Menticulture - Medical Collaboration

( Originally Published 1901 )


MIDDLETOWN, ORANGE CO., N. Y. January 20, 1896


My Dear Sir:—Please accept my thanks for your kind letter under date of the 13th inst., together with a copy of Menticulture, which I shall greatly prize because you sent it to me.

A good many of the causes given for an attack of insanity, by friends or relatives of the patient, such as business trouble, death of various members of the family and friends, and any source of mental anxiety, have in them a large element of worry, and can be considered as belonging under that head. One hundred and twenty of such cases can be added to the two hundred and eighty-five, making four hundred and five, or about twenty-five per cent. of the total. The " un-ascertained" represents those from whom no satisfactory history can be obtained, either from their friends, when they have any, or themselves. Worry may enter even more into their insanity than the others—being a worm in the bud of their mental rose.

The department of mental hygiene has been enriched by the publication of Menticulture—the value of which lies in the simplicity of the method advocated and the principle and nature of its teachings. Throughout, the author is appreciative of the importance of his subject, earnest in the advocacy of its merits, and clear in its presentation. There is no class of society that cannot be helped by this book, whether you view its influence from a religious, moral, or intellectual standpoint, and those who wish to develop self-control can be aided by reading Menticulture.

I enclose a clipping from the New York Herald, which shows that the Rev. Dr. Hep-worth appreciates the subject.

With regards, believe me,

Very cordially yours,


[The following article on " Worry," by Dr. Kinney, was published in the annual re-port of the hospital in the year 1893.]



Long after the visitor has left the Bank of England he will recall a small machine, insignificant in its size and general appear-ance, and yet to which is intrusted the responsibility of protecting the bank from reissuing light-weight sovereigns. As these coins slide down an inclined trough they drop on a weighing pan for an instant, and, if of proper weight, fall to the right, and once more pass into trade; but if they have lost too much of their substance by the wear and tear of the world's usage, they slide to the left, where with a half split and a twist the commercial life of the piece terminates. While this mechanical contrivance is de-pendent upon the proper adjustment of its parts, and the avoidance of any interfering agency, it is aided in separating the true weight from the light weight coins by a qualified human intellect presiding over it. He sees to it that oil of the right quality and amount is supplied, at proper intervals of time, to needed parts. All that ripened experience has found necessary for the ma-chine it receives; and thus is capable of per-forming the object for which it was designed. until symmetrically worn out. A little dust, or neglect on the part of the one in charge, is enough to impair its usefulness. Consequently, great care is taken to see that every part works in harmony with every dependent part. Unless all this is done, the machine is a failure.

Human beings are like this machine to a certain degree. They must choose through life between right and wrong, and on their proper decision depends the extent of their usefulness. As in the machine, a number of dissimilar parts work harmoniously to accomplish a given object, so do the diversified qualities composing the human mind unite for a common purpose. As dust and friction are to the machine, so is worry to the mind. While the machine must have human help to look after its needs, a human being is supposed to be endowed with those qualities of mind that enable him to direct all the powers which he may possess, with a due amount of judgment.

Now the physical, mental, and moral capacities of different individuals vary in every possible degree as do the nature and quali-ties of machines, and the use to which they can best be applied. All this we expect. With one whose mental faculties work in harmony, and who, in addition to this, is possessed of excellent physical health, and is engaged in a congenial pursuit, worry does not find a ready lodgment. If we consider, on the other hand, the thousands who are handicapped by too much of this mental faculty or too little of that to constitute a really healthy mind, we shall come to the consideration of that class of unfortunates with whom worry has most to do.

A machine is only able to sustain a strain that is equal to the strength of its weakest part; so it is with the strength of a human being. As worry is a strain that is always plus the legitimate effort necessary to accomplish any given purpose, it follows that whenever indulged in the nervous energy of the patient is more quickly exhausted.

With many, there is a nervous disposition to degeneration of some organ or set of organs that, with care, might never become diseased, and, consequently, worry is to be avoided as wholly as if it represented the worst of all dissipation. As worry creates certain symptoms, they should be heeded, not ignored, as they are danger signals that nature throws out to intelligence. Nowa-days, we recognize that an eye strain induces an irritability of disposition, causes head-ache, changes the facial expression, and produces a lack of muscular coordination that inferferes with one's occupation. As soon as these symptoms are discovered, properly adjusted glasses remedy the difficulty. This condition of affairs or similar hindrances to good work, we must recollect, lead to worry and produce an effect throughout the entire nervous system. This must be kept in mind constantly in reference to worry—that bad results follow long continued worry as surely as destruction to the machine follows the use of sand in its bearings instead of oil.

While heredity lays a heavy hand on her victims, restraining them from assuming certain risks in life to which would be attached serious penalties, predisposition, insidious and far-reaching, is even more dangerous. Caused, as it is, by subtle methods of violating nature's laws, by ancestors remote as well as near, by injuries and by circumstances with which the powerless victim is buffeted, it broadly lays the foundation for worry's work.

The injunction to " Know thyself " is an ancient one, and, thanks to the wide teachings of the press, objectionable as it some-times is, preventive medicine is becoming better understood, and good results may be expected. But we must go further and look upon the mental faculties of the growing child as something that has an existence, something that can be trained with benefit to the child, not alone for the present time, but to the advantage of his entire lifetime.

Mental philosophy has for years been taught by those who do not appreciate it, from text-books written by those who did not comprehend the subject. Words have effectively concealed the paucity of thought, and practical applications have been forgot-ten by the pupil in acquiring befogging definitions. The delusion that all men are born equal has been a costly delusion of many teachers and parents, the results showing in the children, who exemplify in their lives the mistakes resulting from wrong training. As well might we expect all machines to per-form the same kind of work, simply because they happen to be machines, as to expect all human beings to develop as they should, and as nature may have endowed them, by methods of so-called teaching, in which routine and dull uniformity are the leading objects of the course. Education, to be worth any-thing, should be an individualized one. What is easily taught one child is with difficulty acquired by another. Threats will not develop the dull, and yet tact and knowledge on the part of the teacher may bring out faculties of comprehension in certain lines of thought which the bright pupil may never attain. Continued efforts to bring them both up to a certain preconceived standard, without reference to the developing of personal resources, may do life-long harm to both, by teaching them early in life how to worry. Taught as mental philosophy should be, it would inculcate a practical knowledge of one's mental armamentarium, the limit of power, and the extent of his mental resources. Without such a knowledge, one's existence assumes a happy-go-lucky gait that no power outside that of the Divine Ruler can save from coming to grief. Sporadic attempts are made on a small scale to teach children self-control by some parents and teachers, but seldom does this go beyond cautioning them regarding outbursts of temper and the exhibition of some unpleasant quality. Now, mental tendencies show in early life as quickly as do unfortunate manners and corrupt speech. An overstrain on the mental faculties of the child shows itself a so-called nervousness, and should this not be checked it will result in laying the foundation of disease.

It is a sad commentary on the vaunted wisdom of our kind that the appreciation and care of the most exalted faculties we possess, from which our chief enjoyments spring, should be so little understood. Much of this comes from ignorance directly due to wrong teaching and indifference. What is not comprehended by their grosser sense is of no interest, and the idea that worry could be productive of injury in any degree would not be accepted. It is not understood that mental defects, like physical ones, limit one in the performance of any task.

There is no faculty of the human mind that worry does not affect. There is no organ of the human body that it may not destroy. It dwarfs the intellect of the child, substitutes doubt for hope, and turns the days of childhood into periods that are recalled in after years with sorrow and condemnation. In youth and middle age it foils, or puts in jeopardy, every effort of the ambitious, makes failure expected, and success a sur-prise. It is found smiling over the open grave of the suicide.

Old age is anticipated by worry's victim, and with a mass of broken efforts, blighted hopes, and here and there a splinter of ambition, he awaits the development of his last predisposition.

Men of mediocre ability are more easily irritated, more easily made suspicious and exacting, than are those possessing a greater mental grasp or equipoise. The first re-lapse into worry is a natural result of nervous overstrain. The latter throw it off by pursuing a new train of thought. The ignorance of all that worry is able to accomplish in blocking human efforts is daily seen among the patients entering our state hospitals. One is said to have lost interest in his business and become insensible to his family or friends, complaining that what was once a source of pleasure to him now produces indifference or disgust. Pain is experienced about the head, irritability is marked, memory fails, the stomach seems to have given up work especially on certain articles of food, nutrition is impaired; depression in spirits as well as loss of physical strength becomes pronounced, the bowels grow inactive, and there is a drying up of all mucous surfaces, and sleeplessness sets in. With these symptoms alone, the patient is well advanced toward acute melancholia.

Now, with one temperament worry may induce melancholia; yet in another it may culminate in a sharp attack of mania or resolve itself into a case of paranoia. With those who are ambitious, hard-working, genial men, inclined to carry forty pounds of strain when their limit is thirty-five pounds working force, worry gets in her fine work, and general paresis claims her own. This point must be kept in mind: As sand is in the bearings of fine machinery, so is worry when it begins to impede human toil. A few years ago, we are told by those having wide experience with the negro, that he did not have that forni of mental disease we recognize as general paresis. The state-ment was probably true then, but it is not now; for since he has become endowed with the uncertain privileges of the franchise, and discovered that he is a wage-earner, with all the anxieties incident to efforts of self support confronting him, it has drawn his attention from a life of carelessness to one having that disintegrating, disease-breeding element of worry with which white people have had so long to deal. The fact of his having from all time subjected himself, through racial inclination, to every form of dissipation that has the reputation of producing the disease, was not recognized by those who were the exponents of the excess theories. Excesses are less liable to lead to disease than worry, as the recuperation is likely to follow the for-mer, while the tendency of the latter is to produce pronounced enfeeblement. Their effect upon the affections is, different. In the victim of excesses, the ties of kindred are held dear, and the relationship to the family is appreciated, but the ability to correct the habit is tripped by a demented will. Worry, however, goes deeper, and paralyzes the affections to the extent of apathy. The victim of worry sees with unconcern the pained faces of his family as they part from the husband and father for the advantages of hospital care. ,Their tears are remembered with no pang, and he readily accus-toms himself to the selfish contemplation of his own case. He now appreciates his situation only in a vague way, and he does not keenly suffer on account of the change in his affairs.

Worry is first and last a depressant. It may excite for a time, but only as an irritant, followed by depression of the organ excited. It cannot coexist with perfect health. It acts as a ball and chain on the activities of every human impulse. In connection with its influence upon the mental powers, functional derangement of the heart, stomach, and the effect on these organs, may extend to every other. We may speculate as to the method worry pursues in order to accomplish its object, by blaming the liver as one cause, the sympathetic nervous system as another; but the truth remains that worry creates a slow, sluggish fever in which the moisture of the entire body is generously drawn upon. In those diseases in which worry acts as an exciting cause, the long-continued exalted temperature tells the story of the life-consuming fire. One sees it in the early history of the melancholiac, and he becomes convinced of it as he views the burned-out tissue of the paretic.

There is but one advice to give on this subject. Don't worry. It has never given bread to the hungry, money to the needy; yet it has taken bread from the mouths of thousands and rendered penniless those who once possessed wealth. To undo, but not to build up; to allow to sink, with no effort to sustain; to kill, rather than save—is its one desire. It never has helped a man, and it will not help you. It is easy to begin but hard to stop. You may imagine that you possess strength to begin, to continue, and to stop when you will ; but don't begin.

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