This section is from the book "Applications of Psychology to the Problems of Personal and Business Efficiency", by Warren Hilton. Also available from Amazon: Psychology and Achievement - Applied Psychology 12 Volume Set.
The hand of one of these persons, though he will tell you that it is in-capable of feeling, will nevertheless adapt itself to whatever object may be surreptitiously placed there. It will open and shut a pair of scissors, it will make movements with a pencil, as if writing, etc.
Similar phenomena can be made to order by means of hypnotism. The result will be a process exactly the reverse of what we have been describing.
In the hypnotic state the operator may produce anesthesia by suggesting to the subject that he is insensible in one respect or another. The subject will then be entirely unaware of any sensations that are in conflict with the hypnotic suggestion of the operator. Yet if advised that after awakening he is to give a full account of all that occurred to him while hypnotized, he will do so, indicating that the mind has made a subconscious record of the facts. We shall give the details of an actual experiment of this kind.
The subject, a woman, was hypnotized. The operator then told her that when she should open her eyes she would be unable to see him.
Having made these suggestions, he then placed a hat upon his head. She insisted that it was suspended in the air. She was informed that she was unable to see his glasses, and when he moved them about she followed them with her eyes, but insisted that they were not there.
He placed a newspaper before her, and, taking his suggestion, she saw neither it nor the hand that held it; yet when his finger pointed to certain words she was quick to pronounce them one after the other. When the paper was taken away, she did not remember having seen it nor know what she had been saying about it.
On awakening at the end of this series of experiments, the subject had no recollection of what had occurred. She was then asked to shut her eyes, and a pen was given her. She was told to try to recollect what had occurred when she was asleep. But she could not remember anything. The pen meanwhile wrote without her knowledge an account of what had occurred.
It is evident from this that sensations that were apparently not perceived, and so never active in consciousness, were nevertheless unconsciously preserved. Later, through the agency of automatic writing, they were reproduced.
The dissociation of sensory impressions is analogous to an abnormal degree of dissociation in the reproductive processes of memory. In the latter case it tends to place beyond recall certain experiences that the individual needs in his daily life - that is, certain experiences of his past life, or part of it, are dissociated from memory.
An interesting example of this is the celebrated Ansel Bourne case, reported for the Society of Psychical Research by Dr. Richard Hodgson.
Ansel Bourne was a preacher of Greene, Rhode Island. He disappeared on the morning of January 17, 1887, after having drawn $551 from the bank.
Bourne's disappearance caused a great deal of excitement in the town on account of the money that he had with him. His picture and description were published far and wide. Foul play being suspected, the police took an active part in the search, but no trace of his whereabouts could be found.
On the morning of March 14th, two months later, a man in Morristown, Pennsylvania, woke up in fright and called upon the people of the house to tell him where he was. He declared that his name was Ansel Bourne, and that he lived in Greene, Rhode Island.
The people thought he was crazy. All they knew about him was that he had been calling himself A. L. Brown since his first appearance in Morris-town, which was about six weeks previous. He had rented a small store there at that time, stocked it with stationery, confectionery, fruit and small articles. He had never in any way seemed unnatural or eccentric.
But now he was declaring that he knew nothing of Morristown, that his name was not Brown, and that he had never owned any kind of a store, and that the last thing he did the day before was to draw some money from the bank in Greene and pay some bills.
Thinking him insane, the people sent for the authorities. Dr. Louis R. Read, who was called in, was also, for a time, under the impression that the man had lost his mind. However, a telegram was sent to Providence, and Bourne's nephew, Mr. Andrew Harris, arrived on the scene, identified his uncle, made everything straight and took him home.
Bourne was in an extremely weakened condition, having lost twenty pounds. He was horrified when he was told that he had been keeping a candystore and refused to have anything to do with it.
He had absolutely no memory, after he had once resumed his normal personality, of anything or anyone connected with that interval of two months. His last memory previous to his waking up was of having drawn money from the bank, paying some bills and boarding a Pawtucket horse-car.
In 1890, Professor William James induced Bourne to submit to hypnotism. The result was narrated as follows by Professor James:
"I induced Mr. Bourne to submit to hypnotism, so as to see whether in the hypnotic trance, his 'Brown' memory would not come back; it did so with surprising readiness; so much so that it seemed quite impossible to make him whilst in the hypnotic state remember any of the facts of his normal life. He had heard of Ansel Bourne, but' didn't know as he had ever met the man.' When confronted with Mrs. Bourne he said that he 'had never seen the woman before,' etc. On the other hand, he told of his peregrinations during the last fortnight, and gave all sorts of details about the Morristown episode. The whole thing was prosaic enough and the Brown personality seems to be nothing but a rather shrunken, dejected and amnestic extract of Mr. Bourne himself - during the trance he looks old, the corners of his mouth are drawn down, his voice is slow and weak, and he sits screening his eyes and vainly trying to remember what lay before and after the two months of the Brown experience. 'I'm all hedged in,' he says, 'I can't get out at either end. I don't know what set me down in that Pawtucket horse-car and I don't know how I ever left that store or what became of it.' "
This case is by no means unique. It is given here in preference to others because the facts are vouched for by men of distinction in the scientific world.
Instances of this kind could be multiplied indefinitely. They illustrate the splitting-off from normal consciousness and from voluntary recall of a multitude of sensations which ought to be inseparably associated with the present.
These instances are exaggerated manifestations of that dissociation which is a characteristic of memory and normal mental activity. Such abnormal dissociation sometimes becomes habitual. It then results in that remarkable phenomenon, the subject of much recent investigation and discussion, the "secondary personality."