Use Your Mind To Keep You Well
( Originally Published 1956 )
"THERE'S an old saying," said Forrest Randall, "that a person who works in a gambling house shouldn't gamble. He should know better. And a man who works at the Stock Ex-change shouldn't speculate. He should know better, too."
"So you gambled," I said, "and lost. Is that part of your trouble?"
Forrest's face was white and tortured. His hands shook so badly that he could hardly light his cigarette.
"That," he said, "was what started all my troubles. I'm a security salesman, and I began believing my own sales pitch about the strength of the bull market. My insurance wasn't paid, and I owed a mortgage payment on our house, but that didn't stop me. I drew out all our savings and took a flyer in the market—on margin."
"What happened?" I asked.
"That was the day," he said, "that the market took its worst break since that black October day in 1929. Mob psychology took control of the floor. Sell orders rang through my ears.
Lower and lower prices flashed on the board. I was in the midst of an anxious, overwrought mob, all shouting `Sell, sell, SELL!' Many of them were nearly hysterical. I was the worst of the lot."
Forrest got up and started pacing up and down the room, living that day all over again in memory. I waited until he had calmed down and was ready to continue.
"The stock market closed at three-thirty," he said, sitting down and wiping the beads of perspiration from his face. "I couldn't wait to clear out my desk and head for the nearest bar. That day spelled personal disaster for me. I couldn't go home and face my wife. She hadn't known about my get-richquick scheme. So I went from one bar to another, until I finally collapsed and ended up in the psychiatric ward at Bellevue."
It had taken a sudden money loss to trigger Forrest from a condition of lowered resistance into mental illness. Other men, under the continued stresses and strains of life, become victims of chronic anxiety before they break.
In a recent management seminar held at the Menninger Foundation in Topeka, Kansas, personnel directors pointed out that there are tendencies in all of us that may make us fail in certain jobs. A man will break if the stress is great enough in the environment in which he works. What hap-pens to these victims of stress takes many forms. Alcoholism, suicide, and murder are the extremes.
Mental health has become a major problem of our society.
The problem must be attacked by considering the total environment: the community, the schools, the home. And, since the major part of a man's life is spent in business, that part of his life must not be ignored.
Industry's general approach to emotional problems has been through such mass programs as training sessions in human relations for supervisors. These programs have too often created confusion in the minds of both supervisors and sub-ordinates. They have been ineffective at best, and harmful at worst.
Dr. Walter D. Woodward, staff psychiatrist for the American Cyanamid Company, tells us, "The one thing that harasses most people in business is that very few of us are as good as we think we should be. A feeling of inferiority exists among workers of all types: executives, labor leaders, and hourly workers."
In a psychiatric experiment conducted at DuPont, men on the same job level were invited to work over their worries in groups. The men came away from these group sessions with their egos supported by the knowledge that they were not alone and peculiar in their feelings of inadequacy and anxiety.
In America there are more than ten million mentally ill people. Half a million hospital beds are filled by mentally ill patients. One out of every twelve children born this year will suffer during his lifetime a mental illness severe enough to send him to the hospital.
Doctors find that most individuals have minor emotional disturbances, which too often go unrecognized. Many productive persons continuously maintain a chronic neurotic adjustment to life.
Those who are not ill enough to be sent to the hospital account for much of the accident-proneness and absenteeism in industry and a substantial part of our divorces which end 1 in every 4 marriages, and our crime. They are unfit for military service. Fifty-one per cent of all service separations during World War II were for personality problems.
These people flood the doctors' offices with their psychosomatic illnesses. Nearly 6o per cent of all patients who consult doctors do so for complaints attributable primarily to emotional disorders.
Your mind can make you well ... or it can make you ill, both mentally and physically.
Unfortunately, psychoses often go unrecognized until they are so far advanced that treatment is exceedingly difficult. Mental illness seldom strikes without warning. The symptoms, in various guises, are present for months or years. The need is for early recognition of these symptoms by a competent doctor or a psychiatrist.
Chronic invalidism is usually the physiological expression of the person who, though not insane, suffers from psychoneuroses—morbid fears, compulsions, or obsessions.
So closely knit is the function of the mind and body that morbid fears, hallucinations, or other emotional disturbances may be due to a malfunctioning of the glands of internal secretion, to toxic infections which cause states of delirium, to the action of drugs, or to the actual destruction of brain tissue.
The psychoses of general paresis, which is caused by syphilis, of arteriosclerosis, senility, brain injury, or tumor have a definite physical basis because they result directly from destruction of brain tissue.
Often the behavior and thinking of the mentally ill are strange only in that they are exaggerated or inappropriate to particular situations. The behavior of the mentally ill is not always qualitatively different from that of the healthy individual, or from their own behavior before illness developed.
Their actions are the same—only more so. Phobias and suspicions are intensified. Some of them are like the old Quaker woman who told her husband: "The whole world is daft but thee and me—and sometimes I doubt thee!"
Often the mentally ill person suffers from feelings of inadequacy, just as most of us do. His illness, if not of physical origin, is the inevitable outgrowth of his experiences and his interpretation of them, and of his reaction to situations that confront him.
There is the chronic invalid who finds in illness an accept-able escape from unpleasant tasks, insecurity, and failure. To the psychoneurotic, his pain is just as real as if it were caused by an organic disease. If his physician doesn't discover its cause and recommend appropriate treatment, the patient will drift into the hands of anyone who holds out the promise of help.
Headaches, abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, blurring of vision, and paralysis are just some of the symptoms caused by mental worries and anxieties. Your emotions affect, favorably or unfavorably, the functioning of practically every organ of the body.
Emotions, stress, and tension are the common causes of headaches. Resentment can prevent food from entering your stomach or from being properly digested. Disgust can bring on skin rashes, long after you've forgotten all about the emotion. A guilt complex can lead to distraction, carelessness, and accidents. Anger, particularly self-anger, can cause ulcers. Anxiety produces heart and blood disorders, and is often the cause of diarrhea.
Worry is confused, disorganized thinking, which interferes with accomplishment and peace of mind. When you're weary in soul and body, when the day ahead is too much of a bur-den, when life seems too difficult, and it's too much effort even to think, this psychogenic fatigue is passed on into the body's processes.
According to a recent report made to the American Congress of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, weariness of the soul can even cause an aching back. Dr. A. Ray Dawson, a member of the staff of the Medical College of Virginia, at Richmond, and chief of the rehabilitation service of the McGuire Veterans' Administration Hospital, said: "Rigidity of personality often expresses itself in rigidity of the musculoskeletal system. This causes stiffness or pain in the neck, shoulders, and back. In such cases, psychiatric, a well as physical, therapy is necessary."
Dr. Dawson's tests disclosed that rigidity of the shoulder and neck muscles results in actual disability. Since fatigue is so dependent upon the condition of the mind, cures were quickly effected when Dr. Dawson included psychiatric treatment in the total rehabilitation program.
Rehabilitation was difficult, however, if the patients had such a mental block in regard to reality that they wanted to use the hospital or home hospitalization as 4 retreat from reality. The recovery of patients who had become dependent upon their wives progressed slowly: It was their damaged egos, rather than their physical disabilities, that held them back.
How the mind affects the body and even protects it from pain is demonstrated in a Macedonian ritual dance, where peasants tread fire and emerge seemingly unhurt. The dancers seem under some hypnotic spell, immune to the bodily suffering that would ordinarily come to anyone dancing barefoot on live coals for half an hour. After the dance, examination of the dancers' feet showed no burns or blisters.
These dancers believe that they have the ability to brave fire. It was their ancestors who in A.D. 1257 walked over the still-glowing ashes of their burned church, to save the sacred, ancient icons. So, by working themselves into a religious ecstasy, these modern peasants are able to dance over the twelve-foot square of glowing coals without reacting to the ordeal.
Today, research in mental health is branching out and is becoming more all-inclusive. Current studies are based on the theory that since man is a complex of mind, body, and emotions, no one segment of his being can be examined in total isolation. In his sociometry study Outsiders, M. L. Northway points up the correlation between physiques that are undernourished and minds that are under par. Positive thinking is impossible when the body is under par to a serious extent.
Northway, in his studies of children, blamed malnutrition and disease for low vitality, listlessness, and seeming lack of intelligence in potentially normal youngsters. He warned that a teacher cannot be expected to succeed in developing sound social attitudes in such children until the underlying physical deficiencies are corrected.
Spectacular discoveries are being made in the relation of severe mental illnesses to the chemistry of the body. It has been found that the body chemistry of the schizophrenic actually differs from that of the so-called normal person.
Discoveries like these strengthen the belief that the body and the mind cannot be dissociated. Better control of the body through the chemistry of nutrition may offer the hope that this most crippling of mental illnesses will yet be conquered.
Sigmund Freud was the first to suspect that the cause of insanity might be physical rather than psychological. This idea has since been explored by other scientists in the field of psychoanalysis. One of the earliest theories is that insanity is caused by an imbalance of glandular secretions rather than a malfunction of thought.
In the trial of-Nathan F. Leopold, Jr., and Richard Loeb some years ago for the vicious murder of young Bobby Franks, the defense contended that both young men were psychoneurotic. The glandular irregularities of Leopold were blamed as a contributing cause.
Leopold, nineteen years old, was described as suffering from glandular irregularities and disorders which were having an effect not only upon his body but also upon his mind. Medical examination showed that Leopold suffered from an overactive thyroid which had led to an early sexual development. The doctors also found that he had a disorder of the nervous mechanism controlling the blood vessels; a retrogression of the pineal glands, which had already calcified; and an adrenal insufficiency.
The glandular composition had its inevitable effect on Leopold's appearance and, consequently, on his attitude toward the world. Leopold was small in stature, with round shoulders, a flat chest, and a protrudent abdomen. He had prominent eyes and coarse hair. The disturbances which caused him to suffer from blood disorder, low temperature, low blood pressure, low metabolism, and anemia depressed him. As his energy waxed and waned, these glandular disturbances made him the moody victim of physical afflictions or in-adequacies which determined his personality. These inadequacies, coupled with the fact that he considered himself physically unattractive, gave Leopold a severe inferiority complex.
Leopold would have inherited a fortune from his parents. But his physical inheritance and his parents' neglect of his glandular condition brought him a pathological sense of inferiority. Before he participated with Loeb in the brutal murder of an innocent young boy, he had shown signs of personality disorder. So had Richard Loeb. Loeb had failed three times in college.
Evidence now exists that as many as 80 per cent of mental patients, given adequate and intensive treatment, can be discharged during their first year of such treatment. How much mental illness might be prevented by the correction of glandular and organic difficulties and by proper nutrition!
A psychiatrist is not the last man you talk to before you start talking to yourself. Give him a chance, early enough, to redirect the patient to a better or socially more acceptable goal, and serious mental illness may be circumvented.
The wrong diet, wrong thinking, and wrong living can upset the entire glandular system; your health, your personality, and even your physical appearance can be drastically affected. These important glands are the pituitary, thyroid, pineal, adrenals, thymus, parathyroids, pancreas, and gonads. These glands regulate the body by emptying their hormone secretions directly into the blood stream.
Lack of minerals in the body contributes most to glandular difficulties. Minerals make up about 4.5 per cent of the total body weight. The chief of these is calcium, some 3.8 pounds of it being present, or enough to make about 7 pounds of lime.
The body also contains some 2 pounds of phosphorus, enough sodium to make a shaker of table salt, enough iron for a good-size nail, enough iodine for a tenth of a drop of the tincture, and small amounts of sulfur, potassium, chlorine, copper, magnesium, and manganese.
Iodine is used by the body primarily in connection with the function of the thyroid gland. When the iodine intake is insufficient the thyroid gland enlarges and causes difficulty. This gland, located in the neck just in front of the windpipe, manufactures a hormone out of iodine and amino acids. The hormone is a chemical regulator, distributed by the blood to all parts of the body.
A complete lack of this thyroid secretion results in imbecility. An underactive thyroid causes confused thoughts and black moods of depression. The overactive thyroid creates a temperament prone to excesses, to exaggerated emotions and actions.
Potassium promotes the secretion of hormones and is thus important to the functioning of the endocrine glands. After the hormones have been secreted by the endocrine glands, chlorine takes part in distributing them.
Magnesium keeps you calm and relaxed. Manganese nourishes the brain and cells, and thus plays a role in translating thought into action. This mineral has an essential part in warding off neurasthenia and some forms of neuritis. A serious lack of manganese is accompanied by dizziness, confused thinking, and poor memory.
Vitamins safeguard your body against disease, and aid in preventing mental disorders. Years of uninterrupted malnutrition contribute to a gradual slowing down in the brain and nerve functions, and a lack of certain vitamins in the body can bring on severe mental disorders.
Dr. Roger J. Williams, of the University of Texas, reports that experimental studies point to a lack of vitamin B1, or thiamine, as a causal factor in a craving for alcohol. This vitamin is now being used therapeutically in treating alcoholics. Pellagra is the result of a deficiency in another B vita-min, niacin, or nicotinic acid. Showing symptoms of debility in the early stages of the disease, pellagrins later lapse into nervous spasms and mental disturbances. Vitamin B6 or pyridoxine, is necessary for the prevention of nervous and de-generative diseases.
Vitamin C aids the adrenal glands to produce the hormone known as corticosterone. This vitamin also influences the secretion of another powerful hormone, insulin, the substance produced by the pancreas to control the body's use of carbohydrates.
Vitamin D influences the functioning of the parathyroid glands, which secrete a hormone controlling the level of calcium in the blood and the thyroid gland.
Drs. S. T. Michael and Arthur H. Ruggles, of Providence, Rhode Island, have had encouraging results in tracing mental disorders with vitamin E. Out of a group of thirty-five psychotic patients, 60 per cent showed improvement following concentrated doses of vitamin E. The results were outstanding among patients suffering from anxiety, decreased ability to talk, and depression agitation.
I looked at Forrest Randall's drawn, anxious face, at his thin body and tired, drooping shoulders. Here was a man who needed help, a man sick in both mind and body.
"Have you ever thought," I asked him, "how important food is, both psychologically and physiologically, in maintaining your health?"
"Why, no," he said. "I never think much about what I eat."
"I want you to start thinking about it," I said, "to the extent of eating three good, nourishing, high-protein meals a day. And supplement those meals with a reliable vitamin-mineral concentrate; take it every day, without fail. The supplement, taken in concert with nutritious food, works with it to build you up mentally and physically."
"It's my mental state that I'm worried about," said Forrest. "I told you I was in the psychiatric ward at--"
"I know," I said, "and you're afraid there's some stigma attached to that."
"I'm afraid," he said, "that I won't get my job back—that nobody will hire me after this. What am I going to do?"
"Tell me," I said, "haven't you known other men in business who have had psychiatric treatment? Maybe some who are undergoing psychoanalysis?"
"Why, yes," he replied, his face relaxing. "Come to think of it, my boss is always tossing off some remark about seeing his analyst."
"You see," I said, "it's nothing to be ashamed of. There aren't many of us who can always overcome our mental difficulties alone. But you can do something about your dietary habits; food is just as important to your mental health as it is to your physical health."
"Since I had this crack-up," said Forrest, "I've been too depressed and too preoccupied to care whether I ate or not."
"A well-balanced meal," I stated, "attractively prepared and served, can give you a lift both mentally and physically if you'll allow it to. A broiled steak, eaten in the company of your friends or family, is a good blues chaser. And meat is a complete protein, and an excellent source of many of the vitamins and minerals that you need."
"It's amazing," remarked Forrest, "but you're actually beginning to make a man-sized meal sound good to me."
"Fine," I said. "I hope you'll go home and have that steak. And here are some other things to remember: Don't nurse your fears and anxieties. This results in a sort of creeping paralysis, a feeling of misery, of panic and defeatism. When things bother you, don't sit around and mope—and don't make the rounds of the bars again! Cultivate the action habit. Substitute a calm and cheerful attitude for that destructive feeling of pressure and stress. Stop pitying yourself. By con-trolling your emotions as well as the situation, you can often turn defeat into victory."
Dr. Hans Selye, of Montreal University, tells us: "Even the well-fed body will suffer if you continue to generate emotional stress by trying to meet adult problems with childish reactions."
The immature attitudes and psychological mechanisms of mental ill health include the following: (1) avoidance of unpleasant situations, (2) daydreaming, (3) rebellion against society, (4) an inferiority complex, (5) a superiority complex, and (6) sex conflicts.
"I suppose I have been feeling sorry for myself," said Forrest, "and mad at the world because I got myself into such a jam—with no way out of it."
"I believe," I said, "that there's always a way out of our troubles if we can just remain calm and rational enough to find it. Good mental hygiene is possible only when you get rid of resentments, animosities, hates, jealousies, and envies. When you're physically and mentally exhausted you can sometimes refresh your own outlook on life by observing other people's troubles and listening to their ideas. Occasionally we all need to seek serenity for the tired mind, body, and spirit."
"I wish I knew how," said Forrest, "to trade frustration for serenity."
"Most people who suffer from hopeless frustrations," I remarked, "do so because they've set a goal for themselves which is beyond their abilities. Emotional difficulties aren't likely to become serious in the man who decides definitely what he wants from life, faces the hardships involved in achieving it, and realizes his own capabilities and limitations."
"I set my sights a little too high," said Forrest, smiling a little, "when I tried to make a million dollars in a hurry."
"That's the first smile I've seen on your face," I said, "even though it's on the rueful side. You know, your brand of humor is one of the real tip-offs to your inner personality. It's such an expression of your hidden hates and fears that Dr. Raymond B. Cottell, of the University of Illinois, has devised humor tests. He tells us that such tests assay personality with-out the subject being aware of what is being revealed."
Accept your physical and intellectual handicaps. Then plan a satisfactory life inside these limitations. Don't use your handicaps as an excuse for not attempting some useful and satisfactory work. First, take stock of your assets. Next, turn your efforts in directions likely to afford you the greatest degree of personal satisfaction and accomplishment.
Your emotional attitudes, desires, and ambitions are as much a part of your equipment for success as your physical and intellectual endowments. Recognize the fact that satisfaction of your emotional needs is a primary necessity for your mental health. Evaluate your assets, plan your future—and control your emotions.
Learn to maintain a steady balance between the two op-posing, instinctual forces—love and aggression. These two primitive drives meet and become inextricably entangled with each other in our psychological life.
We would be unable to command the basic strength necessary to carry out the daily tasks of life without aggression. But if the aggressive tendencies weaken the drive of love or arrest its expression, life becomes so lacking in hope and emotional satisfaction that we no longer care to live.
All through life your personal welfare, and especially your mental health, depends to a great extent on group approval and the love relationships you set up with other persons.
Love is necessary to our emotional health. Lacking it, we destroy our marriages, ruin our careers, and impose intolerable burdens of frustration and despair upon ourselves and those around us. It is equally important to our physical health. Unrequited love definitely affects the glands of internal secretion, depresses the body metabolism, and destroys natural vitality.
Do you want to learn to live freely, joyously, and creatively? Then, learn to love. And fall in love with the right kind of woman.
Real love is selfless love. Its quality is measured, not by its emotional intensity, but by its lack of possessiveness. Do you value your own freedom? Of course you do! But can you love another without imperiling her freedom? It's your right to be an individual, to have privacy of mind and spirit, but you must allow that same privilege to the one you love.
Love doesn't mean owning a person. It's never an excuse to intrude on another's privacy.
Not everyone knows instinctively how to love. However, you can develop yourself—your character, your personality, your tolerance and understanding—and your ability to love.
Movies and radio soap operas are responsible for creating entirely erroneous ideas of love, romance, and the relation between the sexes. Impressionable and immature women have picked up the false idea that love should be exacting and demanding.
Love should never be that. Nor should it be measured by the power that one lover has over the other.
The Family Service Association of America, a national association of voluntary welfare agencies concerned with family problems, recently reported that the most frequent cause of disrupted homes and divorces is "the general immaturity of those people entering marriage."
"I feel like a child," said Forrest, "who has to learn to stand alone before he can walk. So, what's my first step?"
"The surest test of your mental health," I said, "lies in your answers to the following questions. Don't try to answer them now. Think them over, and when you can answer all of them positively, you'll have attained the standard of mental health that all of us desire: Are you optimistic and confident? Do you experience a joyous sense of well-being? Do you look forward to tomorrow? To next week? To next year? Do you make plans and never doubt but that you'll succeed in them?
Do you find life interesting . . . exciting . . . crammed with possibilities of adventure? Do you expect good to come to you? Do you go forward to meet new people eagerly, expecting to like them and to have them like you? Is your chagrin over your mistakes and failures transitory?"
Forrest was listening intently and taking notes on a scrap of paper.
"Well," he said, "I'd be kidding both of us if I told you I could answer those questions positively right now. But give me a little time. At least I know the first step to take. And who knows? Maybe soon with continued help, I'll be able to walk alone again!"