Psychology - Our Varying Selves
( Originally Published 1921 )
IT could hardly have been Stevenson the romancer who made Doctor Jekyll say: "It was on the moral side, and in my own person, that I learned to recognize the thorough and primitive duality of man; I saw that of the two natures that contended in the field of my consciousness, even if I could rightly be said to be either, it was only because I was radically both." Rather, this was Stevenson the observer of human nature, who in common with all great novelists, possessed much of psychology and a bit of philosophy for the reflective moments of his characters.
Howells has graphically described these varying selves in the same person through the observation of one of his characters in April Hopes. Mrs. Brinkley was speaking of the Pasmer family but with special reference to Alice Pasmer.
"`The Pasmers are the dullest and most selfish people in. the world,' she exclaimed.
"`Oh, I don't think that's her character,' said Miss Cotton, ruffling her feathers defensively.
" `Neither do I. She has no fixed character. No girl has. Nobody has. We all have twenty different characters—more characters than gowns—and put them on and take them off just as often for different occasions. I know you think each person is permanently this or that; but my experience is that half the time they're the other thing.' "
We all of us think that we know what the "self" is but the moment we try to describe it, difficulties arise and its various, contradictory characteristics become apparent. We readily distinguish between ourselves and other individuals. Our feelings, thoughts, interests, and emotions, generally, are also distinctive. They may be shared, to a certain extent, by others, but our own radiate a warmth that makes them personal. Here, too, diversity within the "self" becomes evident. Self-appreciation and ambition conflict with humility; material prosperity with social and ethical ideals; self-preservation, or its more modern counterpart, self-advancement, with the rights of others. Perhaps, though, it is in action, the outward expression of our varying and conflicting emotions, that the contradictory character of the "self" is most noticeable. "I was not myself when I did that," is a frequent excuse; and this defense has passed over into law in the distinction between premeditated and unpremeditated homicide. At times the variations pass beyond the normal and an individual exhibits peculiarities so diverse that they have no common bond, not even that of memory connecting the varying selves. It is the intention of the writer to consider only normal variations, except for one case of peculiar interest because it approaches the parting of the ways.
Just because people are prone to think themselves more consistent than they are and because the opinion is rather prevalent that only under pathological conditions do varying personalities dwell side by side in the same individual and reveal themselves successively, just for that reason a survey of alternating selves in the same person seems profitable. All is grist that comes to your mill if you once begin to consider this question—all literature, history, biography, your friends, neighbors, and family. Even the crowned heads of Europe offer a crop for the garnering. Some recompense for the effort may be a quickened understanding of human nature and a keener appreciation of its incongruities and consequent frailties.
A bit of reflection will soon convince us that we are a strange composite of selves. No one can be labelled and tagged for any length of time. No one completely reveals himself at any moment. Proverbs such as "You must eat a peck of salt with a man before you know him" indicate that the experience of the race confirms this human characteristic. Sometimes we reveal alternately different or conflicting selves. Again, we possess two selves struggling for the mastery, either consciously or unconsciously. The self may change with physical conditions, fatigue, age, environment, companions, ambition, and mood.
We may dismiss briefly the influence of physical well-being and fatigue. The familiar amiability after a good dinner and the distorted mental vision due to fatigue or pain are generally recognized, and the necessity of reckoning with these factors has become axiomatic. Just how far the control of the self is possible and what its relation to conduct is will be touched upon later. But first let us turn to some of the many types of personalities that refuse to fit into an orderly scheme and yet are not unusual.
General George B. McClellan's Own Story' contains excellent illustrations of two or three of the twenty characters that Mrs. Brinkley thinks every one has. "I pray every night and every morning that I may become neither de-pressed by disaster nor elated by success, and that I may keep one single object in view—the good of my country." Compare this humility with the attitude expressed in the following passages in which modesty has entirely vanished and his view of himself is immensely enlarged. "Had the measures recommended" [by himself] "been carried into effect the war would have been closed in less than one-half the time and with infinite saving of blood and treasure." And, besides, he tells us of the acknowledgment of generous enemies "that they feared me more than any of the northern generals, and that I had struck them harder blows when in the full prime of their strength." 3 There is even evidence that he so far forgot "the good of my country" as to permit thoughts of a dictatorship to flash through his mind; but perhaps this was another way of saving the country from the inefficiency of the other generals. "How these brave fellows love me," he is reported 1 to have said to one very near to him, "and what a power their love places in my hands ! What is there to prevent my taking the government into my hands?" Could one ask for two more widely varying selves? Yet each was apparently unaware of the existence of the other. A study of McClellan's life has convinced the writer that he was earnestly desirous of serving his country at the cost of any personal sacrifice and that the other self—the self-aggrandizement—came into no noticeable conflict with his self-sacrificing loyalty.
Sometimes the two sets of ideas or beliefs are more clearly contradictory. People with such conflicts, like those of the McClellan type, are not aware of the contra-diction because the two systems of thought flow along in parallel streams without overflowing their banks and mingling with one another. Stanton seems at times to have exhibited even more striking contradictions. In a letter to Dana, written in February, 1862, he exclaimed: "Much has been said of military combinations and of organizing victory. I hear such phrases with apprehension. They commenced in infidel France with the Italian campaigns and resulted in Waterloo. Who can organize victory? Who can combine the elements of success on the battlefield? We owe our recent victories to the Spirit of the Lord that moved our soldiers to rush into battle and filled the hearts of our enemies with dismay." This is interesting from one who devoted tireless energy to organizing victory. "From the moment he took hold of the war machine, he saw that every part was in order, so that his own work and others' work would not be thrown away. And back of the labor, the system, the insight, was the animating soul, an enormous, driving energy, which thrust right on through obstacles and difficulties, would not yield, would not falter, would not turn back. . . . The very life and heart of the war depends on railroads. Stan-ton sees it and gets men like Haupt and McCallum out of civil life to do feats of engineering which command the admiration not of America only, but of the world." 1 This does not look like trusting to the " Spirit of the Lord that moved our soldiers to rush into battle and filled the hearts of our enemies with dismay.
Sir John Hawkins offers another illustration of this contradiction of ideas and beliefs. His love for his fellow sailors led him to devote his fortune to founding a hospital for indigent sailors. Yet this fortune was made in the slave traffic in which on his own boats and with his knowledge the most atrocious cruelties were practised, the slaves being treated far worse than cattle. Again as we have found, people of some scientific knowledge, who surely realize the supreme importance of human life, are misled by an orgy of sentimental sympathy through the phrase "cruelty to animals," to oppose animal experimentation for the relief of human suffering. As an in-stance of the curious separation of personalities in some of these people, Havelock Ellis remarks: "I have often noted with interest that a passionate hatred of pain inflicted on animals is apt to be accompanied by a comparative indifference to pain inflicted upon human beings, and sometimes a certain complaisance, even pleasure, in such pain." The truth of this observation is supported by a news item in the daily press immediately after the Halifax explosion. "R. H. Murray, Chairman of the Animal Relief Committee," the communication says, "announced today the receipt of a telegraphic contribution of $1,000 from the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The gift, which is to be used in caring for animals injured or made home-less by the disaster, came as a great surprise to Mr. Murray and was deeply appreciated. The Massachusetts Society has also sent two of its trained agents to assist in the animal relief work." And this money was sent for the relief of homeless animals when men, women, children, and babies were dying of cold and hunger, when human beings were suffering indescribable agony from their injuries, and sufficient money could not be obtained to relieve the anguish. Yet these good people are not by nature brutal. It is just an amazing exhibition of two selves which are not allowed to intermingle so as to make one consistent self.
Turning to a different type of varying selves, there are people who, though well aware of the bacterial origin of certain diseases, believe that bacteria can be thought out of the body. And they would also treat the wounded bodies of soldiers by the action of the mind. As though bullet-holes in heart and lungs could be closed by thoughts ! Yet these persons accept scientific values in other matters than bodily injuries. They recognize cause and effect in the external world. And their manner of reasoning, when out of hearing of their enticing siren, is quite up to the average.
The same irreconcilable conflict not infrequently exists between altruistic and business ideas. A man may be hard and even cruel in his business dealings yet give generously to philanthropic organizations and to his church. The recent investigation of vice in Baltimore is an extreme illustration. The report of the commission has not been published. It is doubtful if it ever will be, because it would expose the double personality of too many men high in business, social, and religious life.
Not long ago a $6,000-a-year manager of a large company, who was accused of being the leader of a gang of highway robbers, suddenly rose in court at his trial in Brooklyn and cried: "I am guilty. I have lived two lives, a respectable one and that of a highwayman." When he sat down the other defendant, an auditor of another large corporation, arose and said that he also wished to plead guilty.
An exceptionally convincing illustration of the business self, as distinct from the social and religious selves, is given by Al Jennings as a part of his experience as a convict in the Ohio penitentiary.
"One day as I was driving my machine a well-dressed man stepped up beside me and watched the nuts hammering out into the box. I recognized him; he had an interest in the contract.
"'What is the capacity of this machine?' he asked.
"` Fourteen pounds an hour, sir,' I replied. I quote this and the following figures from memory, I may have them wrong.
"`How many pounds do you turn out ?' he proceeded. "`Sometimes only eleven, sometimes as much as thirteen,' I replied.
"`If you'll speed this machine up without breaking it I'll give you a quarter of a cent a pound for every pound you make over ten,' he said. That meant perhaps ten cents a day—only a little, but it gave me an object in life. No free man understands what that means to a fourth-class convict.
"The nut-machine was a delicate thing, and must be sped up cautiously. Twisting a screw a sixtieth part of an inch too far might smash all the tools on the head-block. I nursed it like a baby, and ran it almost to capacity. By the end of the month I had earned—if I remember right—something more than two dollars. On payday I presented myself in line for the money. The clerk stared at me—he couldn't find my name on the list.
"I complained to the general manager of our shop. He looked sorry for me as he said:
"`I don't want to hear any more about that. He did it to prove that you could speed up the machine. It's an old trick."
It may be said that this contractor could not have been a respected member of good society but, unfortunately, the facts of this and other similar cases do not justify this view. Such men often have good intentions but they do not allow their moral ideas to overlap and disturb their business methods. They would be uncomfortable if they did. Consequently, ideas arrange themselves so as to cause the least possible discomfort. This is a phase of man's unconscious adaptation to his environment. It is the mental side of the adaptation. Like the lower animals, man recoils from the unpleasant and seeks that which produces an agreeable feeling. So far as his thoughts are concerned this is accomplished by allowing them to arrange themselves in more or less isolated systems of ideas which, as it were, constitute separate personalities different selves.
An instance of isolated systems of thought is reported of Charles Sumner. A poor woman whose claim had been rejected by the Senate was asked why she did not take it to Sumner, the senator from her State. "Oh, sir," she replied, "I did, but really, sir, Mr. Sumner takes no interest in claims unless they be from black people." 2 Gideon Wells, speaking in a similar vein, once said: "Sumner would not only free the slaves, but elevate them above their former masters, yet, with all his studied philanthropy and love for the negroes in the abstract" [he] "is unwilling to fellowship with them, though he thinks he is."'
In the instances given above it would seem as if the contradictory natures existed without even a struggle in the consciousness of the person. There is, however, another group in which two selves fight for supremacy. Now one gains the upper hand, and now the other. He in whom the contest is waging may not even know that any-thing is happening. His ability to know himself depends largely upon his sense of humor, or, which comes to the same thing in the present instance, upon his capacity to take as impersonal and objective a view of his own actions as he gets of those of others. If he can stand off and look at himself he may see the jokc or the tragedy.
H. G. Wells, in his picturesque way, describes two of these opposing selves as they manifested themselves in Mr. Britling. "This double refraction of his mind," he says, "by which a concentrated and individualized Britling did but present a larger impersonal Britling beneath, carried with it a duplication of his conscience and sense of responsibility. To his personal conscience he was answer-able for his private honor and his debts, and the Dower House he had made, and so on, but to his impersonal con-science he was answerable for the whole world. The world from the latter point of view was his egg. He had a subconscious delusion that he had laid it. He had a sub-conscious suspicion that he had let it cool and that it had addled. He had an urgency to incubate it. The variety and interest of his talk was largely due to that persuasion; it was a perpetual attempt to spread his mental feathers over the whole task before him." 2 After Mr. Britling had lain awake for a long time one night, worried almost to distraction about the troubles of England and his own affairs, including his pleasant though naughty little love intrigues, he suddenly threw back the bedclothes, felt for the matches on his bedside table, "lit the stove and then strolled to his desk. He was going to write certain `Plain words about Ireland.' He lit his study lamp and meditated about it until a sound of water boiling called him to his tea-making.
"He returned to his desk stirring the lemon in his glass of tea. He would write the plain common sense of this Irish situation. He would put things so plainly that this squabbling folly would have to cease. It should be done austerely, with a sort of ironical directness. There should be no abuse, no bitterness, only a deep passion of sanity.
"What is the good of grieving over a smashed auto-mobile?
"The next morning Mr. Britling came into Mr. Direck's room. He was pink from his morning's bath. . . . In the bath room he had whistled like a bird. `Had a good night?' he said. `That's famous. So did I."
Victor Hugo once said that at times he felt two natures struggling within him, and Al Jennings, the reformed train-robber, in commenting upon this, says: "I worked that out for myself before I ever heard of Hugo. Only I believe that in me those two natures are more widely separated than in most men. I kept the better nature dominant until the killing of my brother Ed. From then on the worst nature ruled my actions. Now, with my new hope, I found the worst nature going down and the better coming up. It didn't happen all at once. I had my bad days, when I felt the yearnings to break loose and run amuck. But I managed to control these impulses, and, as time went on, they became weaker and less frequent."
Apropos of our struggling natures, reference may be made to Elbert Hubbard, who represents a phase of human psychology by no means rare. His early literary experience was the agony of failure. He besieged the leading magazines but his manuscripts were always rejected. "Strange," says one of his reviewers, "that no editor had the intelligence to appreciate Hubbard," with his wit and dash and originality. "Then there would have been no `Philistine' and no `gospel of protest,' and none of those very Roycrofty jokes." His better self, perhaps his real self, would have persisted. But in his bitter disappointment the other self appeared.
After a man is dead it is comparatively easy to estimate him with calmness and justice. The fact that he cannot talk back and defend himself urges even his bitterest enemies to fairness. During the life of Fra Elbertus the best that one commonly heard said of him was that he was original, witty, and a great advertising success. Of the unbeautiful things said, there were many. According to one writer,! Mr. Harry Taber was the author of "A Message to Garcia." The sage of Aurora, as Mr. Hartt tells the story, received the manuscript for publication, "wrote an introductory paragraph, a conclusion, and an occasional interpolation, and published the essay over his own signature." A fair-sized volume could be filled with other unlovely acts reputed to this exponent of beauty.
"On the other hand," continues Mr. Hartt, "I have listened as cordially to accounts of the man's nobler side. From a lady formerly employed at the Roycroft Shop I learned that he had times of bitter repentance and would go and hide in a hut where no one was allowed to come near him. She believed, just as I do now, that there were two Elbert Hubbards, both real, with a frightful warfare between them. It was a real Elbert who took the thread-bare clergyman to Chicago, and befriended the ex-convict, and preached a glowing idealism even after the highly peculiar circumstances attending his divorce and re-marriage. It was a real Elbert who announced himself as the `American successor of William Morris,' while exploiting the sort of woman who would `pay twenty dollars a volume for a book like that.' It was a real Elbert who won the undying loyalty of his admirers. I recall a letter that said hotly: `How can you traduce that good and great man?'
"Good? Yes, doubtless—better than most of us; capable of generous purposes and fine deeds; tearing his hair over his weaknesses; wishing to God he were rid of them; and yet lacking the moral vigor that would have destroyed them root and branch.
"At the same time give him credit for a courage, rare in our day, to stand up for his ideals in the very face of his known failures. Most men, exposed as he was exposed, and he continued diligently to expose himself, would have shut up about sweetness and light and the life beautiful. Hubbard refused to. If he could not be what his best self earnestly wanted to be he could fight in behalf of his best self's aspirations, nevertheless, and it was not hypocrisy." But his pretensions made him very vulnerable.
The struggle of a suppressed self for expression takes various forms in different persons. In Hubbard, if Mr. Hartt has rightly interpreted him, it was a moral revolt. After his failure to get a hearing in the leading magazines, the business self, with which he was richly endowed, emerged with all its unloveliness. Hubbard understood human nature well enough to know that people enjoy a fight so long as they are safe within the sidelines. So he conceived the idea of a magazine of protest, striking at whatever the multitude would enjoy seeing hit. And there are many such things especially if one uses vague phrases which arouse emotional effervescence instead of thought.
Turning aside from varying types of personality, let us consider briefly some of the explanatory influences. Growth, of course, always brings the changes of development and advancing years; but these alterations do not exhibit contradictions. The differing selves of maturity, however, which alternate with more or less regularity are a composite product of the natural endowment of the individual and the social or commercial environment, the surrounding opinions, and the apparent demand for certain views or actions. The result is a consciously or unconsciously simulated attitude which finally becomes so fixed that the original personality reveals itself only when the man is taken off his guard, as in the case of one who tries to act a part, or, when the better impulses of a weak man with high ideals occasionally assert themselves in opposition to the pressure of environmental influence.
Environing conditions are probably quite as responsible for the behavior of other men as they seem to have been in the case of Jennings. It is not correct to say that "every man has his price," but psychology forces us to admit the all but resistless power and final triumph of the summation of stimuli, or, which comes to the same thing in the present instance, of impressions from the outside world. Constant dropping finally wears away the stone, and the nervous system is not less easily affected. It is, of course, an intricately complex process, and the influence of the forces that contribute to the final response of a human being cannot even be estimated, much less measured. Racial factors are continually in evidence. They constitute the undercurrent that always influences the flow of thought, and hence play a hidden role in action. In emotional vortices, when thoughts run madly round and round, these racial tendencies rise to the surface and sweep ideals aside. In calmer moments the individual's past life, his convictions and aspirations assert themselves, but in stress and strain it is a contest between the forces of the racial self and the teachings and habits of the individual.
In moral actions a man's better self, his family heredity and early education, at first assert themselves, but, after a long period of continuous battering, the stimuli from lower ideals are usually victorious. Defaulting bank cashiers rarely, if ever, take large sums of money at the outset. They begin with small amounts which they confidently expect to return. Soon, however, the resistance lessens, and then the final defalcation, with its accompanying publicity and ruin, follows. Only the strongest characters can withstand the effect of summation of stimuli. It is probably this fact in human psychology which Stevenson had observed that led him to make Doctor Jekyll say: "All things therefore seemed to point to this: that I was slowly losing hold of my original and better self, and becoming slowly incorporated with, my second and worse."
One cannot help wondering whether this continuous battering of the stimuli of political life is the explanation of the two selves manifested by Seward, if Frederic Ban-croft's estimate' of him is correct. Speaking of the two "voices" to which Seward was always listening—radicalism and conservatism, aggression and caution, thoughtful disinterested statesmanship and opportunism, lofty patriotism and self-advancement, his biographer says: "Seward continued to hear the two voices—in fact, he continued to act two distinct roles. It was John Quincy Adams Seward who uttered the telling phrases and made the severe arraignments and was the hope of the radicals like Gerrit Smith, Theodore Parker, and, at times, of the Garrisonians. . . . On the other hand, Thurlow Weed Seward kept in close relations with the party organization; he watched the plans of the politicians, changed the pro-gram to suit conditions, and tried to win all classes of men. Adams Seward was ardently antislavery and expected to live in history as a great philanthropist. Weed Seward was determined to control the patronage and to live in the White House. . . . A statesman in character and purpose, he was yet a consummate opportunist. . . . However, nothing of which absolute knowledge is impossible is more certain than that he was never consciously inconsistent."
As we have already shown, no one is composed of just one set of ideals converging toward a definite, conscious end. A man wishes to be honest and upright, straight-forward and fair; but he also desires to have the money needed to make a good appearance in society; to realize his ideals is the way he sometimes puts it to himself. These social aspirations occasion the impressions and thoughts that, as opportunity offers, lead to attempts to secure their fulfilment. If the man is well-meaning, as most men are, he continues to justify his actions to himself on the ground that it is good business, is not illegal, or it will enable him to benefit his fellow men. Here, among others, belong those to whom the end justifies the means. They do not put it in that way. Indeed, they would deny such a utilitarian thought. But the good as these men see it, is the supreme thing and they are the ones appointed to achieve the result. Some of these are the strong characters who override law. They are the beneficent monarchs, either in reality or in thought, in their little realms.
In this group is the German Kaiser, who regards himself as the viceroy of God, and consequently incomparably superior to those of common clay unilluminated by the divine spark. In a speech at Koenigsberg, in 1910, he said: "Considering myself as the instrument of the Lord, without being misled by the views and opinions of the day, I go my way alone for the prosperity and peaceful development of our fatherland." And, again: "It is a tradition of our house that we, the Hohenzollerns, are appointed by God to govern and to lead the people whom it is given us to rule, for their well-being and the advancement of their material and intellectual interests."
The Kaiser's attitude toward those who dare to disagree with him to whom God has transmitted his wisdom throws an illuminating side-light upon his self. Shortly after his accession "he was requested to sign a judicial sentence committing to prison one of his subjects who had been found guilty of hinting something disrespectful about his sovereign. William was genuinely amazed that such an unnatural crime could ever have been committed. He read and re-read the papers in the case with the closest attention; and finally said to the waiting official: `It would seem that this man hitherto has not been a criminal —son of respectable parents, himself in a respectable walk of life, with a good education. And yet—how do you explain this?—this insult to the Anointed of the Lord? Strange ! Strange!'
At another time, "after reading a speech of the Socialist leader, Bebel, containing some animadversions upon him-self, he turned to the officer in attendance, with clouded brow and flashing eye, and remarked in a voice trembling with passion: `And all this to me! To me! What is the country coming to?"
The Kaiser's two selves have been analyzed by one of his devoted admirers .3 "He loves pomp, but his children are reared with bourgeois simplicity. . . . He is a. mystic and a rationalist. . . . He is the legitimate offspring of Romanticism and Modernity. Of his two natures, one belongs to the twentieth century; one to the Middle Ages. One is despotic; one democratic. . . . One talks freely, perhaps too freely; one is silent as the sepulchre, and secretive as the Inquisition. . . . There are two Kaisers, both of whom labor for the benefit of the realm, each in his separate way, unconscious of heterogeneous intentions."
The following letter by William H. Seward also reveals the belief, though considerably diluted, that he alone discerned the right and had the wisdom and power to execute it. "The President is determined that he will have a compound Cabinet, and that it shall be peaceful, and even permanent. I was at one time on the point of refusing—nay, I did refuse, for a time, to hazard myself in the experiment. But a distracted country appeared before me, and I withdrew from that position. I believe that I can endure as much as anyone; and maybe I can endure enough to make the experiment successful. At all events, I did not dare go home or to England, and leave the country to chance."
Others, in whom the thought of benefiting those whom a wise Providence has put in their charge is not so strong, drift less consciously. Impressions affect them more easily. They are not so vociferous in proclaiming their virtues. But all must justify their actions to themselves. The tramp does it, and the bank president, who is laying away a snug little sum by means perhaps not altogether illegal, does it.
"Why should I work ?" said a tramp to the writer. "If I work, I get only a living. My employer will keep the rest of what I produce, and I can get my living without working. Besides, I do not help to make others rich." Indeed, so human is this need for self-justification that men who talk continuously about uplifting others should be held under suspicion. They are talking to themselves quite as much as to others. They are trying to satisfy their consciences. They have not yet reached the stage of hypocrisy of which Samuel Butler spoke when he said that "no man is a great hypocrite until he has left off knowing that he is a hypocrite."
The environment includes much within its sphere of influence. Opinions, for example, are a part of it, and opinions are conspicuously temporal and Iocal; and they constitute a by no means insignificant part of the "self" of acquaintances as we know them. If one who has always been admirably conventional and never indulged in the foolish practices of reflection so destructive to authority and respectability suddenly becomes an enthusiast for reform, he is said to be "beside himself." He has altered his personality so completely as to be no longer recognizable except through the face that clothes his thoughts. But opinions and beliefs are a matter of time and place. Like the cut of clothes they are settled by fashion. Some time ago the opinion of a large body of respectable men in England held that "in a free nation where slaves are not allowed of, the surest wealth consists in a multitude of laborious poor; for, besides that, they are the never-failing nursery of fleets and armies, without them there could be no enjoyment, and no product of any country could be valuable. To make the society happy and people easy under the meanest circumstances, it is requisite that great numbers should be ignorant as well as poor. Knowledge both enlarges and multiplies our desires, and the fewer things man wishes for, the more easily his necessity may be supplied."
These men probably would not know themselves in their antiquated opinions, were they alive today; so vital a part of one's "self" are one's opinions. Yet men are not aware that there is anything peculiar and personal about their views. This is a phase of the psychology of the "self." One's opinions are so clearly true that they require no demonstration. Indeed, as that keen observer of human nature, Samuel Butler, once said: "We hold most strongly to what we are least capable of demonstrating.
National customs and tastes offer a further illustration. They constitute an integral part of the self even though they are shared by one's fellow countrymen. According to Robert Louis Stevenson, when the Prince of Wales's marriage was celebrated in Mentone by a dinner to the Mentonese, the dishes of the country were pronounced impossible by the British managers, and the guests were served with roast beef and plum-pudding and "no tomfoolery."
Allied to the alterations in personality through opinions are the changes that come from growth and development. Children have their peculiarities of self of which adults have no knowledge except as it is imparted by a sympathetic understanding of the ways of childhood. So strangely unreal to the mature are the fantastic day-dreams of youngsters that they seem like tales from Gulliver's Travels when related by Kenneth Grahame and Coningsby Dawson. Yet these imaginings make up a large part of ' the selves of children. They live the lives they picture, experience the adventures of their fancy, and fear the terrors conjured up by their instincts and forebodings.
"Funny thing," said Michael to Chator, in Compton Mackenzie's Youth's Encounter, "I have a queer feeling just after sunset, a sort of curious dampness inside me. Do you ever have it?"
"I only have it when you start me off," said Chator. "But it goes when we sing . . . anything holy."
"Yes, it does with me," Michael agreed dubiously. `But if I drive it away it comes back in the middle of the night. I have all sorts of queer feelings. Sometimes I feel as if there wasn't any me at all, and I'm surprised to see a letter come addressed to me. But when I see a letter I've written, I'm still more surprised. Do you have that feeling? Then often I feel as if all we were doing or saying at a certain moment had been done or said before. Then at other times I have to hold on to a tree or hurt myself with something just to prove I'm there. And then sometimes I think nothing is impossible for me. I feel absolutely great as if I were Shakespeare. Do you ever have that feeling?"
This feeling of unreality is not so common with adults, but President Wilson is reported to have said, in his address at the National Press Club: "I really feel at times as if I were masquerading when I catch a picture of myself in some printed description. In between things that I have to do as a public officer, I never think of myself as the President of the United States, because I never have had any sense of being identified with that office."
Returning, however, to the feelings of childhood, a change comes, not suddenly but gradually. The nervous system needs time to develop. Functional connections between nerve-centres must be made. It is necessary to speak guardedly in ascribing definite changes to the nervous system as development proceeds, because known facts do not justify positive assertions. It is, however, a matter of general observation, as well as of scientific knowledge, that, in animals, growth in complexity of the nervous system keeps pace with increase of intelligence. Functional response is also elaborated. Animals low in the scale respond to fewer stimuli, and the excitations are interpreted in limited, definite ways. Far down the scale, movement in objects means but one thing. It is the stimulus for flight. Higher up, with dogs, for example, it may mean either to flee or approach, and with man the possible interpretations are much more numerous. The nervous receptors, in the course of evolution, have become adapted to one kind of stimulus, but the interpretation of this stimulus alters and becomes richer as the child grows into the adult. Time for maturation of nerve-elements is evidently needed. To what extent, if at all, new fibres appear after early childhood, is difficult to say. Certain investigators' seem to have found a new growth at about seventeen or eighteen years of age. At any rate, there is no doubt that new paths are opened and functional connections established. The nervous system of the boy of nine who, when his mother was dressing him in his best clothes for a trip on a steamboat, remarked sadly, "I thought we were going out to have a good time," is different from that of the same boy at fourteen who, for such an excursion, selects his necktie with scrupulous care.
Sometimes these changes in the self appear to come suddenly, but that is because whatever produces the alteration of personality of childhood and youth is going on below the surface. Observation usually detects the transition, but at times the adequate stimulus which would reveal the man in the youth has not been at hand. When,. under these circumstances, the stimulus is applied abruptly, the unexpected reaction is startling both to the actor and the one who calls forth the response. Then the break seems to be sudden and, in a moment, the child becomes a man. Boys who have endured many minor indignities with childish submission flare up with the unexpected anger and resistance of maturity when the insult passes the limit of forbearance. Arnold Bennett gives a good illustration in a scene between Edwin and his father, Darius, in Clay hanger.
"Darius turned on him glaring: `I'm trying to get at where ye got the brass from to buy them three books as I saw last night. Where did ye get it from? There's nowt wrong here, unless ye're a mighty lot cleverer than I take ye for. Where did ye get it from ? Ye don't mean to tell me as ye saved it up!'
"Edwin had had some shocks in his life. This was the greatest. He could feel his cheeks and his hands growing dully hot, and his eyes smarting; and he was suddenly animated by an almost murderous hatred and an inexpressible disgust for his father, who in the grossness of his perceptions and his notions had imagined his son to be a thief. `Loathsome beast!' he thought savagely.
"`What do you mean by calling me a thief ?' Edwin and Darius were equally startled by this speech.. . .
"`Let me come out!' Edwin shouted. They were very close together. Darius saw that his son's face was all drawn. Edwin snatched his hat off its hook, pushed violently past his father and, sticking his hands deep into his pocket, strode into the street."
Perhaps it is just as well to pass from early life to its close. This is an especially happy method in the present instance because a passage from the unfinished autobiography of Robert Louis Stevenson pictures in his inimitable way the terminus to which life sweeps us on. The selves of childhood and of youth have a common characteristic —the wide range of their possibilities, their uncertainty. Much is written to interpret the thoughts, emotions, and actions of children, but those of old age appear less difficult to describe. Probably this is because the course of life narrows as the end is approached. The destinations of different persons, so far as the characteristics of the self are concerned, bear a striking resemblance to one another, and, except in rare instances, the same comments would give an accurate description of each. Stevenson was not an old man at his death, but persistent ill health had much the same effect as advanced years. The sketch that he draws is the self of an old man touched with the quaint humor that the artist did not lose even when too weak to finish his drawing.
"I have the more interest in beginning these memoirs where and how I do, because I am living absolutely alone in San Francisco, and because from two years of anxiety and, according to the doctors, a touch of malaria, I may say I am almost changed into another character. After weeks in this city, I know only a few neighboring streets; I seem to be cured of my adventurous whims, and even of human curiosity; and am content to sit here by the fire and await the course of fortune. Indeed, I know myself no longer; and as I am changed in heart, I hope I have the more chance to look back impartially on all that has come and gone heretofore."
People calculate human equations from the conditions given in their own selves. This is true of all ages. One's ideas and classifications are the known factors and the points of departure. Those who hold views that radiate from a different centre are excentric. The self, with its organized beliefs, is so sufficient and compelling that one cannot conceive easily of other selves constructed out of different thoughts. Either such selves are made out of poor material or else they do not exist at all. In the latter case one spreads one's own self to cover the ideas and experiences of others. The best example that I have been able to find is an instance related by Nathaniel P. Langford in Vigilante Days and Ways. Mr. Langford, in company with Samuel T. Hauser, afterward governor of Montana, was making a trip from Bannock to Salt Lake City in a Mormon "freighter." To while away the dreary monotony of the journey Langford recited to Hauser Milton's description of the meeting of Satan and Death at the Gates of Hell. The Mormon driver was observed to give close attention to the stirring passage, and soon after they had camped for the night he was overheard saying to a brother teamster: "I tell you, the youngest of those men in my wagon, the one that always carries that double-barrelled shotgun, is a powerful talker. I heard him harangue t'other one today for half an hour, and he talked mighty fine. He can overlay Orson Hyde and Par-ley Pratt, both, and I rather think it would trouble Brigham Young to say nicer things. And, after all, he had pretty much the same ideas that we have."
Curious ways the self has ! Strange inconsistencies ! Our town or city is so much a part of our selves that, though we criticise it severely to one another, we become indignant the moment an outsider says anything against it. Our friends, also, are a part. of our selves. If they are not appreciated by others it is a personal matter. Indeed, we deny and justify to others the very faults that are admitted in private.
The members of our family, of course, are an integral part of our self. And here a curious attitude sometimes discloses itself. It is a feeling of resentment and, at times, of jealousy at the regard or affection shown by another for a son or brother. Of course one wants one's relatives appreciated, but intimacy is resented, not infrequently, as a curtailment of one's "self." Stranger still, when, though the intimacy is unpleasant for social reasons, and one is anxious that it cease, denial of affection may, again, arouse indignation. It is a reflection on that part of one's "self" represented by the members of one's family. For how can others fail to share one's own regard? Yet in-difference is desired. Galsworthy gives a splendid illustration in his Country House.
Mrs. Pendyce was much disturbed over the attention which her son George was showing Mrs. Bellew. She was sure that Mrs. Bellew was to blame—the other one always is—and she called upon her to say that the friendly relations must end. But Mrs. Bellew's frank confession that she was tired of George and did not love him, was a shock and, because of the impossibility of such indifference to her son it aroused Mrs. Pendyce's anger.
"Mrs. Pendyce stammered:
"'I don't understand."
"Mrs. Bellew looked her in the face and smiled; and as she smiled she seemed to become a little coarser.
"'Well, I think it's quite time you did. I don't love your son. I did once, but I don't now. I told him so yesterday, once for all.'
"Mrs. Pendyce heard these words, which made so vast, so wonderful a difference—words which should have been like water in a wilderness—with a sort of horror, and all her spirit flamed up into her eyes.
"`You don't love him?' she cried.
"She felt only a blind sense of insult and affront.
"This woman tire of George ! Tire of her son ! She looked at Mrs. Bellew, on whose face was a kind inquisitive compassion, with eyes that had never before held hatred.
"`You have tired of him? You have given him up? Then the sooner I go to him the better ! Give me the address of his rooms, please.'"
Intentional adoption of a personality for provisional effect is, of course, common. Such play-acting multiplies the self—at least there exists a real and a seeming self. But this stage effect usually involves a partial self-deception. Indeed, the ease with which man deceives himself is an interesting human trait. By feigning what they are not, people come to acquire an assurance of being what they assume. They act the part and through deceiving themselves think that they deceive others. Pretense of youthfulness, for example, by women advanced in years is a never-failing source of amusement to those who see below the surface of the color-mixture. At times this self-deception takes another form, as in the case of a Pittsburg congregation whose pastor requested the women to remove their hats so as not to obstruct the view of those in the rear. Only a few complied. But the pastor, knowing something of human psychology, quickly added: "My re-quest, of course, does not apply to elderly ladies. I hope, however, that the young women will do me the favor." In a moment every woman in the church had removed her hat.
This adoption of a make-believe personality originates in the human belief that others do not see what one tries to hide from oneself. But it is interesting to observe that it is also an adaptation to the tendency to accept a man at his face value—at his own appraisal of himself. This is true, of course, only of certain individuals. It depends upon the skill with which the man carries the part. Either he must be thoroughly convinced that he is the character which he assumes or else he must be a consummate actor. Suggestion plays its part here, and the carrying power of a suggestion is largely determined by the confidence and self-assurance of the performer. Nevertheless, the number who succeed is sufficiently large to establish a rule of action for social and business charlatans. The ease with which bankers are deceived by personal appearance and demeanor is often a matter of comment. Yet it is a part of their training to assume that a stranger is not what he represents himself to be.
Which is the true self in this contest of personalities? It is not always easy to say. The more worldly self, when in power, gloats over its conquests, and the more spiritual, in turn, laments its weakness. A man may have failed to realize his higher aspirations and have yielded to the lower impulses in his efforts to get on in the world. Every one knows of ambulance-chasers and quacks who started out with good intentions. Conversation with a number of these has convinced the writer that some of them, at any rate, are not altogether at peace of mind. A view of the reverse side of the picture is not so easily obtained, because it is much easier to fall than to rise, but a number of years ago a physician began deliberately as an advertising quack, became disgusted with himself, dropped his work, graduated from a high-grade medical school, and is now one of the leading surgeons of his State.
We have been trying to discover the motives underlying variations of the self—to indicate a few of the explanatory influences, and we have found them numerous and, in many instances, obscure. Man seems to be a reservoir of possibilities that is drawn upon by the environment. Of course every one has his individual limitations, but within his range the combination of qualities that make him what he is seems countless. "I think thoughts worth while-when in his presence," is not an uncommon remark of those who usually think in terms of conventional ecstasy. In society it is difficult to recognize the stern man of affairs or the thoughtful moralist. All of what a recent writer has called "instinctive idiocies" comes to the surface. Here the philosopher revels in verbal luxury, and the man who, among the thoughtful, is noted for the prominence of his imperception draws on the unearned increment of his reputation. Among roues, on the other hand, many a man soaked in respectability and yellow with the golden pollen of countless virtues becomes one of "the boys." His moral principles, swollen almost to bursting, are temporarily laid aside to be brought out again at a favorable juncture of the stars, when they will win creditable admiration.
We have been considering the varying selves as they occur in every-day life. An instance has recently been made known, however, that is of special interest because it is on the border-line between the normal variations commonly observed and the abnormal. William Sharp's two selves have been described in the absorbingly interesting book by his wife.' The condition is unusual for adults, but in no other sense abnormal; and the vivid reality of his second self is not uncommon in children?
With William Sharp, the moral or intellectual revolt. which we have observed in some of the other cases did not. exist. His other self was rather the cry of hunger from a starved soul. How real this alternating personality was may be gathered from a letter of Mr. Yeats. "Fiona Macleod was a secondary personality—as distinct a secondary personality as those one reads about in books of psychical research. At times he (W. S.) was really to all intents and purposes a different being." He would "come and sit down by my fireside and talk, and I believe that when `Fiona Macleod' left the house he would have no recollection of what he had been saying to me."
The vivid earnestness of Fiona evidently led Mr. Yeats into the error of thinking that amnesia existed between the two personalities. As a matter of fact this is not necessary even in abnormal cases. "It is true, as I have said," writes his wife, "that William Sharp seemed a different person when the Fiona mood was on him; but that he had no recollection of what was said in that mood was not the case. That he did not understand it, is true. For that mood could not be commanded at will. Different influences awakened it, and its duration depended largely on environment. 'W. S.' could set himself deliberately to work normally, and was, so far, master of his mind. But for the expression of the `F. M.' self he had to wait upon mood, or seek conditions to induce it."
This was not an attempt on the part of Sharp to write on different topics. Fiona Macleod was not a pseudonym. She was a personality. "My truest self," he wrote in a letter, "the self who is below all other selves, and my most intimate life and joys and sufferings, thoughts, emotions and dreams, must find expression, yet can not, save in this hidden way." The Sharp personality seems to have been an unnatural growth forced to develop by severe economic conditions. William Sharp's style was calm, uninspired, critical, prosy; while Fiona Macleod wrote poetic prose in an extremely imaginative style. Descriptions of nature, full of color, with spiritual phrases, abound. Her themes were the life, customs, and superstitions of the Highlands, while Sharp wrote chiefly biographies and reviews.
From the time when "he stilled the critical, intellectual mood of William Sharp to give play to the development of this new-found expression of subtler emotions, toward which he had been moving with all the ardor of his nature . . . there was a continual play of the two forces in him, or of the two sides of his nature: of the intellectually observant, reasoning mind-the actor, and of the intuitively observant, spiritual mind—the dreamer, which differentiated more and more one from the other, and required different conditions, different environment, different stimuli, until he seemed to be two personalities in one. . . . He was wont to say: `Should the secret be found out, Fiona dies.'"
Fiona seems to have had a life of growth and development altogether independent of William Sharp, passing, as Mrs. Sharp puts it, from youth in Pharais and The Mountain Lovers through maturity in The Barbaric Tales and Tragic Romances "to the greater serenity of later contemplative life in The Divine Adventure, The Winged Des-tiny, and Where the Forest Murmurs." At one time he wrote: "Sometimes I am tempted to believe I am half a woman."
But each of his two natures had its own needs, desires, interests, and friends. For a time there was such opposition between them that it was difficult for him to adjust his life to the two conditions which were equally imperative in their demands. "His preference, naturally, was for the intimate creative work which he knew grew out of his inner self; though the exigencies of life, his dependence on his pen for his livelihood—and, moreover, the keen, active interest `William Sharp' took in all the movements of the clay, literary and political, at home and abroad—required of him a great amount of applied study and work. . . . The needs of each were not always harmonious one with the other, but created a complex condition that led to a. severe nervous collapse."
If we look for the source of this dual personality in Sharp, we find its beginning, at any rate, in early childhood. He was an extremely imaginative child, but he was also a real boy who loved the activities and adventures that appeal to boys. "About the dream and vision side of his life," his biographer says, "he learned early to be silent.
He soon realized that his playmates understood nothing of the confused memories of previous lives that haunted him, and from which he drew materials to weave into stories for his schoolfellows in the dormitory at night. To his surprise he found they saw none of the denizens of the other worlds—tree spirits and nature spirits, great and small—so familiar to him, and who he imagined must be as obvious to others as to himself."
"In surveying the dual life as a whole," says his wife, "I have seen how from the early partially realized twinship, 'W. S.' was the first to go adventuring and find himself, while his twin `F. M.' remained passive, or a separate self. When `she' awoke to active consciousness 'she', became the deeper, the more impelling, the more essential factor. By reason of this severance, and of the acute conflict that resulted therefrom, the flaming of the dual life became so fierce that `Wilfion'—as I named the inner and third self that lay behind that dual expression—realized the imperativeness of getting control over his two separated selves and of bringing them into some kind of conscious harmony."
Yet, notwithstanding this conflict, each personality was complete in itself. Each preserved its own peculiar characteristics. There was no interference or confusion; no exchange or overlapping of natures. This consistency of Fiona Macleod is important. It is what makes her a personality. Consistency in matters necessary for identification may be assumed and maintained for a short time. But it finally breaks down. There have been fairly well-authenticated instances of the substitution of a spurious "long-lost" son, who played his part successfully for a brief period. A somewhat similar deception is illustrated by men who seek to justify a reprehensible act when they have had time to prepare their defense, and also by false alibis. But in all such cases something is forgotten; the stories do not fit, and inconsistencies are soon discovered.
It is impossible to feign successfully what one is not, to play intentionally the part of two widely varying characters. Habits of thought and action are too controlling, too compelling. A man cannot be constantly alert. The strain on the attention is too great, and it lapses before he is aware of the change. So one is unable to be continuously mindful of what one says and does. Impostors are surprised out of their security. Though it is a well-known method of lawyers to lead a witness peacefully along until he feels mentally comfortable, the attention meanwhile losing its edge through adaptation to the feeling of satisfaction with the answers, and then suddenly, when he is off his guard, to spring a question, the plan usually succeeds. In the more common matters of life this variation in the efficiency of attention is observed in the difficulties of conversation when one wishes to make a good impression. How often one makes remarks which one would gladly recall. The usual excuse is that we were not "ourselves." The very attempt to produce a favorable effect is disturbing. It is like walking. What does not follow automatically reveals its awkwardness. Some one has said that nothing can replace wisdom, though silence is the best substitute. But in playing a part one cannot be always silent.
The consistency of "Fiona Macleod," then, is the most important bit of evidence in establishing her claim to personality. Her interests, her feelings and emotions, her thoughts and style are too diametrically opposed to those of Sharp to permit the assumption of intentional adoption. His early topics and mode of treatment were the surface response to the demands of the reading public as he interpretated them. Dependent, as he was, upon his pen, literary criticism, for which he had taste and talent, offered the quickest and surest way of earning a living. But there was a deeper self, a personality suppressed for a time by his economic and social conditions. Had this submerged self been less real, less vital, it might never have risen to the surface. But it was more truly himself than the austere critic that represented William Sharp. So it asserted itself and finally became the controlling force of his life. That memory, at times, seemed almost discontinuous indicates that we have here a border-line case between the common variations in the self and the condition of double personality which is so far from the line as to be called abnormal.
Returning now to the more common alterations of the self, the illustrations have disclosed startling variations in the character and purposes of the same individual. There is always rivalry and conflict between the different selves. Now one gains control, and now the other. It is not always possible to say which line of conduct most truly represents the man. In some it is the baser acts, and the nobler deeds are done with conscious purpose to maintain a social position. Fortunately, such men are rare. Most people have good intentions, and their failures are due to moral weakness influenced by social or psychological causes. Man desires, at least, a satisfying unity in his life. Every one likes to feel that he is true to his ideals; and the struggle to secure this feeling is seen in the excuses which are made for deviation from the higher code of action. Consequently, man is prone to deceive himself with the conviction that his acts are justifiable because others do them, or because they will enable him to do counterbalancing good in other ways, or else he drifts and finds excuses afterward. These by no means exhaust the categories. Man's actions are exceedingly complex, as much more complex than those of the lower animals as is his nervous system, and for just that reason.
The action of animals is usually predictable. It always is to one who knows their ways. They are severely consistent. Inconsistency, curiously enough, comes with development, at least with a certain stage of development.
Perhaps this is due to the fact that development means, among other things, multiplying ways of reacting to what is superficially the same situation. Man sees a greater number of possible reactions—more ways of behaving—with reference to external situations than do the lower animals. Primitive man, also, was consistent until he learned inconsistency from contact with his civilized teacher. The larger number of possible responses are con-fusing. Putting them in order requires the organization of information and moral principles, as well as insight into the effect of acts; and thinking in terms of cause and effect is a comparatively new instrument of behavior.
The man of good intentions, however, who yields to moral weakness has moments of keen remorse. But the effect is momentary. He repents and sins again. Some people have the repentance habit. They gain a certain solace and even joy from the excitement. It is a sort of emotional debauchery in which they indulge periodically, just as others drown their sorrow in drink. This is one of the ways in which the emotions ooze out ineffectually instead of producing action which is the phylogenetic justification for their existence. In time, inaction, with such people, becomes a fixed mode of behavior. They are continually making resolutions which are never carried out.
This feeling of remorse easily leads to the self-deception to which, as we have said, man is prone. He is much more naive in this than are those who observe him. He does not know that he is practising self-deception though he may have observed this trait in others. This, again, is human—seeing quite clearly in acquaintances what one does not discover in oneself, though it may be patent to all the rest of the world. It illustrates a certain human blindness.
Finally, there should be a selection of the self to which we yield submission. "Not that I would not, if I could," says fames, "be both handsome and fat and well dressed, and a great athlete, and make a million a year, be a wit, a bon vivant, and a lady-killer, as well as a philosopher; a philanthropist, statesman, warrior, and African explorer, as well as a `tone-poet' and saint. But the thing is impossible. The millionaire's work would run counter to the saint's; the bon vivant and the philanthropist would trip each other up; the philosopher and the lady-killer could not well keep house in the same tenement of clay." One or the other will finally dominate. The question is, Which?