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and cure of symptoms and the analytic theory as follows: mental conflict and repression may produce hysterical symptoms as compromise formations which simultaneously satisfy repressed desires in the unconscious, and desires of another nature in the conscious mind, but the nature of the symptoms themselves is also partly determined by auto-suggestions arising as the result of diminished unity of the self-chance thoughts, they may be, which otherwise would have no influence over the patient's mental state, and to which he would not succumb. He is in a state of mind divided against itself: he is afraid for himself, afraid of ill-health, afraid that he may fall sick, and yet may desire sickness, for reasons that can be discovered by deeper analysis (e.g. as a self-punishment, or to tyrannise over relatives, etc.). So the idea gains a hold upon him. In this way the dissociation we have previously emphasised does favour the acceptance of auto-suggestion. On the other hand, what particular autosuggestions, from among all the different possible suggestions, are accepted, is determined by the wishes, desires, etc., of the patient's mind. In order, therefore, to understand fully the realisation of suggestion, we must analyse the patient's mind and learn as much as we can about these mental factors.
One analytic view of the nature of suggestion and suggestibility is the well-known Freudian view that suggestion is a form of transference in which the patient reacts to the physician as he reacted in early life towards his own father, or towards others closely connected with him in childhood. In other words, the reaction is an erotic one, using the word 'erotic' in the widest sense. The tie is an erotic tie. At first sight such a theory as this seems to be extremely improbable, since, besides the sex instinct, there are many other instincts which may be plausibly appealed to for an explanation of suggestibility in special cases. The instinct of escape, with its emotion of fear, the gregarious instinct with its own peculiar emotion, and the instinct of self-abasement, with its emotion of negative self-feeling, may be specially singled out in this connection. So much suggestibility seems, on the surface, to be the result of fear, or of a standing desire to be in harmony with one's fellows. We must, however, remember that Freud has a definite theory of group psychology and of the gregarious instinct in terms of libidinal relationship of the individuals of a crowd or other group towards the leader of that group the leader corresponding to the father of the horde in more primitive times. Such a theory brings the concept once more within the circle of Freudian doctrine, and recently Freudians have explained auto-suggestion in terms of narcissism. Indeed, Dr Ernest
Jones explains all suggestion in terms of narcissism. He writes: "If the primary narcissism has been released and re-animated directly, by concentration upon the idea of self, the process may be termed ‘autosuggestion'; if it has been preceded by a stage in which the ego ideal is resolved into the earlier father ideal, the process may be termed 'hetero-suggestion1.
This is an original and important theory, and deserves careful testing by further psycho-analysis of patients, especially of patients who have previously practised auto-suggestion with success.
It is clear, then, that the problem of suggestion and suggestibility is far from being a question of the past, now superseded by analytical theory. It still remains one of the central problems of modern psychotherapy. Whether suggestion is always a libidinal relationship, is not entirely free from doubt. Instead of saying, with Freud, that all suggestion is transference, we are probably on safer ground in holding that the transference situation is, indeed, one of the conditions under which suggestion may occur, but that suggestion may also occur in psychological situations when there is no transference. But the question can only be finally decided by 'deep' analysis.
In conclusion, a word may be said on the relation of suggestion and auto-suggestion to the will. It has been noted by many observers that over-anxiety counteracts the effects of therapeutic suggestion. If one feels anxious to get to sleep at night, one may become wider and wider awake. Similarly, in the attempt to recall a forgotten name, anxious effort to remember generally brings failure. Coué has summed up these and other similar observations in his so-called Law of Reversed Effort. “When the will and the imagination are in conflict, the imagination always wins." Such a formulation is only true of states of incomplete will, where fear of failure has prevented the full development of volition, and the word 'will' should be replaced by 'wish.' The completed state of will or volition is incompatible with any such fear or doubt. One of the best definitions of volition is that given by Professor G. F. Stout: "Volition is a desire qualified and defined by the judgment, that, so far as in us lies, we shall bring about the desired end because we desire it." The ‘judgment' in this definition comprises, of course, belief, and if completed, it is superior to 'imagination' (suggestion) acting alone.
The advice given to patients to avoid effort in the practice of suggestion, is a sound one, since effort tends to arouse the idea of possible failure and the fear of failure. If these do arise, they gain the mastery
1 "The Nature of Auto-suggestion," Brit. Jour. of Med. Psychology, 1923, III, 209. Med. Psych. v 3
over the original suggestion. Most cases of successful auto-suggestion are characterised by avoidance of thoughts and fears of failure, and may, therefore, be considered as instances of supplementation and completion of the volitional process through adequate control of the imagination. To call the method one of auto-suggestion is really somewhat inappropriate and it might be more accurately described as a method of training the will. In practice the passivity of mere suggestion and auto-suggestion is quickly superseded by the activity of faith and calm determination to succeed.
What is acquired is a new mental attitude which protects the patient from suggestions of ill-health and incapacity. To make this protection complete, or as nearly complete as possible, the patient also requires a course of psycho-analysis or autognosis, to rid him of complexes and other dissociations and thus enable him to face the world with a unified personality.
WILLIAM SHARP AND THE IMMORTAL HOUR1
BY H. CRICHTON-MILLER.
FIONA MACLEOD'S drama of The Immortal Hour, which first appeared in print in 1900, has in the last few years become far more widely known through its setting as a 'music-drama' by Rutland Boughton. The music is necessarily an interpretation, and no one who has heard it sympathetically can be completely unaware of the 'meaning' of the play. Yet many who have felt its significance and individual appeal find themselves trying to discover a line of interpretation more general and explicit than music is meant to give. The symbolism, which is so definite in form, is strangely elusive in meaning. Where is this meaning to be found? Some will say that only the author can answer that question; others will maintain that the meaning must vary with each individual apprehension of the drama; and others again will resent any attempt to reduce the subtle language of art to crude formulae of speech. In point of fact, Fiona Macleod's attitude to the drama provides the best justification for the attempt to interpret it. "I write," he says, "not because I know a mystery and would reveal it, but because I have known a mystery, and am to-day as a child before it, and neither reveal nor interpret it." In a note of introduction to the drama he outlines its meaning for him in relation to the Celtic legend upon which it is based; but is far from suggesting that this meaning is final:
Some may look upon Midir as another Orpheus, and upon Etain as a Eurydice with the significance of Prosperpine-others may see also in Etain, what I see, and would convey in The Immortal Hour, a symbol of the wayward but home-wandering soul; and in Midir, a symbol of the spirit; and in Eochaidh, a symbol of the mundane life, or mortal love. Others will see only the sweet vanity of the phosphorescent play of the mythopoeic Gaelic mind, or indeed not even this, but only the natural dreaming of the Gaelic imagination, ever in love with fantasy and with beauty in fantasy3. He recognised that it is a thing for others to interpret, and possibly to interpret more fully than himself. One of his correspondents, Dr Goodchild, a paranoic genius whose poems are hardly known, takes an entirely different view of The Immortal Hour, which the author accepts without variance or criticism. Indeed it is a matter of some psychological interest that William Sharp not only accepted the interpretation of this unbalanced admirer but also made a friend of him and spent several periods of his life in Goodchild's company.
1 Read before the Medical Section of the British Psychological Society on Oct. 22, 1924. Life of Fiona Macleod, p. 421.
3 Fiona Macleod, Poems and Dramas, p. 314.
And on this point of self-knowledge it is rather interesting to note these words of our author in a letter to a friend: "Since no human being has yet seen his or her own soul absolutely impartially and in all its rounded completeness of good and evil, of strength and weakness, of what is temporal and perishable and what is germinal and essential, how can we expect even the subtlest analyst to depict other souls than his own?"
The present interpretation is based upon three main sources: the text of the drama itself; Fiona Macleod's life, as revealed in his biography; and the general principles of analytical psychology. The relation of creative art to the unconscious has long been recognised. The psychoanalytic school has been led by its study of this question to eliminate the creative factor entirely. As Ernest Jones says in his Theory of Symbolism, p. 173:
From the standpoint of scientific thought the abstract idea that is here supposed to be symbolised is altogether illusory; we have no experience in either the physical or spiritual world of creation, for what masquerades as such always proves on closer inspection to be only transformation.
This may be so, and to the Freudian there can be very little meaning in anything I may say to-night. But I am one of those naïf and primitive persons who still find it necessary to explain certain phenomena in life upon the basis of this illusion.
The Zürich school, on the other hand, has, as it seems to me, rather stressed the factor of creative art as an element that may be taken as ultimate and irreducible as far as the individual's psychology is concerned.
It is interesting to note that William Sharp, in a letter to W. B. Yeats, rather commits himself to the Freudian position. He says: "All poetry is, in a sense, memory: all art, indeed, is a mnemonic gathering of the innumerable and lost into the found and unique." Or are we to regard this sentence more as evidence of his pantheistic outlook?
An artist of considerable talent supplies me with the following notes which seem to me very pertinent:
The true artist is not on a quest for Beauty but for Truth in Beauty: in searching for beauty he does not try to escape from the material world. When I am painting I do not think. I may repeat the subject's name monotonously or visualise the thing to be painted and mentally stare at it, or mentally stare at the wall to be decorated. The idea of how to treat the subject comes with a click, and there is never any indecision. If I start a painting (not a study) and it does not "come off" I should find it very difficult to do it again.
I am always positive the idea is right. If the picture is a fair success, and someone criticises, "These clouds are wrong," and I try to alter them, I always spoil the picture; it no longer fits in with my vision, and I don't know what I am doing. If the clouds are wrong it is myself that must be altered. Between the time the "click" comes and the time I begin to paint, I'd rather not think about the work at all, or