, Dr Ferenczi inclines to assume a far-reaching analogy between the psychical mechanism of these autosuggestions and the mechanism of psycho-neurotic symptoms1. This analogy seems to be true of auto-suggestion in the first, but not in the second meaning I have given above. The auto-suggestion which removes the alcoholic indulgence of unconscious homosexuality must increase the neurotic repression; whereas the auto-suggestion that removes the fear of indulging exhibitionistic libido on the stage must reduce the neurotic repression.
It is clear then that auto-suggestion cannot be recommended as the best aid to health, if it is either of the repressive kind or of the expressive kind when this is used (a) to promote regression to infantile narcissism, (b) to weaken the reality principle, (c) to replace the search for the hidden causes of ill-health by an ignorant removal of pain and incapacity, and (d) to encourage the delusion of omnipotence, for which such words as 'difficult,' 'impossible,' 'I cannot,' will disappear2. Indeed it cannot be recommended at all as a substitute for Psycho-Analysis where this causal treatment can be had. The danger of the repressive kind of auto-suggestion is most manifest precisely in its educational application, as proposed by Mr Brooks on p. 107. The parental suggestions for good behaviour 2 Harry Brooks. Ibid. p. 26.
1 Ibid. p. 72.
whispered into the ears of sleeping children, and the imposition of moral taboos by unanalysed teachers would greatly increase the amount of neurosis in the future. It is equally unsatisfactory as a method of dealing with moral delinquencies in ignorance of the unconscious impulses expressed therein.
Induced auto-suggestion can be most safely used (a) for the removal of the slight neurotic symptoms that occur in approximately normal persons under exceptional conditions of strain. The most permanent results of this method are probably secured in civil cases that resemble the war cases in so far that neither the constitutional nor the infantile factors in neurosis would cause an unbearable repression unless unusually severe shocks or accidentally harmful suggestions occurred in adult life; (b) for the involutionary cases that preserve the relics of a bygone conflict by the habit of repetition, and (c) for un-analysable persons.
The chief value of the suggestion movement, is to draw attention to the fact that, in modern civilization, the social, economic, and moral restraints cause an increase of sado-masochism, depression, envy and fear, that play an important part either in the formation or in the neurotic complication of almost all disease; and that immunity to psychical and physical infection from without, depends on the removal of the unconscious causes of inefficiency within.
Second Report of the Miners' Nystagmus Committee. London: published by His Majesty's Stationery Office. pp. 33. Price 9d. net.
The Second Report of the Miners' Nystagmus Committee confirms some of the findings enumerated in the First Report without elucidating them. Its chief value lies in the fresh evidence collected by Mr Pooley, who is responsible for the whole of it. He has made a laborious research into the possible relationship of nystagmus and errors of refraction, and his results should settle finally that such a relationship does not exist. This was anticipated in a critical notice of the First Report, for reasons therein given, and a convincing proof is now forthcoming.
The first part of the Report is devoted to Mr Pooley's survey of the disease generally. He mentions the astonishing difference in the incidence and effect of nystagmus on the Continent and in Great Britain. It is worth while summarising once more some of the observations made. In France, Belgium, Germany and England the number of men affected by the disease amounts roughly to about a quarter of the total number of miners employed. "In America, where no compensation is given, little is heard of incapacity due to nystagmus, or indeed of the existence of the disease." In Germany the incidence of claims was 0.3 per cent. from 1905 to 1913. In the latter year a decision was come to that only serious cases of nystagmus were entitled to compensation; the percentage then fell to 0-18, and has fallen since the War to 0-03. In Belgium, where the method of compensation has been unaltered throughout, the incidence has remained at 0-2 per cent. (Stassen), 0.05 to 0-03 per cent. (Coppez). In France Dr Dransart in 1913 gave the incidence of severe cases as 0.15 per cent. In Great Britain the disease was made a ground for compensation in 1907, and a level for fresh claims was reached in 1911. In 1913, a new official definition of the affection was made, excluding the necessity for oscillation of the eyeballs to be present in the diagnosis. The effect was to include cases claiming compensation for psycho-neurosis. Claims for incapacity immediately rose, and have continued to rise especially during the War. Such an increase of fresh claims has not occurred in other
In the face of this astounding fact, it hardly seems worth while for Mr Pooley to have spent so much time and energy upon the investigation of the relationship of errors of refraction to miners' nystagmus, unless there be some national or racial difference in the shape of the eyeball. Such a difference has never been suggested, at any rate between ourselves and our nearest Continental neighbours, notwithstanding the fact that in France, for instance, the wearing of glasses for eyestrain is very uncommon as compared with England. But Mr Pooley's work has a much wider application than he claims for it, and the time will come when his results will be quoted effectively by those who believe that the present method of trying to cure a round score of psycho-neurotic symptoms by means of glasses is unworthy of a scientific. profession.