Discreditable to women? Discreditable to those women who use it? Men would do the same in the face of superior force. In the battle of wills that goes on in life the weak must use different weapons than the strong. Doubtless the women of another day, trained otherwise than our present-day women and having a different relationship to men, will abandon, at least in larger part, the weapons of weakness. Wherever women work with men on a plane of equality they ask no favors and resort to no tears. They play the game as men do, as “good sports.” But where the relationship is the one-sided affair of matrimony, a certain type uses her tears, her aches and pains, her moods, and her failings to gain her point.
HISTORIES OF SOME SEVERE CASES
The cases that follow represent mainly the severe types of nervousness in the housewife. To every case that comes to the neurologist there are a hundred that explain their symptoms as “stomach trouble”, “backache”, etc., who remain well enough to carry on, and who think their pains and aches inevitably wrapped with the lot of woman.
It will be seen, upon reading these cases, that a rather pessimistic attitude is taken toward some of them. It would be nice to present a series of cases all of which recovered, and it would be easy to do that by picking the cases. Such a series would be optimistic in its trend; it would however have the small demerit of being false to life. Though the majority of women suffering from nervousness may be relieved or cured, a number cannot be essentially benefited. Some of them have temperaments utterly incompatible with matrimony, others have husbands of the incorrigible type, others have life situations to change which would make it necessary to change society. Therefore in these cases all a doctor can do is to relieve symptoms, relieve some of the distress and rest content with that.
I am essentially neither pessimist nor optimist in the presentation of these cases, nor do I seek to present the man or woman’s case with prejudice. In life a realistic attitude is the best, for if we were to remove much of the sentimental self-deception at present so prevalent, huge reforms would occur almost overnight. Sentimentality decorates and disguises all kinds of horridness and makes us feel kindly toward evil. Strip it away, and we would immediately break down the evil.
There is always this danger in presenting “cases” to a lay public, that symptoms are suggested to a great many people. How deeply suggestible the mass of people can be is only appreciated when one sees the result of public health lectures and books. Many persons tend to develop all the symptoms they hear of, from pains and aches to mental failure. Even in the medical schools this is so, and every medical teacher is consulted each year by students who feel sure they have the diseases he has described.