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MIND-CAUSE AND MIND-CURE
Nervous Control: Doctors and Suggestion: Normality of Mind-cure: Limitations in
Mind-cure: Hypnotism We shall not help on the cause of truth by belittling the share in health and healing of those material agencies which act directly on the body. But when all has been said, the importance of the mental factor remains enormous. To the activity of the undermind health is due; there is no recovery without at least the co-operation of the undermind; and millions of people recover from sickness without medical aid, that is to say, by the action of the undermind alone. But, regarded both physiologically and psychologically, the undermind is of one piece with the overmind. Therefore the mental condition of the patient — his conscious mental condition
has much to do with the recovery of his body, and the mental influence of others may considerably affect that condition.
To revert for a moment to our former illustration a man is like a motor-car that flashes past us in the road: The untutored spectator says, “How won
, derful!” But physiology is inquisitive: it gets hold of a car that has run down, and picks it to pieces. “Here,” it explains triumphantly, “is the way the whole thing works, and here are the very handles by which the machinery is directed.” Then psychology comes along and says, “ Very true, but you have not explained everything. I have observed that there was a man in the car; and if there had not been, you will agree that those handles and that steering-wheel would be of no use whatever.” So it is with the nerves: when they exist they show that there is an intelligence at work somewhere behind them; and they exist, not only in the locomotive apparatus of the human body, but everywhere.
It is necessary to dwell on this. Partly because I want to bring the cautious reader along with me, and I know that he feels safe in the physical realm. Partly also because there are multitudes of intelligent people who have no idea what the nerves are. If you ask the first person you meet, he will probably tell
you that nerves are the things which cause us to feel pain. Perhaps he will go further, and say that they are the transmitters of sensation. In any case he will probably limit his definition to the sensory nerves which bring messages to the mind, and will ignore the motor nerves which carry messages from the mind to all parts of the body. Consequently the popular conception of the nerves is gloomy: they are the symbols of pain, their energy is almost instinctively regarded as maleficent, bringing “an attack of nerves," though one might as reasonably speak of an attack of muscles. When we say that a man is muscular, we mean that his
muscles are strong, but when we say that he is nervous we mean that his nerves are weak
it is only in the case of literary style that “nervous ” is allowed to have a good meaning — in common speech about health we mean that a man is jumpy, or sometimes we only mean that he is afraid of burglars.
This melancholy conception is itself the cause of a good deal of illness. Health will be more secure, and recovery will be easier, when people understand that the nervous system is the throne and instrument of reason and the physical evidence that the entire mind, conscious and subconscious, controls the entire body.
As to the extent of that control there are differences of opinion; but no one denies its existence. Nor does any physician or authority nowadays deny the possibility of the conscious mind restoring the body to health. There is such a thing as mental healing: everyone agrees about this, and the more readily if we give it the humbler name of mind-cure.
Let us be clear about it. By mind-cure or mental healing is meant — not the mere subliminal action of
mind on body — but cure through the action of the conscious mind. And we will use the words in this sense: Though there is a mental element in all recovery, we will refuse the name of mind-cure to every case in which there has not been conscious mental action, either on the part of the patient or on the part of someone influencing the patient."
1 No doubt such a common remedy as “ going away for a change of air” is often essentially mind-cure. But for the purpose of our argument we may pass over such simple instances as this.
It is not of course admitted that all diseases can always be thus cured. But it is admitted that some diseases can sometimes be thus cured. The thing is possible. It is also agreed by doctors that in their usual practice the mental element holds an important place.
Doctors and Suggestion Every medical man indeed knows that as soon as his eye meets the eye of the patient he is exercising a mental power which is a real factor in his treatment; and it was from the doctors that most of us first learnt the therapeutic value of faith and hope. There is, of course, nothing new about all this: more than fifty years ago Sir Andrew Clark declared that the mental factor is always present —
“ It is impossible for us to deal knowingly and wisely with the various disorders of the body without distinctly recognising the agency of states and conditions of mind, often in producing and always in modifying them when produced. There is a very intimate relation between the mind and material elements of the human constitution.” 1 No doubt the importance of this has been insufficiently recognised, but there is no dispute as to the fact. However much the mental factor may have been neglected in the medical schools, the young doctor soon acquires some empirical knowledge of it, and his success with his patients largely depends on his appreciation of the fact that they have souls as well as bodies. From Hippocrates downwards, wrote Dr. Laycock, forty years ago, the most eminent physicians have all been either metaphysicians
1“ Introductory Lecture, by Dr. Andrew Clark, at the London Hospital.” Lancet, Oct. 6th, 1855.
or mental psychologists; “ for a knowledge of the facts and principles of a practical science of mind is fundamentally necessary to the practice of medicine. 1 Upon this point, indeed, there is no difference of opinion amongst intelligent persons, either in or out of the profession. And it is also true that the physician's own psychic qualities have much to do with his success, which is no doubt largely the reason why one doctor becomes a leading consultant while another who is his intellectual equal does not rise out of the ranks; nay, it is said by surgeons that even in their department a great deal of successful surgery depends upon confidence in the operator. Consciously or unconsciously, the successful doctor makes great use both of his psychological knowledge - his “knowledge of the human heart”and of his own psychic power.2
He does indeed require great knowledge and experience, because, for one thing, a mistaken diagnosis may be fatal; and this is one of the reasons why the unqualified practitioner may be dangerous, and why it is so important that neither mind-cure nor
1 T. Laycock, Mind and Brain, 1869, Vol. I, pt. I, p. 20.
2 Dr. Schofield states this with some humour in a passage which a layman may perhaps venture to quote :
“There lurks in the mind of every doctor who reads these pages a suspicion that he has a something about him which is of value to his patient over and beyond the outward and visible sign of his faith in drugs, as obscurely manifest in the crabbed hieroglyphics on his prescriptions. And there is a consciousness, too, in every actual or potential patient who may scan these lines, that there is a something about his doctor that does him more good than the medicines, which indeed he rarely takes. And the doctor he likes is the one he sends for; in spite of the fact that the other doctor in the town has a greater scientific reputation, and a longer string of letters after his name.” The Force of Mind, 1902, Pp. 22–3.