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The Leisure Hours





Then comes the return from business. Here once more the ordinary
method of getting on a crowded train, standing up to be pushed and
jammed, to have all sorts of unpleasant things happen, to have the
pessimism of one's nature stirred to its depths by the utter disregard
for women, the heedless rush of men, the roughness of railroad
employees, and the general lack of humanity that characterizes the
evening rush from business in a large city, is eminently unsuitable as
a preparation for dinner; while a calm walk of three to five miles is
ideal. To walk home will probably take twenty minutes or half an hour
longer, but not more than this--and it avoids the undesirable features
of the usual method.


Gymnastics.--Occasionally one finds that men rush through the last
hour of business in order to spend an hour in a gymnasium. Often this
is quite undesirable. Exercise within doors, taken in a routine manner
and merely for the sake of exercise, with no diversion of mind, is
eminently unsuitable for the busy man. What he needs is air much more
than exercise. Walking out of doors is the very best thing for him. If
he walks at a rapid pace, swinging his arms a little freely and
carrying a cane in one hand and perhaps a book in the other, because
this exercises his fingers and keeps him from having any unpleasant
congestion of the hands when they hang down, then the exercise is
almost ideal. Owing to the novelty of it, and the interest that a new
occupation arouses, great benefit will at first be derived from the
gymnasium. Very often, too, the cold plunge after the exercise does
more good than the exercise itself. The plunge is real fun, especially
when taken with many others, but the exercise itself is likely to
degenerate into the sorriest kind of a task. If the man who walks home
will take a bath before dinner, the temperature of the water being
made suitable to him and the reaction that comes to his particular
nature, there is no need of anything else, and there is nothing better
that he could do. The walk must be varied. The course must not always
be through the same streets. Occasionally it should even lead
one to see some monument or new building, or to go out of the way with
a friend, so that variety is introduced.


Work at Home.--There are men who in busy times take some of their work
home with them. This is a mistake. And though it is the custom to tell
the doctor that they cannot do otherwise, it is practically always a
bit of self-deception. When the case is properly put before them, they
realize, if they already have any neurotic symptoms, that to continue
home work will be a serious risk. Most men who carry business home
with them, easily get into the habit of pushing certain details away
from them during the day with the idea that they will have more time
for that in the evening. They do a certain amount of dawdling over
their work. If they really resolved to finish work during business
hours they could do it, and do it better than during the evening at
home. Six hours of work is about all that a man ought to do with his
intellect at high pressure. This should be pretty well divided into
two periods of three hours each, with an interval of an hour to an
hour and a half between. The nearer a man can come to this arrangement
the better for him, and the better, also, for his affairs. If he has
assumed obligations that require more of his time and attention than
this, he is trying to do too much.


After-Dinner Hours.--The evening hours and their proper occupation are
important for the business man, or for anyone who is much occupied
during the day. The temptation to let the work of the day run over
into the evening must be overcome at all costs, or it will prove
serious for the health of most men. It is important as far as possible
to get something completely different for men to do at night. Many men
settle down to the reading of a newspaper or of a magazine or novel.
While this does very well under some circumstances, reading does not
provide diversion whenever there is serious worry or solicitude over
business matters. A man may think that he is occupying himself with
the newspaper, but we all know very well that business cares intrude,
that business troubles are often doubled by reading about others. The
reading of novels does well for a while, but the serious-minded man
tires of them and then, while they may occupy a couple of hours, they
have exactly the same objection as the newspaper. A genuine diversion
should give the physical basis of mind an opportunity literally to
remake itself by storing up new energies.


Amusements.--The fact of the matter is that a man must have, if
possible, some other serious interest in life besides his business. He
must have a hobby. We have discussed this in the chapter on Diversion
of Mind and refer to it here only to indicate the importance of
knowing something about a man's recreation as well as his work. It is
not a casual occupation but a real interest that he should have. This
need not necessarily be a useful employment and, indeed, it may be
absolutely useless provided it is absorbing. Card playing is an
excellent diversion for many people. When joined with gambling, new
worries and feverish excitement usually make it harmful for neurotic
persons. Chess is hard work, but of a different kind from that of the
day and, therefore, often makes an excellent recreation. Any games are
good. Bowling, for instance, is excellent, and billiards, if a man has
an interest in it, is a fine sport for evening hours. It has the added
advantage of physical exercise. A man does not sit down during
billiards, crowding his already well-distended abdominal
viscera, but walks around and gives his viscera a better chance for
their work and aids rather than retards peristalsis.


Encroachment on Sleep.--There is just one defect about some of the
more absorbing recreations--they keep a man up too late. Whenever a
so-called recreation takes up such time that a man has less than eight
full hours in bed, then a mistake, almost sure to be serious sooner or
later, is being made. When the physician tries to limit a man's
recreation by suggesting an earlier hour for retirement, he may be
told that his patient must have some time for diversion and
recreation. But the physician must insist that no form of recreation
is as good as sleep, and any other form must be limited in order that
sleep may be obtained. A man may easily regulate his affairs so that
he shall have eight hours of sleep, and it is only negligence of such
regulation that gives him the idea that recreation cannot be obtained
except after eleven o'clock at night. Little suppers after the theater
are often fine diversions, but whenever they interfere with sleep they
must not be allowed except at long intervals. Other diversions that
keep a man out of bed after midnight are sure not to do good in the
long run, though an occasional lapse in this matter may prove a
stimulant rather than a depressant. It is custom that must be
regulated; an occasional variant from it is rather good than
otherwise.


Leisure of the Working Woman.--A woman's occupation, unlike a man's,
holds out little future for her. Her occupation does not arouse her
ambition. Daily work is a monotonous grind that must be endured for
the sake of the wages that it brings. For a time this serves to occupy
attention. After some years, when the prospects of matrimony grow
less, and further advance is out of the question, women often need to
have some special interest that will grip them. The working woman may
then need to be tempted to some occupation of mind, especially with
the companionship of others, that will give her renewed interests in
life. Clubs, charities in which they are active, friends, serious
intellectual interests, must all be appealed to, in different cases,
in order to secure diversion. Women must have something to look
forward to each week. They must know on Monday that before the
following Sunday there is going to be a theater party, a lecture, a
visit to friends, something to break the deadliness of weekly routine,
which is anticipated with pleasure and then pleasantly remembered.
This may seem to be only a slight matter, but it is of importance in
many cases.


Feminine Occupations.--The occupations of women who stay at home are
even more important than those of women who go out to work. In our
time the root of much nervousness, as it is called, neurotic symptoms
of various kinds and of many symptoms apparently quite distant from
real nervousness, is really a lack of occupation. Many women who live
in apartment hotels have almost nothing with which to occupy their
minds. They are not obliged to get up in the morning if they do not
want to, or, at least, any excuse, however slight, serves to keep them
in bed. Very often there are either no children or the mother has
nothing to do with her children early in the morning. After the age of
three, they go off to kindergarten; later on they go to school.
Breakfast is sent up, there may be a nap of an hour or two after the
meal, and often a magazine is glanced over lying in bed, and perhaps
it will be twelve o'clock before madame gets up. Anyone in a position
to do this, and who allows the habit to grow, is sure to be profoundly
miserable. Without any real occupation of mind, the mind
occupies itself with the body and emphasizes every sensation, evokes
new pains and aches, and the consequence is likely to be a highly
neurotic state.

Such women have nothing serious to think about in the afternoon. At
best it is a luncheon engagement with a friend, or attendance at the
matinee, or a lecture, or a meeting of a club. For a while, and for a
certain few, these things are satisfying, but after they have been
indulged in for a time, they pall so completely on most people as to
leave them almost helplessly at the mercy of their feelings. These
persons may have some favorite charities that occupy part of their
time. They may have other interests, but most of these interests are
quite amateurish. They create no obligations; they arouse no sense of
duty; they are abandoned at a moment for anything else that turns up,
and consequently they lack that absorbing power that a real interest
gives. It is quite impossible that these people should be either happy
or healthy. These ladies of leisure sometimes have fads for physical
exercise that keep them from becoming absolutely sluggish, but except
in a few cases, these fads pall after a time, and in a few years women
of the leisure classes are generally without any interest that will
save them from themselves. The root of many a case of nervousness that
wanders from physician to physician and then from quack to quack, and
from charlatan of one kind to charlatan of another kind, that takes up
now this remedy and now that, and advertises each new method of
healing--mental, hypnotic, mechanical--is due to nothing more serious
than lack of proper occupation of mind.


The Ambition to Have Nothing to Do.--It seems to be the ambition of
everyone to reach a place in life so that he can give up work and do
nothing. Men and women often envy those whose material situation is
such that they are not compelled to work. It is from the leisure
classes, however, that our neurotic invalids are mainly recruited. The
symptoms these people give will sometimes make one wonder whether they
may not be suffering from some serious ailment, but just as soon as
the details of their daily occupation are gone into, the real cause
for their complaints can be readily seen. Nothing will do them any
lasting good until they get interested enough in life to be distracted
from themselves. Such men and women are invalids by profession. They
are profoundly to be pitied, for they are much more the victims of
present-day social conditions than of any special fault of their own.
They go from one health resort to another seeking relief and now and
again finding it, not because of any special effect of the remedies
that they take, but just in proportion to the amount of diversion and
occupation of mind they are able to secure in their wanderings. After
a time they relapse, then, the old cures having lost novelty, the
physician who succeeds in occupying their minds does them good; his
brother physician, who does not, fails; but anyone else, however
absurd his quackery, who can in any way catch their attention, will
benefit them at least for the time being.


Business Anxieties.--The physician should know all that concerns such
sources of excitement, worry and anxiety, as are suggested by the
words speculation, investment, going on bonds and securities,
especially when the person bonded gets into trouble. Fortunately most
of these latter sources of worry have been eliminated by the bonding
companies of recent years. Details of this kind were given to
the old family physician as a matter of course. With the going out of
the family physician there has often been no one to replace him in
hearing such stories, and it has been harder for some to bear the
consequences in solitude. The very telling of many cares lessens the
burden of them. The warnings of a medical friend may be more effective
in keeping a man from serious loss than those of financial friends.
Everyone realizes that the physician's advice is quite unselfish and
that what he objects to, even more than the danger and loss of money,
is worry and anxiety which may lead to loss of health.

For ordinary therapeutic purposes, the physician may be content to
know only the physical signs and symptoms of his patient's affection.
For psychotherapeutics, he must, if he would be successful, know every
possible source of worry and annoyance and, as nearly as may be
ascertained, every slight phase of physical fatigue that may be a
disturbing factor in his patient's life. It is surprising how many
things the physician will find to correct when he carefully goes over
all the actions of the day and ascertains all the possible sources of
worry and anxiety his patient may have. It may happen that in many
cases he will be unable immediately to remove these sources of worry.
But there is relief in telling them, and then, even when they cannot
be completely eradicated, they can often be modified. Every
improvement of this kind, however slight, is a fountain of favorable
suggestion which makes the patient look on the brighter side of life.
From every amelioration, however trivial, there is a reaction on the
feelings that gives more and more confidence.





Next: General Principles Of Psychotherapy

Previous: The Middle Op The Day



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