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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 72.djvu/218

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

three processes here mentioned—counterbalancing one emotion with another, denying the existence of the objectionable phenomena, and assertion of self-mastery—combined with belief in the process—and in the operator, form a large part, if not all, of the various systems, when stripped of unessential details.

The subject proving interesting, more scientific methods were adopted. The best results were attained in subsequent cases, where the subjects were intelligent, by dropping all indirect methods and by simply explaining to the patient that the walls of the capillaries and small arteries of the face, like all others in the body, are composed of circular muscular fibers under the control of special nerves. If the latter are stimulated in a certain manner, they allow the muscle rings to expand, thus increasing the size of the tubes, and allowing more blood to reach the skin, which causes blushing. If these nerves are stimulated in another manner, the rings contract, the bore of the tubes diminishes, the blood supply is cut off, like the stream of water when a garden hose is stepped on, and pallor results. Under normal conditions, these nerves are stimulated in both ways automatically, but by persistent effort it is quite possible to acquire the art of stimulating them at will either way, just as some people learn how to cry at will, instead of being dependent upon saddening emotions.

Here we have a truth of great importance, which is the foundation of all that follows. The action of the organs of the body is quite clearly influenced by mental states, such as fright, embarrassment, sadness, etc. We can cause at will the same effect, which usually only takes place involuntarily, by producing a mental image of an emotional state, by denying the existence of an existing state, or by acquiring the power to give the same kind of stimulus that mental emotions produce without the actual presence of any emotion. The feeling called "faith" is one of the strongest emotional stimuli, and is so powerful that it produces its result, even masking other emotions. The belief firmly held that we are about to cry, even where there is no cause of sadness present, will very often elicit real tears.

If this principle is firmly grasped, logical progress is rapid. An inflammation of any kind is evidently merely an excess of blood supply to the affected part—a sort of local blushing. The converse is an under supply, which starves the cells by failing to provide sufficient nutriment to them, and also poisons them by not removing rapidly enough the lactic, uric, and carbonic acids which are the waste products of all cell activities; for, as we know, the blood resembles those brooks which flow through oriental villages, serving both as sewers and as water supplies for all domestic purposes. The blood, in addition, transports the food assimilated by the digestive organs, the oxygen absorbed by the lungs, and the fluids secreted by the various glands.