="Nerves” not Imaginary.= “But,” some one says, “how can healthy organs misbehave in this way? Something must be wrong. There must be some cause. If ‘nerves’ are not physical, what are they? They surely can’t be imaginary.” Most emphatically, they are real; nothing could be more maddening than to have some one suggest that our troubles are “mere imagination.” No wonder such theories have been more popular with the patient’s family than with the patient himself. Many years ago a physician put the whole truth into a few words: “The patient says, ‘I cannot’; his friends say, ‘He will not’; the doctor says, ’He cannot will.’” He tries, but in the circumstances he really cannot.
=The Man behind the Body.= The trouble is real; the organs do “act up”; the nerves do carry the wrong messages. But the nerves are merely telegraph wires. They are not responsible for the messages that are given them to carry. Behind the wires is the operator, the man higher up, and upon him the responsibility falls. In functional troubles the body is working in a perfectly normal way, considering the perverted conditions. It is doing its work well, doing just what it is told, obeying its master. The troubles are not with the bodily machine but with the master. The man behind the body is in trouble and he really has no way of showing his pain except through his body. The trouble in nervous disorders is in the personality, the soul, the realm of ideas, and that is not your body, but you. Loss of appetite may mean either that the powers of the physical organism are busily engaged in combating some poison circulating in the blood, or that the ego is “up against” conditions for which it has “no stomach.” Paralysis may be due to a hemorrhage into the brain tissues from a diseased blood vessel, or it may symbolize a sense of inadequacy and defeat. Exaggerated exhaustion, halting feet, stammering tongue, may give evidence of a disturbed ego rather than of a diseased brain.
=All Body and no Mind.= At last we have begun to realize what we ought to have known all along,—that the body is not the whole man. The medical world for a long time has been in danger of forgetting or ignoring psychic suffering, while it has devoted itself to the treatment of physical disease.
By way of condoning this fault it must be recognized that the five years of medical school have been all too short to learn what is needed of physiology and anatomy, histology, bacteriology, and the various other physical sciences. But at last the medical schools are realizing that they have been sending their graduates out only half-prepared—conversant with only one half of a patient, leaving them to fend for themselves in discovering the ways of the other half. Many an M.D. has gone a long way in this exploration. Native common sense, intuition, and careful study have enabled him to go beyond what he had learned in his text-books. But in the best universities the present-day student of medicine is now being given an insight into the ways of man as a whole—mind as well as body. The movement can hardly proceed too rapidly, and when it has had time to reach its goal, the day of the long-term sentence to nervousness will be past.