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HOME > Science Fiction > The psychology of sleep > CHAPTER XIV THE SLEEPLESSNESS OF PAIN
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 He kisses brows that ache from earthly care; He to peace the indignant souls of slaves.
Edgar Fawcett.
Sometimes we are kept awake by pain. Some persons suffer pain that has no remission, except the temporary deadness that comes from nervous exhaustion—and sleep.
But sometimes the hardest torture is the thought that the pain is unnecessary or useless. I went once to visit a friend, whom I found suffering from the worst abscesses on the back of the neck that I ever saw, so that the sight of them made me, who am a strong man, feel faint. I asked sympathetically what was the matter. “Oh,” he said, “I’m getting some experience.” That consciousness that such pain was useful helped to make the agony less unendurable. In fact, though he did not see it all then, he was getting just what he and those about him needed. He was a vigorous man, who took to rural work in a place where the food was excellent; he was naturally gluttonous67 and overate, hence the boils. This he learned; and also how to bear pain.
There are ways of bearing pain more easily. We must consider the pain , and treat it from all three sides—the bodily, the intellectual, and the spiritual.
However advanced we may be, it is foolish to deny that, in common with the rest of mankind, we are more or less in what Paul called the bonds of the flesh. To try to treat an aching tooth without physical means is like trying to grow a new leg instead of getting an artificial one. There was a stage in man’s Pre-Adamite progress from the amœba when, like the , he could grow new legs. Possibly, by discarding all other , men might again be able to grow new legs: but it would not pay.
A man who makes hammers may at one time have made his own files, had a shop for that. But, as trades became , he found it better and cheaper to buy his files. Perhaps the supply is suddenly cut off. Now he could reassemble from the scrap-heap the file and make files again, but it would be at the cost of putting so much time and energy into that branch as to paralyze the hammer factory.
So, Nature found that men rarely lost their legs and that it was more economical to divert the organization and the energy that reproduced legs into the brain, which enables men to supply themselves and their fellows, when occasion arises, with artificial legs. Accordingly we have lost much of the power of automatic self-healing and have gained much power of deliberate self-healing.
While distrusting and drugs, therefore, because we see the effect of them, but cannot know the remote effects of them, we cannot refuse a hot-water bottle or an anæsthetic when the pain, the symptom of the , becomes dangerous in itself. The fever of typhoid represents a battle within which must be fought out to a conclusion—successful or not. But, when the patient is in danger of dying from the high temperature, it is no inconsistency for a mental or spiritual healer to cool the room or sponge the patient with alcohol.
Before we resort to the dentist for the aching tooth, we may reduce the inflammation by from food and starving the blood corpuscles, which hasten to the diseased part, until, perhaps, they feed upon the weaker and tissues. This abstinence will go far toward removing the restlessness that is so torturing an accompaniment of the pain. These are the physical remedies.
The mental ones consist mainly in trying to the aching member, to realize that it is the tooth, not you, that aches, and to watch it as if it were a separate person. A little boy was asked how he felt after a feast of green apples. “I have a pain in the middle of my stomach,” he said, “but the rest of me feels fine.” A further mental remedy is to send to that separated part, th............
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