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The Brain In Its Direction Of The Body
Source: Power Through Repose
WE come now to the brain and its direction of other parts of the
What tremendous and unnecessary force is used in talking,--from the
aimless motion of the hands, the shoulders, the feet, the entire
body, to a certain rigidity of carriage, which tells as powerfully
in the wear and tear of the nervous system as superfluous motion. It
is a curious discovery when we find often how we are holding our
shoulders in place, and in the wrong place. A woman receiving a
visitor not only talks all over herself, but reflects the visitor's
talking all over, and so at the end of the visit is doubly fatigued.
"It tires me so to see people" is heard often, not only from those
who are under the full influence of "Americanitis," but from many
who are simply hovering about its borders. "Of course it tires you
to see people, you see them with, so much superfluous effort," can
almost without exception be a true answer. A very little simple
teaching will free a woman from that unnecessary fatigue. If she is
sensible, once having had her attention brought and made keenly
alive to the fact that she talks all over, she will through
constant correction gain the power of talking as Nature meant she
should, with her vocal apparatus only, and with such easy motions as
may be needed to illustrate her words. In this change, so far from
losing animation, she gains it, and gains true expressive power; for
all unnecessary motion of the body in talking simply raises a dust,
so to speak, and really blurs the true thought of the mind and
feeling of the heart.
The American voice--especially the female voice--is a target which
has been hit hard many times, and very justly. A ladies' luncheon
can often be truly and aptly compared to a poultry-yard, the shrill
cackle being even more unpleasant than that of a large concourse of
hens. If we had once become truly appreciative of the natural mellow
tones possible to every woman, these shrill voices would no more be
tolerated than a fashionable luncheon would be served in the
A beautiful voice has been compared to corn, oil, and wine. We lack
almost entirely the corn and the oil; and the wine in our voices is
far more inclined to the sharp, unpleasant taste of very poor
currant wine, than to the rich, spicy flavor of fine wine from the
grape. It is not in the province of this book to consider the
physiology of the voice, which would be necessary in order to show
clearly how its natural laws are constantly disobeyed. We can now
speak of it only with regard to the tension which is the immediate
cause of the trouble. The effort to propel the voice from the
throat, and use force in those most delicate muscles when it should
come from the stronger muscles of the diaphragm, is like trying to
make one man do the work of ten; the result must eventually be the
utter collapse of the one man from over-activity, and loss of power
in the ten men because of muscles unused. Clergyman's sore throat is
almost always explainable in this way; and there are many laymen
with constant trouble in the throat from no cause except the misuse
of its muscles in talking. "The old philosopher said the seat of the
soul was in the diaphragm. However that may be, the word begins
there, soul and body; but you squeeze the life out of it in your
throat, and so your words are born dead!" was the most expressive
exclamation of an able trainer of the voice.
Few of us feel. that we can take the time or exercise the care for
the proper training of our voices; and such training is not made a
prominent feature, as it should be, in all American schools. Indeed,
if it were, we would have to begin with the teachers; for the
typical teacher's voice, especially in our public schools, coming
from unnecessary nervous strain is something frightful. In a large
school-room a teacher can be heard, and more impressively heard, in
common conversational tones; for then it is her mind that is felt
more than her body. But the teacher's voice mounts the scale of
shrillness and force just in proportion as her nervous fatigue
increases; and often a true enthusiasm expresses itself--or, more
correctly, hides itself--in a sharp, loud voice, when it would be
far more effective in its power with the pupils if the voice were
kept quiet. If we cannot give time or money to the best development
of our voices, we can grow sensitive to the shrill, unpleasant
tones, and by a constant preaching of "lower your voices," "speak
more quietly," from the teacher to herself, and then to her pupils,
from mother to child, and from every woman to her own voice, the
standard American voice would change, greatly to the national
I never shall forget the restful pleasure of hearing a teacher call
the roll in a large schoolroom as quietly as she would speak to a
child in a closet, and every girl answering in the same soft and
pleasant way. The effect even of that daily roll-call could not have
been small in its counteracting influence on the shrill American
Watch two people in an argument, as the excitement increases the
voice rises. In such a case one of the best and surest ways to
govern your temper is to lower your voice. Indeed the nervous system
and the voice are in such exquisite sympathy that they constantly
act and react on each other. It is always easier to relax
superfluous tension after lowering the voice.
"Take the bone and flesh sound from your voice" is a simple and
interesting direction. It means do not push so hard with your body
and so interfere with the expression of your soul. Thumping on a
piano, or hard scraping on a violin, will keep all possible
expression from the music, and in just the same proportion will
unnecessary physical force hide the soul in a voice. Indeed with the
voice--because the instrument is finer--the contrast between
Nature's way and man's perversion is far greater.
One of the first cares with a nervous invalid, or with any one who
suffers at all from overstrained nerves, should be for a quiet,
mellow voice. It is not an invariable truth that women with poorly
balanced nerves have shrill, strained voices. There is also a rigid
tone in a nervously low voice, which, though not unpleasant to the
general ear, is expressive to one who is in the habit of noticing
nervous people, and is much more difficult to relax than the high
pitched voices. There is also a forced calm which is tremendous in
its nervous strain, the more so as its owner takes pride in what she
considers remarkable self-control.
Another common cause of fatigue with women is the useless strain in
sewing. "I get so tired in the back of my neck" is a frequent
complaint. "It is because you sew with the back of your neck" is
generally the correct explanation. And it is because you sew with
the muscles of your waist that they feel so strangely fatigued, and
the same with the muscles of your legs or your chest. Wherever the
tired feeling comes it is because of unnatural and officious
tension, which, as soon as the woman becomes sensible of it, can be
stopped entirely by taking two or three minutes now and then to let
go of these wrongly sympathetic muscles and so teach them to mind
their own business, and sew with only the muscles that are needed. A
very simple cause of over-fatigue in sewing is the cramped, strained
position of the lungs; this can be prevented without even stopping
in the work, by taking long, quiet, easy breaths. Here there must be
_no exertion whatever_ in the chest muscles. The lungs must seem to
expand from the pressure of the air alone, as independently as a
rubber ball will expand when external pressure is removed, and they
must be allowed to expel the air with the same independence. In this
way the growth of breathing power will be slow, but it will be sure
and delightfully restful. Frequent, full, quiet breaths might be the
means of relief to many sufferers, if only they would take the
trouble to practise them faithfully,--a very slight effort compared
with the result which will surely ensue. And so it is with the
fatigue from sewing. I fear I do not exaggerate, when I say that in
nine cases out of ten a woman would rather sew with a pain in her
neck than stop for the few moments it would take to relax it and
teach it truer habits, so that in the end the pain might be avoided
entirely. Then, when the inevitable nervous exhaustion follows, and
all the kindred troubles that grow out of it she pities herself and
is pitied by others, and wonders why God thought best to afflict her
with suffering and illness. "Thought best!" God never thought best
to give any one pain. He made His laws, and they are wholesome and
perfect and true, and if we disobey them we must suffer the
consequences! I knock my head hard against a stone and then wonder
why God thought best to give me the headache. There would be as much
sense in that as there is in much of the so-called Christian
resignation to be found in the world to-day. To be sure there are
inherited illnesses and pains, physical and mental, but the laws are
so made that the compensation of clear-sightedness and power for use
gained by working our way rightly out of all inheritances and
suffering brought by others, fully equalizes any apparent loss.
In writing there is much unnecessary nervous fatigue. The same
cramped attitude of the lungs that accompanies sewing can be
counteracted in the same way, although in neither case should a
cramped attitude be allowed at all Still the relief of a long breath
is always helpful and even necessary where one must sit in one
position for any length of time. Almost any even moderately nervous
man or woman will hold a pen as if some unseen force were trying to
pull it away, and will write with firmly set jaw, contracted throat,
and a powerful tension in the muscles of the tongue, or whatever
happens to be the most officious part of this especial individual
community. To swing the pendulum to another extreme seems not to
enter people's minds when trying to find a happy medium. Writer's
paralysis, or even the ache that comes from holding the hand so long
in a more or less cramped attitude, is easily obviated by stopping
once in an hour or half hour, stretching the fingers wide and
letting the muscles slowly relax of their own accord. Repeat this
half-a-dozen times, and after each exercise try to hold the pen or
pencil with natural lightness; it will not take many days to change
the habit of tension to one of ease, although if you are a steady
writer the stretching exercise will always be necessary, but much
less often than at first.
In lifting a heavyweight, as in nursing the sick, the relief is
immediate from all straining in the back, by pressing hard with the
feet on the floor and _thinking_ the power of lifting in the legs.
There is true economy of nervous force here, and a sensitive spine
is freed from a burden of strain which might undoubtedly be the
origin of nervous prostration. I have made nurses practise lifting,
while impressing the fact forcibly upon them by repetition before
they lift, and during the process of raising a body and lowering it,
that they must use entirely the muscles of the legs. When once their
minds have full comprehension of the new way, the surprise with
which they discover the comparative ease of lifting is very
pleasant. The whole secret in this and all similar efforts is to use
muscular instead of nervous force. Direct with the directing power;
work with the working power.
Next: The Direction Of The Body In Locomotion
Previous: The Use Of The Brain