This section is from the book "Handbook Of Suggestive Therapeutics, Applied Hypnotism, Psychic Science", by Henry S. Munro. Also available from Amazon: Handbook of Suggestive Therapeutics, Applied Hypnotism, Psychic Science.
Most of the so-called functional disorders, among which are the neurasthenics and psychasthenics, are maintained in consequence of physiological insufficiency or incompetency. The cells of the entire physiological organism do not properly perform their function. Consequently a lowered degree of resistive power is maintained, which renders the individual particularly susceptible to the ravages of pathological processes. The timely treatment of such cases by such measures as will restore the disordered function will prevent its resulting in gross pathological changes. "The psychophysiological influence of spoken words, whether employed with or without hypnosis, is as rational and effective as the bath, the electric current, or the opiate." 1
The neurasthenic and psychasthenic classes are the too frequent victims of all kinds of quackery and the over-enthusiastic surgeon as well. When surgery is resorted to for the relief of the minor structural abnormality so frequently observed in a patient of an already lowered resistive power, such patient is seldom benefited thereby, but in the larger percentage of cases actually made worse. The draught upon the reserved forces by the employment of the anesthetic with a patient of unstable nervous organization, and the amount of reserved energy consumed in the process of repair from the operation, is far in excess of the benefit that accrues in the larger proportion of cases.
What we see depends not only upon what we are looking for in the consideration of a given case, but upon the way we see it. It largely depends upon the impressions made upon and conserved by our brain cells.
The psychology of excessive specialization in medicine or surgery is a most interesting one and well worthy of our attention. Contemporary psychologists are fully agreed upon the fact that the nervous system faithfully conserves and reproduces its experiences; that conservation is fundamental for education; that ideas which make up viewpoints, attitudes of mind, beliefs, and convictions, if once firmly formed and organized, whatever or how-ever be the experience forming them, remain as a part of our personality, to functionate again and again in the life of the individual. This theory or hypothesis is as true regarding viewpoints concerning methods of treating the neurasthenic and psychasthenic classes by surgical procedures, or by educational methods, as in other departments of experience. All of our experiences - anything that we have thought, seen, heard, or felt - tend to be conserved by the neuron elements in such a way that they can be reproduced in a form approaching the original experience.
1 Hugo Munsterberg: Psychotherapy.
We could never remember anything unless our experiences were conserved in a way that they could be reproduced in our consciousness by some arrangement of the neuron elements for preserving them. The importance of this well-established fact of physiological psychology for the scientific application of psychotherapy can not be overestimated. Moreover, it gives a scientific explanation for the tendency of some departments of medicine and surgery to overestimate the importance of their special methods, and this is particularly true regarding the employment of surgery for the relief of the minor structural abnormality that can almost universally be found in the neurasthenic and psychasthenic.
Operations for "reflex irritations," so-called, are no longer justifiable. It is the general condition of physiological insufficiency or incompetency which needs to be treated. In many such cases a cure can be effected only by stimulating and encouraging the patient's subconscious or involuntary physiological processes until he or she can, by such aid, secure that degree of physical and mental stability sufficient for them, unaided and alone, to possess the capacity to execute your advice concerning methods of living so as to maintain a degree of physical well-being commensurate with a useful and happy life.
Buchanan, professor of surgery in Glasgow University, in speaking of psychological methods of treatment, is quoted from an editorial in the London Lancet as saying:1 "Pathologists will limit the area of the process to the province of functional diseases, but we are not sure that we are justified by scientific facts in making this limitation. It is a fact in pathology that if the functions of an organ be maintained or restored, much of the destructive metamorphosis may be arrested, and to some extent repaired. The vis medicatrix naturoe is a very potent factor in the amelioration of disease if it will be allowed to have fair play."
1Edmund J. A. Rogers: Medical Psychology. - Journal of the American Medical Association, June 12, 1909.
The late Professor William James, in his masterly address to the American Philosophical Association on the "Energies of Men," a man who stands as an intellectual giant above prejudice and preconceived notion, weighing each new fact as it is presented, calls attention to the fact that in every one there are latent powers which, when aroused under extraordinary stimuli, enable one to do what would have been thought beyond all possibility.1
In speaking of methods of arousing dormant, subconscious energy in this article, Professor James says: 1 "Suggestion, especially under hypnosis, is now universally recognized as a means, especially successful in certain persons, of concentrating consciousness, and in others of influencing their body states. It throws into gear energies of imagination, of will, and of mental influence over physiological processes that usually lie dormant."
Professor Edmund J. Rodgers, a well-known surgeon, says:1 "As the disturbance of physiological function is the important element in the causation of disease, the restoration of function may often restore health; indeed, as resistance to infection, immunity, etc., are produced by the functional secretions of certain cells, we realize at once the importance of this question of the control of cell function."