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

r 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.