Once the ability to control actions is acquired, we can move on to the control of thoughts. Here again, there are three essential conditions: 1. The thought must be conscious.2. The patient must be able to concentrate on the thought.
3. The thought must be subject to the patient’s will.The thought must be conscious This means that patients must be aware of their thoughts; awareness, which is so natural in normal minds, is only partial in cases of non-control. It must be remembered that psychasthenics suffer from mental confusion most of the time; thoughts are unconnected, and
occur so rapidly that patients simply cannot be aware of everything that goes through their mind. Thoughts are rarely clear and precise, and are expressed only with great difficulty.
This state of cerebral unawareness varies considerably; it is sometimes so weak the patient doesn’t know it’s there; in other instances, it can be extremely intense and debilitating. Obviously, we cannot ask patients to judge, rationalize or differe between thoughts which they are unaware of. So the first step is to teach patients to be aware of what they are thinking, and to do this we have to determine the state of consciousness of their brain.
State of consciousnessTo help patients get used to being conscious of their own thought processes, we ask them to perform a quick examination of everything they are feeling and thinking, of any ideas they might have, a number
of times a day. This self examination may be carried out mentally or, in some cases, written down so that it can be analyzed by the treating physician. A written report has the added advantage of forcing patients to formulate their thoughts more precisely. Awareness is equivalent to the “gnoti seauton” of ancient philosophy; more than anyone, psychasthenics must learn to “know themselves” in order to arrive at an understanding of what is positive and what is negative about the functioning of their own brain.
They must understand the way their mind works, and become aware of the abnormal ways in which they modify certain thoughts and impressions; they must also learn what thoughts or ideas provoke anxiety. They will learn that having uncontrolled thoughts is like being in a car with no driver - the vehicle has no direction, often heading toward a destination which is completely different from the one intended, and usually ending in disaster. They will learn that some
thoughts must be avoided altogether, if they want to stop suffering; that certain ideas produce certain symptoms, and that fear of pain will almost surely bring on the pain.
If this analysis is carried out properly, it will give patients a field of experience on which to base further thoughts and actions; after a number of attempts, they will finally understand that certain thoughts are to be avoided, and that this can only be achieved through controlling thoughts and impressions.
Physicians have a very important role to play - they must show patients their errors, and also what to look for; they will lso discover a host of indications for further treatment. What patients should not be permitted to do is concentrate on all
their little pains and anxieties, which is what they are usually preoccupied with, but rather shown how to look for the causes of their particular problem. This is quite different from the more traditional technique which requires patients to make notes of all their minor problems in a little black book, and which we believe is an ineffective treatment. Our analysis is designed to be useful and interesting. Instead of noting problems, patients keep track of the progress they are
making, and see results in a relatively short time.
To achieve a more or less complete state of consciousness, patients must first look at the state of their brain. State of the brainFrom a control point of view, we can distinguish two primary states of the brain: 1. Active state 2. Passive stateActive stateBy this we mean the brain in its normal state, which can also exist in psychasthenics. A hand, placed on a patient’s forehead, will detect a regular, rhythmic vibration without bursts or lulls of activity; psychologically
speaking, this state represents the brain in its conscious and controlled state, subject to the person’s will.
We can also call this the positive state: patients have better comprehension; they are aware of what they are thinking and doing, and know what they want to do; the brain is not burdened by anxiety, fear, or any abnormal ideas. Passive state
The passive state refers to all varieties of cerebral non-control. The mind may be conscious, but it is never voluntary, i.e. it is not directed by the person’s will. Psychologically speaking, this state is characterized by extreme receptivity, as if the mind were exposed to all kinds of deficiencies, obsessions and phobias. These psychological symptoms only arise in the passive state, which is therefore perfectly representative of a pathological state of the mind.
To give patients an idea of what the passive state is, we can describe the main forms it assumes, starting with the one closest to the active state:1. Semi-conscious dreaming and fatigue 2. Wandering mind 3. Excess excitability4. Confusion
5. Anxiety 6. Depression 7. Anguish Each case represents a special type - one person will suffer more from excess excitation or confusion, while another will succumb to depression or anxiety. But almost all will experience some degree of all the symptoms associated with the passive state.
Each variety has is particular vibration, which can be easily distinguished through hand contact. An experienced therapist will be able to differentiate the dream state from excess excitability, or simple wandering of the mind from real anxiety.
This classification aims to facilitate our understanding of the passive state which, once it is recognized, can then be modified. We are convinced that the greatest difficulty in curing psychasthenia consists of the fact that patients do not know what is wrong with them they do not understand the problem, or even if they do, they don’t know how to go about changing it. Therefore, it is up to us to provide them with the tools they need -i.e. regaining awareness through reeducation - so that they can cure themselves.