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Nervous Strain In Pain And Sickness
Source: Power Through Repose
THERE is no way in which superfluous and dangerous tension is so
rapidly increased as in the bearing of pain. The general impression
seems to be that one should brace up to a pain; and very great
strength of will is often shown in the effort made and the success
achieved in bearing severe pain by means of this bracing process.
But alas, the reaction after the pain is over--that alone would show
the very sad misuse which had been made of a strong will. Not that
there need be no reaction; but it follows naturally that the more
strain brought to bear upon the nervous system in endurance, the
greater must be the reaction when the load is lifted. Indeed, so
well is this known in the medical profession, that it is a surgical
axiom that the patient who most completely controls his expression
of pain will be the greatest sufferer from the subsequent reaction.
While there is so much pain to be endured in this world, a study of
how best to bear it certainly is not out of place, especially when
decided practical effects can be quickly shown as the result of such
study. So prevalent is the idea that a pain is better borne by
clinching the fists and tightening all other muscles in the body
correspondingly, that I know the possibility of a better or more
natural mode of endurance will be laughed at by many, and others
will say, "That is all very well for those who can relax to a
pain,--let them gain from it, I cannot; it is natural for me to set
my teeth and bear it." There is a distinct difference between what
is natural to us and natural to Nature, although the first term is
of course misused.
Pain comes from an abnormal state of some part of the nervous
system. The more the nerves are strained to bear pain, the more
sensitive they become; and of course those affected immediately feel
most keenly the increased sensitiveness, and so the pain grows
worse. Reverse that action, and through the force of our own
inhibitory power let a new pain be a reminder to us to _let go,_
instead of to hold on, and by decreasing the strain we decrease the
possibility of more pain. Whatever reaction may follow pain then,
will be reaction from the pain itself, not from the abnormal tension
which has been held for the purpose of bearing it.
But--it will be objected--is not the very effort of the brain to
relax the tension a nervous strain? Yes, it is,--not so great,
however, as the continued tension all over the body, and it grows
less and less as the habit is acquired of bearing the pain easily.
The strain decreases more rapidly with those who having undertaken
to relax, perceive the immediate effects; for, of course, as the
path clears and new light comes they are encouraged to walk more
steadily in the easier way.
I know there are pains that are better borne and even helped by a
certain amount of _bracing,_ but if the idea of bearing such pain
quietly, easily, naturally, takes a strong hold of the mind, all
bracing will be with a true equilibrium of the muscles, and will
have the required effect without superfluous tension.
One of the most simple instances of bearing pain more easily by
relaxing to it occurs while sitting in the dentist's chair. Most of
us clutch the arms, push with our feet, and hold ourselves off the
chair to the best of our ability. Every nerve is alive with the
expectation of being hurt
The fatigue which results from an hour or more of this dentist
tension is too well known to need description. Most of the nervous
fatigue suffered from the dentist's work is in consequence of the
unnecessary strain of expecting a hurt and not from any actual pain
inflicted. The result obtained by insisting upon making yourself a
dead weight in the chair, if you succeed only partially, will prove
this. It will also be a preliminary means of getting well rid of the
dentist fright,--that peculiar dread which is so well known to most
of us. The effect of fright is nervous strain, which again contracts
the muscles. If we drop the muscular tension, and so the nervous
strain, thus working our way into the cause by means of the effect,
there will be no nerves or muscles to hold the fright, which then so
far as the physique is concerned cannot exist. _So far as the
physique is concerned,--_that is emphatic; for as we work inward
from the effect to the cause we must be met by the true philosophy
inside, to accomplish the whole work. I might relax my body out of
the nervous strain of fright all day; if my mind insisted upon being
frightened it would simply be a process of freeing my nerves and
muscles that they might be made more effectually tense by an
unbalanced, miserably controlled mind. In training to bring body and
mind to a more normal state, the teacher must often begin with the
body only, and use his own mind to gently lead the pupil to clearer
sight. Then when the pupil can strike the equilibrium between mind
and body,--he must be left to acquire the habit for himself.
The same principles by which bearing the work of the dentist is made
easier, are applicable in all pain, and especially helpful when pain
is nervously exaggerated. It would be useless and impossible to
follow the list of various pains which we attempt to bear by means
of additional strain.
Each of us has his own personal temptation in the way of pain,--from
the dentist's chair to the most severe suffering, or the most
painful operation,--and each can apply for himself the better way of
bearing it. And it is not perhaps out of place here to speak of the
taking of ether or any anaesthetic before an operation. The power of
relaxing to the process easily and quietly brings a quicker and
pleasanter effect with less disagreeable results. One must take
ether easily in mind and body. It a man forces himself to be quiet
externally, and is frightened and excited mentally, as soon as he
has become unconscious enough to lose control of his voluntary
muscles, the impression of fright made upon the brain asserts
itself, and he struggles and resists in proportion.
These same principles of repose should be applied in illness when it
comes in other forms than that of pain. We can easily increase
whatever illness may attack us by the nervous strain which comes
from fright, anxiety, or annoyance. I have seen a woman retain a
severe cold for days more than was necessary, simply because of the
chronic state of strain she kept herself in by fretting about it;
and in another unpleasantly amusing case the sufferer's constantly
expressed annoyance took the form of working almost without
intermission to find remedies for herself. Without using patience
enough to wait for the result of one remedy, she would rush to
another until she became--so to speak--twisted and snarled in the
meshes of a cold which it took weeks thoroughly to cure. This is not
uncommon, and not confined merely to a cold in the head.
We can increase the suffering of friends through "sympathy" given in
the same mistaken way by which we increase our own pain, or keep
ourselves longer than necessary in an uncomfortable illness.
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