EMOTIONS: PSYCHIC INFLUENCES

A reasonable number of unpleasant emotions is necessary for existence, but pleasant ones not only make life worth living, they help to preserve it. A quarter century ago I dropped into a surgical clinic and found that one surgeon used music in the operating room, not for the surgeons and nurses but for the patients. He also had an attractive woman whom he called his psychic anesthetist. She cheered up the patients or condoled with them. You can imagine that it took tact and good judgment to handle such a delicate matter. Later, in St. Louis, I found Dr. Vilray P. Blair using a special operating room for children. The walls and ceilings had colored pictures of fairies, Cinderella, Jack and the beanstalk, and possibly modern favorites. That was going a long way to use psychic influences on the youngsters.
Even longer ago there was a smallpox scare in the town where I went to college. It was decided to vaccinate the whole student body. The college physician, a tough, direct, former dashing athlete, not much given to babying his patients, realized that even such a simple thing as vaccination may be disturbing to the mind when the patient has to wait his turn in line. So he got a strikingly handsome, statuesque nurse to help him. Perhaps the boys then were not so engrossed in the other sex as they evidently are now, for several burly football players passed out before they got their scratches. Still, Dr. M. felt that the percentage was gratifyingly good. It is to be doubted that the stronger sex in the women’s college needed this psychic reinforcement.
Devotees of music ascribe intellectual values to it, but I think they will acknowledge its chief effects to be emotional. Stimulation and excitement through its means, notably for patriotic and warlike purposes, have always been valuable and possibly could be used to tone up unhealthy minds. But many mental cases fluctuate from depression to extreme exaltation. It would probably be dangerous to stir them up. At the symphony recently, a modern, bizarre selection moved one of my fellow-practitioners with a lifelong interest in music to remark hat it made him sick. Emetics have occupied a large place in therapeutics, but I doubt if any one would advocate music for this same purpose.
At the State Hospital for Mental Diseases at Howard, Rhode Island, a quarter century ago, Dr. Arthur H. Harrington, a psychiatrist of high standing and long a lover of music, was superintendent. A thousand patients ate in the dining hall and it can be understood that disturbances at mealtime were not uncommon. Dr. Harrington started a drive which produced a ten-thousand-dollar pipe organ; he trained a choir of fifty patients who led the singing; and the music at meals was acknowledged to have such a wonderfully quieting effect that it became famous.
One more good word for the emotions. Dr. Paul Dudley White, who has devoted his life to the study of the heart, approves of the modern emphasis of the psyche over the soma — the effect of the mind on the heart. Nervousness increases the pulse rate. I have pointed out that just taking the blood pressure is likely to increase it. In the past much heart trouble was iatrogenic, a big and up-to-the-minute word that simply means that doctors caused it. The physician hears a heart murmur. He takes an electro-cardiogram and sees a change in the T wave, or some other alphabetical undulation. He then with a low voice and sympathetic manner tells the unfortunate of these matters and instructs him never to climb stairs again and suggests that from now on he must be a semi-invalid. A valetudinarian has been developed, a terrible word signifying a miserable condition. That sort of thing is getting less common. Nowadays we take a cheerful attitude and try to instill confidence, rather allowing the patient to do what he can comfortably, with some moderation. Nervous worry can be as bad as physical strain. The patient who has courage, optimism, and cheerfulness will do the best.
*93/276/5*
GENERAL HEALTH

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