“Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased,” asked Macbeth of the Doctor--but the passage is so strikingly fitting, so prophetically explanatory of psychoanalysis, that it must be given in full:
Macbeth: Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased.
Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow.
Raze out the written troubles of the brain.
And with some sweet oblivious antidote
Cleanse the stuff’d bossom of that perilous stuff
Which weight upon the heart?
Doctor: Therein the patient must minister to himself.
There is hardly a person today exempt from some form of phobia, or fear, whose origin may date so far back as to be lost among the shadows of childhood; hardly a person is free from some aversion, or “complex,” whose effects are a matter of daily occurrence, despite the will of the victim. In a sense, the subconsciousness has never forgotten the incident, and still harbours the unpleasant memory of it; the consciousness, however, in an attempt to protect our dignity, or vanity, whichever you prefer, may evolve some apparent, better reason than the original one.
Thus complexes are formed. Brontephobia, or fear of thunder, was brought about in the case of one patient by hearing a cannon go off very near her when she was a child; a fact which had been “forgotten” for years; to confess to such a fear, even to one’s self, would have been childish--and fear to the somewhat more dignified cause of thunder. Needless to say, it is such disguises of the memories which make difficult the labor of the psychoanalyst to pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow, to raze out the written troubles of the brain, its “traumas” or the original shocks. And when we remember that Psyche in Greek means not only the mind, but the soul, we can better understand Shakespeare’s amazing grasp of psychology when he speaks not only of the “mind diseased,” but of “that perilous stuff which weighs upon the heart.”
We all have these complexes, in forms ranging from the mild to the severe; sitophobia, the aversion to certain foods; claustrophobia, the fear of locked doors--to which the fear of open spaces forms a striking contrast; stage-fright; touching wood and other superstitions--a thorough list would indeed be a very long one.
For the greater part, the patient must minister to himself--with the help of the skilled psychoanalyst. In some cases elaborate processes are needed, and the use of psychometers and other delicate registering devices enlisted; but usually, the procedure is a simple one. The subject of investigation is made comfortable physically, and put in a quiet mood; he is then told to utter whatever may come into his mind in connection with his complex--with occasional promptings and questions from the psychoanalyst. Sooner or later the association of ideas will bring to the surface the original, cause or experience, which had become “rooted,” submerged; very often the mere explanation will suffice to eradicate the obsession.
But there is another group of disorders, hysteria, which may partake both of the physical and the psychical, or where either state may induce the other. Richard Ingalese in his “History and Power of Mind,” has summed up the matter very clearly: “Disease may be divided into two classes, the imaginary and the real. Imaginary disease is a picture held firmly by the objective mind, which causes more or less physical correspondence. This kind of disease is often created in total disregard of the laws governing anatomy or physiology; and is the hardest to cure, because persons possessed of it hold to it so persistently that an entire revision of their mode of thought must be made before it can be cured. It is not at all infrequent to have a patient complain of kidney disease, locating the pain and the organs several inches below the waist line. The spleen is often supposed to be in the right side of the body, and phantom tumors appear and disappear. But all these mental pictures, if held long enough, create matrices or vortices, and draw into them the elements that will bring finally the actual disease that was at first purely imaginary.”
Psycho-analysis proceeds upon the assumption that a very large number of cases of disease are caused by repression of normal desires, or by disturbances that have occurred in the past life of the individual. In such cases the root of the disease is so concealed, sometimes through years and years, that it must be searched for.
The Psycho-Analyst is enabled to locate such difficulties, through dreams, or rather through the interpretation of dreams, or by questioning the patient concerning his past life. The well trained analyst must of necessity secure the friendly confidence of the patient to such an extent that the latter will not hesitate to reveal any experience, no matter how intimate.
As soon, as the patient has been led to remember a particular experience, he is encouraged to talk about it in detail and thus it is brought up from the subconsciousness. The analyst then shows him what has been causing the difficulty and when the cause is eradicated it can do no more harm.
It is exactly parallel to a foreign substance in the flesh; there is a horrible swelling, with inflammation, pain, and suffering; the surgeon is called, removes the difficulty, and natures does the rest. The psychological law follows the same procedure. If there has been any abnormal activity, any festering sore in the subconscious mind, going on for years and years, if it can be located by a process of mental analysis and put out of the mental complex and shown to the patient, the catharsis is complete.
Dr. Hugh T. Patrick, clinical professor of nerves and mental disease in Northwestern University Medical School, mentions several interesting cases.
“In many cases of functional nervous disorders the factor of fear is quite obvious. But in many cases, though equally important, it is not at once apparent. Of the latter there are numerous varieties which may be divided into groups. One group embraces patients known to have physical courage. A few years ago there was referred to me one of the most noted as well as fearless men in the ring, a man who was peculiarly carefree, if not careless. He was suffering with what were considered rather vague and baffling nervous symptoms, principally insomnia, lack of interest, and moodiness. A careful analysis soon revealed that some trifling symptoms, due to high living and domestic friction, had served to put the idea into his head that he was losing his mind. This phobia was sickness, and the fear so possessed his soul that he was good for nothing until he got rid of it. Needless to say, the patient himself was quite unconscious of the nature of his trouble, and his physician had overlooked it.
So they could not cure the trouble from a physical standpoint. The situation had to be mentally analyzed, and the cause of the fear dragged out from subconsciousness and exposed to the man. When he had a look at it, why, it had exactly the same effect as pulling an eyelash out from an inflamed eye and letting you see it. Your troubles are all over right away, because you are very sure the disturbing cause has been removed, and you forget about it then.
“A sheep rancher of Wyoming complained of insomnia, loss of appetite, abdominal distress, general nervousness and inability to look after his ranch. What really was the matter with him was fear of cancer of the stomach. This phobia completely unnerved him and cause him to enormously magnify every bodily sensation. But was he a nerveless coward? Decidedly not.
There was a time when the cattlemen of the Far West made sheep raising a hazardous occupation. Through these dangerous years he lived without a tremor, though he never went to sleep without a rifle by his side. Once he was informed that three cattlemen had started out to ‘get him,’ and the information was correct. He mounted his horse and properly armed, rode out to meet them. As he expressed it, he ‘talked them out of it,’ and the three would-be assassins turned and rode away. In this encounter he was not in the least apprehensive or uncomfortable, and I learned of the incident only in a conversation about his business.”
He had plenty of physical courage, but when something in the inner organism seemed to be wrong, he was scared. As soon as this doctor discovered what the fear was, he probably produced an X-ray or something of that nature to show the patient that there was nothing the matter. Then drawing the patient’s attention to the groundless fear, the doctor was able to convince the patient of the groundlessness of his fears.
A policeman, 49 years old, suffered from intractable insomnia, head pressure, general nervousness and loss of weight. He was not a man to suspect of fear. For many years he had been in active service in one of the worst precincts of Chicago, and on account of his familiarity with criminals was frequently sent after the worst types. He had been in numerous ‘gun’ fights. Once a notorious ‘gunman’ standing beside him fired point blank at his head. All this disturbed his equanimity not a whit. And yet his illness was the result of fear pure and simple. It came about in this way; a malicious person had preferred against him charges of misconduct, and he was cited to appear before the trial board.
This worried him greatly. Innocent he keenly felt the disgrace of the accusation and feared that he might be suspended or even discharged. He trembled for his well-earned good name and for his home, on which there was a mortgage. Naturally he began to sleep poorly, to have queer feelings in his head, and then to feel uncertain of himself. at this juncture some friends sympathetically told him that one could go insane from worry. These were the steps: Fear of disgrace, fear of financial collapse, fear of insanity. But did the patient know all this? Not he. He knew only that he was nervous, and that he suffered, that he did not feel sure of himself.”
When that was dragged out of his consciousness and shown to him as a root of his trouble, and a physician was able to assure him that fear was all in the world that was the matter with him, he made up his mind that he had better give that up. Then he was healed.
The subconscious mentality is sick in a chronic way; it has been made sick by some kind of mental experience--usually of many years standing--and the sickness is a result of its continuing to cherish that experience and keeping it before itself. This constitutes what is technically called a “running sore” in the subconsciousness--that is, mentally not physically.
A woman had suffered from general debility for a number of years, and had been unable to secure relief; the psychologist began to probe, to see what the trouble was. He began to pronounce words--just anything that came into his thoughts: “desk, book, rug, Chinaman.” When he pronounced the word “Chinaman” the woman appeared startled, and he asked her what the word “Chinaman” suggested to her and why it startled her. The woman said that when she was a little girl, she with a playmate, used to play around a Chinese laundry, that they used to plague the Chinaman by throwing pebbles at him through the open door; that one day the Chinaman chased them with a big knife, and that they were nearly scared to death. “Yes,” said the psychologist, “that is one of the things that I wanted to know.” Then he began to pronounce more words, presently the word “water,” and again the woman was startled. It developed then that one time when she was a very little girl, she and her brother were playing on the wharf and that accidentally she pushed him into the water and he was drowned. She said it was many years ago, when she was a mere child. He said: “Do you think of these things very often?” She said: “No, I do not know that I have thought of them before in fifteen or twenty years.”
“Well,” he said, “I will tell you what I want you to do.” (She was at that time in a sanitarium, under the care of a nurse.) “I want you to tell the nurse every day that experience about the Chinaman and also the experience about your brother, and I want you to keep telling it until you have told it so many times that you do not feel bad about it any more; then, see me again in two or three weeks.” She did as he directed, and at the end of sixty days she was well. The effect of telling it so often was its becoming commonplace to the conscious mentality, without touching the feelings. So the suggestion then went down to the subconsciousness that it did not feel badly about the incident any more, and the conditions of fear which had persisted for twenty or twenty-five years were erased, and the complex in the subconsciousness was no longer in evidence.
The subconscious mind has perfect memory and is fully equipped at birth. Every child inherits certain characteristics from its ancestors. These are carried in the subconscious mind and brought into play when the life or health of the individual requires them.
It is natural to be born without pain, to develop without pain, to live without pain, and to die without pain. This is as natural as it is for a tree to blossom and bear fruit, which at the proper times drops off without distress. The subconscious will take care of every situation; even when it is interfered with it has a remedy available for every situation. Again, you forget something, but the subconscious mind has not forgotten; as soon as the conscious mind dismisses the matter, it comes to us.
Every engineer knows what it is to sleep over a problem; while he is asleep the subconscious is working it out;; or he may lose an article, get excited and anxious about it, and not be able to find it; yet as soon as the conscious mind gives it up and lets go, the sense of where it is comes without effort.
Again there is a difficult situation in your affairs, if you can only persuade your conscious mind to let go, to cease its anxiety, dismiss its fear, give up the tenseness and struggle, the subconscious will ordinarily bring about prosperity. The tendency of the subconscious is always toward health and harmonious conditions. To illustrate, you are in the water over your depth, you cannot swim, you are sinking. If the moment the life guard approaches you, you grab him around the neck and impede the action of his arms and limbs, he may be unable to do anything with you, but if you will simply trust yourself in his hands, he will get you out. And so it is absolutely certain that subconscious will be present in every difficult situation and that it will tend to play life guard in your favor, if you can but persuade your consciousness to cease its anxiety, to dismiss its fears, to give up the tenseness of the struggle.
Suppose the conscious mind suffers itself to become angry over every trifle. Every time it gets angry the impulse is transferred to the subconscious. The impulse is repeated again and again, each time it is stirred up. The second record of anger is added to the first, the third to the second, and the fourth to the third. Soon the subconscious has acquired the habit, and before long it will be difficult to stop. When this situation develops the conscious mind will be subject to the irritating influence from without and the habitual impulse from within. There will be action and reaction. It will be easier to be angry and more difficult to prevent it. Yet every time the conscious mind gets angry an additional impulse will be given to the subconscious, and that impulse will be an additional incentive to get angry again.
Now the, anger is an abnormal condition, and any abnormal condition contains within itself the penalty, ad this penalty will be promptly reflected in that part of the body which has the least resistance. For instance, if the person has a weak stomach, there will be acute attacks of indigestion, and eventually these will become chronic. In other persons, Bright’s Disease may develop; in other, rheumatism; and so on.
It is evident therefore, that these conditions are effects, but if the cause be removed the effect will vanish. If the individual knows that thoughts are causes, and conditions are effects, he will promptly decide to control his thoughts. This will tend to erase anger and other bad mental habits; and as the light of truth gradually becomes clear and perfect, the habit and everything connected with it will be erased, and the accumulated distress destroyed.
What is true of anger, is true of jealousy, of fear, of lust, of greed, of dishonesty, each of these may become subconscious and each of them eventually result in some diseased condition of the body, and the nature of the disease indicates to the trained analyst the nature of the cause which was responsible for the condition.
Frederic Pierce tells us in “Our Unconscious Mind”:
“It is a matter of common observation that everything is in greater or less degree suggestible. The reaction to suggestion may be either positive or negative, either an acceptance or heightened resistance. In this we see a censorship. An epidemic of a certain type of crime shows, on the part of the perpetrators, imitative response to suggestion implanted both by the elaborate descriptive accounts in the newspapers, and by the great amount of discussion of the outrages, heard on all sides.
Primitive effects of great intensity are aroused; they break through the primary cultural censorship (which is weak in the criminally disposed person), accumulate energy be being dwelt on in consciousness, and finally become sufficiently strong to surmount all fear of punishment and to control the conduct.
The remainder of the social group, having a higher cultural censorship, reacts to the same suggestion negatively, and discharges the energy of whatever primitive effects have been aroused, in the form of wrath and the desire for punishment of the criminals.
In this connection, it is interesting to note that one often hears the desire for vengeance expressed in terms of much greater primitive violence than the crime itself actually showed. Psycho-analysts hold that this is a method by which the individual is reinforcing his own none too strong censorship of his Unconscious.
Mind in itself is believe to be a subtle form of static energy, from which rises the activities called “thought,” which is the dynamic phase of mind. Mind is static energy, thought is dynamic energy--the two phases of the same thing.
Tradition whispers that in the sky is a bird, as blue as the sky itself, which brings to its finders happiness. But everyone cannot see it; for mortal eyes are prone to be blinded by the glitter of wealth, fame, and position, and deceived by the mocking Will-o-the-Wisp of empty honors.
But for the fortunate ones who seek with open eyes and hearts, with the artlessness, simplicity and faith, which are richest in childhood, there is an undying promise; and to them the Blue Bird lives and carols, a rejoicing symbol of Happiness and Contentment unto the end.