Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/117

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107
WORRY.

the sense of hunger, present in the system, is for a time preternaturally acute, and marks the fact that the demand is occasioned by loss of power to appropriate, instead of any diminution of supply. The effort to work becomes daily more laborious, the task of fixing the attention grows increasingly difficult, thoughts wander, memory fails, the reasoning power is enfeebled; prejudice—the shade of defunct emotion or some past persuasion—takes the place of judgment; physical nerve or brain disturbance may supervene, and the crash will then come suddenly, unexpected by on-lookers, perhaps unperceived by the sufferer himself. This is the history of "worry," or disorder produced by mental disquietude and distraction, occasionally by physical disease.

The first practical inference to be deduced from these considerations is that brain-work in the midst of mental worry is carried on in the face of ceaseless peril. Unfortunately, work and worry are so closely connected in daily experience that they can not be wholly separated. Meanwhile the worry of work—that which grows out of the business in hand—is generally a needless though not always an avoidable evil. In a large proportion of instances this description of disorder is due to the lack of education in brain-work. Men and women, with minds capacious and powerful enough but untrained, attempt feats for which training is indispensable, and, being unprepared, they fail. The utilitarian policy of the age is gradually eliminating from the educationary system many of the special processes by which minds used to be developed. This is, in part at least, why cases of sudden collapse are more numerous now than in years gone by. It is not, as vanity suggests, that the brain-work of to-day is so much greater than that exacted from our predecessors, but we are less well prepared for its performance. The treatment of this form of affection, the break-down from the worry of work, must be preventive; the sole remedy is the reversal of a policy which substitutes results for processes, knowledge for education. It is a serious cause of discomfiture and sorrow in work that so much of the brain-power expended is necessarily devoted to the removal of extraneous causes of worry. Labor is so fatal to life, because it is so difficult to live. The deadly peril of work in the midst of worry must be confronted, because the disturbing cause can only be got rid of by persistent labor. This is the crux of the difficulty, and, in the attempt to cure the evil, the struggling mind finds its fate involved in a vicious circle of morbid reactions. Nevertheless, it is the fact that work in the teeth of worry is fraught with peril, and whenever it can be avoided it should be, let the sacrifice cost what it may.

The second deduction must be, that there is no excuse for idleness in the pretense of fear of "overwork." There is some reason to apprehend that the attention recently directed to this alleged cause of mental unsoundness has not been free from a mischievous influence on