Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 15.djvu/59

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
49
BODILY CONDITIONS — MENTAL STATES.

the incision to the same degree, and the difference in sensations would be simply the difference of mental constitutions, that is, it would be wholly mental. So of classes. The child of the widow, Bridget Murphy, who lives in a back alley and goes out to work by the day, leaving her children at home with nothing to stimulate the mind, does not feel the same amount of pain from the pressure of an instrument which is applied for disease of the hip-joint, which he has got in falling down stairs, as the child reared among the excitements of a cultivated home, with pictures and toys, the circus and menagerie, dogs and horses, and the society of cultivated adults to stimulate mental activity. While the widow's son can hardly talk at five years old, the other, by aid of French and German nurses, speaks three languages at the same age. But when he falls on the ice and gets hip-disease, his sufferings correspond to his mental rather than to his bodily condition, and his pains, like his pleasures, are as much greater than those of the first-mentioned child as his mind is more active and thus more susceptible. To continue the illustration, the instrument worn by the child intellectually low down may, by the mother's ignorance and neglect, become buried in the flesh, with slight murmur, compared to the distress caused by a crumb of bread or a wrinkle in the linen under the points of pressure in the mentally active child. Mental susceptibility corresponds closely with mental activity, so that so-called bodily sensibility must correspond closely again with mental activity. And we find this to be the case. What is said to be Indian fortitude, when they tear their flesh in some of their rites, is simply brutishness. They do not feel in the same degree that we should under the same circumstances. And, on the other hand, the cultured and aesthetic should comprehend, more than they do, that an increased capacity for painful sensations is the direct result and the constant accompaniment of the refinements of civilization, and that to suffer is inevitable along with the pleasurable emotions, which constitute at once the compensation and the charm of the higher civilized existence.

An illustration or two of the mental production of hyperæsthesia — and it is the same with anæsthesia — will suffice for this part of our subject.

It should be remembered that each case represents a class of cases, and is not simply an isolated and phenomenal instance of a curious manifestation. Many cases of lameness of the ankle-joint are produced by, or, strictly speaking, exist only in, the mind, as, for instance, the following among many others:

An unmarried lady of thirty called on me for advice with reference to a foot and ankle which she had not been able to use during the three and a half years preceding. There was a history of some slight injury, with periods of improvement during the first six months of her lameness, but with a final loss of ability to use it on account of its exceeding painfulness at every attempt to bear her weight upon it, and she had been