Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/615

This page has been validated.
599
THE MORBID "SENSE OF INJURY."

to be reversional. This is in harmony with the atavic theory of insanity. In the individual it is a delusion, and, like other delusions, an attempt by the reason to explain a disordered feeling; in this case a painful feeling, having its origin broadly in some imperfect adaptation of the organism. This attempt to explain a feeling or sensation seems a human necessity. However wide of the truth such explanations usually are, we seem forced to attempt them. In the case of this painful feeling, with which we are here concerned, we are either unwilling or unable to explain it in its true way, and are prone to attribute it to malevolent agencies, often personal—perhaps the "bogy-man" remnant of the child and race. Such explanation is often an easy escape from truths unwelcome to our ego—truths which, if recognized, would wound pride or conscience beyond easy endurance. It requires a man of rare courage and mental clarity to recognize his particular pain from failure in adaptation as autogenetic, and to lay it to natural and unflattering causes. We prefer, of the two, to accuse the environment rather than the organism, especially when the organism happens to be our own. We take refuge in a grievance rather than impugn the supremacy of our ego. Indeed, it seems to be necessary for healthy subjective activity, so to speak, that a sort of imperialism of the ego, however circumscribed, be maintained. It is the condition sine qua non of the necessary measure of well-being of the individual. It is most reluctantly relinquished, and we constantly see the plainest truths immolated that it be retained. Only in the great self-effacement of melancholia and in those rare characters who recognize and bear complacently naked truths—the Weltschmerz of Goethe—is this well-being renounced. Even those who are willing to father their own wounded ego still seek the necessary approbation by reducing its future pretensions or claims so that they may not be again pained by their failure to achieve them. They unhitch their wagon from the star. Professor James has illustrated this by a fraction showing that our approbation is determined by our success divided by our pretensions. Thus, success/pretensions = approbation (self-esteem). The quotient may be increased by diminishing the pretensions or by increasing the success. James's fraction is as applicable to the moral conduct as to the intellectual side.

When we look for the physical equivalent of the mental state which evokes the "sense of injury" we find it in dynamic and toxic states of the nervous system and their correlation. Certain conditions of the individual or environment bring these into special relief. Old age is one. The querulousness, the sense of abuse