Body And Mind - An Indivisble Unit
( Originally Published 1920 )
Academic psychologists simplify their tasks by allotting the body to physiologists and occupying themselves exclusively with the mind. Applied psychology of the analytical type has been compelled to discard that arbitrary division of the human organism into "mental" and "physical."
Physiologists prying their way into obscure "physical" phenomena have innumerable times reached a sort of middle kingdom in which it seems impossible to produce anything "physical" without producing at the same time something "mental," in which, to every "physical" stimulation, there corresponds a "mental" effect and to every "mental" stimulation corresponds a "physical" effect.
After observing the constant interrelation existing between secretions, attitudes and emotions, one no longer feels justified in speaking vaguely of the influence of the mind on the body or reciprocally. One can no longer understand life unless one admits that mind and body are one.
The task of the psychoanalyst would be a hope less one if he ever attempted to study the so-called "mental" disturbances as purely "psychic" phenomena; the physician who would treat bodily ailments as purely "physical" manifestations would be baffled and impotent.
It is only the profoundly ignorant who at the present day pretend to know the limits of the physical and of the mental and attempt to attribute certain phenomena to the mind and others to the body.
Cut off a frog's head, thereby removing the brain which is commonly supposed to be the seat of the mind, of the intelligence, of consciousness, etc. The frog then should be " entirely dead" or at least should not be expected to perform any act, except of a purely reflex type, showing any "intelligence." And yet if you apply a strong stimulus such as a drop of prussic acid to the skin of the frog's stomach, one of the legs will at once try to reach the burnt spot and to remove the harmful stimulus.
Such a "reflex" act proves that, even in the absence of any thinking apparatus, the organism is aware that something harmful is happening to one of its parts and endeavours to perform appropriate , motions to protect itself against further destruction.
If a set of nerves and muscles can "think" as clearly as that, unassisted by any brain or mind, the so-called purely physical must be endowed with a remarkable proportion of "mentality."
The deplorable inaccuracy of the words mental and physical is well illustrated by experiments made on dogs.
Feed a dog every possible morsel that will induce him to overeat until the beast turns in disgust from the most appetizing food.
Inject into that overfed dog blood from a dog who has been kept hungry for two days and the overfed dog will throw himself on food "as though" he were hungry.
The same experiment could probably be per-formed as successfully on a man. The man, however, would wonder at the possibility of his experiencing hunger after being surfeited with all sorts of dainties. He would doubt the testimony of his "senses," and speak of "nervous hunger," of "imaginary hunger," vague terms which explain nothing.
If a dog is infuriated by the presence of a cat, he will display for "reasons" which to him and the onlookers appear "plausible" and "logical," symptoms of anger such as the dilatation of his pupils, bristling of the hair, snarling, .stiffening of the body, defensive poses.
Inject a small amount of adrenin into the veins of that dog or any other dog of not especially vicious disposition, and in the absence of any cat or any other disturbing element, he will, "without any reason" stare, snarl, bristle up his hair, and generally express, through threatening attitudes, violent anger.
When large amounts of adrenin are released into the human blood stream owing to the abnormal functioning of certain glands, set in motion perhaps by some obscure unconscious thought, a man may likewise assume an attitude of anger, "without any reason," and may justify his attitude by "imagining" a grudge against some people, or impatience at certain things. His attitude may later on appear to him absurd and incomprehensible. He may then excuse himself on the plea that "he lost control of himself" or "he was not himself."
A crowd may congregate and indulge in some ridiculous or violent deed of which, the following day, every individual member may feel deeply ashamed. "Crowd psychology," "mob suggestion" will then be invoked, the assumption being that all the individuals constituting the crowd had at one time a sort of "collective mind" dominated by one and the same obsessive "thought,"
A curious light is thrown upon the behaviour of mobs by the behaviour of copepods, small crustaceans, when carbonated water or beer or alcohol are poured into the aquarium in which they disport themselves. As long as their water remains pure, they are apparently in full possession of their "free will" and displace themselves as they please. As soon as the ingredients mentioned above are added to the water, they all abandon their occupations and go to mass themselves at the end of the aquarium which is turned toward the light.
If one continues to drop at intervals small quantities of carbonated or alcoholic liquids into the aquarium, the little mob remains in the same position. It cannot turn round. Nor can the helpless animals partake of their food, if that food happens to be placed at the opposite end of the aquarium, that is, away from, the source of light.
Drain the polluted water or place the copepods into fresh water and the mob will soon disperse, each small animal regaining its freedom of individual motion and of direction.
Pour into the aquarium strychnin, caffein or atropin and the copepods will once more gather into a mob, this time, however, at the end of the aquarium furthest removed from the light.
Their previous "fondness" for sunlight has been replaced by a-"craving" for darkness.
Prophets, artists, reformers, lovers, may undergo all sorts of trials, brave starvation and death in order to seek their ideal, and some day they may forsake their ideal. Lovers having recovered from their "infatuation" may recall with astonishment or shame many absurd things they said or did once and look upon their former love object with disgust or even hatred.
Certain animals like copepods can be fooled a number of times and be made to fall in love now with the sun, now with the darkness. Others which, were they human beings, would be said to learn very quickly from experience, are never victimized but once by their "idealistic cravings" and afterward lead a perfectly "sensible" life.
Take some newly hatched caterpillars and de-posit them at the foot of a rod or stick on which the sunlight is shining. They will all climb to the top and stay there, staring at the sun, apparently engrossed in the contemplation of their "ideal." In fact they would starve to death unless some one fed them a small piece of green leaf.
As soon as they partake of that food, their obsessive sun worship seems to disappear. They climb down the barren stick and seek other stores of food, never bothering any more with the sun or other sources of light.
Watch the behaviour of bees at mating time. Male and female can only fly in one direction, that is toward the sun, and their amorous ecstasy carries them into "higher regions," "uplifts" them, takes them "far from the earth." The sexual act performed, they both become once more creatures of the earth, fly back to their native hive and no longer feel the "fascination of the empyrean."
An invention described recently in publications devoted to electrical science shows how difficult it would be to draw an absolute line of demarkation between actions apparently due to physical and chemical causes and actions apparently due to the exercise of our "will power" and prompted by "feelings," etc.
The electric dog has two eyes supplied with condensing lenses focussed on two selenium cells. Selenium is an element whose electrical properties change under the influence of light. The selenium cells control two electro-magnetic switches. Two motors, on the right and left, can propel the dog forward or backward.
When light, as for instance from a small flash lamp, is thrown on both eyes, the current is switched on to both motors and the dog advances toward the light. When the lamp is held to the right, the right motor only is actuated and the dog turns to the right. The dog follows the light in the most complicated manoeuvres. Shade the light and the dog stops; reverse the motors and the dog runs away from the light, dodging it wherever it may come from.
Thus a moth will rush toward a flame, thus owls fly in distress from any bright light, thus human beings are perhaps "propelled" toward a goal, which they think they are striving for, thus the races of the earth once started on their westward wanderings, thus cities and towns, when not re-strained by natural obstacles of an insuperable nature, like mountains or bodies of water, spread to the westward.
Naturalists manage to make the problem a little more complicated by telling us that animals and plants which are "fond" of light, that is which are involuntarily and unavoidably determined by light, are also "fond" of blue and green, while animals which are negatively heliotropic, that is "fond" of darkness and afraid of light, are "fond" of the colour red.
And experiments on thousands of human beings have revealed that men are most deeply affected by blue, women by red.
Whenever experiments first made on animals have been tried on human beings their results have been found to confirm the first observations.
We know that the same method of training makes both a man and a passenger pidgeon sexual perverts. Laboratory experiments have proved that female cats and female dogs react more slowly to anger stimuli than the males of both species, the result being a smaller percentage of sugar found in their urine. Observations made on college students of both sexes prove that the rule holds good when human beings are concerned. Human subjects, unfortunately, cannot be used as frequently as they should be to assure us of the universal application of certain biological and biochemical laws.
Some day when we abandon our wasteful method of dealing with criminals and give unredeemable offenders an opportunity to pay for the damage they have inflicted by submitting to scientific experiments likely at times to result in death, we may be able to ascertain accurately in what measure chemical determinism, for example, rules the lives of men.
Specialization being the only road to thorough knowledge and efficiency, body and mind must at present, for the sake of convenience, be treated separately when in distress. Internist and analyst, however, must cooperate, both applying the latest methods devised in their particular field and submitting to each other the doubtful details of every case.
While analysts agree that innumerable diseases of the so-called physical variety are induced or invited by some unconscious predisposing factor, no analyst denies the value of medical help or would suggest doing without it. If a subject has been so weakened by a wrong mental attitude that his body has become an easy prey for certain bacilli, all efforts should be made to check or eliminate those bacilli in order to avoid the further inroads they might make on the organism.
Specific medical treatment should be sought under the direction of a physician who keeps himself well informed as to the latest therapeutic methods, the most efficient pharmaceutic preparations, etc. The family physician, the surgeon, the average specialist, however, cannot be expected to follow all the research work done in applied psychology.
Although Freud and other prominent analysts have stated that psychoanalytical practitioners need not have medical training, an analyst should possess a good working knowledge of anatomy, physiology and neurology. Reciprocally, every physician should receive some elementary training in applied psychology, regardless of whether he is to take up, the practice of general medicine or to specialize in some particular branch of the medical profession.
Then, those who treat the more obviously material part of the organism and those who treat the more intangible part of the personality can cooperate intelligently in relieving the ailments of the human unit.