Certain Laws And Habits
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
These Laws are:
1. The law of satisfaction in habit and initiative; 2. The law that courage obtains so long as such satisfaction holds on, and obtains also the moment conscious will begins to work for some new satisfaction.
The corresponding habits are:
1. The general habit of optimism in normal physical and psychic life.
2. Necessarily, also, the general habit of courage in such normal life. We proceed to discussions.
THE SATISFACTION OF NORMAL LIFE.
FIRST DISCUSSION. Formation of habit along lines of least resistance entails satisfaction, in the very nature of mental processes, whatever the habit's character, though its consequences may entail unhappiness. Similarly, there is satisfaction in initiative, though here, again, consequences may be unsatisfactory, and there is a kind of satisfaction even when initiative requires painful effort. We are braggarts after the dental chair because we had to be braggarts to get there. The mind takes satisfaction in doing what it is capable of doing, whether or no outcomes chance to be pleasing. And, so long as mental operations remain normal and satisfying, a measure of courage must obtain with regard to such operations. Of course, the moment of voluntary initiation is the moment of courage, with regard to the initiation, since it is voluntary.
SECOND DISCUSSION. But the satisfaction of habit-forming and of initiative and of courage itself tends to breed hopefulness, for fear and monotony and pessimism breed unhappiness.
Optimism is a habit in the normally working mind, and this habit runs side by side with courage.
DISCUSSION THREE. Evolution has made pessimism impossible to healthy physical and psychic life. The gloomy outlook always means something wrong either in body or in mind, often in both. But when body is sound all through and psychic factors are working harmoniously, alarm in the present and forebodings about the future are by these conditions inevitably prevented. Evolution has brought the law of optimism forth, because evolution is a process of cell-construction and function-building, and body-fashioning by and for the individual animal. The process has made into man's well-being. The inevitable accompanying feeling is also that of well-being. Nature could not work in such a manner that nerve-welfare should mean distress-feeling. The feeling must report the fact. (One may feel well and yet be diseased, to be sure; but the feeling here is not the report of disease; it is report of health remaining). Thus, evolution has always worked out the law and the habit of satisfaction in normal existence.
DISCUSSION FOUR. But this satisfaction breeds courage in healthy life. To develop a normal body and mind is to induce therein a feeling of adequacy. A good nervous system feels equal to present conditions and demands. Especially is this the case when will is normal, alert and in right action. The thrill of a sound body, the buoyancy of an inspired mind, these things create a feeling correspondent, and the correspondent feeling cannot be that of weakness—inadequacy- defeat, but must be that of ability — power — courage.
So, I say, normal life is optimistic and courageous.
The reverse conclusion is evident. The prevalence of fears in the world reveal universal abnormality, and they constitute a demand on each of us to return, or to advance, to the normal condition from which all good things are expected and all sane things are dared.