A Common-Sense View of the Mind Cure, by Laura M. Westall, , at sacred-texts.com
IT must be clear from what has already been said that in order to conserve health it is necessary to maintain unimpaired the mental energy, or, as it is sometimes called, the vitality. It will be well, therefore, before proceeding further, to inquire as to what agencies tend to impair it.
The answer is, broadly speaking, anything which fatigues or depresses or profoundly shocks the mind.
You know how fatigue "takes the life out" of one. The reason is not far to seek. Whatever we do, we do first mentally; unless one "puts his mind on his work" he can not do that work successfully. And this mental effort stimulates the brain, keeps
it pumping energy to the muscles, until finally the muscles refuse to act, because both mind and brain are fatigued. And this fatigue, it is said, generates a poison which affects the blood.
To continue to whip up the muscles by pure force of will when this point is reached is sheer folly. Yet we see it done every day, and regardless of the knowledge that under such conditions the system is an easy prey to disease.
Lack of sleep also greatly depletes the vital force, but this is so well known as hardly to need mention. Anxiety or worry has the same effect. Some authorities say it breaks down the brain-cells, and in many cases through its effect on the solar plexus it acts either as an emetic or a cathartic.
Equally devitalizing are certain emotions. Take anger, for instance. At first, there is a marked increase of energy, owing to the fact that the emotion appears to charge the brain electrically--the reserves are called
out! This sets free a tremendous current of vital force, which swoops down upon the sympathetic nerve-center, affects the heart, and deranges the circulation, and through its action on the solar plexus interferes with digestion. As the emotion subsides, this force, otherwise unexpended, radiates into space and then ensues exhaustion. It is a sort of cyclone, which not only deranges the physical processes and takes the strength but acidulates the blood.
Then there is fear, which, as everybody knows, sometimes causes death. Sudden and violent fear powerfully affects the heart, causing exhaustion and occasionally instant death. Its effect upon the blood is also apparent, for it has been known to turn the hair white in a single night.
Prolonged grief and despondency by depressing the mind weaken the brain and retard the circulation; thus by degrees the vitality is sapped. "Dying of a broken heart" is no chimera of the imagination.
"Each strong emotion," says Herbert Spencer, "affects the activity of the heart, and with it we have the accompanying gush of nervous fluid, spreading along the vasomotor nerves, which changes the state of the arteries throughout the body. . . . It also disturbs the intellectual balance--nervous fluid is drafted off."
It does not seem to be generally understood that strong emotions unbalance the mind, and of course the brain; but a little reflection shows that this is true. An angry person will not "listen to reason," because his reason is overwhelmed by emotion. In other words, he is "beside himself "--hence we speak of "insane rage."
The same is true of fear. Let a man's life be jeopardized, and he may at once lose all consciousness of moral obligations. The panics which occur on steamboats and in fires are illustrations.
Extreme jealousy is a kind of madness.
Shakespeare in "The Winter's Tale"
shows how impossible it is to convince a jealous person that his suspicions are unfounded. The poor victim has lost his mental perspective--he "can't see straight."
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In view of these facts, it is obvious that in order to preserve the vitality--that is, hold stored up in the brain a reserve of mental energy--one must acquire and practise self-control. It is not always possible to avoid sudden grief or fear, but the habit of self-control, once established, gives one the power to minimize all catastrophes. It is always possible by the practise of self-control to vanquish anger, jealousy, and despondency. Many persons are emotional spendthrifts; they fritter away their life-energy by giving full rein to their emotional nature, and as a consequence have nothing left with which to meet the emergencies of life. Their account in the bank of nature is overdrawn.
[paragraph continues] Is it any wonder that they succumb readily to disease?
But self-control does not necessarily imply the stifling of all emotion; let us be human beings, not clams. An existence which knows not all the deepest emotions that the human soul is capable of feeling and expressing is only a poor travesty of life. The point is to control, rather than be controlled by, one's emotions.
However, to our satisfaction and for our salvation there is a class of emotions which is in sharp contrast to those discust, because distinctly vitalizing. There is cheerfulness, for instance, and contentment. All our psychologists, physiologists, and physicians are agreed that cheerfulness, contentment, hope, joy, and happiness are the best tonics in the world, the true balm of Gilead or elixir of life. It is not surprizing, therefore, that the society of the cheerful person is eagerly sought.