To be sure, while no one can be hypnotized against his will, many a person is liable to accept suggestions from others and thus to carry out the wishes of others almost without knowing and certainly without willing that the other mind interfere with the interplay of the own motives. But if we were to strike out all suggestive influences from social life, we should give up social life itself. Suggestion is given wherever men come in contact; in itself it is neither good nor bad. The good resolution and the bad one can be suggested, the good example and the bad can be effective; both encouragement of the noble and imitation of the evil may work with the same mental technique. Certainly there are some persons who have a stronger influence than others on the imagination of those with whom they come in contact; their expression awakens confidence, their voice and their words reach deeper layers of the mind, their calmness and firmness overwhelm more easily the antagonistic ideas. But the chief difference lies after all in the different degrees of suggestibility among those who receive such impressions. The easily suggestible person cannot be protected by any interdict; he may catch suggestions everywhere, any advertisement in the newspaper and any display in the shop-window may overrun his own intentions. What he needs is training in firmness. The application of reinforced suggestion or even of hypnotism in the doctor’s office is even for him no possible source of danger.
On a higher level are objections which come from serious quarters and which are not without sympathy with true science. In recent times this opposition has repeatedly found eloquent expression. It is an objection from the standpoint of morality, belonging therefore entirely to the purposive view of the mind, but we have now reached a point where it is our duty to do justice to this purposive view too. As long as we discussed the problem entirely from the stand point of the physician, no other view of mental life except the causal one could be in question. As soon as we look at it from the standpoint of the community, it becomes our duty to bring the causal and the purposive view into harmony, and it would be narrow and short-sighted simply to draw the practical consequences of a naturalistic view of the mind without inquiring whether or not serious interests in the purposive sphere are injured. If there is moral criticism against suggestive therapy, it is the duty of the community to consider it. This opposition argues as follows: Hypnotic influence brings the patient under the will control of the hypnotizer and thus destroys his own freedom. Whatever the patient may reach in the altered states is reached without his own effort, while he is the passive receiver of the other man’s will. His achievement has therefore no moral value, and if he is really cured of his drunkenness or of his perverse habits, of his misuse of cocaine or of his criminal tendencies, he has lost the right to be counted a moral agent. It would be better if there were more suffering in the world than that the existence of the moral will should be undermined.
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