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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 84.djvu/594

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594
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

THE PSYCHOLOGY OF RELAXATION
By Professor G. T. W. PATRICK

THE STATE UNIVERSITY OF IOWA

THE gospel of relaxation has been eloquently preached to us by Professor James, Annie Payson Call and others. We have been told that we live under too much stress and tension, that we are too intense and carry too much expression in our faces, that we must relax, let go, unburden ourselves of many useless contractions.

There seems to be a good deal of truth in this. Some of us manage to escape neurasthenia, but few of us are free from fatigue, chronic or acute. We hear with amazement now and again some one say "I was never tired in my life." Surely under normal conditions we ought not to be so tired as we are, nor tired so often.

Under these circumstances a new interest has suddenly awakened in relaxation. The psychology of it is yet unwritten; the physiology of it is obscure; yet the need of it has become apparent. This need has lately been greatly emphasized by an outbreak of recreation crazes of which the dancing craze and the moving-picture craze are the most conspicuous. They have become so general and are so compelling that they even remind us of the epidemics of the middle ages. The almost obsessional character of these crazes may not be wholly explicable on psychological grounds, but it suggests the need of psychological inquiry into the nature of relaxation in itself and into the peculiar conditions of our times which issue, on the one hand, in the outburst of recreation crazes, and, on the other, in a rather wide-spread disposition to fatigue or even nervous disorders.

Meanwhile practical common sense, not waiting upon theory, has turned to discover means for relieving the excessive tension incident to our present habits of living. Some, as we have said, preach the gospel of relaxation, content to tell us that we are too intense. Others have established schools with practical and helpful rules and methods for relaxation and have brought comfort and relief to many. Again, a new and unique interest has suddenly arisen in play. Men and animals have always played—but now we have first become conscious of play and curious about it. We insist on play. If children do not play, we teach them to play.

Finally a score of movements, perhaps many score, have sprung into notice, whose purpose is to encourage or provide some form of relaxation. We recall the recreation movement; the physical-culture movement; the playground movement; the Boy Scouts; the Camp Fire girls; the ever increasing interest in athletics, not only in our colleges, but also in our high schools and grammar schools; the radical change in