No nervous symptom is what it seems to be. It is an arch pretender. It pretends to be afraid of something it does not fear at all, or to ignore something that interests it intensely. It pretends to be a physical disease, when primarily it has nothing to do with the body; and the person most deluded is the one who “owns” the symptom. Its purpose is to avoid the pain of disillusionment and to furnish relief to a distracted soul which dares not face itself.
Although the true meaning of a symptom is hidden, there is fortunately a clue by which it can be traced. Sometimes it takes the art of a psychic detective to follow the clues down, down through the different layers of the subconscious mind, until the troublesome impulses and complexes are found and dragged forth,—not to be punished for breaking the peace but to be led toward reconciliation. But “that is another story,” and belongs to another chapter. We are approaching THE WAY OUT.
PART III—THE MASTERY OF “NERVES”
In which we pick up the clue
THE WAY OUT
THE SCIENCE OF RE-EDUCATION
There is a story of an Irishman at the World’s Fair in Chicago. Although his funds were getting low, he made up his mind that he would not go home without a ride on a camel. For several minutes he stood before a sign reading: “First ride 25c, second ride 15c, third ride 10c.” Then, scratching his head, he exclaimed, “Faith, and I’ll take the third ride!” Should there by any chance be a reader who, eager to find the way out without paying the price of knowledge, is tempted to say to himself “Faith, and I’ll begin with Part III,” we give him fair warning that if he does so, he will in all probability end by putting down the book in a confused and skeptical frame of mind.
It is difficult to find our way out of a maze without some faint idea of the path by which we got in. He who brings to this chapter the popular notion that nervousness is the result of worn-out nerve-cells, can hardly be expected to understand how it can be cured by a process of mental adjustment. Suggestion to that effect can scarcely fail to appear to him faddish and unpractical. But once a person has grasped the idea that “nerves” are merely a slip in the cog of hidden mental machinery, and has acquired at least a working-knowledge of “the way the wheels go round,” he can scarcely fail to understand that the only logical cure must consist in some kind of readjustment of this underground machinery. If “nerves” were physical, then only physical measures could cure, but as they are psychic, the only effective measures must be psychic.