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Phineas Parkhurst Quimby: His Complete Writings and Beyond

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About Patients—A Case: A Divorced Lady

I will tell you how a patient whom I was sitting with affected me. It was a lady who had been divorced from her husband because she said he was so ugly she could not live with him. At the time I first saw her I told her of the fact and tried to convince her it was a disease, that her husband really loved her and his fears for her health made her nervous. This she could not believe for she said he ill-treated her and she knew he was bad. Now this was the fact. They both loved each other at the time they were married; this she acknowledged and they continued to love and respect each other till the lady was confined when, as she said, she took cold and was very sick. Then her husband turned against her, tried to kill her and reported all sorts of stories about her till she could bear it no longer. At last she lost all patience, lost confidence in her husband, forsook his bed and would not have anything to do with him. This story she believed to be true and so it was. But the cause she knew not. Her husband, getting out of all patience, forsook her and tried to get divorced; this was mutual.

Now all the above was real, but it was brought about from love and fear. Her sickness caused her husband's fear for her life. His fear excited her love, making her nervous; she put a false construction on his fears thinking he did not love her, for his love when she was well did not excite her fears and her trouble wanted someone to relieve her. His fears for her health made her worse. So that the more he would try to please her, the more he tormented her, till each one's love turned to hatred. At last they were divorced; then she was happy she said. But as she got rid of her husband, the disease or the insane idea attached itself to her own identity in the form of disease of the eye. So that at the time I speak of, she gave me to understand that she was then perfectly happy, with the exception of her eye. But I saw the same idea of insanity that kept her nervous and always will in some way or other. It was so plain to me that the idea took form and displayed itself to me in so simple a way that no one would ever detect it by her conversation. But it was so plain to me that I sat down and reduced the whole to writing, so that it should not depart from me, for it gave me wisdom that may be of value to mankind. It is to me and I will relate it.

Her love, she always considered as pure towards her husband. His love to her was impure and although it was not pure, yet she always would admit that he loved her a little, although she never wished him to but wanted to get clear and never could. So her insane idea was in this discord and it showed itself in some way, so that persons seeing and talking with her could not detect it in anything she would say; but she would always produce some sort of an impression that would excite those who talked with her. They never could know what it was, but their feelings would affect her and keep her nervous, so that she carried the idea of insanity all the time. At the time I am now speaking of, it showed itself in two large roses: one white and the other red, both on one side of her bonnet, the white above the red, showing her own love as pure white and the husband's as red or bloody. This I could see and the impression made on me almost frightened me for an instant, for I could see what was insanity and how it might be avoided.

Insanity consists in some little discord that might be corrected if the person knew it; it is brought on by the disturbance of the world's opinion. I will tell you how it comes. I have told you how this lady's came and I will tell you how to correct it. But before I correct it, I must make it or show what it is made of. This puts me in mind of two patients I had, both with symptoms alike as far as they knew. Both belonged to the same church; both complained of the same feelings; one was a farmer and the other was a doctor. Each admitted to a heaven and hell independent of themselves. The farmer's ambition led him only to leading a life so that he should get into heaven and his trouble was in steering his life and acts so that he should not burn up in hell. And as his ambition was for this world's goods, it acted like a current that he had to stem, so it made him nervous and kept him all the time uneasy. This nervousness showed itself in his body and was called by the doctors a trouble about the heart and congestion of the lungs. His wisdom was directed to heaven with hell on the starboard bow. This engrossed all his wisdom and talent to land safe in heaven when the storm of life was over.

The doctor was another character. He had more acquisitiveness and sagacity and his wisdom was not directed so much to heaven or hell as the farmer's, but he kept both in sight as though he would give his attention to that at a more convenient time. He wanted to examine into all things of this world, so as he was a doctor, he wanted to see how disease was made, what it was made of and how it was put together. He was looking at the errors of the world as real things. But the farmer had no curiosity to know how anything was made. He wanted to get into heaven, so he was more likely to get off the globe first, for he did not stop to examine anything as the doctor did. The doctor after examining all things here would steer for foreign parts and as heaven is his last place of destination, he will not be satisfied till he goes all through hell to see how that is constructed. And if he is able to see out after he gets in, I have no doubt of his reaching heaven. Now here are two characters: one ignorance and the other error. Ignorance embraces the largest class of mankind. Error is more active, but shows the wisdom of this world, and is called by the farmer or ignorance, very strong-minded men of great power.

Now there is another class not known by ignorance, called the inventive class. This is not so numerous as the other two classes but has more sagacity than both. This class creates and destroys. They can create a thing and present it to the two above classes, who will think it as real as their own existence. They use their powers of invention for their own benefit and make their money out of the other two classes. There is still another class, just like the last, with this exception: they show the error and ignorance how they are deceived, show them how to tear down all their ideas and bring all things on a level. This is the class that can create and destroy and teach others to do the same. This last class cannot be insane, for insanity is the invention of the natural man and can be destroyed by the scientific man.

November 1860

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