THE SPECIAL METHODS OF PSYCHOTHERAPY
Of course there is no abrupt division between special and general methods. Yet the different tendency is easily recognized, if we turn only, for instance, from the mere sympathy and encouragement to the method of reasoning with the patient about the origin of his special complaint. Just now the medical profession moves along this line a great deal. Of course no well-trained psychotherapist will make the blunder of arguing with the insane. To dispute by argument with the paranoiac and to try to convince him would not be only without success, but easily irritating. This does not mean that the not less amateurish way ought to be taken of accepting his delusions and appearing to be in full agreement with him. A tactful middle way, preferably a disciplinary ignoring attitude, ought to be taken. But it is entirely different with the mental states of the psychasthenic. The mere statement and objective proof that his obsession is based on an illusion would be ineffective. He knows that himself, but he may take the disturbance as the beginning of a brain disease, as a form of insanity, as a lasting damage which lies entirely beyond his control. Now the physician explains to him how it all came about. He shows to him that the symptoms resulted merely from autosuggestion or are the after-effects of a suggestion from without or of a forgotten emotional experience of the past. That is a new idea to the patient and one which changes the aspect and may have an inhibitory influence.
Of course, the patient does not accept the explanation at once. He feels sure that he is not accessible to suggestion and that he has least of all a tendency to autosuggestions, but the skillful psychotherapist will find somewhere an opening for the entering wedge. He may develop to the patient the modern theories of the origin of neurotic disturbances, all with entire sincerity and yet all shaped in a way which gives to the special case an especially harmless appearance. He may even enter into experimental proof that the patient is really accessible to autosuggestions. A very simple scheme for instance is to put some interesting looking apparatus with a few metal rings on the fingers of the subject and connect it with a battery and electric keys. The key is then pushed down in view of the patient and he is to indicate the time when and the place where he begins to feel the galvanic current. The feeling will come up probably very soon in the one or the other finger, and as soon as he feels sure that the sensation is present, the physician can show him that there was no connection in the wires, that the whole galvanic sensation was the result of suggestion.
Such a method demands patience and good will.
The prejudices and deeply-rooted hypochondriac ideas, foolish theories of the patient and pessimistic emotions which have become habitual, must be removed piece by piece until the central symptoms themselves can be undermined and explored. It often takes hours of careful and fatiguing reasoning, in which at any time the patient may suddenly slip back to his old ideas. Yet if the explanatory arguments have once succeeded in making the patient himself believe firmly that his whole trouble resulted from suggestion only, the inhibitory effect of this idea may be an excellent one. The only serious defect of the method is that it often does not work. The credit which neurologists of today give to its effectiveness seems to me much too high. Even slight neurasthenic and psychasthenic disturbances remain too often in complete power when the patient is fully convinced that they originated with an emotional excitement which has long since lost its feeling value or that it resulted from a chance suggestion picked out from indifferent surroundings. The patient knows it and yet goes on suffering from the fruitless fight of his will against the intruder. Where mere reasoning is entirely successful, I am inclined to suspect that an element of suggestion has always been superadded. The authority of the physician has created a state of reënforced suggestibility in which the argument convinces, not by its logic but by its impressiveness.
This element of suggestion is quite obvious when the argument takes the form of persuasion, a psychotherapeutic method which has found its independent development. Whoever seeks to persuade relies on the mental fringe of his propositions. The idea is not to work by its own meaning but by the manner of its presentation, by its impressiveness, by the authority, by the warmth of the voice, by the sympathy which stands behind it, by the attractiveness with which it is offered, by the advantages which are in sight. Thus persuasion relies on personal powers to secure conviction where the logic of the argument is insufficient to overcome contradictions. But just for that reason persuasion is after all only a special kind of suggestion.
Other methods work on the same basis. Prominent among them is the psychotherapeutic effect of a formal assurance. The psychotherapist assures the patient that he will sleep the next night or that the pain will disappear or that he will be able to walk with such firmness that the counter-idea is undermined. It depends on the type of patient whether such suggestions of belief work better when it is assured with an air of condescension, spoken with an authority which simply ignores every possible contradiction, or with an air of sympathy and hope. Experience shows that it is favorable to connect such assurance with the entrance of a definite signal. "You will sleep to-night when the clock strikes ten," "The pain will disappear when you enter the door of your house," or perhaps, "Read this letter three times quietly in a low voice, and at the end of the third reading your fear will suddenly stop." Psychological insight will further decide whether it is wiser in the particular case to assure the patient of the resulting effect or rather of the power to bring about the effect. With some people, it works better to insist that the result will happen, with others to promise that they themselves can secure it; in the one case they feel themselves as passive instruments, in the other as real actors. To some hysterics, it is better to say: "You will walk," to others, "You can walk."
This belief in the future entrance of a change frequently demands an artificial reënforcement. There belongs first the application of external factors which awaken in the background of the mind the supporting idea that something has been changed in the whole situation or that some helpful influence has made the improvement possible. Medicines of colored and flavored water, applications of electric instruments without currents, in extreme cases even the claptrap of a sham operation with a slight cut in the skin, may touch those brain cells which words alone cannot reach with sufficient energy and may thus secure the desired psychophysical effect. The patient who by merely mental inhibition has lost his voice for weeks may get it back as soon as the physician has looked into his larynx with a mirror and has held an electrode without battery connection on the throat. Another way of helping by make-believe methods is to give the impression that a decided improvement is noticeable. The uneducated patient believes it easily when the physician at his very entrance into the office expresses his surprise about the external symptoms of a change for the better, perhaps seen in the color of the skin or the shading of the iris in the eye and reaffirmed by some pseudotests of the muscle reflexes. All that is not very edifying and the decent physician, who justly feels somewhat dragged down to the level of the quack in applying such means frequently, will abstain from them wherever possible. He knows that in the long run, even the psychasthenics are best treated with frankness and sincerity and he will therefore only in exceptional cases resort to such short-cut treatment by making believe. Yet that it is sometimes almost the only way to help the patient cannot be denied.
A neater way to secure the sufferer’s belief in the possibility of a cure is by securing the desired effect at least once through little devices. As soon as it is once reached, the patient knows that it can be reached and this knowledge works as a suggestion. The hysteric who cannot speak when he thinks of his words, or who cannot walk when he thinks of his legs, may by the skillful physician be brought to a few words or steps before he himself is aware of it by completely turning his attention to something else and producing the stimulus toward the movement in a reflex-like way. Still more successful is the effort to resolve the inhibited action into its component parts and to show to the patient who cannot perform the action as a whole that he can go through the parts of it after all. As soon as he has passed through a few times, a new tactual-visual image of the whole complex is secured for his consciousness and this image works then as a new cue for the entire voluntary action, overcoming the associated counter-idea.
Another excellent way to overpower a troublesome idea or impulse or emotion is to reënforce the opposite idea by breaking open the paths for its motor expression. The effort to hold the counter-idea before consciousness may be unsuccessful so long as it is only an idea which tries in vain to produce any motor effect; but if the action itself has been repeatedly gone through, the idea will find it easier to settle and it becomes vivid in proportion to the openness of the channels of motor discharge. This holds true even for emotional states. A certain word perhaps picked up by the psychasthenic in a particular experience may produce whenever it is seen a shock and a depressing emotion. If we ask the patient to go artificially through the movements which express joy and hilarity, make him intentionally grin and open wide the eyes and expand the arms and inhale deeply, and after training this movement complex of joyful expression, speak the dreaded word at the height of the movement a new feeling combination clusters about the sound and may overcome the antagonism. Sometimes you will give to the desirable idea sufficient strength by mere repetition, sometimes you force the attention better by unusual accentuation, connecting the suggestion with a kind of shock. From here it is only one step to the suggestion in the form of a sharp order which breaks down the resistance just by its suddenness and loudness, supported perhaps by a quick arm movement which gives a cue for imitative reflexes. In the case of a youngster even a slap may add to the nervous shock; also a sudden clapping of the hands may favor effectiveness of the suggestive order.
Often it is wise to give the suggestion, not from without but to prescribe it in the form of autosuggestions. For instance, advise the patient not only to have the good will and intention of suppressing a certain fixed idea or by producing a certain inhibited impulse but to speak to himself in an audible voice, every morning and every evening, saying that he will overcome it now. Here, too, the autosuggestion may become effective by the frequency of the repetition or by the urgency of the expression or by the accompanying motor reactions. As a matter of course any associations which reënforce the idea may be used for assistance. Especially near-lying is the appeal to the man’s conscience, but just such associations which touch the idea of the own personality and its deepest layers of feelings are always risky. They may touch and stir up old memories which interfere with success or they may awaken a feeling of contrast between duty and fulfillment which may disturb the whole equilibrium. If the physician knows that the good-will of the patient is insufficient to overcome the pathological disturbance, he ought not to make him feel ashamed or guilty, and that not only for moral reasons but also for strictly psychotherapeutic reasons.
In certain easily recognizable cases, it is essential to give the suggestion with avoidance of any emphasis, only as a hint, passing as if the suggestion almost slipped from the tongue of the doctor without his real intention. The hysteric who is resisting the suggestion which is intentionally given to her is sometimes surprisingly trapped by a half-hidden suggestion, perhaps not spoken to the patient herself at all but spoken in a low voice to a colleague in the room. Sometimes we have to trick those who suffer by "negativism," that is by an obstinacy which exaggerates that of the ordinary stubborn man. In such cases the suggestion not to perform an action works best if we want the action performed. There is hardly an end to the list of such methods for bringing beliefs and attitudes with suggestive power to the mind of the sufferer. Definitely to describe the conditions under which the one or the other form ought to be applied would be no wiser than to tell a statesman what steps are to be taken in every possible diplomatic situation. The instinctive selection of the right means among the many possible ones characterizes both the true statesman and the true doctor.
So far we have spoken only about the character of the suggestion, presupposing that the receiver remains in his natural state. This presupposition is certainly often entirely correct, but as far as it is correct, the results of the suggestion vary greatly with the different individuals. On the whole, we might say that such suggestions given to the subject in his normal state are effective only when the subject is by nature a suggestible being. In considering the psychology of suggestion, we recognized at once that the degree of natural suggestibility varies excessively. The non-suggestible mind is only to a slight degree influenced by any of these proposed forms of suggestion as long as the suggestibility itself is not heightened. To be sure, the question whether the person is suggestible by nature or not cannot be settled simply by his own impression. Many of the most suggestible persons believe firmly that they are superior to any suggestive influence.
To bring suggestions to greater effectiveness and to exert their influence practically upon every possible subject, we have thus not only to give suggestions or to advise autosuggestion but in both cases we have to secure, especially for the naturally less suggestible patients, a somewhat heightened suggestibility. Yet no one can overlook that some of the methods which we described have in themselves the tendency to reënforce the mental suggestibility. Those methods of emphasis and order, of assurance and make-believe, of practical training and of awakening counter-ideas, of persuasion and even of reasoning, wherever they are in a high degree successful probably always gain a certain part of their success by the increased suggestibility which the whole situation brings with it.
This reënforcement of the psychophysical readiness for suggestions results indeed quite directly both from expectation of the unknown and of the half-way mysterious, and from the confidence in the doctor. Of course it can work very differently. The expectation can upset the nervous system and produce unrest instead of suggestibility and, instead of confidence, the patient may feel that discouraging diffidence which settles easily upon those who have tried one fashionable physician after another. But where there is real confidence, based perhaps on the fame of the doctor and on the reports of his powerful achievements, there the conditions for effective suggestions are greatly strengthened. Still better is it if this confidence in the man is combined with a sincere hope for recovery. To lie down on a lounge on which hundreds have been cured fascinates the imagination sufficiently to give to every suggestion a much better chance to overcome the counter-idea. The expectation that something wonderful will happen can even produce an almost hypnoid state. The effect will be the greater, the less the barriers of systematic knowledge hinder the entrance of suggested ideas. The uneducated will on the whole offer less resistance to suggestions, just as superstitions find the freest play in the minds of the untrained. It is not by chance that the earlier epidemics of pathological suggestibility have on the whole disappeared with the better popular education. In a similar way work fatigue and exhaustion. The resistance has grown weaker, the suggested idea goes automatically into activity.
Skillful artificial means can still surpass the effect of these natural conditions. Here belongs everything which accentuates the authority and dignity of the originator of the suggestion. The psychologically trained physician has no difficulty in heightening the effect by simple surprises, if he cares for such tricks. If the patient for whom a mental treatment is recognized as necessary shows himself too skeptical to submit to the powers of the psychotherapist, such captivation of his belief can easily be secured. Let the man perhaps fixate a penny on the table with his right eye, while the left is closed and you show him that you can make another penny suddenly disappear when you move it a certain distance to the right and appear again when you move it still further. As the man has never heard of the blind spot in the retina, he accredits you with a special power. Many similar psychological illusions can well be used to prepare the mind for unsuspected healing powers.
Still stronger is the effect of personal contact. The psychophysiology of love indicates the most complex influence which contact sensations have on the whole nervous system and especially on the vasomotor apparatus of the body. Probably such vasomotor effect enters in, changing the blood circulation in the brain, when a personal contact between the transmitter and receiver of the suggestion is brought about. If the physician’s hand rests quietly on the forehead of the patient who lies with closed eyes, or if he holds for a long while the hand of the patient, he may secure a nervous repose and submission which gives to the suggestions the most fertile soil. Needless to say that here again everything depends upon the accessories. An unsympathetic doctor may be entirely powerless where his neighbor has complete success. Neither a lifeless hand nor an agitating one will bring the desired repose, neither a cold nor a rough one. There must be strength and energy and even discipline, and yet sympathy in the pressure of the fingers. Again a psychologically different effect and yet one often to be preferred results from mild stroking movements, the stroke always to be repeated in the same direction, never up and down. The slow change in the position of the tactual sensations evidently produces a rather strong influence on the equilibrium of nervous impulses, and here again vasomotor reflexes seem to arise easily. Another variety of such bodily influences is given by artificial changes of the positions, for instance by bending the head of the subject backward while the eyes are closed. It may be that a certain lack of balance sets in in which the self-equilibrium is disturbed and an external influence can thus more easily get control of the psychophysical system. Again a certain monotony of speaking may easily add to the increase of the suggestibility.
Everyone knows that another most fruitful cause of this change is any mystic inspiration, any emotion in which the individual feels himself in contact with something higher or larger or stronger. Of course, the church can secure this effect easily, and here again the maximum will be reached if a bodily contact with the symbol of religious exaltation can be established. The patient who can touch the relics of the saints or bathe in the waters of Lourdes or at least feel on his forehead the hand of the minister, is wrought up to a state of suggestibility which makes suggestions easily effective. The objective value of religion again has nothing to do with it, as exactly the same effect can result from the most barbarous superstition. The amulets of a gypsy might secure the same resetting of the psychophysical system which the most sacred symbols awaken, and even many an educated person is unable to cross the threshold of a palmist or an astrologist, or to attend the performance of a spiritist, or to sit down with a purchasable trance medium without feeling an uncanny mental state which is objectively characterized by an increased suggestibility. But finally, the same effect sets in when the symbols of other emotional spheres are applied, perhaps for the patriotic soldier the flag of his country.
All the states of increased suggestibility which we have characterized so far still remain within the limit of normal wakefulness. We may turn now to the methods of the psychotherapist which produce in the interest of the suggestions an artificial state. However we have no right superficially to claim that the effectiveness of the suggestions is always greater in such unnatural states. On the contrary, we know that sometimes well applied suggestions work on wide-awake persons with increased suggestibility more strongly than on hypnotized subjects. Here even the instinct of the experienced physician may easily go astray, and it may need practical tests to find out which way will be the most accessible to the particular case. Often a certain rôle belongs even to natural sleep. It cannot be denied that some people can be influenced to some degree by words spoken to them during sleep. Most adults either wake up or show no signs of influence beyond effects on their dreams. But some absorb especially whispered words in such a way that their power becomes evident after the waking of the sleeper. Much more is this true of children. A suggestion to give up vicious habits, perhaps in the sexual sphere, or to speak fluently and no longer stammer may thus be beneficial. Yet the danger of this method is not small and extensive use of it is certainly not advisable. The more easily it can be carried into every bedchamber and can thus give to every mother and nurse the tools of a rather powerful therapy, the more a danger signal ought to be displayed. Interference with the natural sleep by outer influences creates abnormal conditions which cannot be removed at will. The chances are great that many unintended bad effects slip in and that not a few hysterias may be created by a method at the first glance so startling. Much less objectionable is it to make use of the effect of that period of half-sleep which precedes the natural sleep, and which is for many a period of increased suggestibility for autosuggestions. A resolution or the formulation of a belief which would be ineffective in a wide-awake state seems to get an accentuated effect on the mind, if it is repeatedly expressed in this transitional state. The psychasthenic who in such a half-dozing stage assures himself that he will no longer be afraid of going over a bridge or hearing a thunderstorm or will feel a disgust for whiskey or will have the energy for work, has a certain chance that such autosuggestions become reality the next morning. With many others there seems no effect to be obtained and not a few seem unable to catch the right moment. As soon as they begin to speak they become wide awake or fall asleep before they talk.
Incomparably more value belongs to the artificial sleep, the mesmeric state of earlier days, the hypnotism of our time. We have discussed its theory and recognized that an abnormally increased suggestibility is indeed its chief feature. We know hypnotism in most various degrees; the lowest can be reached practically by everyone, the highest by rather few. It is almost arbitrary to decide where those waking states with high tension of suggestibility end and the hypnotic states begin, and not less arbitrary to call the higher degrees only hypnotism and to designate the lower degrees as hypnoid states. If we do it, we certainly should acknowledge from the start that the hypnoid states are for therapeutic purposes not a bit less important than the full hypnotic states. Certainly the hypnoid states do not allow complex hallucinations and absurd post-hypnotic actions, but they offer excellent starting points for the removal of light obsessions and phobias and for the reënforcement of desirable impulses, volitions, and emotions. Many persons cannot under any circumstances be brought beyond such a hypnoid degree. The physician who has not theoretical experiments but practical success in view ought therefore never to trouble himself with the inquiry exactly which degree has been reached. This advice is given because nothing interferes with the progress of hypnotic influence so badly as the constant testing. It must naturally often lead to a point where the subject finds that he can very well still do what the hypnotizer told him not to do. If the doctor assures him that he can no longer move his arm and the patient is yet able to move it, the doctor secures the very superfluous knowledge that this special degree of suggestibility has not been reached, but the patient is sliding backward and the lower degree which actually had been reached will be less accessible later. The physician might rather resort to the opposite course and assure the patient, even after the first treatment which might have been a slight success, that he saw from definite symptoms that hypnosis had set in. That will greatly smooth the way for real hypnotic effects the next time.
The best method of hypnotizing is the one which relies essentially on the spoken word, awakening through speech the idea of the approach of sleep. If the hypnotizer assures the subject in monotonous words that a feeling of fatigue is setting in, that he is feeling a tiredness creeping over his shoulders and arms and legs, that his memories are fading away and that he is now hypnotized, for not a few all is done that is needed. The hypnotic state will come and will hold until the verbal suggestion takes it off again. Perhaps the hypnotizer says that he will count three and at three the subject is to open his eyes and feel perfectly comfortable. It is wise to tell the patient beforehand that he will not lose consciousness and that he will remember afterward whatever happens as many people believe that loss of memory belongs to the hypnotic state, and that they were not hypnotized if they can remember what happened. Such a skeptical after-attitude can seriously interfere with the success of the treatment.
Yet in most cases, it will be safer not to rely on words only but to supplement them by manipulations which all converge towards the effect of increasing the suggestibility and thus of overcoming the resistance to the suggestions introduced. It is well known that for this purpose it is advisable to begin the influence with some slight fatiguing stimulations. The effect is most easily reached when the patient fixates perhaps a shining button held over his eyes or listens to monotonous sounds. A particularly strong effect belongs again to very slight touch stimuli. If the subject with his eyes closed is touched perhaps by two pencils at various and unexpected points of the face and hands, a skillful playing on his tactual senses soon produces a half-dozing state of hypnoid character. In the same group belong those so-called passes which evidently have a reflex influence in the blood-vessel system. It is advisable to combine the various elements in such a way that at first physical stimuli upon eye or skin produce an over-suggestible state and that only as soon as this state is reached the verbal suggestion sets in, perhaps with the words,
"I shall hypnotize you now." Under such conditions every subject may soon be brought to that degree of hypnotization which is accessible to him. Yet more than one treatment is usually necessary for the higher degrees. Much less importance for therapeutic purposes belongs to that hypnoid state which is reached without the idea of sleep where the subject comes with open eyes into a kind of fascination, produced perhaps by a sudden flash of light or by the firm eye of the hypnotizer. It is a state which can lead to a strong submission of will and which has its legal importance. Therapeutically it can hardly secure an effect which cannot better be secured through the real sleeplike hypnotism. Under certain conditions, chemical substances may well prepare for the hypnotic treatment, for instance bromides or alcohol. Others rely on the suggestive effect of flavored water. But all that is unwise. The confidence of the patient is the best preparation for the securing of the helpful degree of hypnotism.
Of course only a small part of the therapeutic usefulness is secured during the hypnotic state itself. A pain may be removed, sleep be secured, an idea be inhibited, a movement be reënforced in cases where non-hypnotic suggestions would have found insurmountable obstacles. During the hypnosis we may also open the storehouse of memory and bring to light the ideas which disturbed the equilibrium of the suffering mind. Further in those most complex hysteric cases of dissociated personality, new memory connections may be formed during the hypnosis by which a synthesis of the double or triple personalities into the old one may be secured. Yet the general effect which the physician has to hope for from hypnotic treatment is the post-hypnotic one. Not what happens during the hypnosis but what the suggestion will produce after hypnosis is essential to him. The fixed idea is to disappear forever, the paralyzed limb is under control, the desire for morphine and cocaine is gone for all future time, the perverse longing is annihilated, the old energy is to remain again for all time. It is the post-hypnotic after-effectiveness which gives to the hypnoid and to the hypnotic states their importance for the treatment of the most exasperating symptoms. To be sure, the treatment often must be a prolonged one. A man who for years has used thirty grains of morphine a day cannot be rid of the desire after two or three hypnotic sittings. In such a case the treatment may cover three or four months, if it is to be of lasting value and without any damage during the treatment.
Still we are not at the end of the psychotherapeutic methods and we may turn to a fascinating group of curative efforts which has especially come to the foreground in recent years. We mentioned before that mischief cannot seldom be traced back to earlier experiences with a strong unpleasurable feeling. In certain cases, the subject remembers such particular experiences as the beginning of his discomfort; in others, especially those of hysteric character, the starting point may have long been forgotten, and yet that early impression evidently left traces in the brain which produce disturbances in conscious life. The psychotherapist nowadays calls these groups of traces "complexes." We recognized clearly that there is no reason to refer such forgotten remainders of the past to any subconscious mind; they are physical after-effects which keep their influence over the equilibrium of the psychophysical system. Now modern psychotherapy finds that the entire disturbances which arise from such emotional disagreeable experiences, forgotten or not forgotten, can often be removed by psychical means. Two ways in particular seem open. As soon as the idea is fully brought back to consciousness again, the patient must be made to express the primary emotion with full intensity. Subtle analysis has repeatedly shown that many of the gravest hysteric symptoms result from such a suppression of emotions at the beginning and disappear as soon as the primary experience comes to its right motor discharge and gains its normal outlet in action. The whole irritation becomes eliminated, the emotion is relieved from suppression and the source of the cortical uproar is removed forever.
Practically still more important seems the other case which refers alike to hysterics and psychasthenics and which is applicable for the forgotten experience not less than for the well-remembered ones. This second way demands that the psychotherapist bring this primary experience strongly to consciousness and then by a new training link it with new and more desirable associations and reactions. The disturbing idea is thus not to be discharged but to be sidetracked so that in future it leads to harmless results. The new setting works towards an entirely new equilibrium. What was a starting point for abnormal fears now becomes an indifferent object of interest and all its evil consequences are cut off. It may be acknowledged that the full elaboration of these methods still belongs to the future. Both methods, the discharging, or the so-called cathartic one, and the side-tracking method evidently demand the discovery of the starting point in the service of the therapy and here again several methods are at the disposal of the psychologist.
A promising way to this end is the inexhaustible association test which we mentioned when we discussed the contributions of the psychological laboratory to the medical diagnosis. A series of short words are spoken to the patient and, as soon as he hears one, he is to pronounce as quickly as possible the first word which comes to his mind. If we use fifty words, we should be able to learn something as to the inner states of the man and as to the working of his mind, if we analyze carefully his particular choices. But two further conditions ought to be fulfilled. The time of the association ought to be measured. Of course there will be wide differences. A word which is often in a certain connection will quickly bring the habitual association. Abstract words will call forth their associations more slowly than concrete words, familiar words more rapidly than unfamiliar words. To measure such association time with fullest accuracy, as it is necessary for the purpose of scientific investigations, delicate electrical instruments are needed that indicate thousandths parts of a second. For the purpose of the practical physician such accuracy would be superfluous. His examination will be perfectly successful if it is carefully done with a stop-watch which shows the fifth part of a second, like those which are used at races. He speaks a word, presses at the same time the button of the watch, and presses the stopper when he sees the lips of the patient moving. He is thus able to examine not only the involuntary choice of association but also the time of every associative process. But a second condition ought also to be fulfilled. After some indifferent words, others ought to be mixed into the series which touch in a tentative way on various spheres corresponding to the possible suspicions. The groups to which the hidden thoughts of psychasthenics, for instance, belong are not many. As soon as our series of words strikes such a group, the reaction of the mind may be discriminated. The effect may be a general perturbation resulting either in an unusual delay of the fitting association or in an effort to cover the sore spot by an unfitting association. Sometimes the dangerous association may rush forward even with unusual rapidity but, as soon as it is uttered, it gives a shock to the mental system, brings the whole associative process into disorder, and the result is that the next following associations are abnormally delayed. The skilled psychologist will quickly take such a change as a cue for the selection of the later words in his series. Of course, he will at first return to neutral words, but as soon as he has found a danger spot, he will approach it from various sides, perhaps in every fourth or fifth word, and may then find out which particular experiences are disquieting the patient. Words like women or money or career or family or disease are often sufficient to get the first inkling of a mental story.
With less diagnostic elegance we sometimes reach the same end by taking careful records of pulse and breathing and involuntary movements during an apparently harmless conversation. The instruments at the disposal of the psychologist are those familiar to every psychological laboratory: the pneumograph, which registers the movements of respiration; the sphygmograph, which writes the pulsation of the artery in the wrist; the automatograph, or other instruments, which register the slight unintentional movements of the arm. If the examiner is skillful, he will not fail to discover the changes in breathing and pulse and reaction as soon as the painful groups of ideas are approached. More of theoretic interest and too cumbersome for practical diagnosis is the unfailing galvanic reaction from the skin in which the glands change their activity and their resistance to the galvanic current under the influence of hidden emotions. Yet all these methods, with exception of the last, are essentially useful only if the starting experience is still accessible to the memory of the patient. He may be unaware that it had anything to do with his nervous symptoms but he recognizes the experience still as soon as his attention is directed towards it. The psychologically more interesting but probably more exceptional situation is the one in which it is not only forgotten but cannot be recognized when it is brought to consciousness. The shortest way to get hold of such past impressions is the hypnotic one. The hypnotic state sharpens the memory and experiences of early childhood or apparently insignificant experiences of later life may be brought back when they would have been inaccessible to any intentional effort of the attention. Even still more surprising is the success if the association is left to a dreamy play of ideas suggested perhaps by gazing into a crystal ball or by a meaningless talking. Perhaps the patient lies with closed eyes on the couch while the physician holds his hand. A few words are given to him as a starting point and then he is thoughtlessly to pronounce whatever comes to his mind, not only unfinished sentences but loose phrases, single words, apparently without meaning and slowly ideas arise which betray the original intrusion. At last memories and lost emotions come again to the surface, and the watchful psychotherapist may discover the complex, which is then to be removed by discharge or by side-tracking. This is the so-called psychoanalytic method.
Finally the psychotherapist may go still one step further. After all it often seems inexplainable that just this or that emotional experience made such a deep and lasting impression while a thousand other experiences passed by without leaving any mischievous after-effect. It seems that indeed the conditions are still more complicated. That emotional disturbance operated dangerously perhaps only because it itself appealed to a suppressed desire and this seems to hold true especially for suppressed emotions of the sexual sphere. The desire for gratification in normal or abnormal channels was perhaps attached by the mind to some group of objects. It was completely suppressed but it left an abnormal tension in the central system. If now a chance experience touches on this group of ideas, there results an explosive reaction; and movements, convulsions, spasms, obsessions, and fears set in which get their particular character not through the secondary intrusion but from the primary desire. To discharge that intrusion leads therefore only to the elimination of those symptoms which resulted from it, but the primary disturbance goes on and any new chance intrusion will produce new explosions. The psychotherapist should therefore go deeper and relieve the mind from those primary desires which may belong to early youth and which are entirely forgotten. Even the method of automatic writing may here sometimes lead to an unveiling of those deepest layers of suppressed desires. In the same way a careful, subtle analysis of dreams may support the search for the hidden source of interference.
We have spoken of the technical methods of the psychotherapist. It would be short-sighted to ignore the great manifoldness of secondary methods which he shares with the ordinary intercourse between man and man, the methods which the teacher uses in the schoolroom, which the parents use in the nursery, which the neighbor uses with his neighbor, methods which build up the mind, methods which train the mind, methods which reënforce good habits and suppress unwholesome ones, methods which stimulate sound emotions and inhibit a quarrelsome temper, methods which indeed are not less important in the psychiatric clinic and in the hospital than in our daily life, and which certainly have central importance in that borderland region which is the particular working field of the psychotherapist.