Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 74.djvu/577

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HYSTERIA AS AN ASSET

hear of in the faith cures, or such as corporation partisans maintain follow quick on payment, do not come within the range of medical experience. It is always several months, sometimes a year or two or maybe even longer, before disabling symptoms disappear.

The farmer whose case has already been described suffered pain and disability for a year after his suit was finished and it was four years before he recovered speech and hearing.

Litigation permits no let-ups in the disease creating suggestions; and the longer the litigation period, the longer, other things being equal, the time required for cure. In the case of a young man injured in Washington, D. C., there were eight years between the accident and final verdict. During this considerable fraction of his life, the plaintiff was glued to his chair, the victim of paralysis from idea.[1] I am still confident of his recovery, though even now, eighteen months after the finish of the legal contest, he has not begun to walk.

The mechanism of recovery in these litigated cases is different than in the ones reported from the shrines of healing. In these latter, the priests make new suggestions, getting at the soul through anticipation, faith and religious fervor. In traumatic hysteria, the cures take place, not so much from fresh suggestions as from removal of those which worked the injury. New springs of action are not tapped; but the stones which blocked the old ones are one by one removed. Once the case is settled, the attorney's sympathy becomes homeopathic in its dosage; the physician abandons the contingent fee; family and friends, worn out by watching and satisfied at last that the patient will not die, resume their wonted occupations. The invalid is left, more and more alone. Under the fillip of neglect, the fixed ideas show signs of weakening. The patient reflects less and less upon his injury and begins to see, in the distance, perhaps, but every day more clearly, the smiling visage of Hygeia. His interest now is to regain his health and enjoy his money, as before it was to stay ill enough to get it. Little by little, he regains his balance and begins to hobble about the room. New trials and achievements add to his confidence, though he has occasional relapses. 'He gets out on the street and finds himself more capable than they ever let him think he would be. Then under the stress of some emotion, or forced by some sudden danger, the part paralyzed springs into pristine being; and soon after he resumes his work.

It has long been held that such cases are the products of voluntary creation and that the hysteric is an actor and a fraud. Such a view is surely wrong. No actor can ever equal the mimetic powers of this wonderful psychosis; and even if the hysteric is a fraud, who, at times, is not? The disease reflects, to some extent, the normal nature of its victims; but it reflects still more the environment in which it is born and lives and dies.

 

  1. Physicians on both sides agreed in this diagnosis.