While psychology deals with such topics as the subconscious mind, the instincts, the laws of habit, and association of ideas and suggestion, it is after all not so much an academic as a practical question. These forces govern the thought you are thinking at this moment, the way you will feel a half-hour from now, the mood you will be in to-morrow, the friends you will make and the profession you will choose, besides having a large share in the health or ill-health of your body in the meantime.
Perhaps it would be well before going farther to summarize what we have been saying. Here in a nutshell is the kernel of the subject:
Disease may be caused by physical or by psychic forces. A “nervous” disorder is not a physical but a psychic disease. It is caused not by lack of energy but by misdirected energy; not by overwork or nerve-depletion, but by misconception, emotional conflict, repressed instincts, and buried memories. Seventy-five per cent. of all cases of ill-health are due to psychic causes, to disjointed thinking rather than to a disjointed spine. Wherefore, let us learn to think right.
In outline form, the trouble in a neurosis may be stated something like this:
Lack of adaptation to the social environment—caused
Lack of harmony within the personality—caused by
Misdirected energy—caused by
Inappropriate emotions—caused by
Wrong ideas or ignorance.
Working backward, the cure naturally would be:
Right ideas—resulting in
Appropriate emotions—resulting in
Redirected energy—resulting in
Readjustment to the environment.
If the reader is beginning to feel somewhat bewildered by these general statements, let him take heart. So far we have tried merely to suggest the outline of the whole problem, but we shall in the future be more specific. Nervous troubles, which seem so simple, are really involved with the whole mechanism of mental life and can in no way be understood except as these mechanisms are understood. We have hinted at some of the causes of “nerves,” but we cannot give a real explanation until we explain the forces behind them. These forces may at first seem a bit abstract, or a bit remote from the main theme, but each is essential to the story of nerves and to the understanding of the more practical chapters in Part III.
As in a Bernard Shaw play, the preface may be the most important part of this “drama of nerves.” Nor is the figure too far-fetched, because, strange as it may seem, every neurosis is in essence a drama. It has its conflict, its villain, and its victim, its love-story, its practical joke, its climax, and its denouement. Sometimes the play goes on forever with no solution, but sometimes psychotherapy steps in as the fairy god-mother, to release the victim, outwit the villain, and bring about the live-happily-ever-after ending.