We teach patients how to concentrate and how they should centre their thoughts or ideas. We also teach them how to do the opposite, i.e. how to get a thought out of their mind. The usual way to do this would simply be to think of something
else. However, what seems simple to normal people is all but impossible for neurasthenics. All they seem to be able to do is concentrate even more on the undesired thought. They must be taught to eliminate such thoughts, by attacking them directly. The simplest training procedure is the following: Patients choose 3 to 5 objects and place them on a white sheet of paper. After studying the objects, they are asked to eliminate one by taking it off the paper and putting it aside.
They are then told to close their eyes and to make sure they can mentally eliminate the object in question. This is the main part of the exercise. A second and third object are eliminated in turn, until all objects are gone. If the exercise was done correctly, the patient will be left with a mental image of a blank sheet of paper, devoid of objects.
Although this exercise may seem infantile, it is effective. After a number of repetitions, the brain becomes accustomed to eliminating unwanted objects (or thoughts) from its mental image, an ability which is very useful.
Patients are asked to write 2 or three numbers down in their mind. They must then erase each number successively until their mental image is empty. Offer a patient two objects and tell him/her to mentally choose one and eliminate the other. The same thing can be done with two numbers, letters, words, phrases. etc. You can verify whether or not patients are doing the exercise correctly from the vibrations felt by placing your hand on their forehead.
If you ask a patient to mentally write the numbers 3 and 5, for example, you will feel a vibration on the left side when s/he writes the first number, 3 (since people write from left to right) and a vibration on the right side when s/he writes the number 5. Then ask the patient to eliminate one number. If s/he chooses the 3 and keeps the 5, for example, you will feel a vibration on the right side (and vice versa for the 3).
The same occurs for objects - the object to the right of the patient will be inscribed on the right side, an object to the left on the left. It is interesting to note that nervous persons do the opposite of what they are supposed to do and, at the beginning of their training, it is always the object or number which they want to eliminate that they fix in their brain.
Once patients can eliminate numbers, they move on to letters, then to words, and finally to sentences. Words are first erased letter by letter, then as whole words. Sentences are first erased as words, then as whole sentences.
After a short period of training, patients succeed in eliminating obsessive ideas and phobias, temporarily at first, and then more and more permanently. We use another procedure of elimination which we call “de-con-centration.
” This, in fact, is the opposite of the concentration exercise. In this exercise, patients first concentrate on the number in question. They must then voluntarily and gradually eliminate the number. We insist on this point since, under no circumstances, should the number disappear without the patient’s consent. Here’s how to proceed:1. Patients can mentally write the number in smaller and smaller characters, until it disappears completely. 2. They can also imagine that the number is getting farther and farther away, until it becomes invisible.
3. Instead of making the number move farther away, patients progressively increase the interval of rest between efforts to concentrate on it. An initial rest period of 1 second is lengthened to 2, 3, 4 seconds; during these intervals, patients must eliminate all thought of the number.
4. After initially concentrating on the number, patients are told to relax their brain for as long as possible. As soon as a thought arises, they concentrate on the number again, and so on. These last two techniques have the advantage of getting the brain used to relaxing. If the state of relaxation is long enough, it leads to sleep, and is therefore the best way to cure insomnia.
WillpowerWillpower is the crucial point of the training, since it is the forcewhich will allow neurasthenic patients to regain
the faculties whichtheir illness has caused them to lose.The first thing we notice is that a kind of intrinsic willpower ex-
ists as a force in all individuals, whether normal or neurasthenic, andeven in persons suffering from abulia. Therefore, it
is not actuallywillpower that these people lack, but the ability and knowledge touse it correctly.
We will first define what willpower is, and to do so we will baseour definition on what happens in the brain when
willpower isbrought into play.Here’s what we observed: as soon as a person wants to want ordecides to want, energy is released in the brain, and cerebral vibra-tions double or triple in intensity, depending on the force of theperson’s willpower. In graph form, willpower looks like this:WillpowerThe increase in vibrations may last for some time or not, depend-ing on the individual’s state of mind, but it is always apparent when