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The Brain In Its Direction Of The Body

Categories: Uncategorized
Sources: 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.