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Necessity Of Adaptability

Adaptability is as essential to life of mind as to life of body; and
health of mind as well as health of body is determined by the individual
ability to adjust himself to environment.

There are dreamers who have lived in their ideal world so long that they
cannot meet the stern realities of life when they come. The shock is too
great for the mind that has accepted only the fantastic, the real as the
dreamer would have it; and he lets go altogether his hold on the actual,
accepting the would-be world as present fact. And we call him insane.
Other visionaries wakened rudely to life as it is, accept it as
unchangeable fate, lose all their true ideals and become cynical, or
victims of utter depression for whom life holds nothing that matters.
Still others go on through the years self-satisfied and serene because
they simply refuse to believe unpleasant truths; they "pretend" that
their wishes are realities, and acknowledge as facts only the pleasant
things of existence. The first two groups have failed to adapt self to
life as it is, and the mind is lost or so damaged as to no longer serve
its body properly. The "pretenders" have adjusted themselves, and so
long as they can remain happily self-deceived all goes well for them,
though they complicate living for others. However, they have made an
adaptation, a defective one, it is true, but one through which the mind
may survive. Some of this class, however, finally build up a more and
more elaborate system of self-deception until they, too, are insane.

The practically adaptable man can dream dreams, but always recognizes
them as dreams, and can stop at will; can vision a beautiful ideal, but
comprehends that it is not yet reality, though it may some time become
so if he learns and fulfils the laws leading to its realization. The
adaptable man or woman recognizes the real as fact, desirable or
otherwise, the fantastic as unreal and only to be indulged in as a
pastime, and the ideal as the possible, a thing for which to work and
sacrifice. So perfect adaptability would mean perfect mental poise.

It is for the nurse to realize that the greater number of her patients
do not belong to any of these classes absolutely, but that some of them
have tendencies leading in these various directions. And it is her
privilege to recognize the trend of her sick patient's mental workings,
and to so deftly and unobtrusively encourage the recognition of facts as
things which are to be used--not as stumbling-blocks--that her mental
nursing, as her physical, shall be directed toward health. She can
help her patient to accept illness and suffering as realities to be
faced, and treatment as a means, whether pleasant or not, of making it
possible for health to replace them. The understanding nurse can
actively help her charge one step at a time toward adaptation to the new
environment, remembering that many of the sick, particularly the
depressed, cannot be encouraged or incited to effort by having future
health held out to them. They are capable only of living in the present
and doubting all the future.

There Can Be No Neurosis Without a Psychosis.--If the brain is the
organ of the mind, then what affects the brain must perforce be at
least registered by mind. So every physical shock, accident, toxic
condition, infection--even the ordinary cold--rouses the mind at least
to awareness, usually to discomfort. For the nerve-cells and
fibers--those inseparable parts of the body mechanism--speedily report
the fact that they are being tampered with. In the toxicity of the
infections these very delicate tissues are nourished by toxic fluids;
in accidents they carry all the messages from the injured part. Then
the brain--that center of all man's reactions and the organ of all his
consciousness--receives the report of the disturbance and translates
it into terms of more or less disability. The neurosis has become a
psychosis. The physical condition has become a mental discomfort.
Normally this ensuing mind state should be in accordance with the
extent of the injury to the nerve-cells and fibers. But under
long-continued discipline, or influenced by emotion, the conscious
mind may not recognize the neurosis; whereas, in the hypersuggestible,
consciousness will translate it into entirely disproportionate

A great problem of nervous education is what the mind will do with
discomfort or pain. Will it put all its attention there and respond with
nervousness, irritability, demand for sympathy; or will it relegate all
the minor pains to their own little places, accepted as facts but to be
disregarded except in so far as actual treatment is needed? Will it turn
to attend to the host of other more desirable objects? Or in case of
acute suffering, will it take it as a challenge to endurance? Will it
use it as a means to strengthen volition, as a stepping-stone to

Realizing the force of the law--no neurosis without a psychosis--the
nurse will try to eliminate unnecessary irritations to physical comfort,
while she helps the patient to adjust himself to the ones which are
inevitable. It is the doctor's problem rather than hers, except as she
carefully fulfils orders, to eliminate the toxic causes of psychosis. It
is hers to help the patient to meet adequately the effects of the
infections or toxins, and to prevent as far as possible the surrender to
uncontrolled nervousness. Her object is to have him face the psychosis
as one of the simple facts of science, then turn the sick mind's
attention to more important things; she would encourage will to force
endurance; she would stimulate the feeling life to the forward look of
confidence and faith, or to acceptance of life's suffering as a
challenge. The nurse knows that pains beyond the power of endurance the
doctor will lighten. And the patient's reaction to discomfort and
suffering, the understanding nurse, without any preaching, can very
largely influence.

Next: The Power Of Suggestion

Previous: Psychology And Health

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