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About Frights

Categories: Uncategorized
Sources: Nerves And Common Sense

HERE are two true stories and a remarkable contrast. A nerve

specialist was called to see a young girl who had had nervous

prostration for two years. The physician was told before seeing the

patient that the illness had started through fright occasioned by

the patient's waking and discovering a burglar in her room.

Almost the moment the doctor entered the sick room, he was accosted

with: "Doctor, do you k
ow what made me ill? It was frightful." Then

followed a minute description of her sudden awakening and seeing the

man at her bureau drawers.

This story had been lived over and over by the young girl and her

friends for two years, until the strain in her brain caused by the

repetition of the impression of fright was so intense that no skill

nor tact seemed able to remove it. She simply would not let it go,

and she never got really well.

Now, see the contrast. Another young woman had a similar burglar

experience, and for several nights after she woke with a start at

the same hour. For the first two or three nights she lay and

shivered until she shivered herself to sleep.

Then she noticed how tightened up she was in every muscle when she

woke, and she bethought herself that she would put her mind on

relaxing her muscles and getting rid of the tension in her nerves.

She did this persistently, so that when she woke with the burglar

fright it was at once a reminder to relax.

After a little she got the impression that she woke in order to

relax and it was only a very little while before she succeeded so

well that she did not wake until it was time to get up in the


The burglar impression not only left her entirely, but left her with

the habit of dropping all contractions before she went to sleep, and

her nerves are stronger and more normal in consequence.

The two girls had each a very sensitive, nervous temperament, and

the contrast in their behavior was simply a matter of intelligence.

This same nerve specialist received a patient once who was

positively blatant in her complaint of a nervous shock. "Doctor, I

have had a horrible nervous shock. It was horrible. I do not see how

I can ever get over it."

Then she told it and brought the horrors out in weird, over-vivid

colors. It was horrible, but she was increasing the horrors by the

way in which she dwelt on it.

Finally, when she paused long enough to give the doctor an

opportunity to speak, he said, very quietly: "Madam, will you kindly

say to me, as gently as you can, 'I have had a severe nervous

shock.'" She looked at him without a gleam of understanding and

repeated the words quietly: "I have had a severe nervous shock."

In spite of herself she felt the contrast in her own brain. The

habitual blatancy was slightly checked. The doctor then tried to

impress upon her the fact that she was constantly increasing the

strain of the shock by the way she spoke of it and the way she

thought of it, and that she was really keeping herself ill.

Gradually, as she learned to relax the nervous tension caused by the

shock, a true intelligence about it all dawned upon her; the

over-vivid colors faded, and she got well. She was surprised herself

at the rapidity with which she got well, but she seemed to

understand the process and to be moderately grateful for it.

If she had had a more sensitive temperament she would have

appreciated it all the more keenly; but if she had had a more

sensitive temperament she would not have been blatant about her