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In any discussion of the influence of mind over body, favorable and
unfavorable, too much emphasis cannot be placed on the hold that
dreads have over a great many people and how much they mean, not alone
for the mental state, but also for the physical sense of well-being or
of ill-feeling in the individual. The expression attributed to the old
hermit who had lived to the age of one hundred and had spent some
sixty years of existence in the solitude of the desert, with all the
opportunities for introspection that this afforded, is the best
illustration even in our day of what dreads signify in life: "I am an
old man," he said to the young solitary who came to him for advice,
"and I have had many troubles, but most of them never happened." We
are nearly all of us, or at least those of us who spend most of our
time in sedentary mental occupations, prone to fear that something
untoward is preparing for us and in many cases to dread lest some
serious ailment or other is just ahead of us. We are afraid that
certain feelings, though we like to call them symptoms, due to some
trivial cause or other as a rule that deserves no notice, may mean the
insidious inroads of a constitutional disease destined to shorten
existence. A little fatigue, over-tiredness of particular muscles, the
straining of joints, the discomforts due to overeating and
undersleeping, that are meant as passing warnings of nature for the
necessity of a little more care in life, are exaggerated into symptoms
that have a more or less serious significance.

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