Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/115

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105
WORRY.

powering abstraction. Passion may produce a similar immunity from pain, and give ability to endure even self-inflicted injury. The daily experience of lunatic asylums will abundantly attest the truth of this last assertion.

How does all this bear upon the subject? It seems rather to strengthen the position assailed, by showing that "overwork" may exhaust the reserves, thereby arresting the function, and possibly destroying the integrity, of the mental organism! That is undoubtedly the surface view of the case, and it is the popular explanation of what occurs. To controvert the received hypothesis is the object of the present paper. The argument, opposed to the theory of work itself exhausting the stock of energy, may be simply stated thus: the reserves, physical and mental, are too closely guarded to be invaded by direct encroachment. Pain is not suspended by the persistent infliction of injury unless the mechanism of sensation is disabled or destroyed. Hunger does not cease until starvation has assailed the seat of nutrition. The sense of extreme weariness is not allayed by increased activity, but the longing for rest may subside, because it has been stifled by some overwhelming influence. The natural safeguards are so well fitted for their task that neither body nor mind is exposed to the peril of serious exhaustion so long as their functions are duly performed. In brief, overwork is impossible so long as the effort made is natural. When energy, of any kind, takes a morbid form of action, some force outside itself must be reacting upon it injuriously; and the seat of the injury, so far as the sinister influence on energy is concerned, will be found in close proximity to the sensation which under normal conditions guards the reserve. The use of stimulants in aid of work is, perhaps, one of the commonest forms of collateral influence suspending the warning sense of exhaustion. When the laborious worker, overcome with fatigue, "rouses" himself with alcohol, coffee, tea, or any other agent which may chance to suit him, he does not add a unit of force to his stock of energy, he simply narcotizes the sense of weariness, and, the guard being drugged, he appropriates the reserve. In like manner, when the dreamer and night-watcher, worn out by sleeplessness, employs opium, chloral, or some other poison to produce the semblance of repose, he stupefies the consciousness of unrest, but, except in cases where it is only a habit of sleeplessness, which has been contracted, and, being interrupted, may be broken by temporary recourse to a perilous artifice, the condition is unrelieved. Not unfrequently the warning sense is stifled by the very intensity of the motive power or impulse. Ambition, zeal, love, sometimes fear, will carry a man beyond the bounds set by nature. No matter what suspends the functions of the guard set at the threshold of the reserve, if the residual stock is touched, two consequences ensue—waste and depreciation. It is important to recognize both of these evils. The former is generally perceived, the latter is commonly overlooked. The