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with it. From these it is inferred that the face was 'repressed.' The case then belongs to class (a) above, namely that of experiences with unpleasant feelings, and it is only such experiences that can be repressed; for, by definition, repression is "the keeping from consciousness of mental processes that would be painful to it." Known, however, is only the inability to recognize or to remember, the 'repression' is but inference. This inference of 'repression' is, so it is averred, necessary to satisfy the desire for a working hypothesis. Now such inference would be logically correct, and therefore scientific, if the 'repression' occurred invariably with cases of class (a) and never with cases of class (b), that is if all unpleasant experiences were forgotten and no pleasant ones. The more we recede from the universal affirmative in class (a), and from the universal negative in class (b) the smaller becomes the probability of our inference being valid. Now the experimental evidence is decidedly against this. In my investigation upon the influence of feeling on memory1 I worked with nearly 700 children from whom I obtained over 10,000 answers, so my sampling-error could not have been great. Working out the percentages for each child separately and taking the arithmetic mean I found that:
37.5 per cent. pleasant experiences were forgotten,
i.e. 4.2 per cent. more pleasant experiences were forgotten than unpleasant ones. It would, however, be rash to conclude from this that unpleasant experiences are more easily remembered than pleasant for there is a large M. V. which from the nature of the case is to be expected; for if a child recorded at the first test only one unpleasant experience which happened repeatedly and she did not reproduce this at the second, she forgot 100 per cent., or if she remembered it she remembered 100 per cent. We may, however, I think quite safely conclude that there is no difference whatever between the two feeling-tones, pleasure and unpleasure, in their influence upon memory. The correctness of this conclusion is confirmed if the whole of the results are pooled, then the individual differences tend to cancel one another, no M.V. is to be calculated, and we get practically identical percentages, viz. 40.1 per cent. for pleasant experiences forgotten and 39.8 per cent. for unpleasant experiences forgotten.
If we turn from the experimental evidence to that of everyday life the correct scientific procedure would be to note down conscientiously
1 Vide this Journal, General Section, 1923, XIII, 405-16. I shall be dealing with the question again in another paper.
all cases of forgetting or failure of recognition, and if this is done I feel quite confident that these results will confirm the experimental results. What happened to Ross, namely to fail to recognize a face, has happened to me over and over again. I met a person who appeared familiar to me yet I was unable to say when and where I had seen him or her, until some time later I met the person again either in the British Museum, or in a railway train, or a restaurant, and then remembered that I had seen him or her there ever so often. And all these persons were absolutely indifferent to me and I could never think of associations which connected them with something unpleasant. Here is a case which happened to me about eight months ago. While on a country walk I interfered in a dog-fight and my hands were severely mauled, among other injuries the tip of my little finger of the right hand being bitten clean off. A gentleman seeing my distress took me in his motor car to the nearest doctor about a mile away. Whether I should have been able to walk the distance is more than doubtful and I was very grateful to him for his kindness. About a fortnight later I met him again. We were walking in opposite directions and as we approached each other I recognized him as having seen him somewhere, but could not make out when and where. When we were close together he saluted me and enquired about my hands which were still bandaged. I then connected him with the dog-fight, but thought that he was the man who came to my help and assisted me in separating the brutes. Why did I fail to recognize him? There was no reason for 'repression." He rendered me a signal service for which I entertained the most grateful thoughts towards him.
On the other hand I could quote several cases, most distressing to the person concerned yet without any of this 'repression.' One single case must, however, suffice. A member of my household when a girl of about nine years of age, i.e. nearly thirty years ago, met on her way home a playmate of hers, a boy of about the same age. They walked together and when passing a fruiterer's shop the boy asked playfully whether she would like to see him steal an orange. The girl, out of mere devilry, goaded the boy, telling him that he had not the pluck to do it. As a consequence the boy did steal the orange and the children ran away. Then the girl turned round and abused the boy, calling him a vulgar thief with whom she would have nothing further to do. When she reached home she was smitten with remorse and shame, not only for having egged the boy on, but also for turning upon him after having incited him. It continued to cause her much distress and she never spoke of it to anybody at home. There was no 'repression' here!
What we have come to then is this. We have
(1) pleasant cases that are forgotten,
(2) unpleasant cases that are not forgotten,
and we choose to speak only of the last class as 'repression,' whilst surely there is no reason for assuming that the mechanism in (3) is different from that in (1). We are merely arguing in a circle: instead of showing that unpleasant memories are repressed, we call such forgotten unpleasant memories 'repressed.'
I may perhaps be allowed to add here a few words upon the much contended subject of the 'unconscious,' because Rivers waxes sarcastic when discussing it in connection with his case of claustrophobia, and I apparently have dismissed it too summarily in my recent criticism of psycho-analysis1.
I do not think that there can be a psychologist who would deny the great and, in my opinion, still too much undervalued influence of ancestral experience upon the individual. The enunciation of Ewald Hering's principle that "Memory is a function of all organized matter" has rendered as great a service to psychology, among other sciences, as the teachings of Freud have tended to harm and retard that science2.
Rivers discussing the subject says:
According to the more generally accepted usage this vast body of unconscious experience is not thought of as a whole in psychological terms. There are, however, certain elements in this ancestral experience which psychologists have singled out from the rest and have termed instincts, and they are agreed in holding that they form part of the subject-matter of psychology. If such unconscious elements derived from ancestral experience are by universal assent included within the scope of the mind, it is difficult to understand how it is possible to exclude unconscious experience acquired in the life-time of the individual. It would be humorous, if it were not pathetic, that many who object most strongly to Freud's views concerning the rôle of unconscious individual experience in the production of abnormal bodily and mental states should be loudest in the appreciation of the part taken by the ancestral experience for which they use the term, too often the shibboleth, heredity3.
I avow myself to belong to those against whom Rivers here inveighs, and it strikes me as very pathetic indeed that a man like Rivers should fail to notice the complete unlikeness between the ancestral and indi
1 A. Wohlgemuth, A Critical examination of psycho-analysis, London, 1923, Allen and Unwin.
* I must assume here an acquaintance with this subject or else refer the reader to the writings of Ewald Hering, Samuel Butler, Richard Semon, Eugenio Rignano and others. Loc. cit. p. 161.
vidual 'unconscious experience' on the one hand and Freud's 'unconscious' on the other.
The individual begins life with the inheritance of, I will not say the sum-total of the individual experiences of his ancestors, because there may be experiences which tend to or do modify, neutralize, or obliterate, other experiences, but I will say he begins life with the inheritance of the resultant of the experiences of his ancestors. Now if we want to include these by universal assent within the scope of mind, I have no objection to speaking of this inheritance as the 'unconscious ancestral mind,' but and it is here that Rivers goes astray-let us make sure what is this 'unconscious ancestral mind.' What is inherited are certain somatic (this includes neural) dispositions to react to certain stimuli in a definite manner. These somatic reactions may affect certain parts of the nervous system and thus give rise to somatic sensations and emotional disturbances, to feelings and conations. Somatic sensations are now generally regarded as cognitive and these are the only cognitive elements (and, as is obvious, they are produced indirectly) which these somatic dispositions can engender. They can give rise directly only to feelings (pleasure-unpleasure) and conations, and these it is which are termed instincts. Freud's 'unconscious' consists, however, essentially of thoughts, ideas, desires, the two first ones entirely cognitive and the last cognitive and conative. Therefore the 'unconscious ancestral mind' has nothing in common with Freud's 'unconscious' from which it differs toto coelo.
The individual then beginning life with this 'unconscious ancestral mind,' is acted upon by his environment to which he reacts somatically and psychically, these reactions depending, as we have seen, partly upon the transmitted 'unconscious ancestral mind.' As the myelination of the association-areas of his neopallium proceeds, the reactions, especially the psychic reactions, become more and more complex and the somatic reactions more precise and circumscribed. The impressions, or I think it would be more correct to say the reactions, of the individual to these impressions, constitute his individual experience and leave behind marks, or traces, spoken of as 'engrams.' These are dispositions to react in a similar manner to similar stimuli, reactions themselves serving as stimuli to other reactions. This is spoken of as the 'Principle of Association.' Now if this accumulation of engrams which constitutes Rivers' “unconscious experience acquired in the life-time of the individual" is to be called the 'unconscious individual mind,' it may seem to be merely a question of terminology; but such usage is, as we have seen, alas,
fraught with such immense danger that we should hesitate to accede to it. The point has been admirably stated by Freud's colleague Joseph Breuer:
All too easily one gets into the habit of thought of assuming behind a substantive a substance, of gradually understanding by consciousness an entity. If then one has got used to employing local relations metaphorically as, e.g. subconscious,' as time goes on an idea will actually develope in which the metaphor has been forgotten, and which is as easily manipulated as a material thing. Then mythology is complete1.
Breuer recognized the slippery slope down which Freud rushed away from scientific fact, and called a warning halt, but, alas, too late.
1 Breuer and Freud, Studien über Hysterie, 2te Aufl. Leipzig and Wien, 1909, p. 199.