Laws of emotion
Because my view of psychotherapy for nervousness deals more with emotion, and less with logic or consciousness, I must add a little more explanation about emotion. Let's begin with the laws or facts about emotion.
The first law: if an emotion is left alone it will follow a course of rising, falling, and disappearing.
- As proof, past experiments using my bed rest therapy show that if one endures worries or agonies as they are, they will gradually disappear in due course.
One old saying goes "If you think of having a quarrel, it is advisable to continue thinking first for three days before beginning." This first law is the application of the notion that anger or any emotion will disappear in a few days.
- Again, the fact that when one is sad, one cries out so as to release the sadness, or when one gets mad, one shouts to dispel one's rage indicates that if the emotion is expressed or let out it will subside suddenly. In accordance with the second law to follow, it seems that the behavior released the emotion and allows this natural process.
William James reversed the sequence of sorrow and the facial expression by saying "We do not weep because we feel sad, but we feel sad because we weep. " However, I think it appropriate to conclude that the weeping expression and the personal awareness of sadness only look different because they are seen from objective and subjective viewpoints. In fact they should be regarded as identical phenomena. So an expressed emotion may go away naturally."
The second law: if the need underlying an emotion is satisfied, the feeling will quickly subside and disappear.
- This is evidenced by the fact that hunger pangs disappear when one eats and that marriage results from love. In an attempt to escape from suffering, neurotic patients may complain or act impulsively. This may produce temporary relief, but when they come to their senses they feel regretful for what they have done, resulting in an actual increase of anguish. Therefore, it is advisable for them to learn how to bear up under emotion and control their impulses.
- In contrast, weak-willed people lack a moral sense of regret and restraint which the shinkeishitsu neurotics have. Weak-willed people obtain pleasure by releasing feelings through impulsive behavior and, the more they indulge, the more pleasure they feel until they lose all control over the impulse.
The third law: as one becomes accustomed to a feeling it becomes less intense and unnoticed.
- For example, one will feel neither cold nor hot as one becomes accustomed to cold or heat. Alternatively, if children are scolded very often, they will get used to such scolding and eventually ignore it. The object of the cold-water bathing imposed on neurotic patients serves to accustom them to unpleasant sensations and so helps them endure heavy feelings in the head or other discomfort so that the anguish will disappear.
So far I have described the conditions under which emotions may diminish or disappear. Now we turn to the conditions under which emotions are extended or strengthened.
The fourth law: The emotions will be strengthened when stimuli continue and attention is paid to them. Related to this law is the idea that some feelings get stronger after they surface.
- For example, a quarrel gradually escalates and anger-producing stimuli continue to pour forth. If attention was focused only on the beginning words that triggered the quarrel the anger wouldn't likely escalate so much. As patients with nervousness complain in detail about their symptoms or suffering to their families or to other people their attention directed toward their symptoms increases. Moreover, they hold a grudge against others for their lack of sympathy, further exacerbating the symptoms. Therefore, I always forbid neurotic patients to complain about their symptoms to their families.
The fifth law: an emotion is attained by a new experience; repeating the experience will develop the emotion more fully.
- It is demonstrated, for example, by the fact that one can only know the taste of something by eating or drinking it, or one can get to know the pleasures of a hobby by carrying it out.
- We can only obtain courage and self-confidence by repeating experiences of endeavor and success. As we become accustomed to discomfort we can be building pleasurable feelings through successful behavior.
In contrast, a person becomes more timid or servile by repeatedly making mistakes and failures because he is responding only to the discomfort accompanying those experiences. These matters are most important in this experiential therapy for nervousness.
The essence of nervousness and therapy.