Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 79.djvu/360

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as has been or will continue to be the art of preventing and relieving pain that is distinctively physical.

But first, what is "mental pain," or "psychalgia," as it may better be called? What evidence have we that aside from some form of physical pain there is ever any such thing as "psychalgia," that is, something which can be more familiarly and supposably more clearly noted and described than heretofore, and consequently more satisfactorily dealt with? If present how are we to differentiate it, and thus be reasonably sure that we are not dealing with mere phantoms—something that is not fixable or definable, and not to be rationally handled in any way?

Probably no one can truthfully say that there is such a thing as mental pain who has himself never suffered from it, and at times when physical pain or distress has not been present to such a degree as to obscure or complicate self-observation, beyond differentiation. For, no matter how dire the psychalgia in the latter case, the suspicion must arise that it was but merely a quale—quality—of the physical condition, and so not susceptible of being considered as a distinctive kind of suffering at all. To be this and to be worthy of consideration as a true psychalgia, it ought at least to be capable of being consciously remembered as an experience by itself, dissociated somewhat clearly from every physical condition save that of general well-being, and in most cases, at least, of being referred back to certain causes, which, whether true or not, are consciously regarded by the sufferer as having been of distinctively mental origin.

By way of attempt at elucidation of this requirement, let us consider instances where the psychalgia, instead of being an exclusive experience, is apparently the direct consequence of personal shock and stress, and where primarily there are various wide-spread physical changes, especially in the sphere of metabolism, all of which must be included in any truly scientific consideration of the subject. To the sufferer himself these physical changes are of little importance, except as they are explained to him as possible sources of his mental distress. To him, it is his mind that is distressed, not his body: for the time being, all his regard is monopolized by his psychalgia, and if not told otherwise, he may not even suspect that anything but his mind is or ever will be affected by the causal event. If he be introspective and at the same time analytic enough, he will chiefly or exclusively note that his mental horizon has become painfully restricted; that his ideation is being painfully overworked along some certain narrow lines: that his emotions are all suffused with pain, even paradoxically when little or in nowise disturbed; and that his outlook upon the future is simply too painful to be invited or prolonged. In fact, it becomes evident that all the pain which the sufferer experiences is referred to his mind