Isaac G. Briggs.

Epilepsy, Hysteria, and Neurasthenia online

. (page 8 of 10)
Online LibraryIsaac G. BriggsEpilepsy, Hysteria, and Neurasthenia → online text (page 8 of 10)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

conversation. Under such conditions not one in a thousand - and _your_ child
is _not_ that one - escapes impurity and degraded sex ideas.

Wherever youth congregate, this subject crops up, and those who talk most
freely to the others are just those with the most distorted and vicious
ideas, whose discourse abounds in obscene detail and ribald jest. Your
child must learn either from ignorant, unclean minds, or be taught in a
clean, sacred way, which will rob sex of secrecy and obscenity; _learn he
will_; if you will not teach your child, his pet rabbit will.

When children ask awkward questions, say quietly that such matters are not
discussed with children, but promise to tell them all about it when they
are ten years old; delay no longer, for most children learn self-abuse
between ten and twelve.

Self-abuse is a bad habit, and no more a "sin" than is biting the nails.
Unfortunately, people with no other qualification than a desire to do good,
wrongly harp on the "sin" of it and draw lurid pictures of physical and
mental wreck as the end of such "sinners", ignorant that if all
masturbators went mad the world would be one huge asylum.

Exaggeration never pays in teaching youth. Tell the truth, which is bad
enough without adding "white lies" with an eye to effect.

Coitus causes slight prostration, Nature's device to remind man to keep
sexual intercourse within bounds, for while in moderation it is harmless,
in excess it causes great prostration. _Exactly the same applies to
self-abuse_, for, paradoxical as it seems, the real harm is done by the
_fear_ of the supposed harm.

The masturbator first suffers from the knowledge he is indulging in a
pleasure he knows would be forbidden, and from fear of being found out;
later he learns from friends, quack advertisements, or well-meaning books
that self-abuse is a most deadly practice, and thereupon a tremendous
struggle occurs between desire and fear, each act ending in an agony of
remorse and dread of future consequences, which struggle does a
thousand-fold more harm than the loss of a little semen.

The ill-effects of these mental struggles disappear after marriage, which
means greater indulgence, but indulgence free from mental stress. In
neuropaths, these mental struggles are the worst things that could occur,
for they tend to make permanent the states we are trying to cure.

The most serious results of masturbation are moral not physical. Loss of
will-power, self-reliance, presence of mind, reasoning power, memory,
courage, idealism, and self-control; mental and physical debility,
laziness, a diseased fondness for the opposite sex, and in later years,
some degree of impotence or sterility, are its commoner results.

Teach _your_ child, therefore, not from fear of physical harm, but because
you wish him to be one of those fortunate few who live and die "gentlemen
unafraid", because they had wise parents.

Let the mother instruct a girl, the father a boy, and not leave so vital a
matter to an unsuitable pamphlet.

Buy one of the many "Knowledge for Boys or Girls" books and read it

Having made sure you can convey a simple account of the wonders of
reproduction, and that you have rooted out the idea that sex is something
to be apologized for, see the child and tell him it is time he learned of
his private parts, as manhood draws near.

Then, speaking in a quiet, unembarrassed way, deliver your little homily,
all the time insisting on the marvel, the romance, the poetry and the
beauty of the sex. Let chivalry be your text, not fear, and repeat the
Squire's sound parting advice to Tom Brown:

"Never listen to or say things you would not have your mother or sister

Give a clear and complete description in simple words of the mechanism and
marvel of reproduction, for half-knowledge generates a prurient curiosity
about the other sex, thus defeating the very end you have so earnestly
striven for.

Purity not impurity should be your text, and you should only refer to
masturbation as a harmful habit, which should not be contracted.

Warn them to

"Keep the heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of

by turning their thoughts instantly and determinedly away from sex ideas
when they arise, as they _will_ arise, time and again. It is useless to try
_not_ to think of them, the child must instantly turn its thoughts to to
_something else_, for one who cannot stamp out a spark will not subdue a
fiercely-raging conflagration.

Babies should not be carelessly caressed, and a fretful infant must never
be soothed by playing with the genitals, as is done innocently by some
mothers and nurses, and by others from motives more questionable. Freud
showed that there are subconscious sexual desires in infants, which die out
until reanimated at puberty in Nature's own way. If exaggerated by
exuberant fondling, they gather force in the dark corners of the mind, and
are later manifested in morbid sexual or mental perversity.

If you have good grounds for believing the habit has already been
contracted, enlist medical advice. A great factor in the successful
treatment of self-abuse is early recognition, and, after the unhygienic
nature of the habit has carefully been pointed out, the child's sense of
honour should be invoked.

Without further reference to the matter, try to become your child's
confidant, for he will have to fight fires within and foes without. See
that his time is filled with healthy sport and play, and ennoble his ideas
with talk, books and plays which lay stress on chivalry and manliness. Give
him plain food, tepid douches, and a firm bed with light, fairly warm
clothing. Get him up reasonably early in the morning, and let him play
until he is "dog-tired" at night.

Let children rub shoulders with others, keep them from highly exciting
tales, let them read but little, and train them to be observant of external
objects all the time.

Neuropaths develop very early sexually, and contract bad habits in the
endeavour to still their unruly passions; with them, the future is darker
than with the normal child, and the parent who neglects his duty may justly
be held accountable for what happens to his child or his child's children.

Puberty is always a critical period in epilepsy, many cases commencing at
this time, while in a number, fits commence in infancy, cease during
childhood, and recommence at puberty, the baneful stimulus of masturbation
being undoubtedly a factor in many of these cases.

* * * * *



Although most people would assume that epileptics are unable to follow a
trade, there is hardly an occupation from medicine to mining, from
agriculture to acting, that does not include epileptics among its votaries.

Outdoor occupations involving but little mental work or responsibility are
best, but unfortunately just those which promise excitement and change are
those which appeal to the neuropath.

A light, clean, manual trade should be chosen, and those that mean work in
stuffy factories, amid whirring wheels and harmful fumes, using dangerous
tools, or climbing ladders, must be avoided.

For the fairly robust, gardening or farming are good occupations, such
workers getting pure air, continuous exercise, and little brain-work.
Wood-working trades are good, if dangerous tools like circular saws are
left to others.

For the frail neuropath with a fair education, drawing, modelling,
book-keeping, and similar semi-sedentary work may do. Other patients might
be suited as shoemakers, stonemasons, painters, plumbers or domestic
servants, so long as they always work on the ground.

Some work is essential; better an unsuitable occupation than none at all,
for the downward tendency of the complaint is sufficiently marked without
the victim becoming an idler. Work gives stability.

Epilepsy limits patients to a humble sphere, and though this is hard to a
man of talent, it is but one of many hard lessons, the hardest being to
realize clearly his own limitations.

If seizures be frequent, the ignorant often refuse to work with a victim,
who can only procure odd jobs, in which case he should strive to find
home-work, at which he can work slowly and go to bed when he feels ill. A
card in the window, a few handbills distributed in the district, judicious
canvassing, and perhaps the patronage of the local doctor and clergy may
procure enough work to pay expenses and leave a little over, for the
essential thing is to occupy the mind and exercise the body, not to make

Very few trades can be plied at home and many swindlers obtain money under
the pretence of finding such employment, charging an excessive price for an
"outfit", and then refusing to buy the output, usually on the pretext that
it is inferior. Envelope-addressing, postcard-painting and machine-knitting
have all been abused to this end.

An auto-knitter seems to offer possibilities, but victims must investigate
offers carefully.

Photography is easy. A cheap outfit will make excellent postcards, modern
methods having got rid of the dark room and much of the mess, and
postcard-size prints can be pasted on various attractive mounts.

If the work is done slowly, and in a good light, and the patient has an
aptitude for it, ticket-writing is pleasant. Among small shopkeepers there
is a constant demand for good, plainly printed tickets at a reasonable

On an allotment near home vegetables and poultry might be raised, an
important contribution to the household, and one which removes the stigma
of being a non-earner.

The mental discipline furnished by this home-work is invaluable,
Neuropaths, especially if untrained, are unable to concentrate their
attention on any matter for long, and do their work hastily to get it
finished. When they find that to sell the work it must be done slowly and
perfectly they have made a great advance towards training their minds to
concentrate. Their weak inhibitory power is thus strengthened with happy
results all round.

When the work and the weather permit, work should be done outdoors, and
when done indoors windows should be opened, and, if possible, an empty or
sparsely-furnished bedroom chosen for the work.

Recreations. These offer a freer choice, but those causing fatigue or
excitement must be avoided, for patients who have no energy to waste need
only fresh air and quiet exercise.

Manual are better than mental relaxations. Dancing is unsuitable, swimming
dangerous, athletics too tiring and exciting. Bowls, croquet, golf,
walking, quoits, billiards, parlour games and quiet gymnastics without
apparatus are good, if played in moderation and much more gently than
normal people play them. Play is recreation only so long as a pastime is
not turned into a business. When a player is annoyed at losing, though he
loses naught save his own temper, any game has ceased to be recreative.

* * * * *



"Man is composed of characters derived from pre-existing germ-cells,
over which he has no control. Be they good, bad, or indifferent, these
factors are his from his ancestry; the possession of them is to him a
matter of neither blame nor praise, but of necessity. They are
inevitable." - Leighton.

The body is composed of myriads of cells of _protoplasm_, in each of which,
is a _nucleus_ which contains the factors of the hereditary nature of the
cell. In growth, the nucleus splits in half, a wall grows between and each
new cell has half the original factors,

Female _ovum_ and male _sperm_ (the cells concerned with reproduction)
divide, thus losing half their factors, and when brought together by sexual
intercourse form a _germ-cell_ having an equal number of factors from
mother and father.

How these factors are mingled - whether shuffled like two packs of cards, or
mixed like two paints - we do not know. If two opposite factors are brought
together, one must lie dormant. The offspring may be male or female, tall
or short; it cannot be both, nor will there be a mixture. _This rule only
applies to clearly defined factors._

We are _made by_ the _germ-plasm_ handed down to us by our ancestors; in
turn we pass it on to our children, _unaltered_, but mixed with our
partner's plasm.

"The Dead dominate the Living" for our physical and mental inheritance is a
mosaic made by our ancestors.

Variations which may or may not be inheritable do arise spontaneously, we
know not how, and by variations all living things evolve.

A child resembles his parents more than strangers, not because they made
cells "after their own image" but because both he and they got their
factors from the same source.

Man's physical and mental, and the _basis_ of his moral, qualities depend
entirely on the types of ancestral plasm combined in marriage. Man may
control his environment; his heritage is immutable. To suppress an
undesirable trait the germ-cell must unite with one that has never shown
it - one from a sound stock. An unsuitable mating in a later generation,
however, may bring it out again (for factors are indestructible), and the
individual showing it will have "reverted to ancestral type".

To give an instance: Does the son of a drunkard inherit a tendency to
drink? No! The father is alcoholic because he lacks control, consequent
upon the factors which make for control having been absent from his
germ-plasm. He passes on this lack; if the mother does the same, the defect
occurs - in a worse form - in the son. If the mother gives a control factor,
the son may be unstable or _apparently_ stable, this depending entirely on
chance, but if the mother's plasm contains a _strong_ control-factor, the
defect will lie dormant in her son, who will have self-control, though if
he marries the wrong woman he will have weak-willed children.

If the son becomes a toper, therefore, it is because he, like his father
before him, was born with a defect - weak control - which might have made of
him a drug-fiend, a tobacco-slave, a rake, or a criminal; in his home drink
would naturally be the temptation nearest to hand, and he would show his
lack of control in drunkenness.

The way a lily-seed is treated makes a vast difference to the plant which
arises. If sown in poor soil, and neglected, a dwarf, sickly plant will
result; if sown in rich soil, and given every care that enthusiasm, money
and skill can suggest or procure, the result will be magnificent.

So with man. A well-nourished mother, free from care and disease, may have
a finer child than a half-starved woman, crushed by worry and work, but
neither starvation nor nourishment alter the inborn character of the child.

The _body-cells_ are greatly changed by disease, poison, injury, and
overwork, but these changes are not passed on, and despite the influence of
disease from time immemorial, the _germ-cell_ produces the same man as in
ancient days. Without this fixity of character, this "continuity of the
germ-plasm", "man" would cease to be, for the descendants of changeable
cells would be of infinite variety, having fixity of neither form nor

Epilepsy, hysteria and neurasthenia are all outward signs of defect in the
germ-plasm, and so they (or a predisposition to them) can be passed on, and

If a man shows a certain character, his plasm, had, and has, the causative
factor. He may have received it from _both_ his parents, when it will be
_strong_, or from one only, when it will be _normal_. If he have it not, it
is absent. The same applies to the plasm of the woman he mates, so there
are six possible combinations, with results according to "Mendel's Law."

_All_ the children will not inherit a taint unless _both_ parents possess
it, but, however strong one parent be, if the other is tainted, _none_ of
the children can be absolutely clean, but will show the taint, weak,
strong, or dormant. This means that neuropathy will recur - and that it has
previously occurred - in the same family, unless there be continual mating
into sound stocks. If there is continual mating into bad stocks, it will
recur frequently and in severe forms. All intermediate stages may occur,
depending entirely on the qualities of the combining stocks.

From this we shall expect, in the same stock, signs of neuropathic taint
other than the three diseases dealt with here, and these we get; for
alcoholism, criminality, chorea, deformities, insanity and other brain
diseases, are not infrequent among the relatives of a neuropath, showing
that the family germ-plasm is unsound.

Epilepsy, one symptom of taint, is more or less interchangeable with other
defects; the taint, as a whole, is an inheritable unit whose inheritance
will appear as any one of many defects. This is shown by the fact that very
few epileptics have an epileptic parent. Starr's analysis of 700 cases of
epilepsy emphasizes this point.

Epilepsy in a parent 6
Epilepsy in a near relative 136
Alcoholism in a parent 120
Nervous Diseases in family 118
Rheumatism and Tuberculosis 184
Combinations of above diseases 142

As medicine and surgery cannot add or delete plasmic factors, the only way
to stamp out neuropathy in severe forms would be to sterilize victims by
X-rays. This would be painless, would protect the race and not interfere
with personal or even with sexual liberty. In fifty years such diseases
would be almost extinct, and those arising from accident or the chance
union of dormant factors in apparently normal people could easily be dealt

There are 100,000 epileptics in Great Britain, and as _all_ their children
carry a taint which tends to reappear as epilepsy in a later generation
_the number of epileptics doubles every forty years_. We protect these
unfortunates against others; why not posterity against them?

Neuropaths must pass on _some_ defect; therefore, though victims may marry,
_no neuropath has a right to have children_.

* * * * *



"All men are not equal, either at birth or by training. Nature gives
each of us the neural clay, with its properties of pliability and of
receiving impressions; nurture moulds and fashions it, until a
_character_ is formed, a mingling of innate disposition and acquired
powers. But clay will be clay to the end; you cannot expect it to be
marble." - Thomson & Geddes.

"Heaven lay not my transgression to my charge." - King John.

It is essential that attendants, relatives, and friends carefully study the
character of neuropaths, and recognize clearly how abnormal it is, for
untold misery is caused by judging neuropaths by normal standards.

Patients are often harshly treated because others regard the victim of
defective inhibition as having gone deliberately to work, through wicked
perversity and pure wilfulness, to make himself a nuisance, to persist in
being a nuisance, and to refuse to be other than a nuisance, rather than
exercise what more fortunate men are pleased to term self-control.

Character is usually appraised as "good" or "evil" by the nature of a man's
actions, the assumption being made that he can control his impulses if he
be so minded.

This is not so. "Good" and "evil" are only relative terms. What one man
thinks "evil", a second holds "good", while a third is not influenced.

Now the performance of the act judged is directed by the performer's brain,
the constitution of which was pre-determined by the germ-plasm from which
he arose, so that _the basis of character is inherited_.

The moral sense is the last evolved and least stable attribute of the last
evolved and least stable of our organs, the brain; and brains are born, not
made to order. To blame a man for having weak control - a sick will - is as
unreasonable as to blame him for a cleft palate or a squint. The "good"
people who jog so quietly through life little reck how much they owe their
ancestors, from whom they received stability.

These tendencies represent the total material for building character.
Training and environment can only nourish good tendencies and give bad ones
no encouragement to grow gigantic.

If training and environment alone formed character, then children reared
together would be of similar disposition; by no means the case. Similarly,
if external influences altered inborn tendencies, then, not only would the
evil man be totally reformed by strong inducements to virtue, but strong
inducements to vice would lead totally astray the good man, for "good" is
no _stronger_ than "evil", both being attributes of mind.

In mind as in body, from the moment he is conceived to the moment his dust
rests in the tomb, man is directed by immutable laws, though he is not
simply a machine directed by impulses over which he has no control. There
is real meaning in "strong will" and "weak will" will being a tendency to
deliberate before and be steadfast in action, a tendency which varies
immensely in different people. The fallacy of "free will" lies in assuming
that every one has this tendency equally developed, making character a mere
matter of saying "Yes!" and "No!" without reference to the individual's
mental make-up.

Deliberate, persistent wickedness implies a strong will, just what
neuropaths lack. A man of weak will can never be a very good nor yet a very
bad man. He will be very good at times, very bad at times, and neutral at
times, but neither for long; before sudden impulses, whether good or bad,
neuropaths are largely powerless.

The many perversities of a neuropath are not deliberately put forth of his
"free will" to annoy both himself and others, for the neuropath inherits
his weak-control no less than his large hands.

Friends _must_ remember they are dealing with a person whose _nature_ it is
to "go off half-cock", and who cannot be normal "if he likes". The
neuropath, young or old, says what he "thinks" _without thinking_, that is
he says what he _feels_, and acts hastily without weighing consequences.

_Cassius_: Have you not love enough to bear with me,
When that rash humour which my mother gave me
Makes me forgetful?

_Brutus_: Yes, Cassius; and, from henceforth
When you are over-earnest with your Brutus,
He'll think your mother chides, and leave you so.

* * * * *

One cannot detail the effects of neuropathy on character, when its victims
include madmen, sexual perverts, idiots, criminals, imbeciles, prostitutes,
humble but honest citizens, common nuisances, invalids of many kinds,
misanthropists, designers, enthusiasts, composers, communists, reformers,
authors, artists, agitators, statesmen, poets, prophets, priests and kings.

Very mild epilepsy - from one fit a year to one in several years - instead of
hindering, seems rather to help mentality, and many geniuses have been
epileptic. These talented victims, are less rare than the public suppose,
owing to the jealous care with which symptoms of this disease are guarded.
Socrates, Julius Cæsar, Mahomet, Joan of Arc, Peter the Great, Napoleon,
Byron, Swinburne, and Dostoieffsky are but a few among many great names in
the world of art, religion and statecraft. Epileptic princes, kings and
kinglets who have achieved unenviable notoriety might be named by scores,
Wilhelm II being the most notable of modern times.

This brilliant mentality is always accompanied by instability, and usually
by marked disability in other ways. The success of these men often depends
on an ability to view things from a new, quaint or queer standpoint, which
appeals to their more normal fellows.

In matters that require great fertility, a quick grasp, ready wit, and
brilliant but not sustained mental effort, numerous neuropaths excel. In
things calling for calm, well-balanced judgment, or stern effort to conquer
unforseen difficulties, they fail utterly.

Subtle in debate, they are but stumbling-blocks in council; brilliant in
conception, they fail in execution; fanciful designers, they are not
"builders of bridges". They are boastful, sparkling, inventive, witty,
garrulous, vain and supersensitive, outraging their friends by the
extravagance of their schemes; embarrassing their enemies by the subtlety
of their intrigues.

They wing on exuberant imagination from height to height, but the small
boulders of difficulty trip them up, for they are hopelessly unpractical;
they have neither strength of purpose nor fortitude, and their best-laid
schemes are always frustrated at the critical moment, by either the

1 2 3 4 5 6 8 10

Online LibraryIsaac G. BriggsEpilepsy, Hysteria, and Neurasthenia → online text (page 8 of 10)