=Along Nature’s Lines.= If the psychologist is asked what kind of task this is to be, he answers that each person must decide for himself his own life-work. An individual may not know why, but he does know that there are certain things which he most likes to do. Sublimation is more readily accomplished if his energy is directed toward self-chosen interests. Parents or teachers or physicians who try to force another person into any definite plan of action are making a grievous blunder. Help may be given toward self-knowledge and the understanding of general principles, but advice should never be specific.
Taken in the large, it is found that men and women choose different ways of sublimation. Man and woman differ in the psychic components of the sex-life even as they differ in the physical. Sublimation to be successful must follow the lines laid down by nature. The urge of the average man is toward construction, domination, mastery. The urge of the average woman is toward mothering, protection, nurture. The masculine characteristics find ready sublimation in a career; the man builds bridges, digs canals, harnesses mountain streams, conquers pests, overcomes gravity, brings the ends of the earth together by “wireless” or by rail; he provides for the weak and the helpless—his own progeny—or, incarnated in the body of a Hoover, he gives life to the children of the world.
In woman, the dominant force is the nurturing instinct. Child and man of her own come first, but when these are lacking, to paraphrase Kipling, in default of closer ties, she is wedded to convictions; Heaven help him who denies! Only as a career opens up full vent for this nurturing instinct, will it provide satisfactory substitute in sublimation. Its natural trend can be seen in the recent tidal wave of social legislation—for prohibition, child-labor laws, sanitation, recognition and control of venereal disease, acknowledgment of paternity to the illegitimate child.
Since the women of the day, in numbers up to the million, have been compelled to sacrifice both man and unformed babe to the grim Juggernaut of war, this nurturing urge may press hard against many of the social and business barriers now impeding its flow. But if society understands and readjusts these barriers, making it possible for its citizens—women as well as men—to approximate the natural instinctive bent, it will not only save itself much unrest but will also go far toward preventing the spread of nervous invalidism.
That which a nervous invalid most needs is a redirection of energy. Since, in spite of appearances, there is never any real lack of energy, no time is needed for the making of strength, and a cure can take place just as soon as the inner forces allow the energy to flow out in the right direction. Sometimes, indeed, an outer change may start the inner process. Often the “work cure” does cure; occasionally