At this time of change, the chemistry of the body plays an important part in the development of the mental traits; all half-developed tendencies are given power through the maturing of the sex-glands, which bind them into an organization ready for their ultimate purpose. The current is now turned on, and the machinery, which has been furnished from the beginning, is ready for its task. After a few false starts in the shape of “puppy love,” the mature instinct, if it be successful, seeks until from among the crowd it finds its mate. It has graduated from the training-school and is ready for life.
=When Nature’s Plans Fall Through.= We have been describing the normal course of affairs. We know that all too often the normal is not achieved. Inner forces or outer circumstances too often conspire to keep the young man or the young woman from the culmination toward which everything has been moving. If the life-force cannot liberate itself from the old family grooves to forge ahead into new channels, or if economic demands or other conditions make postponement necessary, then marriage is not possible. All the glandular secretions and internal stimuli have been urging on to the final consummation, developing physical and emotional life for an end that does not come; or if it does come, is not sufficient to satisfy the demands of the age-old instinct which for millions of years knew no restraint. In any case, man finds himself, and woman herself, face to face with a pressing problem, none the less pressing because it is in most cases entirely unrecognized.
=Blundering Instincts.= The older a person is, the more fixed are his habits. Now, an instinct is a race-habit and represents the crystallized reactions of a past that is old. Whatever has been done over and over again, millions of times, naturally becomes fixed, automatic, tending to conserve itself in its old ways, to resist any change and to act as it has always acted. This conserves energy and works well so long as conditions remain the same. But if for any reason there comes a change, things are likely to go wrong. By just so far as things are different, an automatic habit becomes a handicap instead of a help.
This having to act under changed conditions is exactly the trouble with the reproductive instinct. Under civilization, conditions have changed but the instinct has not. It is trying to act as it always has acted, but civilized man wills otherwise. The change that has come is not in the physical, external environment, but in man himself and in the social environment which he has created. There is in man an onward urge toward new and better things. Side by side with the desire to live as he always has lived, there is a desire to make new adaptations which are for the advancement of the whole race-life. Besides the natural wish to take his desires as he finds them, there is also the wish to modify them and use them for higher and more socially useful ends.