Psychotherapeutics

THERAPEUTICS is the science which treats of remedial agents, first and foremost among which, from time immemorial, have been drugs. We have extended the definition to include surgery, electricity, orthopedics, and mechanotherapy. The correction of refractive errors by means of lenses may very properly be classed as orthopedics. In all of these well-recognized divisions of therapeutics there is evident a physical means, namely, the drug, the knife, the electricity, the mechanical appliance.

As suggestive therapeutics means the elimination of these physical agents, and the use of mental forces, psychotherapeutics would seem to be the most logical term. Psychics is certainly the antonym of physics.

The mental control which every individual exercises over his various functions is a matter of common knowledge. The proposition that this normal control can be interfered with by outside influences needs no proof.

Now if (disease sometimes results from abnormal mental influences, what could be more rational than to expect to cure by reestablishing the mental tone ? The history of civilization is replete with in-stances of the application of this principle, tho it is only in recent years that we have come to recognize the underlying truth that ” man is a suggestible animal.”

An adequate historical review of this subject would fill many volumes. Religious devotees in all ages have practised the healing art. It is evident that at the beginning of the Christian era it was a matter of common belief. Successful healing was regarded as the criterion of the truth of the religion.

Jesus seems to have clearly perceived the truth, when he said to the woman who touched the hem of his garment, ” Thy faith bath made thee whole.”

The account reads that this power was transferred to the disciples, who ” laid hands on the sick and they recovered.”

The doctrine of the divine right of kings carried with it the belief in the royal touch. , Andrew D. White says : ” This mode of cure began, so far as history throws light upon it, with Edward the Confessor in the eleventh century, and came down from reign to reign, passing from the Catholic saint to the Protestant debauchees upon the English throne, with ever-increasing miraculous efficacy.

” Testimony to the reality of these cures is overwhelming. As a simple matter of fact there are no miracles of healing in the history of the human race more thoroly attested than those wrought by the touch of Henry VIII., Elizabeth, the Stuarts, and especially of that chosen vessel, Charles II.

” Altho Elizabeth could not bring herself to believe in the realities of these cures, Doctor Tooker, the queen’s chaplain, afterward Dean of Litchfield, testifies fully of his own knowledge of the cures wrought by her, as also does William Clowes, the queen’s surgeon. Fuller in his-Church History gives an account of a Roman Catholic, who was thus cured by the queen’s touch and converted to Protestantism. Similar testimony exists as to the cures wrought by James I. Charles also enjoyed the same power in spite of the public declaration against its reality by Parliament. . . . But the most incontrovertible evidence of this miraculous power is found in the case of Charles II., the most thoroly cynical debauchee who ever sat on the English throne before the advent of George IV. He touched nearly one hundred thousand persons, and the out-lay for gold medals issued to the afflicted on these occasions rose in some years as high as £10,000… . William III. evidently regarded the whole thing as a superstition, and on one occasion is said to have touched a patient, saying to him : ` God give you better health and more sense.’ Whiston assures us that this person was healed notwithstanding William’s incredulity. This curative power was, then, acknowledged far and wide by Catholics and Protestants alike, upon the Continent, in Great Britain and America, and it descended, not only in spite of the transition of the English kings from Catholicism to Protestantism, but in spite of the transition from the legitimate sovereignty of the Stuarts to the illegitimate succession of the house of Orange, and yet within a few years after the whole world held this belief, it was dead, it had shrivelled away in the growing scientific light at the dawn of the eighteenth century.”

But humanity has not lost its faith in divine healing. Even in the twentieth century the world has its shrines, where we have the best of evidence for believing many genuine cures are wrought. Every year pilgrimages are made to the shrine of St. Ann de Beaupré, near Quebec. Scarce a week passes but the press has some notices of the prayer cures of the prophet Sanford at Shiloh, Me.

The unprecedented growth of Christian Science among the most intelligent class of the community is proof of an underlying curative principle.

Mr. Alfred Farlow, who seems to be the spokesman for Boston, says : ” Various magnetic and mental forms of treatment have long been in vogue, but their success has never been sufficiently uniform to command any great amount of attention.

” Mrs. Eddy, the discoverer and founder of Christian Science, was once treated by a magnetic practitioner and temporarily relieved, but the benefits were not permanent. After her discovery she recognized that magnetic treatment depended upon the human will, in contradistinction to the Divine Mind, and therefore fell short of the exalted spiritual method which was employed by Jesus and the Apostles, hence its inadequacy.” ‘

It is difficult to comprehend the subtle distinctions of the various sects of psychic healers. Many philosophers have struggled with the problem of the relation of the human will to the divine, and to some of us common mortals it seems somewhat doubtful if these people can always distinguish between the manifestations of human souls and the presence of the great Over Soul.

Very much like the Christian Scientists are the mental or ” metaphysical ” healers, so called.

Altho their teaching is quite similar to the views of the followers of Mrs. Eddy, they do not seem to regard her in the light of a discoverer, characterizing the ” truths ” she has uttered as a mild modification of theosophy. They do not deny the existence of disease, but regard it as an unnecessary evil — the product of fear, worry, and unrest. They exalt the preeminence of the individual’s soul, its communion with the Over Soul, from which it can draw unlimited power, and the absolute necessity of cultivating a serene and calm inner consciousness, by which they claim man regains his birthright of presiding over his physical states.

The philosophy is lofty, ethical, and, in the main, true. These people, like the scientists, give silent treatments, both patient and healer sitting with closed eyes. A prescription is given to take home, of which the following is a sample :

” I trust every organ, I govern myself with Patience and Power.”

This indirect suggestion is, as we know, most effective for the waking consciousness, and if frequently repeated is likely to become indelibly stamped in the subliminal consciousness.

Mr. Charles Newcomb, of Boston, says : ” Plain suggestions of confidence, patience, gladness, and decision often bring us back to the trail we have lost thru the uncertainty of our own power and freedom.” The philosophy seems to be very largely Emersonian. These people take Emerson literally, where many have supposed he was dealing in poetic images. It is a philosophy of life itself, and the mental power over bodily states is only one of its many beneficent phases. Its watchword is : ” No regrets for the past, no fears for the future, live in the present above time.”

The writer had the pleasure during the spring of 1906 of listening to a course of lectures by Mr. Newcomb. He is a man of great breadth of culture, and an earnest student of all matters psychic. But the extravagant claims for the all-sufficiency of psychic healing is almost painful. He speaks with the most absolute assurance concerning technical subjects, little realizing the implications.

For example, he claims to have cured near-sightedness, when upon inquiry he has no evidence to offer which is of the slightest value to an investigator. He claims to be able to diagnose pathological conditions by psychic sight or clairvoyance, but re-fused to make the experiment with an eye case which the writer proposed to send him. He would, how-ever, treat a case which was sent to him by an oculist, provided the patient was really desirous of being treated, but experimentation was ruled out.

In 1897 Leander Edmund Whipple established in New York the American School of Metaphysics. Both didactic and correspondence courses are offered. In the preface to ” The Philosophy of Mental Healing,” Mr. Whipple says : ” The writer entertains the opinion that absolute truth can safely invite any amount of investigation, together with the most thoro and accurate tests that can be applied thru logic, reason, and philosophical thought or in scientific experiment of the most accurate description.” Noticing in one of his announcements that, among other anomalies of the eyes, astigmia could be cured by his system, the writer communicated with him, asking if he had any cases of this defect which had been examined by a competent oculist both before and after the cure.

Astigmia is a deformity of the front of the eye –the cornea — and can be accurately measured by the keratometer, which is an instrument in nearly every oculist’s office. Altho it may vary some in the course of years, oculists cannot cure it, they can only correct it with glasses.

The following very courteous reply was received :

” Your esteemed favor was duly received. I do not know of tests made under the full requirements suggested by your question, tho many cases have similar testimony in a partial way. It is difficult to bring about from the standpoint of medical diagnosis and of metaphysical practise. Tests for the sake of experiment never succeed. There is mental law underneath it I feel sure. Consequently such records as you ask for are not obtainable as far as I know. More complete methods will become established in time, I believe. The mental law that can result in a radical cure will not withstand much of the different kind of action in the way at the time and results do not appear unless the action is very clear and free. Naturally enough, the medically trained mind thinks that the same methods of examination and test as applied in medicine should apply with metaphysics, but the conditions are vastly different. An experimenting thought destroys most of the power. I recognize the value of such tests and records, but I have not seen yet how they can be brought about. Abnormal physical conditions have their complete correspondences in mental states or experiences which act as causes. After these causes are stopped in action physical conditions can be-come adjusted to the changed mentality by natural process and without further intervention from outside. This I believe to be a fact in mental therapeutics. The eyes being so closely associated with the nervous system are responsive to about every change in mental action, for the mind controls the nervous system. I have seen total blindness of one eye re-stored upon the removal of the mental shock of a severe injury to the cheek under that eye, and similar results in many varieties of supposed physical conditions.

” Yours sincerely,

” LEANDER EDMUND WHIPPLE.”

To a ” medically trained mind ” this seems like begging the question. This propensity to ” claim everything ” which is so universal with the practitioners of prayer cure, Christian Science, and mental healing seems inconsistent with the high moral tone which these people exhibit. In charity one is forced to believe that they are honest but are self-deceived. The analogy between this state of mind and the deductive faculty exhibited by the hypnotized individual is very striking. He is no longer disturbed by the restraints of the critical and judicial normal consciousness. May it not be that this ” confidence ” contributes greatly to success?

A-hypnotic suggestion is a means of treatment recognized by many of the medical profession. It is the method used very largely by Bernheim. Doctor Petersen, in describing his visit to Nancy in 1891, says : ” From bed to bed we went, and after the individual case was examined, Bernheim would address the sufferer in a gentle but firm voice, in no way different from his conversational rhythm. He told them to sleep either at once or before he left the ward, suggesting the alleviation or disappearance of their pains, made them imaginary tonics, at times touched the seat of pain, and assured them that when their slumber had ceased — he fixing its duration as well as the right time for it — they would then feel comfortable and in a happier mood.”

Doctor Petersen continues : ” The idea therefore that to receive a suggestion, which is to be carried out even to an act, necessitates a previous deep unconsciousness, is erroneous in many respects. The patient has entered into the receptive state by what is explained as an inhibition of the cerebral cortex, and a potent force has taken possession of him by directing both the mental and physical functions.”

The success of this method depends entirely upon the receptivity of the patient, and upon his intellectuality. He must certainly be above the average intelligence or have unlimited confidence in his physician to make it effective. The majority of chronic cases are dominated by preconceived ideas, which they are unable to suppress, and which the operator is unable to overcome. In this emergency there is needed some means of increasing the susceptibility to healthful suggestions, and of counter-acting harmful ones. Whatever may be one’s view as to the exact nature of hypnotism, it is universally admitted that it increases the patient’s suggestibility.

Pyschics has taken quite a hold of our Boston mind, and the intelligent patient has seen enough cures by other than medicinal means to be already convinced of a mental control of body functions. So that often it is only necessary to explain to him the reflex action of the lower brain, and tell him that by properly conducted treatments you can increase his subconscious control of the various somatic functions which make for health. He is then put in a comfortable chair, the head resting, eyes closed, and told to banish from his mind all extraneous thoughts, to make himself passive, so as to receive any suggestions you have to offer.

You then talk to him in a quiet but reassuring way, accompanied by passes over the affected part, expatiating upon the profoundness of mental control, if he only put himself in the receptive state. This is manifestly a-hypnotic treatment. If stronger effects are desired, hypnosis should be induced by any of the methods previously mentioned. In this state the suggestions should be direct, in the form of commands.

Granted this fact of the subconscious control of functions and bodily states, granted that hypnosis lays the subconscious under the operator’s control, what could be more logical than that healthful suggestions could be thus made which would be effectively carried out?

Every one who has given attention to this subject has found that he can make auto-suggestions, which are helpful or harmful as he wills. This refers not alone to mental states, but to physical health. Is it not possible that the coming man will become so proficient in marshalling the resources of his subliminal consciousness that he will become his own physician, exercise an increased power of resistance, and ward off many diseases? Hypnosis to-day furnishes a means of aiding the subconscious mind of the patient, thus working out practical cures, and in it there would seem to be great possibilities.

Without attempting to define the limitations of psychotherapeutics, it is generally admitted that its special sphere of usefulness is with functional and nervous diseases. The writer reported before the Boston Homeopathic Medical Society some years ago’ a case of subconscious memory of pain in the eyes, which yielded to a very few hypnotic treatments after glasses and remedies had failed.

Sidis has reported some interesting cases of epilepsy, which upon hypnosis proved to be of psychic origin. The patients no longer remembered the cause of the first attack, but under hypnosis the whole history was obtained. Counter suggestions in this state entirely eradicated the abnormal influence, and the seizures ceased. Along this same line is the work being done by Prof. James J. Putnam, of Harvard, in the treatment of hysteria by ” Freud’s Method of Psycho-Analysis.”

Insomnia is one of the very intractable symptoms of many diseases and is also idiopathic. Wetter-strand says : ” I sincerely believe there is no better remedy for insomnia than hypnosis, and that it is absolutely harmful to prescribe soporifics, because they only strengthen the invalid’s belief that he cannot go to sleep without the accustomed dose.” He reports eight failures in forty-two cases treated.

In neuralgias he says : ” The remedy has seldom been a failure when the patient slept soundly.”

In stammering Wetterstrand cured fifteen, forty-eight treated. Neurasthenias are difficult cases to treat, as they are hard to hypnotize. The same applies to hysteria. Morphinism has been dealt with very successfully.

Doctor Quackenboss, New York, has reported great successes in breaking up the cigarette habit and other forms of intemperance. There was published in a New York paper a report of an interview with Doctor Quackenboss concerning his reviving a moribund patient, who had been calling for him previous to sinking into the comatose state.

The work of Dr. Paul Dubois, professor of neuropathology at the University of Berne, has, during the present year (1906), been brought to the attention of English readers thru the translation of the French edition of his ” Psychic Treatment of Nervous Disorders.” Accepting the Bernheim doctrine of suggestion, and believing that every one is suggestible, he ignores all subtle and subconscious methods, and treats these cases ” in the open ” by what he calls the reeducation of the reason.” After showing his patient that his nervous affection is the result of his misconceptions, he proceeds to reason with him. First of all he teaches him, the philosophy of life, adapting the lesson to the patient’s mental status. Then he elucidates the power of the mind over somatic functions, and builds up the patient’s confidence, by seizing upon and emphasizing every evidence of success in the relief of distressing symptoms.

There is something almost naïve in the absolute candor with which he treats his patient, and as one turns the pages of his book he is conscious of a feeling of chagrin in discovering that the laborious and roundabout methods of our ordinary use of psychotherapy are usually superfluous.

Upon special occasions, he has recourse to hypnotism and a-hypnotic suggestion of the Bernheim type.

While he believes that nervous diseases are essentially mental in origin, and should therefore be treated by mental means, he nevertheless uses drugs for special emergencies.

Isolation of the patient from family and friends and the almost routine use of the Weir Mitchell rest treatment are very important factors of his success, but ” the only thing that will assure the future of the patient is a rational moralizing psychotherapy which will change the psychopathic mentality which has determined his symptoms.”

Doctor Anderson, medical director of Yale gymnasium, has constructed a table finely balanced, on which the student lies down upon his back. The center of gravity is determined and then some problem is given him to solve. That blood rushes to the head is proved by a rise in the center of gravity toward the head. If, on the other hand, he is told to go thru a leg exercise mentally, not really moving a muscle, the center goes toward the feet, showing the mental control of the blood supply.

The possibility of either raising or lowering the rate of the heart by suggestion to the hypnotized individual has been previously mentioned in the chapter on the ” Phenomena of Hypnosis.” If the trophic and nutritional centers are under the control of the subconscious, one is not justified in concluding, a priori, that regenerative effects — organic diseases — are beyond the possibilities of psychotherapeutics.

Psychotherapeutics is not a panacea. — The question as to what extent the physician should make use of this valuable accessory to his armamentarium must be left entirely to his individual judgment and experience. The same statement applies as to how much surgery he should do. It takes courage and self-reliance openly to advocate and practise it. One will undoubtedly be misunderstood by many of his professional brethren and by many of his patients. He may gain an unenviable reputation of having discarded all physico-therapy.

On the other hand, the reputation of being versed in the methods of mental healing may save one many a patient who would otherwise seek his psycho-therapy elsewhere. Had the profession taken a more friendly attitude toward the subject the ” metaphysician ” would have less reason for existence.

While it is unwise and an encroachment upon individual liberty to attempt by legislation to prevent the various forms of mental healers from practising, it would certainly be conducive to public welfare if the healing art in all its branches were confined to properly educated and licensed practitioners of medicine. Those who know its limitations would not waste valuable time in futile attempts at psycho-therapy, while the disease was passing beyond the curable or operable stage.

There is a class of physicians today which reiterates the verdict of the French Academy, ” all due to the imagination,” with a sneer of contempt. Granting this therapeutic power of the imagination, does it not behoove the profession to make of it an ally, instead of allowing it ” to go about seeking whom it may devour? ” Is our success so universal with old chronic cases that any means known to be curative can be ignored?