Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/777

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

of their psychological significance, which is immense, especially when it is considered in connection with their intimate relation to voluntary energy. We shall consider, first, in general, the psychological value of the movements. It has already been thought worthy of remark that movements, or muscular contractions, translate the interior life and give it outward radiance. The obscurity of the fact is relieved if we suppose, with contemporary physiology, that thoughts and feelings, as facts of consciousness, while not undoubtedly reducible to simple movements, are nevertheless based on incipient or asserted movements. On the other hand, M. Féré has shown that all sensation is accompanied by an augmentation or disengagement of muscular force. The force and quality of motive manifestations are undeniably signs of psychical dispositions, either permanent or accidental. We all know that a weak and indecisive step, halting speech, slowness in eating, the physical tendency to dawdle and take twice as long as it needs to do anything, betray in children a general mental, corresponding with the organic inertness. The quality of the habitual motions, as revealed by the attitude, the walk, the play of the features, and the writing are certain signs of the character. While we may be mistaken through inexperience or want of attention, or of method in the interpretation of them, their value to a skilled observer can not be disputed.

Motion, strong, various, fruitful, which delights in itself and enjoys the effort it calls out, is agreeable when there is a superabundance of life, when it sets to work reserves of energy which it has not exhausted. The diversities of our tastes come in a large degree from this. What is beyond the capacity of some, and seems impossible or insupportable to them, charms others, and seems like play to them. There is a profound analogy between being fond of action and the physical, and having movement in the mind and force in the character; but it does not extend to identity.

Besides interpreting the moral condition, motions act upon it in return. This reciprocal influence of movements on states of consciousness is another law of general psychology, of which education should not lose sight for an instant. Not only do what we feel, think, and wish determine our motions and acts, but, inversely, the motions and acts which become habitual, even those which were involuntary in the beginning, determine, to a greater or less extent, in time our ways of feeling, thinking, and wishing. The recurrent action of attitudes, gestures, and acts on the moral condition was pointed out long since by physiognomy. The fact, now trite, that, by giving a certain position to the limbs of a hypnotized person, we put him into a corresponding psychical state, is only an extreme case of this law.