Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 79.djvu/365

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THE IMPORTANCE OF MENTAL PAIN

and realizations, there is such a tormenting intrusion of painful selfhood upon consciousness, that a desperate fight for place and favor, or even for existence, is always on, and the issue seldom if ever comfortably assured. Such people, in no sense technically "insane," are yet so burdened with a veritable soul-pain, that it is only a "kind providence" which for the time being keeps them from becoming unbalanced—a providence, however, which may yet some time call very loudly to any one who happens to be at hand, to come to its help against this "mighty" scourge, and all the indecisive conflicts which are part and parcel of it.

Undertaking now a yet closer study of this widely prevailing sickness of soul, expressed in so many morbid variations of consciousness, it does not take long to come upon the truth that probably the greater proportion of these cases are primarily owing to the fact that the personality itself has never from the first been properly harmonized, that is, has never become thoroughly enough blended in the course of its development to avoid remaining other than a veritable storm-center of all the ragings of emotion and ideation and volition, which are here as incalculable as they are pain-producing. Whether this unblending is due to such disparities and tendencies in the several ancestral lines as do not admit of continuously close relationship and coordination, even in distinct individuals, or whether the course of "bringing-up" from birth onward has been such as never to overcome the natural heterogeneity of the personal elements, probably common to the genesis of every human being, does not matter.[1] The outcome, a heterogeneous or imperfectly blended or ununified personality, may almost everywhere be discovered as constituting at least a very natural soil in which rank psychalgias may easily generate and grow and forever plague and choke the possessor quite beyond description. To stand on the brink of a seething surging crater, whose sulphurous fumes never cease to stifle, and whose eruptions are always immanent and frequently realized, might afford some sort of parallel to the position occupied by some of the more deeply afflicted of these cases; only, the man by the crater might possibly recede from his danger at will; while no Prometheus was ever chained more absolutely beyond self-help to his Caucasian rock, or was more horribly subject to tormenting insults both from without and from within, than is the one who finds himself inseparable from the miseries of the species of psychalgia that are chiefly due to heterogeneity, or to this in combination with all the imperfections of our natural growth and conventional breeding.

  1. ↑ See Smith Baker, article "Heterogeneous Personality," in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease for September, 1893; also article "Causes and Prevention of Insanity" in The Popular Science Monthly for May, 1899; also William James, in "Varieties of Religious Experience," p. 169.