These same principles of repose should be applied in illness when it comes in other forms than that of pain. We can easily increase whatever illness may attack us by the nervous strain which comes from fright, anxiety, or annoyance. I have seen a woman retain a severe cold for days more than was necessary, simply because of the chronic state of strain she kept herself in by fretting about it; and in another unpleasantly amusing case the sufferer’s constantly expressed annoyance took the form of working almost without intermission to find remedies for herself. Without using patience enough to wait for the result of one remedy, she would rush to another until she became—so to speak—twisted and snarled in the meshes of a cold which it took weeks thoroughly to cure. This is not uncommon, and not confined merely to a cold in the head.
We can increase the suffering of friends through “sympathy” given in the same mistaken way by which we increase our own pain, or keep ourselves longer than necessary in an uncomfortable illness.
NERVOUS STRAIN IN THE EMOTIONS
THE most intense suffering which follows a misuse of the nervous power comes from exaggerated, unnecessary, or sham emotions. We each have our own emotional microscope, and the strength of its lens increases in proportion to the supersensitiveness of our nervous system. If we are a little tired, an emotion which in itself might hardly be noticed, so slight is the cause and so small the result, will be magnified many times. If we are very tired, the magnifying process goes on until often we have made ourselves ill through various sufferings, all of our own manufacture.
This increase of emotion has not always nervous fatigue as an excuse. Many people have inherited emotional magnifying glasses, and carry them through the world, getting and giving unnecessary pain, and losing more than half of the delight of life in failing to get an unprejudiced view of it. If the tired man or woman would have the good sense to stop for one minute and use the power which is given us all of understanding and appreciating our own perverted states and so move on to better, how easy it would be to recognize that a feeling is exaggerated because of fatigue, and wait until we have gained the power to drop our emotional microscopes and save all the evil results of allowing nervous excitement to control us. We are even permitted to see clearly an inherited tendency to magnify emotions and to overcome it to such an extent that life seems new to us. This must be done by the individual himself, through a personal appreciation of his own mistakes and active steps to free himself from them. No amount of talking, persuading, or teaching will be of the slightest service until that personal recognition comes. This has been painfully proved too often by those who see a friend suffering unnecessarily, and in the short-sighted attempt to wrench the emotional microscope from his hand, simply cause the hold to tighten and the magnifying power to increase. A careful, steady training of the physique opens the way for a better practice of the wholesome philosophy, and the microscope drops with the relaxation of the external tension which has helped to hold it.