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Excerpts from

  "THE MENTAL HIGHWAY
Lessons in Academic & Applied Psychology"
by
Thomas Parker Boyd




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CONTENTS

Foreword.................................................
Chapter 1 - First Steps in Mental Life...................
Chapter 2 - Mind and Body................................
Chapter 3 - Conscious, Subconscious and Superconscious...
Chapter 4 - Elements of Consciousness....................
Chapter 5 - Cognition....................................
Chapter 6 - Memory.......................................
Chapter 7 - The Psychology of Feeling....................
Chapter 8 - Physiology and Biology of Feeling............
Chapter 9 - The Will.....................................
Chapter 10 - The Mind in Action..........................
Chapter 11 - Suggestion..................................
Chapter 12 - How to Treat by Mental Methods..............
Chapter 13 - The Mechanism of Thinking...................
Chapter 14 - The Psychology of Mental Dominion...........
Chapter 15 - Psychoanalysis..............................
Chapter 16 - Character Analysis..........................
Chapter 17 - Psychology of Business......................
Chapter 18 - The Psychology of Efficiency................
Chapter 19 - The Psychology of Abundance.................
Chapter 20 - The Psychology of Health....................
Chapter 21 - Psychology of Love and Marriage.............
Chapter 22 - The Psychology of Dreams....................
Chapter 23 - The Psychology of the Borderland............
Chapter 24 - The Psychology of Religion..................



Foreword


Men and women everywhere show a universal interest in the power of mind to affect the body and material conditions, which is the warrant for this introduction to the study of psychology. Inexperienced adventurers in this new world of mental activities are constantly asking for some safe guidance so that their feet shall tread the highway rather than the byways. We have presented enough of the principles of academic psychology that the student may feel assured that the later studies in applied psychology rest upon a sound basis.

The author presented these lessons as lectures during the period 1902 to 1922. Much of the illustrative material is left out. Occasionally we repeat an idea, but it is necessary in making a full statement of the case for a specific application.

We make no claim to originality for any of the matter here presented. Much has come through reading, more from years of practice, and some from within. We have seen it work often, and it will work for anyone who has the application to learn it and the patience and skill to apply it. This is just a beginning. It points out the Mental Highway. The journey is yours and it is before you. Go forth and find.


Chapter 1

First Steps in Mental Life

Psychology is the science of the mind. It begins with the soul, the ego, and proceeds to distinguish between that which is self and that which is not self. It defines the self as that which thinks, feels and wills. From the beginning, we direct bodily vision outward, and so does the soul move outward, away from itself. We can study mental movements and states by certain records of acts and facts, which the soul leaves.

The body’s eye is set for the vanishing point of vision. The nearer the object of vision, the more pronounced the strain upon the eye. The bodily eye can see itself only by roundabout means, as for instance a mirror. So, too, the mind directs its activities more easily to things away from itself. Mind is concerned with the external objects entering the struggle for existence rather than with studying the method of their perception. We act before we theorize. We adjust the mind to find rest at the farthest distance of thought from itself. Just as mind comes to rest trying to think of space as topless, bottomless and endless, so it finds complete rest in contemplating Infinity.

We take our expressions for mental phenomena from the material world. Thus, we developed language. We represent the inner world of mind by symbols we borrow from the outer world of space. For instance, we call the affectional, emotional side of the mental life the "heart," and speak of emotion as "feeling."

We cannot exactly determine just when we begin to distinguish between the self and the not-self. Some think it is before birth, arguing a dim and hazy sense of consciousness.

The new born child’s cry does not clearly have any element of conscious activity, but we regard it as the first step of conscious life. The second step is that the child notices the light, usually on the second day. The light attracts him if it is not too strong, but if too strong, he tries to hide from it. The child can fix his gaze on what attracts him after the third week. Then he begins to notice sounds, and recognizes his mother as the source of nutrition at two or three months. Until he recognizes his mother, we call the steps of his conscious life "sense-perceptions." Yet that experience brings a series of advanced steps of past sense-perceptions, and this stream of memory-images furnishes material for comparison with the present sense-perception and enables him to recognize them as caused by the same object.

This comparison of his memory-images with sense-perception, leads to a third step of conscious development, for it produces the idea of her as the source of nutrition. From this develops the pleasure in having his stomach filled, and of pain if deprived of her presence too long. As the conscious life develops more rapidly, he discovers that he has hands, and that he can use them to draw things to him or push them away.

Then the personifying faculty becomes active. Often he conceives that his hands or feet are beings apart from him, so that he will offer to share his bread with his foot even after a year. This personifying faculty, coupled with a vivid imagination, makes his world of mental images and ideas a world of reality to him. He lies normally and without moral turpitude. His mind follows his mental images much as a dog chases his tail. For the time being, it is a thing apart from his own personality.

These first steps in the development of conscious life in the child are, in a word, the psychology of humanity. We may sum the life of primitive peoples in the simple elements of the struggle for existence, as eating, drinking, sleeping and reproduction.

Here the personifying faculty is also very active. They dreamed of people, dream-people who were gods of good or evil — mostly the latter, to whom they attributed more strength of character than the dreamers themselves possessed. Darwin records the case of a savage who beheld himself for the first time in a mirror, and remarked: "I see the world’s spirit." To his simple mental processes, it was not a reflection, but a real spiritual thing.

As the child or the primitive human begins to know himself as a rational being, he recognizes other people like him.

He knows that they have minds, feelings, thoughts, and sensations, by analogy with his own. He can formulate certain laws of the mind, and definite relationships between the mind and the body by comparing their experiences with his own. Later he discovers the difference between the conscious and unconscious activities of the mind, and finally formulates the psychological elements, or Cognition, Feeling, and Will.

The study of the mind is difficult because mental states are so changeable, nor can we reproduce exactly any mental state or experience. Even the same object does not always appear the same on any two days, just as a photographer will not take an identical picture on successive days though he uses the same camera and light.

Our mental outlook is constantly changing, and determining the exact reliability of any individual’s observations is difficult. For instance, one person hears a voice when no objective speaker is near. To him it is a voice from the spirit-world. Another will report the same experience as the voice of his inner self. Either may be correct, but both are unreliable, since conveying just what the phenomenon was is difficult, and because the interpretation of it biases the impression. For these reasons, both objective and subjective experiences are often useless as working material in the study of mental operations.

Using the law of relativity, we test our mental states and experiences by those of others, and so prevent one-sidedness due to personal peculiarity. Our natural temperament, our conditions of life, and our special experiences direct the stream of our conscious life. If our experiences vary radically on some given point, we may need help to compare our ideas and experiences with others’, with our other experiences, and with the facts as they are.

One woman had lived for years with the sense of impending disaster, and had been expecting to die for years. Her recovery began with facing the fact that not one of her forebodings had ever happened, and by showing her that humanity’s organized experience is summed up in the words: "I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God." Romans 8:38-39.

The study of mental phenomena calls for us to exercise that faculty of the mind by which we consider a proposition from all sides and form an opinion in harmony with all the facts. It uses not only one’s own experiences but the experiences of others and the current working facts in the case and can forecast the outcome of an adventure or the solution of a problem.


Chapter 2

Mind and Body

We draw all of our knowledge of mental and physical states from two distinct sources, mind and body, which seem to overlap each other. Some things are purely material in character, as for instance, the patella reflex, which makes the toe kick upward when the tendon is struck just below the knee. No mental action seems to cause this movement whatever, as no physical action may be involved in the mental process of recalling a past sensation.

Yet we cannot always trust physical action and sensation to report facts as they are, any more than the mind can depend upon its report of facts. For instance, gallstones can cause referred pain below the shoulder blade. Seeing an optical illusion is merely projecting a purely mental state into visual form. We need to closely scrutinize the facts of the mind and the body before we accept and interpret them as realities.

Usually we see the distinction between material and mental things in that all material things appear in space. They have the dimensions of length, breadth and thickness, and we may trace them to a movement in space.

Mental states have no such relationship. We cannot think of a state of consciousness having connection with space, save perhaps in a symbolical way.

Inertia is a basic law of matter in motion, without which natural science would be impossible. We must explain every material movement by another material movement. For instance, a point in space cannot get up and move about of its own accord. Some material movement is in the background to explain every other physical movement.

A second law of matter in motion, called the conservation of energy, says that matter is not destroyed. The form changes but the sum of the material is not lost. The next step is that the energy bound up in or represented by matter is similarly conserved. The fine form of the energy in a steel spring represents the lower form of energy in pig iron, together with heat and hammering.

Every movement upward calls for the outlay of energy, compensated for by the higher form attained. This principle applies in all the physical processes. In the higher and more complex forms of material activity, as when the mental life and its instrument, the nervous system, influences the material energies, we find a gradual emergence into a field where we must keep relative values clearly in mind.

A nervous system in embryonic form exists in plant life, is definite in animal life, and fully developed in human beings. This system is the instrument by which we pass from purely material energy to mental energy.

The lowest form of nervous activity is the reflex, as when an afferent nerve carries a pin prick to a nerve bunch, called a ganglia, from which returns an impulse by a motor nerve, causing the contraction of a muscle and movement of the part. The mind has no part in this action. For that reason, those animals with the least cerebral power are most richly endowed with reflexes.

The smaller the cerebral or thinking power, the greater the reflex activity. The converse is true — the greater the brain power, the less the reflex activity, which marks the measure of a cuttlefish and a human. Likewise the organs of the body, such as the heart and stomach, profusely supplied from the sympathetic nervous system and the least under the control of the conscious mind, are equipped with reflexes, while the organs innervated from the cerebrospinal system have few or none of the reflexes.

The cerebrum elaborates, assorts and determines the values of these reflexes. In other words, the reason, seated in the brain, monitors incoming body sensations, determines their values, controls their reflexes, and decides the values of the impressions and illusions of the mind arising from them.

One can easily inhibit the reflexes of sneezing, blushing, fainting, weeping or laughing, by simply diverting the attention to another idea or sensation. The cure of a facial tic is a process of suppressing the reflex actions of muscles that should move only under motived impulse. The cure of most mental obsessions consists in replacing them with deliberate ideas.

Every reflex must rest periodically. A constantly stimulated reflex will wear out, and not respond. A monotonous physical action or mental process will eventually result in the loss of power to continue that action. Consciousness becomes less active as we hold the mind to one monotonous idea or problem. Just as monotonous sensation or sound tends to put the body to sleep, so monotony of idea tends to put the mind to sleep. All sorts of cranks and partisans are born of such a mental process, to say nothing of the more pronounced abnormal types of mental life.

Variety in food, etc., is essential to the highest physical activity and health. The change of ideas, the recognition of change, and the ability to see the difference between one experience and another, is essential to mental health. Also, we must be able to recall and reproduce yesterday’s experiences so that we may compare them with today’s. Finally we must be able to recognize the unity of our mental life — to know, to know that we know, to know what we know, to know ourselves as knowing beings. A unity in consciousness exists, which must include all life’s experiences if we would remain in both mental and physical health.

We may clearly distinguish between the body and the mind, yet they are so intimately united that we may hypothesize that they are the dual expression of a being in the background. This being partakes of what we call the spiritual nature, which whether it first expresses itself in one, invariably finds expression in other, body or mind. Our mental activities take on corresponding physical form, while the mind reflects our physical conditions.

We may spend our lives curing the mind so that we may in turn cure the body, or doctoring the body to heal the mind. The logical thing is to heal and set in harmony the real spiritual being back of them so that it will express health through them.




  "THE MENTAL HIGHWAY
Lessons in Academic & Applied Psychology"
by
Thomas Parker Boyd


Order in Adobe PDF eBook or printed form for $9.95 (+ printing charge)