William Lee Howard.

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are constantly at you to make you train your memory, to keep your mind
upon your studies, or else your employer is nagging you to pay more
attention to what you are told. And how many of you try to do all this
and do not succeed!

“Train every faculty, build up your abilities;” do this or don’t do
that; always something is dinned into your ears about what you should
do to improve yourself. But the one force, THE power which is at the
bottom of every impulse or act, nerve activity, is left unmentioned as
a force to be trained first, always and last of all the forces in your

“She has such a bad temper” is a remark we hear time after time.
“If she would only learn to control her outbreaks; don’t get out of
temper,” and similar expressions are only too frequently heard in
homes and at school――everywhere. No wonder the helpless girl becomes
discouraged and disgusted when she is scolded for petty explosions
which she would gladly know how to stop.

A girl without a temper doesn’t amount to much. It is a proper attitude
of revolt against personal wrong or injustice. It is the birthright
of every normal woman. It belongs to her protective instincts. And
what is temper? Just the explosion of a highly nervous temperament.
Explosion, mind you, not a decent expression of righteous indignation.
The difference is that one is uncontrolled nervous force, the other is
the same expression of nervous force held in check, governed by long
training and handled for some forthright deeds. It is the preserving
of this nervous force so as to be able to utilize it for some valuable
work, that makes the difference between wasted energy and useless
efforts and applied energy with useful results.

The nervous force in woman, including the brain, is the last to become
fully developed, but it should be the first to be considered in your
training. It means self-control, and there is no better evidence of
good birth, well-poised personality and perfect physical health, than
control over one’s impulses and words.

A girl with these qualities will soon get a husband who will be kept as
a husband.

To get self-control you must go at it in the same systematic manner as
you do physical exercise. In this latter matter schools and clubs have
gymnasiums for you; there are athletic games played under instructors
of physical culture who teach you how to exercise along lines which
will give you good bodily health; but the apparatus you need first
of all, that for building and strengthening the nervous system and
the nervous energy which goes into your sex development, are merely
mentioned in some homes and schools and in some others never mentioned.
You need a perfectly-balanced nervous organization and one under your
complete control before you can benefit from any physical exercise.

“But,” you say, “is not physical exercise a means of building up the
nervous organization?”

No, only indirectly. This body of ours, the mere bones, muscles and
organs, is only the frame of our human machine, just as the steel body
and wheels are that of an automobile. No matter how strong that frame
is, no matter what fine material has gone into the workmanship, it is
absolutely worthless unless the motor which is to drive it is powerful
enough to send it along with ease, and moreover be one which can
readily and safely always run under control.

The motor that runs our bodies is the nervous system, and if you have
a body so highly developed as to fatigue the nervous motor, then a
nervous breakdown is certain to occur. If you have a nervous mechanism
too strong for the body it will run away with you and then we have
another kind of “nervous breakdown”――hysteria, melancholy, insomnia,
drug habit or worse.

The nervous affections of girls and women are generally due to one
of these causes I have outlined――unevenness in bodily development or
nervous development. They should balance each other, work together and
both become tired and demand rest at the same time.

The secretions of the skin, kidneys, liver and other internal organs
are controlled through the nervous system. So are the functions of
the womb, ovaries and even the heart. Why does your heart beat so
rapidly after a fright or great excitement? Because your nervous
motor is running beyond your control. Why does a girl’s monthly
occurrence sometimes stop after a great fright or skip a period or two
during some deep grief or emotional experience? Because the nervous
organization of the whole body was put to excessive work and then had
to stop for a rest. Having become temporarily exhausted the fine little
nerve endings in the organs cannot do their allotted work, hence no
secretions can push their way out of the closed cells. For these nerve
fibers open and close the cells which secrete the materials that should
be cast off at regular intervals.

Not being able to do so the girl becomes “tired,” has headaches, feels
“all out of sorts.” Then she thinks something is wrong with her, her
good mother gives her “tonics” or “blood medicine” and she is told to

What she needs instead of exercise or medicines is rest; as much
rest and food as she can contentedly stand. The only exercise such a
condition calls for is deep breathing and this more to furnish fresh
blood which the full lungs give, than for the exercise itself. If we
could conveniently get fresh air into the lungs by some method other
than breathing it, it would be better still, for even the effort of
deep breathing calls for some use of the nervous force, and the least
possible disturbance of this force, the quicker will the girl or woman
recover her full nervous strength.

If you have exercised beyond the power of the nervous system to send
full impulses to the skin so that it will pour out its poisons, some
of this poison remains in the body and sets up a condition known as
auto-intoxication, which only means self-poisoning. All kinds of
nervous affections arise from this state.

The same conditions are brought about by the poisons of the liver, if
the delicate nerves of this big sewer of the body are too tired to open
up all the little ducts and channels and let out the poisons which the
liver has taken up from the blood in your body. And so we might go on
into more physiology, showing you that much of the nervousness among
girls comes from over-exercise, instead of under-exercise. Probably
more of the trouble arises from exercising at wrong times; at times
when the nervous organization has all it can do to regulate sex growth
and development of the girl. At this time to pull out a lot of nervous
power to make muscles work and grow big, must result in some nervous
organ being deprived of its needed nerve cell assistance.

In these facts lies the cause for so many nervous wrecks in young
women and wives. Nature gives the nervous system of all growing girls
constant and concentrating work to do. It has to take care of all the
new organs of secretions, see that the breasts are fully supplied with
cells ready to do their work when motherhood approaches, fit its tiny
but powerful nerve endings to the womb and ovaries, develop the brain
and instincts along proper and healthful lines, furnish power to the
million cells of the scalp and skin, watch that the stomach pours
out a proper amount of digestive fluid at a time when the girl has a
craving for strange “eatables” such as slate pencils or gum arabic. The
hard and enduring efforts of the nervous system to keep the girl well
balanced in her thoughts all the time she is undergoing these necessary
changes, should never be overlooked.

No girl between fourteen and twenty years of age should ever train for
physical contests or any form of athletic competition. A girl should
train for her future work――motherhood――and for this wonderful and
glorious contest for bringing onto the earth the best possible men and
women, she must have the highest form of nervous development, with all
that this implies.

The best way to help all this effort of Nature to give you a nervous
system which will stay by you when the worries and trials of life come,
is never to over-exercise at any time, and not to exercise at all for
a few days before and a few days after your periods. This is the time
when your body needs all the reserve power for one purpose.

How can I tell when I need rest instead of exercise?

The best sign is when you think that you ought to exercise but don’t
feel like making the effort. Many, many a girl has become a nervous
wreck because someone forced her to exercise when she needed to be
quiet and at rest.

Never exercise unless the anticipation of the play or game is a
pleasure to you. When you get into that state of mind such as, “Oh, I
don’t feel like making the effort; I’d rather sit here and read, or
talk”――if you feel like that, if you have to make up your mind that you
must exercise, but it is difficult to find any pleasure in the thing
you are thinking of doing; don’t try to do it.

If you make determined efforts to do any physical work that is
distasteful to you, if you work by the clock, then you are injuring
yourself every minute you are at it. You are drawing upon your nervous
capital, not upon the interest. This is the secret of all exercise,
brain or muscle: work must be done upon saved-up interest, not upon the
capital. If you use the capital, it only means for the body what it
would mean for the purse――bankruptcy――sure and certain failure.

Any physical effort which leaves you feeling worse than when you
started, is injuring you. This does not mean a good physically tired
feeling, one in which your cheeks are aglow, when you feel elated
at what you have done, when a cold shower bath feels good instead of
making you shiver and covered with “gooseflesh,” but that feeling of
complete exhaustion, pale cheeks, a feeling of shivering if cold baths
are mentioned and a longing for something to drink that will brace
you up. When this latter state is yours, you have over-exercised or
else exercised at a time when your nervous motor needed a rest, not

You sometimes hear it said, “Why, she is the last girl in the world I
thought would ever get nervous troubles. She is the best girl on the
team――Oh! you ought to see her muscles.”

Yes, but you should also see those worn-out nerve cells.

Misdirected ambition, a forgetfulness that she had only a certain
amount of nervous power, an excitement which blinded her to her real
condition; these were the factors which made her drive her motor far
beyond its powers. Finally there was no more nervous energy to move her
over-developed muscles without fatigue, and fatigue has its own poisons
which penetrate the whole body and then comes a collapse. This was the
cause for this “strong girl’s” nervous breakdown.

No girl is strong, or ever will be as a woman, whose body and muscles
have been developed at the expense of her nervous system. The really
strong girl is one who has power saved up, and when a time of great
stress or work comes, has this extra power to put out and not become a
nervous bankrupt.

Exercise, like your daily work, should always be a pleasure instead of
boresome labor. Only by doing things in this state of mind can you ever
be successful.

The drilling, training and developing of the will――powers of
self-control――must be a constant part of a girl’s self-education. It
is all very well to tell a girl to “use will power,” but before she is
blamed for the lack of control, it would be only just to her to find
out just how much of this power she has to use.

Will power depends upon a perfect nervous system. The reason one cannot
call to a will power to stop an evil or disagreeable habit, is because
the habit has temporarily destroyed, or rather put to sleep, the power
to will. If there has not been, in the beginning, a well-drilled
self-control――or will power――how can you expect a girl who flies off
into an unreasonable temper, to immediately control this temper and
keep it under control?

The will power is the rudder of life; the steering control over our
human ship as it voyages on the seas of life. Now if a ship should go
to sea without a rudder, you know just what would happen to it. If it
goes on a voyage with a weak rudder, or one which has been damaged and
not repaired, the best sailor in the world cannot keep it off the rocks
when a storm comes.

It is just so with our brains and bodies; they must be controlled by a
strong and well-attached rudder, the will power. With such a power one
can accomplish wonders; in fact, everything that seems marvelous to us
in man’s work has been due to perfect steering of right impulses into
new harbors where an unsteady human ship would be wrecked in trying to
pass the hidden rocks and roaring reefs.



But just what must one do to get this power?

I have told you something about the body’s poisons, how they accumulate
in the body and cause illness and nervousness. The first thing to do is
to see that your body is free and kept free from these poisons, for if
not kept free, the nerve cells become affected and then a perfect will
power cannot be developed.

Here are a few practical things to do and not to do to keep the nerve
cells so you can develop them. Sleep always alone. Sleeping with
another person is unsanitary. The skin needs to get rid of its natural
poisons and not take up any from another person. You would not think
of breathing the air coming from another person’s lungs. Well, when
you are under the sheets and blankets with another person, you can
breathe through your skin the poisons coming from this companion. If
you have to sleep in a room with another person, you must have your own
little bed. Sleep with as little covering over you as is possible with
comfort; window, of course, as I have warned you, wide open at the top.
You can become accustomed to lighter clothing by gradual methods of
reducing the number of blankets.

No underclothing of a material to absorb and retain perspiration should
ever be worn. If you keep over your skin any clothing which has become
moist through perspiration it will injure your chances of keeping a
good nervous force. Take off such clothing before it becomes soggy and
cold. Then take a sponge bath and put on dry clothing.

Personally, I believe that porous linen underwear is the best for all
growing girls――yes, and for all women. It allows a free evaporation
of perspiration, and so prevents a more or less sodden garment from
remaining in contact with the skin, which so frequently happens with
those who wear woolen underclothing. There is another harmful effect
that woolen underclothing is apt to have; the beginning of a rheumatic
condition which later on in life becomes a painful chronic rheumatism.

In girls who find that in winter linen underwear is too cold, a thin
silk vest may be worn over the linen. This will be found to constitute
a thoroughly warm, comfortable and safe form of underwear.

Don’t try to keep awake either by mental effort or that injurious
resort of drinking coffee. Sleepiness should not be overcome as a
rule, as it is Nature’s signal to stop work. In fact, Nature has
signals for almost all dangers, and when we can read these signals all
goes well along the road of life.

If efforts are continued in spite of the fatigue, the quality of
the work is poor and the exhaustion to your nervous system will
be difficult to repair. High-school girls and college young women
constantly make this error and then wonder why they become so nervous
at times. All sorts of things are tried to keep awake in order to study
or dance, when if they would go to bed and rest, they could accomplish
far more in half the time in the morning with little or no fatigue.
For remember, I am trying to tell you how to get a grip upon that will

Yet there are times when sleepiness and fatigue must be overcome
without resort to stimulants which will surely weaken any will power
you may have been cultivating. These times are when you have to
watch by the bedside of an ill mother or someone dear to you. When
so situated, go to an open window and take deep breathing exercises.
This will burn up the fatigue poisons in your body, for remember these
poisons are gathering in everyone’s body when real fatigue commences.

Morning is the time for all mental work if you are a high-school girl
or college woman. The afternoon should be devoted to some form of mild
exercise and for “low pressure” work.

Shouting, yelling and all extra efforts of the throat muscles will aid
in exhausting your nervous powers, to say nothing about the unpleasant
and unladylike attitude it places you in before the public. A low,
sweet voice, even under excitement, is a sound pleasing to all men and
a certain mark of good birth.

I need not repeat the facts about the advertised “remedies” for this
trouble or that pain, for I have already warned you to let all drugs
and “cures” alone as you would snakes. But there are some drinks that
you should be warned against. Never take those soda water fountain’s
stuff advertised as “nerve tonics.” Don’t believe the young man or boy
at the fountain when he says that “Dopie” or “Bromo Tonic,” “Phosphate
for your Nerves,” or “Dockine” and other similar rotten stuff will do
you good and that they contain no drugs or injurious materials. Don’t
believe a word of all these misleading statements. The boy or young man
is there to sell, not to understand or care about your condition.

If such stomach wash and nerve destroyers contain no drugs, then what
good are they? If they contain nothing but plain water charged with
carbonic acid gas, then why not take a glass of plain seltzer or
soda water? Supposing, for example, these advertised drinks do not
contain harmful drugs――most of them do, however――they are colored
and sweetened. What are they colored with? What is the chemical that
sweetens them? If you really knew you would be unable to keep them
down, the knowledge of how they are concocted would be revolting to you.

These restrictions do not apply to pure soda water and pure syrups, but
even here you must be careful to drink only those which are pure, and
only the very best drug stores are safe in this matter.

Most of the bottled drinks sold at five cents should be thrown into
the sewers, and how many diseased lips do you think have touched the
glasses passed around at the circus and similar shows? Those glasses
containing dyed water, a little chemical acid and glucose, with
second-hand lemon peel to give the appearance of lemonade, are almost
as dangerous as the fangs of a viper.

Don’t dress in a loud and gaudy manner unless you wish to attract the
men of loud and loose principles. The personal appearance of a girl
makes a great difference in the manner she will be received. To dress
in good taste and with every appearance of neatness and modesty, is
essential for the girl who seeks employment or respectful attentions.
Good taste in dressing simply means that a man can say that the girl
was well dressed, but to save his life he could not tell just what
she had on for clothes or hat. The dressing of the feet is, perhaps,
the first thing a refined and cultivated man looks at. To be well and
sensibly shod is always a hall mark of good birth and cultivation. The
girl who wears thin shoes on a wet and cold day, the young woman who
displays high-heeled shoes and thin silk stockings on a winter’s day,
may attract attention, but not respect. A man well knows that if a girl
wears a fur coat and low shoes on the street, she will, as a wife, be
continually complaining of her indisposition, pains and altogether make
his home a place to flee.

No man wants a nervous and complaining woman around his house, and a
girl who thinks she is attractive on the street is not the girl who
will be attractive in a home. That is, one who dresses her feet for the
street in the manner they should be dressed for the house or ballroom
proclaims herself a careless girl and one who is not liable to take
care of her health.

You have heard much about psychotherapy, suggestion and a lot about
certain Movements in church circles. These all proclaim an infallible
remedy for “Nerves.” There is a lot of nonsense written about this
mental method of healing the nervous and soul-sick person, and, on
the other hand, there has been a lot of scoffing at it. There is more
in the drilling of our inner selves than the old-time physician has
been willing to admit; he has so long been accustomed to consider
woman a physical being of bones, flesh and whims, that her real inner
self has been sadly neglected. The consequence has been that a number
of well-meaning and progressive men have taken up the treatment of
troubles without understanding just what relation the gross bodily
organs and nerve cells bear to this inner self which we all possess. I
shall not bother you with any digression, but get at once to what you
can do for yourselves in this matter.

Start early to get inside of yourself; to get at that self which so
bothers you at times; the thing which makes you “feel out of sorts,”
that “getting mad with yourself;” the feeling that you have not said
or done just what you would like to have said or done, but which some
uncontrollable impulse, at the moment, made you say and do. This is
the inner self, but it belongs to all the other parts of your body; is
really the best part of you and will be able to put out the best in you
when you have it under full control.

Take a half hour at the time when you can be alone and see into
yourself. Search well your heart and learn just what you said or did
that you regret. Then find out what caused you to be disagreeable,
what has put you out with your better self. Write these thoughts and
desires down where you can privately refer to them daily. Take the
first mistake and stick to the memory of it so that, when the impulse
comes to repeat it, you can check yourself. Drilling yourself this
way, you will soon learn to conquer this one fault. Then start in the
same way at another fault and conquer that. Don’t try to exercise all
the powers of resistance at once, for if you do, there are bound to
be failures and too many of these make for discouragement, and then
follows recklessness. You would not try to develop a weak back by going
from an apparatus meant to develop the thighs to another one for the
chest, and then back again for a few moments to that for strengthening
the back muscles. No, you stick to the work which develops the back
until you have made some decided progress. The inner self, the will,
the good girl in you, should be developed in the same way.

You want to go to a dance or perhaps the theater, “all the other girls
are going,” but your mother has good and sufficient reasons for not
allowing you to go. Now, instead of arguing, complaining and going off
to your room in a huff, saying unkind words to your good mother, words
which tear and gnaw at her heart, speak to that inner self; call it
out; go to your room and peer straight into the trouble with YOU, not
that wrong idea that the fault is with your mother.

Think deeply of this fact; she is your mother, nothing that would
add to your pleasure or advantage would she deprive you of――not for
an instant. But as your mother she knows what is best for you; she
may know something about the other girls, about the kind of youths
going with them, she may know something about your health that is not
advisable to tell you just at the moment. In your room think all these
matters over; throw out that unreasonable and false self, and when you
have done so, go to your mother, ask her forgiveness and also beg her
to tell you her reasons.

Now that your inner self is in control, your mother will tell you
confidentially her reasons, and when they are clear to you, the
happiness which follows is far beyond any mere physical pleasure you
can ever obtain. After a few times of this self-drilling, the obedience
to your mother will be a second nature.

Still more fights with your inner self will have to follow, but one by
one, you can conquer the enemy. Never become discouraged if you fail,
just keep on trying and in the end you will win over all evil and wrong

A girl who disobeys her mother or father is the girl who as a wife will

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Online LibraryWilliam Lee HowardConfidential Chats with Girls → online text (page 5 of 7)