( Originally Published 1930 )
While one of the commonest of human ailments, nervous tension is not only one of the most baffling to cope with, but one of the most difficult to overcome. Its effects upon the body and mind are almost endless in variety and scope, being the primary cause of many disorders, whether directly or indirectly. Strain on the muscles and nerves is one of the great destroyers.
Nervous tension is capable of disorganizing the entire digestive system to an alarming degree and frequently inhibits both assimilation and elimination. It affects the brain, the spine and the various nerve plexes. Repressed or restricted forces are bottled up only to explode later in some sort of emotional outburst, sex debauch, disease, or, worse still, mental unbalance.
Nervous tension immediately tightens every muscle and nerve in the body and restricts the normal action and free and rhythmic flow of the various circulations. It holds the poisons in the body preventing their free exudation and by their presence creates more poisons. It prevents the free flow of any kind of force or energy to or from the body. It prohibits by constriction the circulation of fluids, ethers, air or gases through the tiny conduits so delicately and marvelously constructed to convey these forceful elements.
Further, with nervous tension, anxiety, or fear, we unconsciously build up a strong resistance to the entrance of those finer forces of nature, the strengthening and purifying ethers of the atmosphere, the impulsion of life-force itself, and cut ourselves off from the very source of endless supply, the natural reservoir of universal life and energy. When we permit ourselves to get into a state of tense nervousness or nervous tension we are only half alive! The nerves hold fast, resist, and cannot report correctly because they are in a state that makes them incapable of adjustment to vibratory rates. Everything becomes distorted, colored with fear, anxiety or apprehension, and the resultant impressions are not reliable. The nerves can neither receive nor send nervo-grams easily or dependably and are in no sense true indicators of facts. This condition also upsets emotional impressions, both coming and going, for nerve-force is both introactive and reactive. Hence, when tensed in body we become tensed in mind. When the brain is subjected to nervous tension either through action or reaction, we can neither think, reason, nor remember; for the mind cannot function adequately through a disordered vehicle.
Now let us see if we can get at the causes of this bugbear of modern civilization. What are they? An intense, strained, holding fast to—what? Various notions, mental irritants, worries, fears and what not! And for what purpose, and to what end? When we stop long enough to face the situation honestly we are forced to realize that it is all in the mind nothing but a distorted mental attitude. It is all foolishness, too, and very aging. Learn to relax mentally in order to relax physically.
Fear and Worry
Little children seldom know the meaning of fear until taught by their elders. Their faith and confidence in a higher protective power is not questioned for a moment. They are taught fear with every natural impulse to investigate their surroundings fear of a bogie man, the dark, injury, people, and an endless array of what must seem to them horrors. It grows all too easily into a habit and finally seems a reality. Fear and worry are like a terrible disease when they fasten their tentacles into the heart and mind. They inhibit the power to think ! They paralyze the ability to analyze or reason. They are the greatest hindrance to relaxation and rest in the world. Worry is an exaggerated imagination concerning the things or conditions one fears. It displays a lack of confidence in the ability of the Supreme Power to manipulate correctly the laws of the universe, laws conceived, executed and guided by Him. Fear is purely a mental concept, the fabrication of a diseased imagination that gives more power to evil than to good. If that were possible all would be chaotic nothing but disorder and confusion. Either there is a Great and Munificent Power of All Good—or there isn't! If there is not, then all should be chaos without law or order ! But this is not the case. Law and order abound in the whole magnificent universe of suns, moons, stars and our little earth. A gorgeous round of days, nights, seasons, and a multiplicity of powerful forces demonstrate the truth of Absolute Law, every moment of life. Once you get this great and satisfactory truth thoroughly in mind and know it way down in the depths of your being, a sense of peace and trust will be yours, giving wing to fear and worry. To attain any degree of happiness requires that we rely upon That, the One All-Power, Good—by whatever name you wish to call it, it is the same. Rely upon It implicitly and with unbending faith. Each must reason this out for himself and arrive at his own conclusion within his own mind before he can know the true meaning of happiness.
The greatest secret of relaxation is simply to overcome fear and worry and self-pity thoughts—in the mind. It is then, and then only, that we can let go. Being destructive, they are disintegrating in their effects. They steal hours of precious time from much worthier pursuits. We have no time to waste, for, in order to be successful, keep young and be happy we must give all our energy to constructive thoughts; keep high in faith; and allow reason, intuition, and con-science a chance to operate more efficiently.
There are several ways to go about overcoming the fear-worry habit. Following are a few suggestions that have proved successful in difficult cases.
The power of soft melodious music is wonderfully soothing to jaded nerves and tensed bodies. It has been repeatedly demonstrated that harmonious rhythmic tones so affect the vibratory rates of nerve force as to subdue raging, wild animals, quiet the violently insane, heal nervous disorders and cure the sick. We believe that there is a great future in both harmony and color for curative purposes. The opposite in music is also quite true; discordant sounds irritate, sensuous music excites, certain rhythms produce lethargy. Certain sounds or rates of vibration, constantly repeated, have been known to produce insanity. A weak mind has not sufficient power to counteract the effect or rise above it.
To go through a number of graceful, rhythmic movements, keeping time to beautiful, cheerful music is a great help in regaining self-control. With children or invalids this is the quickest and easiest way.
Dancing is also a means to nervous relaxation and a relief from mental strain especially interpretive dancing, using the imagination, idealizing joy and happiness. (See Dancing, Chapter XI.)
"Laughter is good for the soul." It must be for it makes for happiness. We grown-ups are too apt to go through life seriously. We forget how to laugh. We forget the joyous freedom of childhood with its happy laughter and spontaneous humor. We forget even to smile and too often frighten those who approach us with our grim sternness. Too often we snicker or sneer when we do give vent to some sort of humor and indulge in the laughter of sophistication—a humor that requires the discomfort of another for its fullest enjoyment. Too bad. We forget to be kind. Laughter at another's expense must react upon ourselves eventually, for it sets up a sort of poison in the system with its cruel thoughtlessness of another's suffering.
Wholesome, joyous laughter is purifying and cleansing in its effects—it purges both mind and body of its dull vibrations. Everyone feels better after a good laugh. If you would relax learn to laugh. Laugh heartily and good-humoredly. If we "could see ourselves as others see us" the laugh would be on us. Try it. Try to see yourself as you are, with all your funny little habits and ways, funny ideas about things you know nothing about, and see yourself, for a change, as a ridiculous clown in cap and bells, making a fool of yourself before the world—and not knowing it ! See the funny side of it and you cannot help laughing. It is "good for the soul" to see ourselves thus—and laugh off our own seriousness about ourselves. As a people, we need to develop a better sense of humor along with much better manners, more tolerance, a gracious demeanor and more kindness of speech. In trying to be funny we cut deep, regardless of the other fellow's feelings.