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THE STRESS OF MODERN LIFE.

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THE STRESS OF MODERN LIFE. By ERNEST JONES, M.D. [Lecture delivered before the Charing Cross Road Literary Society on January 18, 1907, .y and specially reported for the "Cymro and Celt."] (Continued.) I now leave the consideration of bodily suffering for the more interesting and important one of mental suffering, including under that term insanity, unhappiness and misery of all kinds. Here, again, similar proposals have been made to condemn the failures, to eliminate the unfit and here, also, I wish to raise a protest against what I consider to be unscientific as well as inhumane views. My protest is all the more energetic in this instance for the following reason I queried in the example of tuberculosis what valuable qualities might be lost to the race by the elimination of tubercular individuals. In the case of many mental affections this query becomes a great probability, for there is a large body of evidence going to prove that if the above proposals were applied here we should lose people specially possessing qualities that are particularly important to the race. Let us next consider what this mental failure consists in. If we look around us we see that people may be classified in various ways. The way I want to direct your attention to is a classification according to feeling and temperament. We all know, for instance, men, and women, too, of so called iron nerve, who face disasters with an undaunted mien, who stand up to the world and give as good blows as they take, and we have all of us admired this glorious quality of courage. Occasionally this quality is accompanied by a tenderness, a readiness of sympathy and under- standing that well nigh turns the man into a god. In real life, however, this combination is infinitely rare. Only too often the iron appear- ance is accompanied by other attributes of iron, hardness and insensitiveness. Indeed the former virtue is often acquired at the direct expense of the latter by the man ceasing to feel the troubles of others, by his shouldering his way through the world regardless of the feelings of the people he jostles and perhaps tramples on. He thus loses that delicate sensibility that enables a man to read the hearts of others, and which is per- haps the most precious gift a man can have. Surely this is not the direction we want our race to move towards. Highly as we value courage, we treasure far more that acute per- ception of understanding, that delicate sympathy, thst refined imagination that goes to make a genius of feeling, a poet, a musician, a leader of religion. Even in courage we should value those rare forms of intellectual and moral courage far more than the mere brute physical courage that is the servant of the higher form and never its master. There are biological reasons, which I cannot go into now, that sup- port these conclusions that may be reached on ethical grounds alone. Another life that most of us have met is that named by Cardinal Newman, the -1 Once-born." Professor William James gives an excellent description of this type in the following sentence from his last book It is to be hoped that we all have some friend, perhaps more often feminine than masculine, and young than old, whose soul is of this sky-blue tint, whose affini- ties are rather with flowers and birds and all enchanting innocencies than with dark human passions, who can think no ill of man or God, and in whom religious gladness, being in pos- session from the outset, needs no deliverance from any antecedent burden." Walt Whitman, the poet, is a classic instance of this type. Browning has drawn a marvellous picture of one in his poem Pippa passes." This is, you will agree, a very attractive type, and one all too rare. Even here, however, can be distinctly detected that element of exclusion, that delibe- rate avoidance of some of the realities of life, of which I spoke just now. We feel that there is something lacking. The individual has not really plumbed life. There may be surprises in store for him that will be too much for his philosophy. There may be problems he will be sooner or later driven to face that could be successfully grappled if considered in the calm of leisure, but if through being previously ignored they are allowed to arise at an unexpected and unfavourable moment he will go under in the emergency, the sky-blue tint of his soul will be smirched, and he will never be the same again. Perhaps that is the reason why such types are commoner in the young than in the old. My view is that this magnificent lightness of heart can quite well be combined with a courageous consideration of various problems, carried out with an easy, smooth, confident style that would guard the individual against any depression or anxious care, and yet would arm him against most of the ills of life. Turning now from these happier types of men and women, we are all too familiar with the darker, depressed people of whom there are many varieties. When unhappiness affiicts men and women it produces different effects accord- ing to their temperament, and what I want to try and bring home to you is the substantial unity of all these numerous effects, for at heart they all mean the same thing, mental misery. To convey this is both a difficult and an impor- tant task. It is rare that one reflects on the different attitudes instinctively adopted towards these different results of unhappiness. Consider just, as an example, the different ways in which Shelley found expression for his mental misery. Compare the divine discontent of his Alastor and Revolt of Islam, with the angry corroding bite of his Masque of Anarchy, England in 1819, and Adonais, or again with the pure depression and self-humiliation of his Ode to the West Wind, Indian Serenade, and many of his shorter poems. Though these are expressions of quite different moods we can sympathise with, and in a sense approve of them all, partly on account of the smooth artistic form in which they are clothed. We can read them with a positive pleasure; they either stimulate us to great thoughts, or they bring balm and peace to a sad and miserable mood. This is perhaps one of a poet's greatest functions. As Keats wrote, They shall be accounted poet kings, who simply tell the most hearteasing things." Now contrast the warm sympathy we show towards unhappiness when expressed by a Shelley with the intolerance we display towards that of a crusty ill-tempered old curmudgeon who is always cantankerously complaining of every- thing that comes his way. Yet it seems to me that the difference between the two can all be explained by remembering that the intellect and imagination are different in the two cases the feeling, that of depression and discontent, is identical in both. But with the poet there is a grandeur, a sweeping breath in the mode of ex- pression that renders it acceptable and compels our sympathy, whereas with the curmudgeon there is a meanness, a small vulgar narrow- mindedness that produces sometimes an almost unsufferable querulousness. The one indites an universe; the other discharges his cook. But mark well how differently we behave towards the two. We do not say to the poet, "You could easily avoid all your intense emotion, if you were only to exercise a little common sense and will power. We feel nothing but reproba- tion for the sinful perverseness that is the cause of your so-called unhappy state." Far from it. We acknowledge that in a sense he has a right to his depressed feelings, his sadness of soul, for they are beyond the reach of the mere intellect. Yet in the case of the curmudgeon we pretend that his depression and irritability are under the control of his much more limited intellect, and that if he does not assert it it must be because he won't. To be quite honest, however, what we really resent in his case is not his discontent but his mode of expressing it. We like to think that the poet's magnificent thoughts ex- press just what we at times would like to say if we only knew how it is humiliating to think of the curmudgeon as such. We express this by saying that the one reflects our higher nature, the other our lower. We cannot, however, logically claim that the basis of feeling is the varied phenomenon its different expressions on the surface make it out to be. From an in- telligent and scientific standpoint we are bound to recognise its fundamental unity and so to treat its different manifestations alike, namely, with the fullest sympathy at our command. This being so, we are next led to inquire what exactly are these different manifestations, so that we may know how to recognise them. Unhappiness may manifest itself in three ways-by depression, irritability and bodily symptoms. Pure depression shows itself in various degrees, and with your permission I will quote some passages descriptive of them from that great psychologist, William James 4t Unsus- pectedly from the bottom of every fountain of pleasure something better rises up a touch of nausea, a falling dead of the delight, a whiff of melancholy, things that sound a knell, for fugitive as they may be, they bring a feeling of coming from a deeper region and often have an appalling convincingness. The buzz of life ceases at their touch as a piano string stops sounding when the damper falls upon it. Of course the music can commence again—and again, and again -at intervals. But with this the healthy-minded consciousness is left with an irremediable sense of precariousness. It is a bell with a crack; it draws its breath on sufferance and by an accident. Even with the happiest men, those most envied by the world, in nine cases out, of ten their inmost conscious- ness is one of failure. What single-handed man was ever on the whole so successful as Martin Luther ? Yet, when he had grown old, he looked back on his life as if it were an absolute failure. A story is told of an occasion on which the Electress Dowager, with whom he was dining, said to him, Doctor, I wish you may live forty years to come." Madam," he re- plied, rather than live forty years more I would give up my chance of Paradise." Failure, then, failure So the world stamps us at every turn. We strew it with our blunders, our mis- deeds, our lost opportunities, with all the memorials of our inadequacy to our vocation- And with what damning emphasis does it then blot us out No easy fine, no mere apology or formal expiation, will satisfy the world's demands, but every pound of flesh exacted is soaked with all its blood. The subtlest forms of suffering known to man are connected with the poisonous humiliations incidental to these results- And back of everything is the great spectre of universal death, the all-compassing blackness— For that which befalleth the sons of men be- falleth also beasts as the one dieth, so dieth the other all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again. The dead know not anything, neither have they any more a reward for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love and their hatred and their envy is now perished neither have they any more a portion for ever in anything that is done under the sun." All these passages indicate simple melancholy in the sense of incapacity for joyous feeling it is mere passive joylessness and dreariness, dis- couragement, dejection, lack of taste and zesfc and spring. A much worse form of it is a positive and active anguish, a sort of psychical neuralgia that is all too common. Such anguish may partake of various characters, having some- times more the quality of loathing sometimes of self mistrust and self-despair: or again of suspicion, anxiety, trepidation, fear. So much for the first of our three manifesta- tions of unhappiness, pure depression. It is surely bad enough in its worst forms, but it always haa at least one grand, one saving con- solation it is respected. Few people are brutal enough to trample on sufferings such as those just described, and as a rule they com- mand universal sympathy. What that sympathy means only one who has suffered thus can fully appreciate, but I may say that from a psycho- logical point of view it constitutes one of the most powerful restoratives that we possess. A full appreciation and complete understanding of