The effort of will

The effort of will, which can also be called an expansion of willpower, can be compared to opening the tap of an energy reserve; the energy that flows out can be applied to an action, or to a thought or feeling. This is the simplest way of describing how willpower works.

The force of willpower acts like a whip. It is temporary, but can be renewed. Its intensity is regulated by a normal individual's need at the moment it is brought into play, since an individual can control his/her emission of willpower, just as s/he can control all other aspects of cerebral activity.

In cases of insufficient control, we have to work not only on the faculty of willpower, which is weakened by inaction, but also on the way it is used, which is always defective. The reservoir of energy may have some leaks, or a patient may not know how to use the en ergy reserve at all.

What conditions are necessary for bringing willpower into play? They are, of course, the same in for persons suffering from insufficient control as they are for normal persons, and can be considered from two points of view.

First let's look at the phenomenon of willpower from a mechanical point of view, which is the less important of the two, but which should be understood.

This is what happens whenever willpower is used:

1. An effort of will is never possible when persons are exhaling. It always happens during the pause after inhaling, as if the brain were looking for a physical point of reference in the air contained in the chest cavity.

2. There is a more or less pronounced increase in pulse rate, and accelerated cerebral circulation.

3. An effort of will is almost always accompanied by a muscular contraction.

These three points describe the mechanical side of the effort of willpower.

To get patients to reproduce the same conditions, we make them do the following exercise:

They are told to inhale, and then hold their breath for 2 to 4 seconds while mentally repeating the phrase "I want" and clenching their fists.

This fulfils the mechanical requirements for making an effort of will: retaining air in the chest cavity, which also increases pulse rate and circulation; repeating "I want" in relation to an act or decision that has to be made (or simply saying "I want to want...").

Too much emphasis should not be placed on the importance of this little scenario. All that is required is that patients become familiar with the process through repetition, until it becomes almost unconscious.

Now let's look at the psychological conditions, without which there is no emission of willpower. These are three in number:

1. Knowing what you want.

2. The possibility of getting what you want.

3. The sincerity and truth of wanting.

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