This poor little woman, who suffered from a very painful back and other distressing symptoms, had been married at sixteen to a roue of forty; and, without experiencing any of the psychic feelings of sex, had been immediately plunged into the physical sex-relations. Since sex is psycho-physical and since any attempt to separate the two elements is both desecrating and unsatisfactory; it is not surprising that misery, and finally divorce, had been her portion. Another equally unpleasant experience had followed, and the poor woman in the strain and disappointment of her love-life, and in the lowering of the thresholds pertaining to this thwarted instinct, had unconsciously lowered the thresholds to all physical stimuli, until she was no longer master of herself in any line. When she saw the reason for her exaggerated reactions, she was able to gain control of herself, and to find outlet in other ways.
Too many persons fall into the way of being disturbed by noises which are no concern of theirs. As nurses learn to sleep through all sounds but the call of their own patients, so any one may learn to ignore all sounds but those which he needs to hear. Connection with the outside world can be severed by a mental attitude in much the same way as this is accomplished by the physical effect of an anaesthetic. Then the usual noises, those which the subconscious recognizes as without significance, will be without power to disturb. The well-known New York publisher who spent his last days on his private yacht, on which everything was rubber-heeled and velvet-cushioned, thought that he couldn’t stand noises; but how much more fun he would have had, if some one had only told him about thresholds!
There are two kinds of people in the world,—masters and puppets. There is the man in control of his thresholds, at leisure from himself and master of circumstance, free to use his energy in fruitful ways; and there is the over-sensitive soul, wondering where the barometer stands and whether people are going to be quiet, feeling his feelings and worrying because no one else feels them, forever wasting his energy in exaggerated reactions to normal situations.
This “ticklish” person is not better equipped than his neighbor, but more poorly equipped. True adjustment to the environment requires the faculty of putting out from consciousness all stimuli that do not require conscious attention. The nervous person is lacking in this faculty, but he usually fails to realize that this lack places him in the class of defectives. A paralyzed man is a cripple because he cannot run with the crowd; a nervous individual is a cripple, but only because he thinks that to run with the crowd lacks distinction. Something depends on the accident of birth, but far more depends on his own choice. Understanding, judicious neglect of symptoms, whole-souled absorption in other interests, and a good look in the mirror, are sure to put him back in the running with a wholesome delight in being once more “like folks.”