Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 15.djvu/65

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
55
BODILY CONDITIONS — MENTAL STATES.

must necessarily take food. There can be no doubt of that. Let us draw a few parallels, and see how easily such cases are explained by very ordinary and accepted facts. Every physician has had cases of persons who asserted that they did not sleep at all for long seasons at a time, while the fact was that such persons did actually sleep a good deal, as proved by being seen asleep, and by the fact that they did not suffer in health, as they must have done if sleep had been entirely absent. But these persons, while asserting that which was not true concerning an important matter, did not intend to falsify. They simply stated what they believed to be true. Their mental condition was such that they did not feel the impression which sleep ordinarily makes on the consciousness. They slept, but, having no impression of sleep, they asserted that they did not sleep. They could not, with the only evidence which they possessed, the absence of any mental impression of having slept, assert otherwise. There are other persons who, under certain states of mind, say that they eat almost nothing at all — "not enough to keep a bird alive" — while, as a matter of fact, they do eat very well, sometimes even heartily. We see them eat enough to maintain them well nourished, and yet they assert that they do not eat enough for the bodily requirements. Again, the difficulty lies, not in the fact of eating, nor in any desire to falsify, but in the fact that, in their peculiar mental condition, their eating, though seen by others and by themselves, makes no impression on their minds. They state, not what is true, but what they feel to be true. To recur to the more typical class:

A lady, who was at once the daughter of one physician and the sister of another, lost the use of one limb soon after a slight attack of sore-throat. She got about on crutches for nearly a year, and when summer came she went into the country, where she grew stout and was in perfect bodily health, joyfully anticipating a speedy return to her home in the city with restored powers. But suddenly the other limb gave out, and she was brought helpless back. After I had examined her I knew that she had all the power in her limbs which she had ever had, but that did not make me think that she was intending to deceive me when she asserted that she had no power to stand. Her statement was contrary to the fact, but she had to express that which she felt to be the fact. The parallel goes even further than this.

This person did use her limbs more or less in certain ways, and under certain circumstances. But that fact made no impression on her consciousness, as against the stronger impression of entire want of power in her limbs. And so it is in all of the cases of perverted and abnormal mental timbre, when this condition has passed a certain boundary. The words spoken and the things done are dominated by the paramount influence on, and take their quality and coloring from, the predominating mental state of the subjects of it.

Nevertheless, while the mental timbre is an independent condition,