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other peoples' pennies, we shall draw from the machine our penny's worth of chocolate, or what-not. So if we put an idea into the mind of a patient, and this idea is free from competition with others, it automatically sets in motion the psychological and physiological machinery which issues in action. The same conception is expressed by C. Baudouin1 in his account of the New Nancy School in the following words: "Suggestion is the putting into operation, by ourselves or by another, of the ideo-reflex power which exists in us all," and again by G. A. Coe2: "In deliberation there is mutual inhibition of two or more competing ideas....Suggestion, on the other hand, implies the absence, or relative lack, of such competition, inhibition and pause. All that is necessary is that attention should be withheld from some of the ideas appropriate to the given situation, and focussed, or 'narrowed down' to some one idea or coherent chain of ideas." According to this view suggestion depends upon (1) ideo-motor action-that is to say the theory that every idea naturally tends to pass into action; (2) the absence or inhibition of all other ideas which might interfere with or counteract the idea which is to be enacted. Now with regard to these two conditions Prideaux3 has already pointed out that "The term ‘ideo-motor action' is a relic of the old psychology of ideas; for example, for Hegel, ‘an idea is a force, and is only inactive in so far as it is held in check by other ideas."" Analysis shews that it is not ideas that are active, but the affect which ideas may be the means of stirring up. In other words it is only such ideas as link themselves to interests or conative tendencies, which are emotionally toned, that tend to issue in action, and these interests and conative tendencies are capable of stimulation by other means than ideas-unless the word 'idea' is to be so extended in its meaning as to cease to have any specific reference. All definitions of suggestion, therefore, in terms of the communication of ideas are too narrow. They express at best only those features which are of interest and importance to the psychotherapist. Further, to quote Prideaux again on the second condition: "Suggestion has no capacity for inhibiting ideas, but, if we speak in terms of inhibition, is rather the consequence of the inhibition of inhibiting forces normally involved in volition." This is true only if suggestion is defined in terms of communicating ideas. If the process of suggestion is the setting in motion of conative ten
1 Charles Baudouin, Suggestion and Autosuggestion, translated by Eden and Cedar Paul, 1920, p. 26.
2 George A. Coe, Article "Suggestion," Hastings' Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics. 3 E. Prideaux, Article "Suggestion and Suggestibility," British Journal of Psychology, x. March 1920.
dencies, whether through ideas or otherwise it is obvious that an essential part of the suggestion is the calling up of the conative tendencies in sufficient power to bear down the opposition of contrary influences. Unless this be done, the suggestion does not take place. But as against the point of view of the theory we have been dealing with this criticism of Prideaux is important. Ideas as such do not necessarily inhibit other ideas, but may merely complicate the mental content at any time, and therefore the mere success in communicating an idea to the mind of another will fall short of having the value of suggestion, unless that idea is, by reason of its content or associations, the spark that ignites the explosive charge of conative tendencies. Janet relates the following complaint of a patient, which admirably illustrates the point1:
"A patient has sometimes answered me in a vulgar but quite characteristic way: 'Sir, I do not know the reason, but the thing did not take.' 'What do you mean? You did not understand what I said?' 'Yes, I understood quite well.'
'Then you do not wish to do that, you do not accept?'
'I accept all you please. I am quite ready to obey you, and I will do it if you choose; only I tell you beforehand that the thing did not take.""
It is interesting to note that Binet and Féré2, while sharing the ideational view of suggestion, yet lay emphasis on the secondary nature of the idea. "La suggestion est une opération qui produit un effet quelconque sur un sujet en passant par son intelligence. Toute suggestion consiste essentiellement à agir sur une personne par une idée; tout effet suggéré est le résultat d'un phénomène d'idéation; mais il faut ajouter tout de suite que l'idée est un épiphénomène; prise en elle-même, elle est seulement le signe indicateur d'un processus physiologique qui seul est capable de produire un effet matérial." And "la conclusion générale qui ressort de tous ces faits et de toutes ces expériences, c'est que la suggestion consiste à introduire, cultiver et renforcer dans l'esprit du sujet en expérience-une idée...elle consiste dans le renouvellement psychique d'une excitation périphérique que le sujet a déjà eprouvée. Dès lors on comprend sa puissance; l'idée, à proprement parler, n'est qu'une apparence; mais derrière elle se cache l'énergie developpée par une excitation physique antérieure." We are not concerned to discuss the relation of mind and body, and therefore may leave aside the question whether "a physiological process alone can bring about a material effect,”
1 P. Janet, Major Symptoms of Hysteria, pp. 284–5.
2 Binet et Féré, Le Magnetisme Animal, Paris, 1887, pp. 128, 135–6.
but it is entirely in harmony with the point of view being developed in this paper to insist that the function of ideas in suggestion is to act as signals. But signals rather for what is essentially an instinctive process; and not all ideas are capable of this function, and, further, it is not only ideas that can set the instinctive machinery in motion.
Of the definitely therapeutic school of psychologists Freud1 comes probably nearest to the social and biological point of view, in his doctrine that suggestion is transference, or more accurately stated, that "suggestibility is nothing else but the tendency to transference.” Transference, which is "the radiation of Libido towards other persons in object-investment" is a natural capacity in all persons, and therefore suggestibility is normal and potentially universal. The way it works (as positive) is to endow the person to whom the transference is made with authority; it "transforms itself into faith in his findings and in his views." And "faith repeats the history of its own origin; it is a derivative of love and at first it needed no arguments." Consequently the person on whom the libido is fixed is a perpetual and prolific source of suggestion to the subject, precisely because his reason is in abeyance, and his instinctive tendencies are in a state of heightened activity. There are two points that call for comment here: (1) Freud's use of the term 'libido' as equivalent to 'sexuality,' which might seem to be artificially limiting the range of those conative tendencies which are the ultimate power-house of suggestion. This point is of no great importance, however, if we remember that Freud practically means by 'sexuality' the whole range of instinct energy, and not merely 'adult sexuality.' Jung, of course, definitely uses the term for psychic energy, or force, which flows along the channels of the special instincts2. (2) Freud lays strong emphasis on 'faith' as the characteristic element in suggestibility. It is perfectly true that faith does increase suggestibility (or at least may do so), but it is not true that faith and suggestibility are the same. Faith is characterised by a conscious mental activity (whatever other elements enter also into its constitution) which is conspicuously absent in suggestion, and the process of suggestion as such does not necessarily involve faith at all. Faith, which is to be absolutely distinguished from blind credulity (which may probably be the result of suggestion) is a conscious and intelligent state of mental activity; suggestion essentially is an unconscious and instinctive reaction to certain kinds of stimulus.
1 Sigmund Freud, Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis, translated by Joan Riviere, 1922, pp. 372-3.
2 C. G. Jung, Psychology of the Unconscious, translated by Beatrice M. Hinkle, 1919, ch. II.
McDougall1, though he approaches the problem from the social point of view, makes the same mistake. His definition, which is perhaps the best known and most widely accepted, is: "Suggestion is a process of communication resulting in the acceptance with conviction of the communicated proposition in the absence of logically adequate grounds for its acceptance." There is not necessarily any question of conviction involved in a process of suggestion at all. It would not be correct to describe the state of mind of a hypnotised subject whose right arm has been rendered anaesthetic by suggestion as 'conviction' about anything -the state of mind is really one of domination by an influence outside the range of consciousness. It is, indeed, very largely the fact that there is an absence of conviction and of the power to have convictions, that constitutes suggestibility in this case. What McDougall presumably means is that the subject of suggestion behaves in regard to what is suggested as other persons might behave if they were deeply and profoundly convinced. It is quite possible to recognise that there are no adequate grounds for the acceptance of some article of religious faith and yet to determine to believe that article of faith because you would rather it were true than false, but such acceptance is not the result of suggestion. Religious faiths do actually get accepted by suggestion, but the people who are most suggestible are those with few settled convictions, and what results in their minds cannot be called conviction; it is obsessional opinion. You only have a feeling of conviction about something which has involved some measure of mental effort to gain; what arrives through suggestion is beyond all feelings of this character: it is altogether taken for granted, rooted in the ultimate reality of things. While in this direction McDougall is too wide in his definition, in another he is too narrow, just as the psychotherapists tend to be. Suggestion is very frequently a process of communicating propositions, but it is not only this. Indeed proposition would seem to be narrower than idea which has already been criticised as inadequate. The trouble with all the theories so far considered is essentially that they look upon the problem not only from a purely human point of view, but from a partial human point of view, emphasising those aspects of suggestion which most naturally lend themselves to the conscious manipulation of the physician.
Once it is realised that suggestion is not a rational process it is natural to conclude that it is not a merely human phenomenon, and that when physicians or others make use of suggestion for therapeutic purposes they are really setting in motion a mechanism which has or has
1 William McDougall, Social Psychology, 2nd ed. 1909, p. 97.
had some biological function to play in the evolution of mind as part of life as a whole. If so what is essential in the process will be that which is common to lower forms of mind and the human, not what is characteristic of the human, complicated as that inevitably is by the presence and operation of free ideas and reason. Dr Rivers, approaching this and other psychological problems from the point of view of a happy combination of the therapeutic and the anthropological interests, definitely attempted to account for suggestion in terms of its biological function, and this led him to define it (so far as he regarded it as 'definable1') as 'a process or mechanism of instinct.' In Mind and Medicine he said: "I use the term for a process which belongs essentially to the instinctive side of mind. It is the representative in Man of one aspect of the gregarious instinct, the instinct which makes it possible for all the members of a group to act in unison so that they seem to be actuated by a common purpose. According to this view it is a process which differs essentially in nature from those mental processes which produce uniformity of behaviour by endowing the members of a group with a common idea or a common sentiment. Its activities lie definitely within the unconscious sphere, so that when the physician employs suggestion consciously, he is using in an artificial manner an agency which belongs properly to the region of the unconscious." Accordingly "...it is convenient to use the term suggestion...as a comprehensive term for the whole process whereby one mind acts upon another unwittingly." The gregarious instinct, Rivers maintained, is one which came into existence "in order to produce and maintain the cohesion of the group" and "the essential function of the gregarious instinct is that it shall lead all the members of a group to act together towards the common purpose of furthering the welfare of the groups." Thus just as the sex instinct acts within a given individual in such a way as to make it peculiarly sensitive to the presence of an individual of the opposite sex of the same species, and to stir up feeling and activities which normally end in union, without there being any definite idea of sexual union, so we are to suppose that the gregarious instinct acts within any
1 W. H. R. Rivers, Instinct and the Unconscious, 2nd ed. 1922, p. 93, says: “As soon as we recognize that suggestion is essentially a process of the unconscious, and that its different aspects also have this nature, we have to renounce the clearness of definition which is possible in the case of the processes and products of consciousness."
2 Ibid. p. 91.
3 Mind and Medicine. A lecture delivered in the John Rylands Library on the 9th April, 1919, 2nd ed. 1920, p. 17.
4 Rivers, Instinct and the Unconscious, p. 91. 5 Ibid. p. 90.