Some Diseases Of The Imagination
( Originally Published 1907 )
THE underlying cause of all weakness and unhappiness in man, heredity and environment to the contrary notwithstanding, has always been, and is still, weak habit-of-thought. This is proven by the observed instances in which strong habit-of-thought has invariably made its masters superior to heredity, and to environment, and to illness, and to weakness of all kinds, and has redeemed them from non-success and misery, to the enjoyment of success, honor and happiness."— Horace Fletcher.
There are some dangers connected with the imagination which should be avoided, because they are enemies of a good Will. These dangers are apparent in the mental life of the majority of people, " Common sense," says James Sully in " Illusions," " knowing nothing of fine distinctions, is wont to draw a sharp line between the region of illusions and that of sane intelligence. To be the victim of an illusion is, in the popular judgment, to be excluded from the category of rational men." But "most men are sometimes liable to illusion. Hardly anybody is always consistently sober and rational in his perceptions and beliefs. A momentary fatigue of the nerves, a little mental excitement, a relaxation of the effort of attention by which we continually take our bearings with respect to the real world about us, will produce just the same kind of confusion of reality and phantasm which we observe in the insane."
It is to difficulties of this character that the present chapter seeks to turn attention, because it is believed that they are curable by good health and the resolute Will.
One of these enemies of Will is revery, which is not of a true imagination because not controlled by the mind. Revery may therefore be banished by the Will, and a true imagination may be made to take its place.
Exercise No. r. Whenever the mind exhibits a tendency to wander aimlessly from one thing to another, instantly check its roving. In order to do this, select from its pictures a single image, and deliberately proceed to elaborate that, making it vivid, building up its various elements into a complete whole. In this work, banish the revery mood and call up the resolute sense. Or weave the selected image into some train of purposed thought or action involving reasoning and an end to be attained. Consider the various motives and follow out the several consequences to an ultimate. Insist upon seeing vividly every picturable thing in the thought-train. Hold the mind steadily to the line determined on. Continue until the bent for revery is displaced by a habit of definite thinking.
Some minds are troubled with various hallucinations. Here, again, imagination is out of control, and. feelings are made real and images are rendered objective be-cause such is the case. There are so-called invalids who would now enjoy perfect health had they not deceived themselves originally and thus brought about conditions which would ruin the health of a savage. It is not " Christian Science," but common sense, which teaches that the mind may, by resolute assertion of Will, throw off many physical discomforts. The writer once called upon a woman who had taken to her bed from sheer obstinacy. This was her only real disease. But it was real enough at that. Had she been maltreated, neglected, left to go hungry, or dragged out of her comfortable nest with the injunction to get well or get out, she would have recovered instantly.
Exercise No. 2. For a thousand imaginary ills the remedy is a thoroughly "oxidized " state of mind, a mind saturated with the atmosphere of common sense and good health, and a resolute contradiction by Will of the importance of the disease or pain. The remedy, thus, is not reiterated denial that the ill exists, for that is merely another invitation to insanity, and it often simply intensifies the difficulty ; the soul should resolutely assert that the matter has no such importance as is suggested, and then proceed to forget the idea by strenuous engagement in other considerations.
Exercise No. 3. Visual and auditory hallucinations may sometimes be banished by a wise assertion of Will. The soul should intensely insist that itself is master. Conditions underlying the images or sounds should be thoroughly investigated. These may be physical, requiring rest and change of scene and diet for correction. Or they may be mental, in which case the same course may be pursued, with a complete variation of interest, this being found in matters far out of the ordinary habits of life.
Exercise No. 4. In other cases the main thing is to get control of the hallucination. If it appear under certain conditions, compel it to appear under other conditions. Persist in substituting a different image or sound. Then compel it to vanish at will. Finally dismiss it. These directions are more easily given than followed, to be sure; but the truth is that many of our ills are due to a weak and fickle Will, and this may be strengthened and trained by wise application to the difficulties suggested.
These pages do not offer a substitute for medical treatment. They are designed merely for ills of a light and temporary form. When difficulties become more than foolishness of fickle fancy, the science of experts is called for.
Exercise No. 5. There are spirits which do not manifest to the eye, yet are terrible in power. Their arena is the heart. These are the spirits of fear. And these also may be banished by the resolute Will. It is first necessary to be an honest person. The honest soul need fear nothing. But the honest soul is not always wise, and fears do haunt the life of such; fear of man, fear of ill-luck, fear of failure, fear of misfortune, fear of death, fear of hell, fear of God. The name of fear is legion. It is, therefore, not probable that one who has been terrorized by these devils may banish them instantly, bag and baggage, once and for all; but it is as true as life that the honest soul may in time, by the persistent Will, cast them forth forever.
You fear men whom you suppose to be above you. Proceed, now, to build up a perfectly honest life; then meet them at every opportunity; learn their weaknesses as well as their virtues ; will incessantly to fear them no more. Remember, especially, that there are other people who, with equal foolishness, fear yourself, and that those whom you fear are very likely troubled with fears in turn for others superior in their thought to them-selves. And possibly they fear you as well. It was Grant's belief that the enemy was as much afraid as himself; he would therefore strike first. If, with a politic understanding of the word "strike," you can learn to plunge into the feared atmosphere of those you fear, you will certainly in time banish this imaginary evil.
Similarly with fear of ill-luck. This is superstition. The remedy is intelligence — as above. There are few failures with the honest soul and the persistent Will. Failure in the life of such a one is made admonition of experience and lesson for the future. Fear of misfortune is a coward's attitude. No misfortune ever befell an honest heart which might not be transformed into a blessing. Fear of death is anticipation of an experience which will or may bring its own antidote. If thou art right, fear not now, for thou wilt not then. Nature cares for the upright in that supreme hour. Fear of hell is either a ghost of theological making, or a most salutary and truthful incentive to climb out of hell's conditions. So long as you are out of hell now, fear nothing. If there is any danger of hell to-morrow, it is the prophecy of hell to-day.
It is in the power of mind to banish all irrational fears clean out of court. With a normal mind and a resolute Will, all these illusions of the imagination may be destroyed. Cultivate the sane and resolute mood.
RESOLVE TO WILL FOR MENTAL BALANCE. ATTENTION !