"THE MENTAL HIGHWAY
Lessons in Academic & Applied Psychology"
Thomas Parker Boyd
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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.
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
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.
First Steps in Mental Life
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.
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
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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
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."
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.
Mind and Body
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.
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.
have no such
relationship. We cannot think of a state of consciousness having
connection with space, save perhaps in a symbolical way.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.