Abnormal cerebral function

Thoughts are rarely sustained and carried through to their logical conclusion; instead, patients get caught up in any thought that arises; these supplant the original thought, and are in turn supplanted by new distractions, and so on. The original thought or idea is completely forgotten, or recalled with difficulty.

Normal persons can easily follow the progression of their thoughts. In the non-controlled state, a part of the mind is usually unconscious, and patients draw conclusions which are opposite to what they intended. I am not exaggerating when I say that a neurasthenic patient can come up with a statement like, "I am in perfect health, therefore I'm sick!" and this with the total assurance of being logical and correct. All we have to do to understand what they mean is to add the patient's unconscious deductions. "I am in perfect health, but I may get sick" may be what they mean. Or "What if I get sick..." or "I'm afraid of getting sick... " or simply "I am sick... "

Patients only recall that in their minds they followed a plausible progression of ideas, so their conclusion must be correct.

It would be impossible to explain how patients manage to produce certain symptoms if this fact were not taken into account.

Another abnormal cerebral function is the constant analysis patients perform in their minds.

Every thought is dissected, scrutinized and weighed to the point where patients invariably become lost in a labyrinth of deductions and doubts. They cannot reach any satisfactory conclusions which would be capable of dispelling their doubts and calming their minds, nor can they accept any proof that a given idea is valid. They end up doubting everything, including their own sensations and feelings, as well as their thoughts.

You can understand the extent of the mental torture such persons undergo. Unfortunately, the intervention of another person only seems to aggravate things.

Patients think it is their superior intelligence which enables them to analyze their thoughts and feelings so extensively, and cannot accept things any other way.

They do not realize that this involuntary, unconscious analysis deprives their mind of being able to perceive any valid sensations or emotions, which they immediately distort instead of accepting as they are. They do not see that what they take for reason and judgment are really faculties which are not controlled by their "superior self" and that the doubts they entertain are only proof of their own blindness.

A succession of non-controlled ideas, which is the result of abnormal cerebral function, also leads to characteristic states of morbidity and depression.

It begins with a sensation that may be normal and not exaggerated. Then a painful memory, or some kind of fear or sad thought - in fact almost anything - becomes a pretext for developing this form of harmful thinking. The state is characterized by the following behavior: the painful memory (or whatever the pretext is) spreads progressively and indefinitely to everything the patient remembers, instead of remaining limited to the specific event which caused it in the first place.

Mr. X is a typical example: One day, during a discussion with one of his friends, something was said that hurt him. There's nothing unusual about that. However this friend happened to be wearing a blue jacket, and since that time all blue jackets produced the same sensation of hurt, until eventually the color blue became enough to trigger the unpleasant reaction. And that's not all: the discussion took place on a Friday, and that day became etched in Mr. X's mind as a fateful day, on which he refused to travel, or undertake any kind of activity. The Friday in question also happened to be the ninth day of the month, so the number nine was also to be avoided at all cost. He would not get on a bus that had the number nine, and was very careful never to place nine objects on his dressing table.

This uncontrolled association of ideas persisted and all but ruined Mr. X's life, since he spent all his time trying to avoid anything that might remind him of the original unpleasant experience.

All such anomalies must be sought out in the course of psychological treatment. We have to open patients' eyes and make them understand how these mental defects work, and teach them to accord little or no importance to all passive thoughts or sensations. Patients who become aware of the process can correct it. It is only ignorance that gives passive thoughts and sensations their power.

A whole range of thoughts and feelings can be called intrinsically passive or non-controlled, although they are not abnormal per se. Fear, envy, hate, jealousy etc. are all non-controlled; other feelings, like remorse can be either controlled or non-controlled, active or passive. In active remorse, a person recognizes his or her fault and tries to correct it; passive remorse, on the other hand, can destroy a person as s/he cannot forgive the error, nor struggle to correct it. Passive sadness is a blend of egoism and indifference, while active sadness can be healthy and beneficial.

The difference between the two is of enormous importance, both from a moral and psychological point of view. A host of destructive consequences could be avoided by an awareness of this distinction.

Any passive thought is a sign of trouble, of a psychological or even physical disorder, which acts as a real toxin on the organism.

We could mention many other ways in which patients develop false attitudes towards life, how they refuse to accept obvious facts and remain slaves to their passive thoughts and feelings, but this would go beyond the scope of the present work.

What we have to do is teach patients to be on their guard against exterior impressions. Such incidents are not caused by abnormal cerebral function, but rather by a reduction, or even total absence, of the brain's reactive faculties.

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