Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/365

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351
EDUCATION AND SELECTION.

seized me and drew me down. I cried out, and continued staggering over the whirling waters, till help came to me. The mere thought of vertigo provoked it. The board lying on the ground suggests no thought of a fall when you walk over it; but when it is over a precipice and the eye takes the measure of the distance to the bottom, the representation of a falling motion becomes intense, and the impulse to fall correspondingly so. Even if you are safe, there may still be what is called the attraction of the abyss. The vision of the gulf as a fixed idea, having produced an "inhibition" on all your ideas and forces, nothing is left but the figure of the great hole, with the intoxication of the rapid movement that begins in your brain and tends to turn the scales of the mental balance. Temptation, which is continual in children because everything is new to them, is nothing else than the force of an idea and the motive impulse that accompanies it.

The force of an idea is greater as the thought is more distinctly selected than others in the consciousness. This selection of an idea that becomes so exclusive that the whole consciousness is absorbed in it has been called monideism. The state is like that of a hypnotized person. The hypnotizer creates an intellectual void in the brain by inducing artificial sleep, and suggests a thought which, being alone and unhampered, is at once realized in movements; and hypnotic suggestion is nothing else than this artificial selection of a single idea to the exclusion of others. The same force of the idea prevails in natural somnambulism. The somnambulist no sooner thinks of anything than he performs it, with his hands and feet as well as with his brain. The movement of the overexcited brain is so lively and the resistance offered by the sleeping organs is so weak that the impulse is communicated to the limbs by the mere fact that it has been conceived. The kind of dream in which children sometimes live is not without some analogy with somnambulism. The fixed idea is another example of the same phenomenon which is produced in the waking state, and increasing may go on to monomania—a kind of unhealthy monideism. Children, having few thoughts, would be likely to have fixed ones, except for the mobility which perpetual novelty causes in them. In this way all the facts may be explained that are grouped under the name of auto-suggestion. Generalizing the law, we might say that every conceived idea is an auto-suggestion, the suggestive effect of which is counterbalanced only by other ideas producing a different auto-suggestion. This fact is especially exemplified in children, who execute very quickly what passes in their heads.

The force of example is likewise brought back to the communicative and selective force of all representation. In the same manner is explained the form of suggestion in which the idea