This section is from the book "Applications of Psychology to the Problems of Personal and Business Efficiency", by Warren Hilton. Also available from Amazon: Psychology and Achievement - Applied Psychology 12 Volume Set.
WE ADVOCATE mental control as a means to functional health of the body. In doing so we have no desire to disparage or belittle other hygienic and therapeutic agencies, or even to institute a comparison.
We do not maintain that all diseases can be cured by mental means alone.
The reader is presumably well grounded in the course of reasoning from which we concluded that all bodily functions are under mental control, that this control is capable of being exercised through consciousness - that is, consciously as well as unconsciously - and that the secret of absolute mental control is concentration.
Distinguished authorities on pathology agree that a practical discrimination may be made between functional and organic diseases. This distinction is not strictly scientific, because there can be no perversion of action on the part of a bodily organ without a change of cellular structure, just as there can be no thought in consciousness without an impulse to physical activity.
Yet, for all practical purposes, the distinction is an intelligent and proper one. An organic disease, like consumption, is one involving a real loss or destruction of organic tissue. Afunctional disease, like neuralgia or constipation, is one in which there is no actual loss of tissue, but in which one or more organs of the body fail to perform their normal functions or perform them in an abnormal manner.
Generally speaking, mental methods are chiefly of use in cases of functional disease. In organic ailments they may relieve pain and may help the forces of repair, but with persons of only average concentrative ability mental exercises cannot be depended on unaided to speedily and certainly cure organic maladies.
We learned long ago that the subconscious control of bodily processes is exercised in accordance with such sensory images as are emphasized by the conscious attention.
Every functional disease, being a perverted form of organic activity, is therefore due primarily to false or misleading intelligence from the central consciousness to the vital organs.
Every thought complex has its emotional element.
Every thought tends to express itself in the appropriate bodily activity with which it is associated.
Every idea is a pent-up reservoir of physiological impulses that will work themselves out in full development unless inhibited by contrary ideas and impulses.
Therefore, a consciousness that is clear, definite, harmonious and concentrated will bring about automatically some kind of prompt, appropriate and complete bodily response.
And the more vivid the picture, the more unclouded by conflicting thoughts and impulses, the more immediate and complete will be its physiological realization. For every thought you hold tends to manifest itself in bodily action.
This will be made clear by illustration. Thus, a disgusting story may take away your appetite for the most delicious repast. It may interfere with the digestion of what you have already eaten. It may even cause nausea. The reason for this is because you hold in consciousness the thought of the story and its loathsome associations, and the digestive organs are unable to discriminate between actual present sense-perceptions and suggested imaginings, between the real and the simulated, and they react accordingly.
So far as bodily organs go, consciousness - whether it be a consciousness made up wholly of ideas or a consciousness of sense-perceptions - is the only reality.
It follows that the digestion, indigestion or rejection of food by a normally constituted stomach is in the final analysis a question of mental attitude. Stated generally, the immediate cause of abnormal or perverted action by any bodily organ is abnormal or perverted mental action.
A second fact of great practical importance is that all processes of secretion and repair in the body are directly dependent upon blood supply.
Blood furnishes to every living cell the food necessary to its life and to the performance of its special function. Consequently, the continued life and health of the body presupposes a plentiful supply of blood. And for the same reason the stimulation of any particular organ to special activity necessitates an increased circulation of blood in the part indicated.
Blood results from the consumption and assimilation of air and food. The quantity and quality of the blood depend upon the quantity and quality of the air we breathe and the food we consume and the extent to which both are utilized by the organs of assimilation and elimination, such as the lungs, stomach, kidneys, liver and skin.
It follows that the first requisite of good health is an abundance of good air and good food.
How these and all other material blessings are to be had through mental Control has already been indicated in Volume Ten. In the present volume We must assume their supply.
Granting an abundance of good air and good food, the next requirement is that they shall be consumed and assimilated.
Consumption and assimilation imply respectively appetite and the performance in a natural and efficient manner by each bodily organ of the function for which it was designed.
Since abnormal or perverted action on the part of a bodily organ is caused by abnormal or perverted mental action, it follows as a corollary that the normal performance of the vital functions cannot take place without a normal and sympathetic mental attitude.
To illustrate: If you are unable to digest some article of food that is readily digested by the average healthy person, it is because somewhere in the recesses of your mind, perhaps only in some organic plexus, you hold the thought that you cannot digest it.
You may not think you do so. You may not do so consciously.
You may have merely a feeling of repulsion.
Yet somehow, somewhere, as a result of some past experience, you are obsessed with the idea that you are unable to assimilate this particular article of food. And the idea of that food is inseparably bound up in a mental complex of feelings and impulses, not of appetite, enjoyment and digestive processes, but of fear and doubt and in-hibitions of the impulses necessary to the secretion of the fluids required for digestion and assimilation.
A lack of appreciation of the mind's influence has led physiologists into unfortunate errors.
Thus, because in experimenting with animals they have been able to cause the gastric juice to appear by tickling the lining of the stomach with a feather through an opening in the body, they have generally supposed that contact with food was what caused the secretion of the digestive fluids.
As a matter of fact, it has since been demonstrated that "if the operator had washed his hands, so that there were no odors of food on them capable of exciting the desire of the animal," no digestive fluids would have appeared.
Pavlov, to whose experiments we referred in another place, has shown that the secretions of the stomach vary according to the taste of the food, and that the digestive fluids are prepared while the food is still in the mouth. The subconsciousness of the mind, without your knowing it, warns the digestive organs in advance and they prepare beforehand the appropriate chemical re-agents.
Consequently, it is a scientific fact capable of physical proof that it is the mental picture, the appetite, the delectable taste, the mental desire, the enjoyment and appreciation of the food, that stimulates the digestive apparatus to perform its functions.
We have drawn our illustration from the digestive organs because the action of the mind upon them is most apparent. But the principle holds true with every form of functional derangement. There is apparently no disease, not even a germ disease, that cannot be caused, or at least simulated, through mental influence.
This is made peculiarly evident during the prevalence of epidemics, when the cases caused by fear, imagination and belief manifest all the symptoms of true disease, excepting that they lack the distinguishing germ or bacillus.
Now, it is obvious that if the mind has power to cause a given organ to act in an abnormal or perverted manner, it must also have the power to restore that organ to normal operation.
In other words, Any disease that can be caused by the mind can be avoided by the mind.
You must recognize and believe in the truth of four fundamental statements, and in order to emphasize them we repeat them categorically:
1. The immediate cause of abnormal or perverted action by any bodily
Fundamental Principles of Functional Health organ is abnormal or perverted mental action.
2. A plentiful supply of blood is necessary to the continued life and health of the body.
3. To stimulate any particular organ to special activity we must bring about an increased circulation of blood in the part indicated.
4. Any disease that can be caused by the mind can be avoided by the mind.
With these basic principles before us, we may consider the two fields of their application.
There are two kinds of people in the world - those who think they are perfectly well and those who think they are ailing. The former want to retain, and the latter to regain, health.
We shall therefore approach the subject of mental control of bodily functions, first, from the point of view of the preservation of health - that is to say, the prevention of disease - and, secondly, from the point of view of the cure of disease.