As a Matter of Course

XII.

ILLNESS.

AS far as we make circumstances guides and not limitations, they serve us. Otherwise, we serve them, and suffer accordingly. Just in proportion, too, to our allowing circumstances to be limits do we resist them. Such resistance is a nervous strain which disables us physically, and of course puts us more in the clutches of what appears to be our misfortune. The moment we begin to regard every circumstance as an opportunity, the tables are turned on Fate, and we have the upper hand of her.

When we come to think of it, how much common-sense there is in making the best of every “opportunity,” and what a lack of sense in chafing at that which we choose to call our limitations! The former way is sure to bring a good result of some sort, be it ever so small; the latter wears upon our nerves, blinds our mental vision, and certainly does not cultivate the spirit of freedom in us.

How absurd it would seem if a wounded man were to expose his wound to unnecessary friction, and then complain that it did not heal! Yet that is what many of us have done at one time or another, when prevented by illness from carrying out our plans in life just as we had arranged. It matters not whether those plans were for ourselves or for others; chafing and fretting at their interruption is just as absurd and quite as sure to delay our recovery. “I know,” with tears in our eyes, “I ought not to complain, but it is so hard,” To which common-sense may truly answer: “If it is hard, you want to get well, don’t you? Then why do you not take every means to get well, instead of indulging first in the very process that will most tend to keep you ill?” Besides this, there is a dogged resistance which remains silent, refuses to complain aloud, and yet holds a state of rigidity that is even worse than the external expression. There are many individual ways of resisting. Each of us knows his own, and knows, too, the futility of it; we do not need to multiply examples.

The patients who resist recovery are quite as numerous as those who keep themselves ill by resisting illness. A person of this sort seems to be fascinated by his own body and its disorders. So far from resisting illness, he may be said to be indulging in it He will talk about himself and his physical state for hours. He will locate each separate disease in a way to surprise the listener by his knowledge of his own anatomy. Not infrequently he will preface a long account of himself by informing you that he has a hearty detestation of talking about himself, and never could understand why people wanted to talk of their diseases. Then in minute detail he will reveal to you his brain-impression of his own case, and look for sympathetic response. These people might recover a hundred times over, and they would never know it, so occupied are they in living their own idea of themselves and in resisting Nature.

When Nature has knocked us down because of disobedience to her laws, we resist her if we attempt at once to rise, or complain of the punishment. When the dear lady would hasten our recovery to the best of her ability, we resist her if we delay progress by dwelling on the punishment or chafing at its necessity.

Nature always tends towards health. It is to prevent further ill-health that she allows us to suffer for our disobedience to her laws. It is to lead us back to health that she is giving the best of her powers, having dealt the deserved punishment. The truest help we can give Nature is not to think of our bodies, well or ill, more than is necessary for their best health.

I knew a woman who was, to all appearances, remarkably well; in fact, her health was her profession. She was supposed to be a Priestess of Health. She talked about and dwelt upon the health of her body until one would have thought there was nothing in the world worth thinking of but a body. She displayed her fine points in the way of health, and enjoyed being questioned with regard to them. This woman was taken ill. She exhibited the same interest, the same pleasure, in talking over and dwelling upon her various forms of illness; in fact, more. She counted her diseases. I am not aware that she ever counted her strong points of health.

This illustration is perhaps clear enough to give a new sense of the necessity for forgetting our bodies. When ill use every necessary remedy; do all that is best to bring renewed health. Having made sure you are doing all you can, forget; don’t follow the process. When, as is often the case, pain or other suffering puts forgetting out of the question, use no unnecessary resistance, and forget as soon as the pain is past Don’t strengthen the impression by talking about it or telling it over to no purpose. Better forego a little sympathy, and forget the pain sooner.

It is with our nerves that we resist when Nature has punished us. It is nervous strain that we put into a useless attention to and repetition of the details of our illness. Nature wants all this nerve-force to get us well the faster; we can save it for her by not resisting and by a healthy forgetting. By taking an illness as comfortably as possible, and turning our attention to something pleasant outside of ourselves, recovery is made more rapidly.