Sources: Nerves And Common Sense
SOME women live in a chronic state of excitement all the time and
they do not find it out until they get ill. Even then they do not
always find it out, and then they get more ill.
It is really much the same with excitable women as with a man who
thinks he must always keep a little stimulant in himself in order to
keep about his work. When a bad habit is established in us we feel
unnatural if we give the habit up for a moment--and we feel natural
when we are in it--but it is poison all the same.
If a woman has a habit of constantly snuffing or clearing her
throat, or rocking a rocking chair, or chattering to whoever may be
near her she would feel unnatural and weird if she were suddenly
wrenched out of any of these things. And yet the poisoning process
goes on just the same.
When it seems immaterial to us that we should be natural we are in a
pretty bad way and the worst of it is we do not know it.
I once took a friend with me into the country who was one of those
women who lived on excitement in every-day life. When she dressed in
the morning she dressed in excitement. She went down to breakfast in
excitement. She went about the most humdrum everyday affairs
excited. Every event in life--little or big--was an excitement to
her--and she went to bed tired out with excitement--over nothing.
We went deep in the woods and in the mountains, full of great
When my friend first got there she was excited about her arrival,
she was excited about the house and the people in it, but in the
middle of the night she jumped up in bed with a groan of torture.
I thought she had been suddenly taken ill and started up quickly
from my end of the room to see what was the trouble.
"Oh, oh," she groaned, "the quiet! It is so quiet!" Her brain which
had been in a whirl of petty excitement felt keen pain when the
normal quiet touched it.
Fortunately this woman had common sense and I could gradually
explain the truth to her, and she acted upon it and got rested and
strong and quiet.
I knew another woman who had been wearing shoes that were too tight
for her and that pinched her toes all together. The first time she
wore shoes that gave her feet room enough the muscles of her feet
hurt her so that she could hardly walk.
Of course, having been cramped into abnormal contraction the process
of expanding to freedom would be painful.
If you had held your fist clenched tight for years, or months, or
even weeks, how it would hurt to open it so that you could have free
use of your fingers.
The same truth holds good with a fist that has been clenched, a foot
that has been pinched, or a brain that has been contracted with
The process leading from the abnormal to the normal is always a
painful one. To stay in the abnormal means blindness, constantly
limiting power and death.
To come out into a normal atmosphere and into a normal way of living
means clearer sight, constantly increasing power, and fresh life.
This habit of excitement is not only contracting to the brain; it
has its effect over the whole body. If there is any organ that is
weaker than any other the excitement eventually shows itself. A
woman may be suffering from indigestion, or she may be running up
large doctor's bills because of either one of a dozen other organic
disturbances, with no suspicion that the cause of the whole trouble
is that the noisy, excited, strained habits of her life have robbed
her body of the vitality it needed to keep it in good running order.
As if an engineer threw his coal all over the road and having no
fuel for his engine wondered that it would not run. Stupid women we
are--most of us!
The trouble is that many of us are so deeply immersed in the habit
of excitement that we do not know it.
It is a healthy thing to test ourselves and to really try to find
ourselves out. It is not only healthy; it is deeply interesting.
If quiet of the woods, or, any other quiet place, makes us fidgety,
we may be sure that our own state is abnormal and we had better go
into the woods as often as possible until we feel ourselves to be a
part of the quiet there.
If we go into the woods and get soothed and quieted and then come
out and get fussed up and excited so that we feel painfully the
contrast between the quiet and our every-day life, then we can know
that we are living in the habit of abnormal excitement and we can
set to work to stop it.
"That is all very well," I hear my readers say, "but how are you
going to stop living in abnormal excitement when every circumstance
and every person about you is full of it and knows nothing else?"
If you really want to do it and would feel interested to make
persistent effort I can give you the recipe and I can promise any
woman that if she perseveres until she has found the way she will
never cease to be grateful.
If you start with the intention of taking the five minutes' search
for quiet every day, do not let your intention be weakened or
yourself discouraged if for some days you see no result at all.
At first it may be that whatever quiet you find will seem so strange
that it will annoy you or make you very nervous, but if you persist
and work right through, the reward will be worth the pains many
Sometimes quieting our minds helps us to quiet our bodies; sometimes
we must quiet our bodies first before we can find the way to a
really quiet mind. The attention of the mind to quiet the body, of
course, reacts back on to the mind, and from there we can pass on to
thinking quietly. Each individual must judge for herself as to the
best way of reaching the quiet. I will give several recipes and you
can take your choice.
First, to quiet the body:--
1. Lie still and see how quietly you can breathe.
2. Sit still and let your head droop very slowly forward until
finally it hangs down with its whole weight. Then lift it up very,
very slowly and feel as if you pushed it all the way up from the
lower part of your spine, or, better still, as if it grew up, so
that you feel the slow, creeping, soothing motion all the way up
your spine while your head is coming up, and do not let your head
come to an entirely erect position until your chest is as high as
you can hold it comfortably. When your head is erect take a long,
quiet breath and drop it again. You can probably drop it and raise
it twice in the five minutes. Later on it should take the whole five
minutes to drop it and raise it once and an extra two minutes for
the long breath.
When you have dropped your head as far as you can, pause for a full
minute without moving at all and feel heavy; then begin at the lower
part of your spine and very slowly start to raise it. Be careful not
to hold your breath, and watch to breathe as easily and quietly as
you can while your head is moving.
If this exercise hurts the back of your neck or any part of your
spine, don't be troubled by it, but go right ahead and you will soon
come to where it not only does not hurt, but is very restful.
When you have reached an erect position again stay there
quietly--first take long gentle breaths and let them get shorter and
shorter until they are a good natural length, then forget your
breathing altogether and sit still as if you never had moved, you
never were going to move, and you never wanted to move.
This emphasizes the good natural quiet in your brain and so makes
you more sensitive to unquiet.
Gradually you will get the habit of catching yourself in states of
unnecessary excitement; at such times you cannot go off by yourself
and go through the exercises. You cannot even stop where you are and
go through them, but you can recall the impression made on your
brain at the time you did them and in that way rule out your
excitement and gain the real power that should be in its place.
So little by little the state of excitement becomes as unpleasant as
a cloud of dust on a windy day and the quiet is as pleasant as under
the trees on top of a hill in the best kind of a June day.
The trouble is so many of us live in a cloud of dust that we do not
suspect even the existence of the June day, but if we are fortunate
enough once or twice even to get to sneezing from the dust, and so
to recognize its unpleasantness, then we want to look carefully to
see if there is not a way out of it.
It is then that we can get the beginning of the real quiet which is
the normal atmosphere of every human being.
But we must persist for a long time before we can feel established
in the quiet itself. What is worth having is worth working for--and
the more it is worth having, the harder work is required to get it.
Nerves form habits, and our nerves not only get the habit of living
in the dust, but the nerves of all about us have the same habit. So
that when at first we begin to get into clear air, we may almost
dislike it, and rush back into the dust again, because we and our
friends are accustomed to it.
All that bad habit has to be fought, and conquered, and there are
many difficulties in the way of persistence, but the reward is worth
it all, as I hope to show in later articles.
I remember once walking in a crowded street where the people were
hurrying and rushing, where every one's face was drawn and knotted,
and nobody seemed to be having a good time. Suddenly and
unexpectedly I saw a man coming toward me with a face so quiet that
it showed out like a little bit of calm in a tornado. He looked like
a common, every-day man of the world, so far as his dress and
general bearing went, and his features were not at all unusual, but
his expression was so full of quiet interest as to be the greatest
contrast to those about him. He was not thinking his own thoughts
either--he was one of the crowd and a busy, interested observer.
He might have said, "You silly geese, what are you making all this
fuss about, you can do it much better if you will go more easily."
If that was his thought it came from a very kindly sense of humor,
and he gave me a new realization of what it meant, practically, to
be in the world and not of it.
If you are in the world you can live, and observe, and take a much
better part in its workings. If you are of it, you are simply
whirled in an eddy of dust, however you may pose to yourself or to