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NERVOUS ILLS
THEIR CAUSE AND CURE

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

1922

CHAPTER XXXIII

LIFE ENERGY AND THE NEUROTIC

        The subject of fear may be considered from a somewhat different point of view, namely from a purely physiological and biological aspect. The cell in general, the nerve cell, or neuron, is reservoir of energy. In fact the great biologist Sachs proposed to term the cell, energid.

        For we must look at the organism as a store of energy which is used up in the course of the adjustments of the individual to his environment. The organism stores up energy and uses the energy during the course of its life activity.

        Life energy is physiological, bio-chemical, electrical, mechanical, etc. The mental and emotional activities are intimately related with the expenditure of energy accumulated by the cells of the organism, which discharge that energy in response to the various stimulations of the external world. In its activities the organism keeps on taking in energy, and once more discharging energy in its life reactions. The storing up of energy falls under the anabolic or building up process, while the discharging or liberating process of the amount of the stored up energy are classed under the katabolic processes.

        The total cycle of energy from the start of storage to the end of liberation of energy, starting once more with the storing of energy, may be regarded as the cycles of organic functional activity which is classified under metabolism. We deal here with a reservoir of vital energy whose life activities or reactions depend on the amount of energy contained in the cell or the neuron, and whose functioning and reactions vary with the level of energy in the reservoir.

        The neuron is but a highly differentiated cell or reservoir for the intake and outgo of energy. In this respect the nerve cell is entirely like other cells of humbler function. Every cell is a storage cell, accumulating energy and then liberating it at an appropriate occasion of a given stimulus, all cells working for the preservation of the organism as a whole. The rise and fall of the level of energy in the reservoir regulate the various manifestations, sensory, motor, emotional, mental which the individual displays to the various stimulations coming from his environment.

        Within certain limits the fall of energy is normal,―when it reaches a certain level the organism once more replenishes the store and once more the level of energy rises. This energy is Dynamic under certain conditions. However, the discharge of energy must go on, and the organism must draw further on its store of energy, on the accumulated store of energy put away for safety and emergency. This stored up energy is Reserve Energy.*

        The late Sir Charles S. Minot, the American histologist, points out this reserve energy present in the organism, a reserve energy of growth called forth under special emergencies of life.

        By a striking series of instructive facts, Dr. Meltzer points out that "all organs of the body are built on the plan of superabundance of structure and energy." Like Minot, Meltzer refers to the significant fact that most of our active organs possess a great surplus of functioning cells. This surplus is requisite for the safety of the individual.

        If, however, the drain of energy still on without replenishing the total store, the energy drawn on the region of the danger zone is entered. This energy is Static. The concomitant symptoms are various psychomotor and psycho-secretory disturbances of a psychopathic or psycho-neurotic character. This energy is drawn from the upper levels of energy. Under such conditions restitution of the total amount of energy to its normal level is still possible.

        Should the process of liberation of energy go on further without restitution the energy drawn is taken from the lower levels of static energy, and the symptoms are functional, neuropathic. The lower-most levels of static energy are the last the cell can dispense with it to save itself from total destruction. With further increase of discharge of energy the cell must give its very life activity, the energy is drawn from breaking up of cell tissue; this energy is organic or necrotic.

        Thus the total energy of the nerve cell or the neuron may be divided into normal dynamic energy, reserve energy, static energy, and organic or necrotic energy. The various nervous and mental diseases may thus be correlated with the flow and ebb of neuron energy, with the physiological and pathological processes that take place in the neuron in the course of its activity and reactions to the stimuli of the external and internal environment.

        The various levels of neuron energy may be represented by the diagram:

        Static energy is indicated by the diagram NWFI. By organic energy is meant that energy contained in the very structure of the tissues of the neuron, not as yet decomposed into their inorganic constituents. This is indicated by diagram IFGH.

        These phases of neuron energy are not different kinds of energy, in the sense of being distinct entities; they merely represent progressive phases or stages of the same process of neuron activity.

        Liberation of neuron energy is correlative with active psychic and physical manifestations. Hence states of the nervous system corresponding to liberations of energy are designated as waking states. Restitution of expended energy or arrest of liberation of neuron energy goes hand in hand with passive conditions of the nervous system; hence states of restitution or arrest of energy are termed collectively sleeping states.

        The ascending arrow, indicating the process of restitution of energy, corresponds to the ascending arrow on the right, indicating the parallel psychomotor sleeping states. The descending arrows indicate physiological and pathological processes of liberation of energy, and also their concomitant psychomotor waking states.

        "Ascending" and "descending" mean the rise and fall of the amount of neuron energy, taking the upper level of dynamic energy as the starting point. Briefly stated, descent means liberation of energy with its concomitant, psychomotor, waking states. Ascent means restitution of energy with its parallel sleeping states.

        The cycles in dynamic energy correspond to the physiological manifestations of the nervous system in the activity and rest of the individual in normal daily life. Concomitant with the expenditure of dynamic energy of the neurons, the individual passes through the active normal waking state, and hand in hand with the restitution of this expended energy, he passes through the sleeping states of normal daily life.

        When, however, in the expenditure of energy, the border line or margin is crossed, dynamic and reserve energies are used up. In crossing KA the ordinary normal energies of everyday life are exhausted, and reserve energy has to be drawn upon. If this reserve energy is not accessible, the static energy is used, or in case the reserve energy is exhausted, then once more the static energy has to be drawn upon; in either case the individual enters the domain of the abnormal, of the pathological.

        When the upper levels of static energy are used, the symptoms are of a psychopathic character. When the use of energy reaches the lower levels of static energy, affecting the very nutrition of the neuron, neuropathic manifestations are the result. When the neuron itself is affected, that is the organic structure is being dissolved, then organopathies result. It means the death of the nerve cell.

 

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* The principle of reserve energy was developed independently by my friend, William James, and myself.

 

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