=When Re-education Failed.= But there is one patient who has had to have his lesson repeated at intervals. This man laughingly calls himself a disgrace to his doctor because he is a “repeater.” His story illustrates the power of an autosuggestion and the disastrous effect of attention to a physiological function. When Mr. T. came first to me he weighed only 120 pounds, although he is over six feet tall and of large frame. From the age of sixteen he had followed fads in eating and thought he had a weak stomach. I treated his “weak stomach” to everything there was in the market, including mince-pies, cabbage, cheese, and all the other so-called indigestibles. He gained 16-1/2 pounds the first week and 31 pounds in five weeks. One would think that the idea about the weak stomach would have died a natural death, but it did not. Again and again he came back to me like a living skeleton, the last time weighing only 105 pounds, and again and again he has gone back to his home in the Middle West plump and well. Twice while he was at home he underwent unnecessary operations, once for an ulcer that was not there and once for supposed chronic spasm of the pylorus. Needless to say, the operations did not help. You cannot cut out an idea with a knife. Neither can you wash it out with a stomach-pump; else would Mr. T. long ago have been cured! This particular idea of his seems to be proof against all my best efforts at re-education. Psycho-analysis is impracticable, partly because of the duration of the habit of repression, but the history, and certain symbolic symptoms, indicate the Freudian mechanisms at work. All I can do is to feed him up, bully him along, and keep him from starving to death. Just now he is doing very well at home, although he has moved to California so as not to be too far away from “the miracle-worker.”
If Mr. T.’s case had been typical, I should long ago have lost my faith in psychotherapy. Keeping people from starving is worth while, but is less satisfactory than curing them of what ails them. The nervous patient who has a relapse is no credit to his doctor. It is only when the origin of his trouble is not removed that the bond of transference tends to become permanent. The neurotic who is well only while under the influence of his physician is still a neurotic. However, as most people’s complexes are neither so deeply buried nor so obstinate as this, a simple explanation or a single demonstration is usually enough to loose the fettering hold of old misconceptions.
="Gas on the Stomach."= We all know people who suffer from “gas.” Indeed, very few of us escape an occasional desire to belch after a hearty meal. But the person with nervous indigestion rolls out the “gas” with such force that the noise can sometimes be heard all over the house. He may keep this up for hours at a time, under the conviction that he is freeing himself from the products of fermenting food. He may exhibit a well-bloated stomach as proof of the disastrous effect of certain articles of diet. The gas and the bloating are supposed to be the sign and the seal of indigestion, a positive evidence that undigested food is fermenting in the stomach.