There was no reason why the man should lie, and his expression of surprise and absence of other emotion seemed indicative of truth. When the doctor made the man close his eyes and thus shut out his present surroundings the memory returned with strong emotional reaction, less intense, however, than on the former occasion.
This case can be explained by regarding his repressed complex as lying in the unconscious, held there by the repugnance he felt towards it; then during the interview with the doctor it rose into consciousness and swept every other thought away. The stream of consciousness was suddenly cut off, its place being taken by this new stream with its recollections and emotions, and when the ordinary consciousness resumed its flow there was no connection between it and the dramatic episode which had interrupted, so that all memory of the episode was lost.
We can picture the repressed complex not as lying in the unconscious but as forming a dissociated stream flowing parallel with the main one, and showing its presence by producing those apparently causeless fears and depressions from which the patient suffered, till it suddenly swept aside the main stream and took its place. This alternative view shows the absence of any sharp division between the concept of the unconscious and of a dissociated consciousness, and at the same time brings this _abrupt dissociation_ into harmony with continuous dissociation. Such a dissociation, but with less emotional contents, can persist for a long time, the subject living, as it were, the life of the dissociated stream. Then we have a man with no memory of his previous life, but whose repressed memories, desires, or troubles, forming a complex in the unconscious, have finally broken across the stream of consciousness and taken its place as a second personality. Such instances have been described as ‘double personalities’, and to this group belong those cases in which a man is found wandering with all memory of his name or associations gone. In soldiers with repressed war memories the repression may include the whole of their war experiences, and they can tell nothing of, say, a year spent in France; here, as long as the repression continues, there is the potentiality of the outbreak of a second personality.
[Footnote 5: See the _Psychology of Insanity_.]
The story of _Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde_, stripped of those portions which R. L. Stevenson introduced to make it suit his public–the bodily change and the drugs which produced it–can be read with interest as a study of the development of a dissociation, the main personality being aware of the dissociated stream but unable to control it when once the splitting-off had been accomplished.
A less fanciful story of a dissociation is given in _A Tale of Two Cities_, where the unfortunate Dr. Manette, having learnt shoemaking whilst a prisoner in the Bastille, insists on retaining his tools and material after he is rescued and brought to England, in times of stress secluding himself for a period and living his old life again, working at the old employment and hardly aware of the real world around him.
The source of the story might be made a subject of research by the Dickens Fellowship, for it is too accurate to be purely a fantasy of Charles Dickens, who, like all of his craft that live, was no mean psychologist. Even Dr. Manette’s insistence upon retaining his tools, unaware as he was of his own reason for doing so, is consistent with what really happens when a dissociated stream influences the personality.
The different degrees of dissociation can be represented diagramatically. (See opposite page.)
It is to be noted that the dissociation may be the result of purposive action on the part of the subject, though, as will be seen in later chapters, an entirely wrong interpretation may be given to it by the person most concerned and by other people as well; or it may be the result of a repression, and in that case any interpretation given by the subject must necessarily be a wrong one, for he is ignorant of its cause on account of the mechanism of repression, or, to put it differently, if he knows the cause it is no longer repressed.
[Illustration: Two streams of equal value and under the same control. Examples: The pianist and the motor-car driver. _A normal phenomenon_, but linked to the next class by cases of absent-mindedness.]
[Illustration: Two streams, one being the ordinary stream of consciousness and the other a stream not under the control of the main personality, which is concerned only with the ordinary stream. Examples: automatic writing, water-divining and hysteria (see Chapter VIII). _Continuous dissociation._]
[Illustration: A continuous dissociation with a sudden irruption of the dissociated into the main stream, completely replacing it for a period. Examples: The case of the ex-soldier and those of double personality; also somnambulisms and spiritualist trances. _Abrupt dissociation._]
Once again I will emphasise the difficulty of drawing a line between normal and abnormal. My boy guide referred to in Chapter I was as near normal as could be, though the means by which he kept his course might be described as a product of dissociation. If he had been imaginative and I credulous he could have foisted upon me a supernatural explanation of his powers and taken his place with clairvoyants and water-diviners. But there are manifestations of distinctly abnormal character to explain which is the object of this book, and for the people producing these manifestations I propose the name of Dissociates, since dissociation is the key to the understanding of the phenomena they present.
The logic-tight compartments previously described are to be regarded as partial dissociations to which we are all liable, the partitions being unrecognised by their owner and the contents kept apart from the modifying influences of the main personality. Hence when the onlooker becomes aware of the presence of such a dissociation he does not judge the contents of the compartment by the same standard that he applies to the person as a whole.
There is nothing fresh in this point of view, which is admitted when virulent political opponents can be good friends by each ignoring the dissociated prejudices of the other, or in everyday life when in some circles the discussion of political or religious subjects is avoided for the sake of good fellowship.
Extreme dissociation by reason of a logic-tight compartment is shown in that kind of insanity in which the sufferer behaves as an ordinary being with ordinary actions and ideas except for the influence of a systematised delusion (generally persecutory or grandiose) of most irrational type which is impregnable to explanation or argument. On all other points the man is sane, and the purely mental origin of the disease is suggested by his remaining in good health and without mental deterioration apart from the delusional system, in this respect differing greatly from the sufferers from most other forms of insanity. Some psychiatrists claim to have traced the delusions back to repressions that took place in early life.
[Footnote 6: For a fuller account of dissociation I would refer the reader to _The Psychology of Insanity_, by Dr. Bernard Hart, to which I am indebted for the form of some of my ideas. (Cambridge University Press.)]