This is the fact that we want to understand thoroughly and to look out for. If we are impressed with the idea that any one food does not agree with us, whenever we think of that food we contract, and especially our stomachs contract. Now if our stomachs contract when a food that we believe to disagree with us is merely mentioned, of course they would contract all the more when we ate it. Naturally our digestive organs would be handicapped by the contraction which came from our attitude of mind and, of course, the food would appear not to agree with us.
Take, for instance, people who are born with peculiar prenatal impressions about their food. A woman whom I have in mind could not take milk nor cream nor butter nor anything with milk or cream or butter in it. She seemed really proud of her milk-and-cream antipathy. She would air it upon all occasions, when she could do so without being positively discourteous, and often she came very near the edge of discourtesy. I never saw her even appear to make an effort to overcome it, and it is perfectly true that a prenatal impression like that can be overcome as entirely, as can a personally acquired impression, although it may take a longer time and a more persistent effort.
This anti-milk-and-cream lady was at work every day over-emphasizing her milk-and-cream contractions; whereas if she had put the same force into dropping the milk-and-cream contraction she would have been using her will to great advantage, and would have helped herself in many other ways as well as in gaining the ability to take normally a very healthful food. We cannot hold one contraction without having its influence draw us into many others. We cannot give our attention to dropping one contraction without having the influence of that one effort expand us in many other ways. Watch people when they refuse food that is passed them at table; you can see whether they refuse and at the same time contract against the food, or whether they refuse with no contraction at all. I have seen an expression of mild loathing on some women’s faces when food was passed which “did not agree with them,” but they were quite unconscious that their expressions had betrayed them.
Now, it is another fact that the contraction of the stomach at one form of food will interfere with the good digestion of another form. When cauliflower has been passed to us and we contract against it how can we expect our stomachs to recover from that contraction in time to digest perfectly the next vegetable which is passed and which we may like very much? It may be said that we expand to the vegetable we like, and that immediately counteracts the former contraction to the vegetable which we do not like. That is true only to a certain extent, for the tendency to cauliflower contraction is there in the back of our brains influencing our stomachs all the time, until we have actually used our wills consciously to drop it.