Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 74.djvu/574

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deaf and dumb and shortly after that lost the use of the right arm and the right leg.

In this condition he was brought to court, eight months after the accident, the most important witness in his suit against the street railway company. There never was a fairer trial. Opposed experts coincided in the view that the plaintiff had received no injury of important organs and that his dramatic symptoms were the physical expressions of idea. It was a tribute to the dignity of honest experts that the judge, in the face of the exhibit, listened calmly to this testimony and that the jury did not laugh out loud. For the poor man seemed sitting in the shadow of the tomb. Emaciated, his face agitated by constant twitchings, his whole right side inert and powerless, hearing nothing, uttering no sound, getting his questions on slips of paper and writing the answers with the left hand (an accomplishment acquired since his illness)—he looked the leaf about to drop, the very essence of decay. Optimist indeed who could believe in his rehabilitation.

The jury disagreed, mainly on the negligence, and the case was settled a few months later out of court. The man recovered, not all at once, but gradually. He now hears everything, and, if his wife is to be believed, talks too much; his muscles have regained their power and, when not busy on the farm, he ferries passengers across a little river in the county of Princess Anne. So the doctors, all of them, were right for once, for hysteria and nothing else can explain a case like this.

As a psychological proposition, this strange malady more than demonstrates the influences of mind on matter—it establishes the dependence of all voluntary expression on idea. It can disrupt mental and physical unity as completely as the most destructive injuries. Its dark shadows flitting in the subconsciousness corners of the mind may stimulate to increased function, or so far suppress function that the affected organ is left without its purpose. Hypersensitiveness, which soon is pain, to light, to sound, to smell and taste, to feeling, may all be products of hysteria when the disorder whips up function; when it paralyzes, the victim must get along as best he can until his sensorial servants come back to work. In the sphere of motion, twitchings, tremors, contractions and even convulsions, bear witness to excess of function; paralysis, to loss of it. These functional perversions, these idealistic symptoms, are cast in the same mold as those of structural disease. But they carry with them tell-tale differences of form and arrangement which permit their true nature to be recognized. Various and many are the hypotheses to explain the psychological enigma. For its last analysis it needs the genius of a Plato. For working purposes, perhaps the theory of Charcot is the most acceptable. He compared the genesis of traumatic hysteria—which alone concerns us here—with the mechanism of hypnosis. The jar, the blow, the fright, like the passes or the artificial aids of the hypnotist, create disorder in the mind.