Now that we have defined the states of conscious thought and action, let’s move on to the second essential quality of control - concentration. DefinitionConcentration is the faculty of being able to fix thoughts on a given point, to develop an idea without getting distracted, to be able to lose oneself in a book, in some kind of work, etc. The faculty is
completely lacking in neurasthenic patients. We will now outline the exercises we use to help patients acquire
the ability to concentrate.
At first, trying to concentrate on an idea is too difficult. So the first exercise consists of mentally following a curved line, for example a eight or the geometric sign of infinity. It is hard to imagine that such a simple exercise can present any
problems, yet many patients are incapable of doing it correctly.
If the exercise is carried out properly, a double regular wave pattern will be felt through hand contact; if done incorrectly, you will feel interruptions in the wave pattern, almost always occurring as the patient reaches the outer edges of the curves.Patients will become aware of this themselves with a little effort.
Ask your patient to follow the swinging pendulum of a metronome, while mentally repeating the ticking sound. Start with 10 to 15 repetitions, and then progressively increase the duration of the exercise.
Train your patients to try and retain the impressions they perceive when touching an object for a certain time. In these three exercise, we are trying to help patients develop mental concentration related to sight, hearing and touch.
Concentration on a point in the body: in this exercise, patients are asked to mentally determine the exact sensations they are experiencing, first in their right hand, then the left hand, then the right foot, left foot, and so on. When this becomes fairly easy, move on to the elbows, knees, ears, various fingers, etc. What happens is that in order to specify the various sensations coming from different parts of the body, patients are forced to concentrate on those points. The advantage of this exercise is that the patients themselves know if they are concentrating correctly or not.
After a few days, concentrating on a given part of the body will produce a particular sensation which patients can easily recognize, for example a feeling of pins and needles, or a slight shock, or the feeling that blood is flowing into the designated area. Hand application wll show more accentuated vibrations on the right side of the forehead when patients concentrate on their right hand or foot, and on the left side when concentrating on the left hand, foot, elbow, etc.
The doctor places his/her finger on any muscle, and asks the patient to concentrate on that point. If the patient is able to concentrate, the doctor will feel a slight muscular contraction under his finger.
Note that it is often necessary to wait a few seconds before getting esults. The exercises we have just described are easy, and can be improvised on to form infinite variations; we have only given the basic forms here - the rest is up to you.
Concentrating on the number 1: this exercise often presents real difficulties, and we have seen many patients take weeks before being able to do it correctly, although at first it seems quite simple. The exercise consists of writing and mentally saying the number 1, three times in succession, without allowing any other thoughts to interfere. In addition, between each written and mental repetition, there should be a pause of between half a second and a second. For example: 1
pause 1 pause 1 pause It is not necessary to maintain a mental image of the number 1 during each pause.
In this way, patients have to concentrate on sight, words, and mental hearing (since the word is heard in the mind as it is spoken in the mind) as well as on the act of writing, which also occupies the brain.
As soon as a patient is able to do the exercise correctly, increase the number of repetitions to 4, 5, 6, 7 etc. A patient who can do seven successive repetitions is able to concentrate sufficiently. Let’s look at what happens in the brain, functionally speaking. To start with, it must make an effort of will to suspend all other cerebral activity, then it performs the voluntary act of writing the number 1, speaks it mentally, and listens to it mentally at the same time. Then everything stops for a second, after which the process is repeated. The patient must therefore concentrate a number of times
in a row. It should be noted that without the pause the exercise becomes much easier, but at the same time loses much of its value. The exercise forces patients to be fully in control of their brain; that is why it is so difficult.
Page 60Chapter 8The presence of a controlling physician is indispensable at theoutset, since patients are hardly aware of
the errors they make.
A curve representing good concentration would look like this:1pause1pause1pauseEach 1 produces a clear impulse, followed by a period of relax-ation.When incorrectly done, the following curve is produced:1pause1pause1pauseWe should not place to much emphasis on visualization of thenumber 1: some patients never succeed in doing it. The effort to visu-alize can be useful at first, but it can be dropped later on, and re-placed by concentrating on the sensation of writing, mentally speak-ing and hearing.
Of course, any other number can be used, as well as grammaticalsymbols like dashes or periods. We chose the number 1
because itgets patients used to the idea of concentrating, which, in fact, meansfixing the mind on one single thought or
action.Patients will then make the transition more easily from this formof concentration, which is more or less mechanical, to real psycho-logical concentration. As a means of transition, we suggest that pa-
tients try to gather all their thoughts and concentrate on the number1. In other words, patients are told to mentally repeat
the number 1when they feel they have succeeded in gathering all their thoughtsinto a single, larger thought (which is really the concept of thought itself).
An image of the above would be a circle whose rays (separatethoughts) all converge on the number 1 at the center. Every patient has his or her particular concept for achieving this result: some imagine that they are shrinking their head until there only room for one thought or idea; others try to eliminate all thoughts except the thought of 1. If patients persevere, they will gradually become convinced that they are able to concentrate for a set period of time, no matter how
short. Once this conviction is acquired, it becomes a precious aid in their struggle. But it is not enough - patients must eventually learn to concentrate whenever, and on whatever they want.
This is certainly more difficult to achieve; patients should practice ignoring distractions, at first in solitude, and finally when surrounded by people, noise, etc. In this way, they gain confidence in their ability to concentrate at will. This ability becomes complete when they are able, through concentration, to put a stop to anxiety, or overcome a phobia.
Now let’s assume that our patients have acquired this ability: the next step is to ask them to concentrate on an idea.
Concentrating on ideasIn this exercise, patients are asked to develop an idea in their minds. For example, they may try to resolve a problem, or prepare a written summary of something they read, or listen to a conversation or lecture for a predetermined period of time, without allowing themselves to get distracted. To do this they must instantly stop all other
thoughts from entering their mind, except those which are directly related to the subject at hand. Patients will start to see practical results only gradually, after a number of failures. The allotted time period should be very short at first, so as not to discourage them, and the activity should be treated as a simple exercise and not some kind of test.
The most common error patients make at the beginning is to wonder if they are really concentrating properly during the exercise. This self verification naturally interrupts their concentration, and patients start worrying if they are able to concentrate at all. It should be explained that they will not be really concentrated unless they approach the exercise as simply as possible. This series of exercises cannot be directly controlled by the attending physician (except the one which involves concentrated reading, where hand application will produce a series of regular wave vibrations). For the rest, we have to depend on what patients tell us, and leave them to judge their own progress. However, there are a number of other exercises which can be verified through hand application, since the curves obtained from them
are very characteristic. One example is “Concentration on Tranquility.
We ask patients to try and establish a sensation of mental calm, of psychological and physical tranquility in their minds. To do this, they will mentally evoke an idea or thought which represents those feelings. For example, one person might think of a peaceful landscape, another of a particularly soothing piece of music, another of some elevated moral concept like compassion, or a prayer, etc. Once the feeling of tranquility is attained, patients must try to maintain it for as long as possible, through an effort of willpower. The image should become more defined the longer it is held in the mind. Objective verification is simple -as soon as the sensation of tranquility is established in the brain, the hand perceives a modification of vibrations, which become slower and stronger.
Concentrating on the idea of energyThis is done using the same method as in the above exercise. Patients are asked to try and feel the energy and strength pulsing through their own body, by remembering occasions when they were really
energetic. They will try to fathom what “energy” really is, or might be. And with a little perseverance, the sensation will become engraved in their brain.
During the exercise, hand application will detect a series of more accentuated, voluntary vibrations. Concentration on the idea of controlThis exercise is the natural progression of the two preceding ones, and requires a simple process of deduction. In fact, as soon as patients are able to remain calm or summon their energy at will, they are capable of self control. They will, therefore, not have much difficulty in defining the sensation of control. They simply have to be persuaded that, during those moments of voluntary tranquility or energy, they really are in control, in order for
them to gradually develop the faculty of real control which is so essential to their well being.
The vibration associated with control is stronger than the usual vibrations -rather than the series of short impulses produced by voluntary energy, these vibrations are slower, stronger and very regular. At first, patients only have to experience the sensation of tranquility, energy or control for a few seconds; as they develop the habit, the duration will increase. Patients should therefore do the exercisesa number of times per day, under varied circumstances.
Soon the sensations will become engraved in their brain, so that they are able to produce them instantaneously, which is extremely useful. The same method can, of course, be used to establish other sensations, depending on what we want to change in the patient’s behavior, and on each individual patient’s characteristics.
Physiological effects of concentrationThe ultimate aim of concentration is to regularize what we call “cerebral emissions” which are continually disturbed in the non-con-trolled state. Regular cerebral emissions are necessary to concentrate
thoughts on a given object, and to digest or classify that object; without regular emissions, no useful work can be done, since the mindwanders aimlessly, and is disturbed by all kinds of distractions. Concentration directs the thought process, and is the antidote for fighting obsessions and phobias.
The effects of concentration are not limited to the mind, since itcan act on the physical body. The physiological effects of concentration are worth mentioning here. To understand these effects, it must be assumed that concentrating
on any fixed point results in an influx of nervous energy, originating at that point. This nervous influx is proof that concentration does produce cerebral emissions which have a very special regularizing and healing effect, which we will now look at in light of a few sample cases.
Mrs. V, 45 years old, suffered from almost complete paralysis of her lower limbs for close to ten years. She could stand up for a moment, but could not walk; as soon as she tried, she felt as if her legs were collapsing; she had no conscious control of the muscles in her legs, although she could move her upper body and arms normally. She had no problems with perception, nor did she complain of any particular pains. But she did experience a sensation of intense fatigue,
which her immobility only aggravated. Aside from these primary symptoms, she clearly exhibited symptoms of cerebral instability, although these she all but ignored, preoccupied as she was with her paralysis. She was obsessed with the fear that she would never recover, since all treatments up to that point (electric shock, showers, massage, injections, etc.) had had no effect. It was not difficult to prove to this woman that her pseudo-pa-ralysis was the result of her brain not sending adequate nervous emissions to her lower limbs, and that prescribing appropriate exercises would soon alleviate the condition. This case was relatively easy, since a diagnostic error was hardly possible. However, when patients suffer from contractures, it is sometimes difficult to be certain of the results. The following case, on the other hand, proves that we should never give up hope unless a lesion has been absolutely identified as the cause of the disorder.
Mrs. W was bedridden for 14 years because of generalized contractures. All the doctors she consulted agreed the problem was caused by an incurable disorder of the medulla. I was only called in to provide some relief, since the contractures were very painful. The patient seemed to be resigned to her condition, and only asked for some relief from her pain.
My cerebral examination provided signs of excessive tension. This led me to hope that the cause of the problem was not a lesion of the medulla, but a defect in her motor mechanism. She agreed to let me treat her, and to my great joy she recovered completely in six weeks time, and has remained healthy for a number of years since. The heart also responds very well to these exercises. Here are two very revealing cases: Mrs. X came to see me about her angina attacks; she had suffered from acute dilation of the heart (muscle), accompanied by generalized dema and cyanosis. Her treating physician had concluded that cause of the disorder was an organic lesion, complicated by nervous problems. When she first came to see me her attacks were frequent, and she was under constant care, day and night.
Her slightest movement brought on dyspnea and palpitations. In my opinion, the nervous problem was the major cause of her disorder. I advised her to give up all medication, and prescribed a number of exercises. Fifteen days later she went home, completely cured. The second case concerned Mrs. Y, who had been bedridden since catching the flu, which was not serious in itself, but after her convalescence dragged on for weeks, her doctor concluded that her heart was in bad condition, that she was suffering from asthenia and palpitations, during which she tended to faint at the slightest movement. She spent two months in this condition, during which time I didn’t see her. She finally wrote me, asking if there was a possibility her disorder was of nervous origin. I wrote back, advising her to try certain exercises, and to verify any results with her treating physician. And in fact, a few days later her symptoms disappeared. The digestive system is susceptible to a host of nervous reactions, among them contractions of the oesophagus, stomach or intestines, hyperchlorhydria, constipation, ulcers, etc. Here too, emission of nervous currents through concentration can perform wonders. An example: Miss X had been suffering from attacks of hyperchlorhydria and vomiting for a number of years.
Her condition worsened, and she ended up having an operation (for gastro-enteritis). Unfortunately, this had no effect. Her pains and nausea persisted, and prevented her from eating anything. She was in this miserable condition when I began my treatment. With no medication, and no specific diet, her symptoms soon improved, and eventually disappeared.
If we had enough space, we could cite many more such cases whose origins appeared to be organic, but which were cured through re-education. However, since space is limited, we will conclude this chapter with a description of how nervous currents affect pain.
Pain Pain is a common symptom of neurasthenia, and can be easily influenced by nervous currents. We might conclude, at first, that it would seem inappropriate to call a patient’s attention to his or her pain. But this view is mistaken, since concentration, directed at the point of pain, results in a normal nervous influx which neutralizes and modifies the current of pain perceived by the brain. This can be proved by the following simple experiment: Pinch a person’s body hard, and ask the person to concentrate on the painful point: if the person can concentrate well, the pinching sensation will clearly disappear as soon as the current is directed at the point in question. Of course, the subject must concentrate on the
area of the body, and not on the pain itself.
This phenomenon is not a case of self hypnosis, since it is easy to see that the cessation of pain does not happen until the nervous current is created, and this in an incontestable manner. Mr. X had been suffering from intense pain in his right thigh for months. The pain would come in the form of attacks. His doctor diagnosed the cause as ataxia (loss of motor coordination due to a lesion of the central nervous system). Analgesics and injections of morphine could only partially alleviate the pain. Attacks usually lasted for a period of about three weeks. With my procedure, the pains
stopped completely after only two sessions. However, results do not always come so quickly, and sometimes require a relatively lengthy training period to succeed. Nevertheless, my experience proves than many cases of pain due to nervous disorders can be cured with this simple procedure.