=Such Stuff as “Nerves” are Made Of.= Dr. Tom A. Williams in the little composite volume “Psychotherapeutics” says that the neuroses are based not on inherently weak nervous constitutions but on ignorance and on false ideas. What, then, are some of these erroneous ideas, these misconceptions, that cause so much trouble? We shall want to examine them more carefully in later chapters, but we might glance now at a few examples of these popular bugaboos that need to be slain by the sword of cold, hard fact.
=Popular Misconceptions about the Body.=
1 “Eight hours’ sleep is essential to health. All insomnia is dangerous and is incompatible with health. Nervous insomnia leads to shattered nerves and ultimately to insanity.”
2 “Overwork leads to nervous breakdown. Fatigue accumulates from day to day and necessitates a long rest for recuperation.”
3 “A carefully planned diet is essential to health, especially for the nervous person. A variety of food, eaten at the same time, is harmful. Acid and milk—for example, oranges and milk—are difficult to digest. Sour stomach is a sign of indigestion.”
4 “Modern life is so strenuous that our nerves cannot stand the strain.”
5 “Brain work is very fatiguing. It causes brain-fag and exhaustion.”
6 “Constipation is at the root of most physical ailments and is caused by eating the wrong kind of food.”
Some of these misconceptions are household words and are so all but universally believed that the thought that they can be challenged is enough to bewilder one. However, it is ideas like this that furnish the material out of which many a nervous trouble is made. Based on a half-knowledge of the human body, on logical conclusions from faulty premises, on hastily swallowed notions passed on from one person to another, they tend by the very power of an idea to work themselves out to fulfilment.
THE POWER BEHIND IDEAS
=Ideas Count.= Ideas are not the lifeless things they may appear. They are not merely intellectual property that can be locked up and ignored at will, nor are they playthings that can be taken up or discarded according to the caprice of the moment. Ideas work themselves into the very fiber of our being. They are part of us and they do things. If they are true, in line with things as they are, they do things that are for our good, but if they are false, we often discover that they have an altogether unsuspected power for harm and are capable of astonishing results, results which have no apparent relation to the ideas responsible for them and which are, therefore, laid to physical causes. Thinking straight, then, becomes a hygienic as well as a moral duty.
=Ideas and Emotions.= Ideas do not depend upon themselves for their driving-power. Life is not a cold intellectual process; it is a vivid experience, vibrant with feeling and emotion. It therefore happens that the experiences of life tend to bring ideas and emotions together and when an idea and an emotion get linked up together, they tend to stay together, especially if the emotion be intense or the experience is often repeated.