Boris Sidis Archives Menu     Table of Contents      Next Chapter

 

NERVOUS ILLS
THEIR CAUSE AND CURE

Boris Sidis, Ph.D., M.D.

1922

CHAPTER XVII

FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES

        The following principles may be regarded as fundamental in the development of psychopathic or nervous ills:

I. The Principle of Embryonic Psychogenesis

        The mental states of psychopathic or nervous ills are of an infantile, child type. In this respect the mental states simulate cancerous and other malignant growths of an embryonic character. The psychopathic mental states are not only of a childish character, but they are often associated with child experiences of early life. The psychopathic condition points to some early fear-producing experience, or fear-awakening shock.

II. The Principle of Recurrence

        Fear experiences tend to repeat themselves in consciousness, and especially in the subconscious states of the child. This repetition or recurrence keeps alive the psychopathic fear nucleus, and fixes it in the mind. Fixed fear systems become further developed by the subsequent experiences of life. The aroused fear instinct may either become weakened or strengthened. When the conditions of life are unfavorable and adverse, tending to further cultivation of the impulse of self-preservation and the fear instinct, the outcome is a psychopathic disposition, ending in a nervous state with typical symptoms of some definite nervous trouble, formed by the latest or ultimate fear experiences.

III. The Principle of Proliferation and Complication

        With the growth of the child the fear experiences increase and multiply. These experiences become associated with the original child nucleus of fear and thus a complexity of fear systems is built up. Worries, depressions, and anxieties help to increase and develop the psychopathic system of groups of fear experiences. The morbid state grows like an avalanche in its progress downwards.

IV. The Principle of Fusion or of Synthesis

        All the fear experiences become associated and grouped gradually around the original child fear experience which is often of a subconscious character. The long series of fear experiences becomes fused and synthesized by the central fear instinct and impulse of self-preservation, which are fundamental in every being, but which have been specially cultivated by the course of events and experiences in the neurotic patient. The experiences become fused, synthesized, and systematized, forming one complex network of closely interrelated fear obsessions with the fear instinct and impulse of self preservation in the background.

V. The Principle of Contrast

        Feelings and emotions follow by contrast. Excitement is followed by depression, enjoyment by disgust, exhilaration by disappointment. This is well brought out in the changes observed in the psychopathic self and fear states.

        Fear may be followed by anger, especially against those who are sure to show no opposition, or may even manifest fear. The excitement of ear others is a way which diminishes fear in the patient and help him to have confidence in himself, strengthening his impulse of self preservation.

        The fear of the psychopathic may even resort to love so as to gain safety and protection from the tantalizing agonies of the fear instinct. That is why some physicians are deceived, and ascribe psychopathic troubles to love instead of to the real fundamental cause of all psychopathic disorders, namely self-preservation and the fear instinct.

        Similarly mysticism, a psychopathic malady of a social character, has its origin in the impulse of self-preservation and the fear instinct, and takes refuge in "love" or in "union" with the Infinite which serves as a rock of protection, security, and salvation from all terrors of life. Psychopathic love is a neurotic fear delusion. There is nothing more deceptive and delusive than psychopathic love,―for it takes its origin in self and fear.

VI. The Principle of Recession

        Experiences are blotted out from memory in the course of time. A very small percentage of impressions is registered by the brain, a still smaller percentage can be reproduced, and out of them a very small percentage carries recognition as memory, that is, of impressions experienced before. Forgetfulness is therefore a normal physiological function characteristic of the brain and mind.

        Forgetfulness depends on at least three conditions, lack of registration, lack of reproduction, and lack of recognition.

        There will correspondingly be at least three forms of amnesia or forgetfulness, amnesia of registration, amnesia of reproduction, and amnesia of recognition. The real problem of Psychology is not so much the lapses of memory, but the why and how of memory, and especially of recognitive memory.

        This, however, we may establish as a law that when memory in regard to definite experiences weakens in the course of time, the lapse follows from recognition to reproduction, and finally to registration. Recognition fails first, then comes the failure of memory reproduction, and finally memory registration of the special experience becomes blurred and wiped out. This may be termed the law of memory decay, or of memory regression. This is the principle of memory recession.

        Some, though by no means all, child memories or infantile experiences follow this law of regression or recession. Child experiences, like all old experiences, tend to recede in their course of decay or of regression below the threshold of consciousness. The experiences are not recognized on reproduction, or are reproduced with great difficulty, or have even lost the function of being reproduced. When under such conditions, the experiences are said to have become subconscious, or have receded into the subconscious.

        On the other hand some of those subconscious experiences, or subconscious memories may, under favorable conditions, once more regain their functions of reproduction and recognition, and become fully conscious. This may occur in various trance states, subconscious states, and in various psychopathic conditions.

        Such states, however, rarely fix the experiences in memory, because the states are instable, temporary, and the memories lapse with the disappearance of the states. This principle of recession may be regarded as one of the fundamental facts of the Psychopathology of the Subconscious. In fact, subconscious states also be termed Recessive States.

VII. The Principle of Dissociation

        Recessive states, becoming marginal and subconscious, lapse from voluntary control, they cannot be recalled deliberately and consciously by the activities of voluntary, recognitive, associative memories, constituting the mental life of personality, and hence may be regarded as mental systems in a state of dissociation. The lapsed states are present subconsciously when not completely blurred and obliterated by the process of decay or regression.

        Dissociated, subconscious states, when affected by the impulse of self-preservation and the fear instinct, tend to become parasitic, and like malignant growths may suck the life energy of the affected individual. Under such conditions we have psychopathic, subconscious, dissociated states.

VIII. The Principle of Differentiation and Diffusion

        In the dormant, subconscious states the fear instinct gradually extends to other subconscious states. The fear instinct acts like a malignant growth, like a fermenting enzyme. The subconscious fear instinct gradually infiltrates, diffuses, irradiates its affective state throughout the subconscious life of the patient, finally giving rise to a psychopathic disposition with its selfishness, apparent repressions, apprehension, anxiety, anguish, terror, and panic. This may also give rise to the general psychopathic character of doubt, indecision, and conflicting states, all being determined by the underlying fear instinct.

IX. The Principle of Differentiation

        With the growth of the impulse of self preservation and with the development of an exaggerated fear instinct, the individual becomes more and more neurotic and psychopathic. This general, neurotic, mental state attaches itself to various events in the life of the individual. The psychopathic disposition keeps on progressing from one event to another. Each one may be regarded as a separate fear state, or phobia. Finally the disposition may settle on the last event in the patient's life experience. This last event may often become the nucleus, or rather the apparent nucleus of the neurosis.

        The last experience appears to be central. As a matter of fact there is a, great number of fear states or of phobias in the neurotic patient. A few only appear to predominate in the network of fear events. The network of fears is woven into an incongruous whole by the impulse of self-preservation find the fear instinct. This network becomes differentiated into a tangle of numerous fear states.

X. The Principle of Dominance

        The last fear states or Ultimate Fear States which stand out clearly and distinctly in the patient's mind become the leading, the dominant abnormal, pathological states. The patient thinks that they are the real source of all his troubles, and if they were removed he would be cured. As a matter of fact the ultimate states are not causes, but occasions. The real causes of the psychopathic constitution are the exaggerated impulse of self-preservation and the intensified fear instinct.

XI. The Principle of Dynamogenesis

        Recessive, and especially dissociated systems, being dormant subconsciously, may become envigorated, may accumulate emotion, and when the opportunity comes, may react to external stimuli with vigor and energy. The attacks may occur like epileptic fits. They often so well simulate epileptic maladies that even good clinicians have classed such attacks under the term of larval epilepsy, psychic epilepsy, hystero-epilepsy, or psychic equivalent of epilepsy. This subconscious energy manifestation may be termed Dynamogenesis.

XII. The Principle of Inhibition

        Self-preservation and the fear instinct inhibit associated mental systems, producing morbid states. Morbid mental states, however, are not produced by inhibitions, or repressions. It is only when the inhibitive factors are self and fear that a true morbid mental state, or neurosis arises. To regard self repression as a bad condition and leading to diseases is to misapprehend the nature of man, to falsify psychology, and to misrepresent the development of humanity. The self should not become hypertrophied. Self-preservation should not become overgrown. The self must be kept within limits. The self impulse should be kept under control by the individual. For true happiness is to be a law unto oneself. As the great Greek thinkers put it: Happiness is in self rule. The unruly are miserable. In fact, self-control is absolutely requisite to mental health, to sanity. Self-repression is requisite for happiness. Self-repression never leads to disease. It is only when self-repression is produced and dominated by selfishness and fear that morbid states of a psychopathic, neurotic character are sure to arise. It is not inhibitions that produce fear, but it is fear that produces inhibitions. To ascribe neurosis to self-repression and to conflict is like attributing malaria or tuberculosis to air and light.

XIII. The Principle of Mental Contest and Discord

        Mental states associated with intense emotions tend to take a dominant lead in consciousness. This, however, may be totally opposed by the general character of the individual. In such cases the whole mental set, being in opposition to the total individuality, is in contest with the character of the person who is then in state of discord. A mental set in contest with the make-up of the person is usually inhibited, becomes subconscious, and as a rule fades away from the mind, often leaving no trace even in memory, conscious or subconscious. In some cases where a compromise is possible, a reconciliation is effected. The mental set is assimilated, and disappears from consciousness as an independent, functioning state.

        When, however, the opposing or contesting mental set is based on a fundamental impulse and accompanying instinct, such as the impulse of self-preservation and the fear instinct, a total inhibition is not always possible, even a compromise may not be successful, because the mental set is in association with the core of the individual,―namely self-preservation. The contesting mental set remains, in what Galton terms, "the antechamber of consciousness." The mind is in a state of tension, in a state of anxiety, in restless, uneasy discord, due to the fear instinct, the companion of the impulse of self-preservation. The contesting mental set, charged with intense fear emotion, presses into the foreground of consciousness, and a contest, a discord, ensues in the mind of the individual, a contest, a discord, a conflict which keeps the person in a state of indecision and lack of will power.

        The partly inhibited, contesting mental set, when not fading away, may thus remain in the mind, and act like a splinter in the flesh, giving rise to a state of discomfort. This is just what happens when the individual has not been trained to assimilate fear states, and is unable to adjust fear reactions to the welfare of total psycho-physiological life activity.

        In cases where the impulse of self-preservation and the fear instinct have become aroused, the contesting fear set of mental states presses again and again to the foreground of consciousness. When no compromise of the contesting states can be brought about, when the fear set cannot be assimilated, the mind is in a state of restless discord. It is not, however, the discord that produces the neurosis, it is the impulse of self-preservation and the fear instinct that constitute the cause of the psychopathic, neurotic condition.

XIV. The Principle of Diminishing Resistance

        In proportion as the neurotic attacks keep on recurring the formed pathological system is gaining in energy and in ease of manifestation. The psychopathic attacks with their symptoms emerge at an ever diminishing intensity of stimulation. The resistance of healthy normal associations is ever on the decrease until a point is reached when all power of resistance is lost. The conscious and subconscious groups which enter into the psychopathic system, forming the neurosis, get control over the patient's life, and become an uncontrollable, psychopathic obsession.

XV. The Principle of Modification

        The patient attempts to control or alleviate his fear state by a totally different fear state. In the long run this is a losing game. For the general fear disposition becomes ultimately reinforced. Finally he may land in the mystic regions of love or of an Infinite Love in which he expects to find safety, protection, and salvation from the miseries of exaggerated self impulse and intensified fear instinct. Such a course, however, leads to a swamp in which the patient's individuality becomes engulfed and obliterated. The end is mental suicide.

        These fundamental principles of neurosis-development should be kept in mind in the examination and study of psychopathic cases. The cases adduced in this volume will help one to understand the mechanism of the main factors and principles of neurosis.

 

Boris  Menu      Contents      Next