As a Matter of Course

XIV.

PROBLEMS.

THERE are very few persons who have not I had the experience of giving up a problem in mathematics late in the evening, and waking in the morning with the solution clear in their minds. That has been the experience of many, too, in real-life problems. If it were more common, a great amount of nervous strain might be saved.

There are big problems and little, real and imaginary; and some that are merely tired nerves. In problems, the useless nervous element often plays a large part. If the “problems” were dropped out of mind with sufferers from nervous prostration, their progress towards renewed health might be just twice as rapid. If they were met normally, many nervous men and women might be entirely saved from even a bowing acquaintance with nervous prostration. It is not a difficult matter, that of meeting a problem normally,–simply let it solve itself. In nine cases out of ten, if we leave it alone and live as if it were not, it will solve itself. It is at first a matter of continual surprise to see how surely this self-solution is the result of a wholesome ignoring both of little problems and big ones.

In the tenth case, where the problem must be faced at once, to face it and decide to the best of our ability is, of course, the only thing to do. But having decided, be sure that it ceases to be a problem. If we have made a mistake, it is simply a circumstance to guide us for similar problems to come.

All this is obvious; we know it, and have probably said it to ourselves dozens of times. If we are sufferers from nervous problems, we may have said it dozens upon dozens of times. The trouble is that we have said it and not acted upon it. When a problem will persist in worrying us, in pulling and dragging upon our nerves, an invitation to continue the worrying until it has worked itself out is a great help towards its solution or disappearance.

I remember once hearing a bright woman say that when there was anything difficult to decide in her life she stepped aside and let the opposing elements fight it out within her. Presumably she herself threw in a little help on one side or the other which really decided the battle. But the help was given from a clear standpoint, not from a brain entirely befogged in the thick of the fight.

Whatever form problems may take, however important they may seem, when they attack tired nerves they must be let alone. A good way is to go out into the open air and so identify one’s self with Nature that one is drawn away in spite of one’s self. A big wind will sometimes blow a brain clear of nervous problems in a very little while if we let it have its will. Another way out is to interest one’s self in some game or other amusement, or to get a healthy interest in other people’s affairs, and help where we can.

Each individual can find his own favorite escape. Of course we should never shirk a problem that must be decided, but let us always wait a reasonable time for it to decide itself first. The solving that is done for us is invariably better and clearer than any we could do for ourselves.

It will be curious, too, to see how many apparently serious problems, relieved of the importance given them by a strained nervous system, are recognized to be nothing at all. They fairly dissolve themselves and disappear.