Sleep Walking and Moon Walking: A Medico-Literary Study

 
9781492344155: Sleep Walking and Moon Walking: A Medico-Literary Study
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The phenomena of sleep walking and moon walking must be acknowledged, as far as I can see, almost entirely as pathological yet connected or identical with analogous manifestations of normal profound sleep. The dreams in such sleep, in contrast with those of light sleep, are characterized by movements. These often amount merely to speaking out, laughing, weeping, smacking, throwing oneself about and so on, or occasionally to complicated actions, which begin with leaving the bed. Further comparison shows the night wandering as symptomatically similar to hysterical and hypnotic somnambulism. This interpretation might be objected to upon the ground that unfortunately we know nothing of the origin of the motor phenomena of the dream and that understanding of the hysterical and hypnotic somnambulism is deplorably lacking. Still less has science to say about the influence of the moon upon night wandering. The authors extricate themselves from the difficulty by simply denying its influence. They bring forward as their chief argument for this that many sleep walkers are subject to their attacks as frequently in dark as in moonlight nights and when sleeping in rooms into which no beam of moonlight can penetrate. Spitta indeed explains it thus: "The much discussed and romantically treated 'moon walking' is a legend which stands in contradiction to hitherto observed facts. That the phantasy of the German folk mind drew to itself the pale ghostly light of the moon and could reckon from it all sorts of wonderful things, proves nothing to us." I can only say here that ten negative cases signify nothing in the face of a single positive one and a thousand-fold experience undoubtedly represents a certain connection between the light of the full moon and the most complicated forms of sleep walking. Sleep walking or night wandering, known also by its Latin name of noctambulism, is a well-known phenomenon. Somnambulism is not so good a term for it, since that signifies too many things. In sleep walking a person rises from his bed in the night, apparently asleep, walks around with closed or half opened eyes, but without perceiving anything, yet performs all sorts of apparently purposeful and often quite complicated actions and gives correct answers to questions, without afterward the least knowledge of what he has said or done. If this all happens at the very time and under the influence of the full moon, it is spoken of as moon walking or being moonstruck.

Under the influence of this heavenly body the moonstruck individual is actually enticed from his bed, often gazes fixedly at the moon, stands at the window or climbs out of it, "with the surefootedness of the sleep walker," climbs up upon the roof and walks about there or, without stumbling, goes into the open. In short, he carries out all sorts of complex actions. Only it would be dangerous to call the wanderer by name, for then he would not only waken where he was, but he would collapse frequently and fall headlong with fright if he found himself on a height.

Why does not the sleep walker, who is enjoying apparently a specially deep slumber, sleep on quietly and work out the complexes of his unconscious somehow in a dream, even though with speech or movement there? Why instead is he urged forth and driven to wander about and engage in all sorts of complicated acts? It is one of the most important functions of the dream to prolong sleep quietly. And then in the second place, What value and significance must be attributed to the moon and its light? These two chief questions must be answered by any theory that would do justice to the question of sleep walking and moon walking.

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About the Author:

Isidor Isaak Sadger (29 October 1867, Neu Sandez, Galicia — 21 December 1942, Theresienstadt concentration camp) was a forensic doctor and psychoanalyst in Vienna. He studied with Sigmund Freud from 1895 to 1904 with a concentration in homosexuality and fetishism and coined the term Sadomasochismus (sadomasochism) in 1913. He also coined the term "Narcissmus" (narcissism). In September 1942, he was deported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp, where he died.

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