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قراءة كتاب Applied Psychology for Nurses

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‏اللغة: English
Applied Psychology for Nurses

Applied Psychology for Nurses

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 7

vast subconscious material of all experience—rises into view and relates itself through the senses to an outside world. We speak very glibly of motion, of force, of power. We say “The car is moving now.” But how do we know? Away back there in our babyhood there were some things that always remained in the same place, while others changed position. The changing gave our baby minds a queer sensation; it made a definite impression; and sometimes we heard people say “move,” when that impression came. Finally, we call the feeling of that change “move,” or “movement,” or “motion.” The word thereafter always brings to our minds a picture of a change from one place to another. The process—the slow comprehending of the baby mind—was buried in forgetfulness even at the time. But had not the subconscious been imprinted with the incident and all its succeeding associations, that particular phenomenon we could not name today. It would be an entirely unique experience. So our recognition of the impression is merely the rising into consciousness of the subconscious material in response to a stimulus from the outside world which appeals through the sense of sight. We can get no response whatever except as the stimulus asking our attention is related by “like” or “not like” something already experienced; that is, it must bear some relation to the known—and perhaps forgotten—just as the island cannot be, except as, from far down below, the sea-floor leaves its bed and raises itself through the deeps. The visible island is but a symbol of the submarine mountain. The present mental impression is but proof of a great bulk of past experiences.

And so we might carry on the figure and compare the birth of consciousness to the instant of appearance of the mountain top above the water’s surface. It is not a new bit of land. It is only emerging into a new world.

“But,” you ask, “do you mean to assert that the baby’s mind is a finished product at birth; that coming into life is simply the last stage of its growth? How unconvincing your theory is.”

No, we only now have the soil for consciousness. The island and the submarine mountain are different things. The sea-floor is transformed when it enters into the new element. An entirely different vegetation takes place on this visible island than took place on the floor of the sea before it emerged. But the only new elements added to the hitherto submerged land come from the new atmosphere, and the sea-floor immediately begins to become a very different thing. Nevertheless, what it is as an island is now, and forever will be due, primarily, to its structure as a submarine mountain. In the new atmosphere the soil is changed, new chemical elements enter in, seeds are brought to it by the four winds—and it is changed. But it is still the sea-floor transformed.

Just so the baby brain, complete in parts and mechanism at birth, is a different brain with every day of growth in its new environment, with every contact with the external world. But it is, primarily and in its elements, the brain evolved through thousands of centuries of pushing up to man’s level through the sea of animal life, and hundreds of centuries more of the development of man’s brain to its present complete mechanism through experience with constantly changing environment.

Hence, when the baby sees light and responds by tightly shutting his eyes, then later by opening them to investigate, his sensation is what it is because through the aëons of the past man has established a certain relation to light through experiencing it. To go further than this, and to find the very beginning, how the first created life came to respond to environment at all, is to go beyond the realm of the actually known. But that he did once first experience his environment, and establish a reaction that is now racial, we know.

So our baby soon shows certain “instinctive” reactions. He reaches out to grasp. He sucks, he cries, he looks at light and bright objects in preference to dark, he is carrying out the history of his race, but is making it personal. He has evolved a new life, but all his ancestors make its foundation. The personal element, added to his heritage, has made him different from any and all of his forebears. But he can have no consciousness except as a bit from the vast inherited accumulation of the past of his ancestors, of all the race, steps forth to meet a new environment.

And again you ask, “How came the first consciousness?”

And again I answer, “It is as far back as the first created or evolved organism which could respond in any way to a material world; and only metaphysics and the God behind metaphysics can say.”

We only know that careful laboratory work in psychology—experiments on the unconscious—today prove that our conscious life is what it is, because of: first, what is stored away in the unconscious (i. e., what all our past life and the past life of the race has put there); second, because of what we have accepted from our environment; and this comprises our material, intellectual, social, and spiritual environment.

Consciousness is Complex

The one fact we want at this stage of our inquiry is simply this: that consciousness, awaking at birth, very soon becomes complex. However single and simple in content immediate consciousness may be, it is so intimately linked with all preceding experience that a pure sensation is probably never known after the first second of life. As the sensation is registered it becomes a basis for comparison. That first sensation, perhaps, was just a feeling of something. The next is a feeling of something that is the same, or is not the same, as the first. So immediately perception is established. The baby consciousness recognizes that the vague feeling is, or is not, that same thing. And from perception to a complex consciousness of perceptions, of ideas, of memories and relations, and judgments, is so short a step that we cannot use our measuring rods to span it.

Thus through the various stages of life, from infancy to maturity, the conscious is passing into the unconscious, only to help form later a new conscious thought. Hence the conscious thought is determined by the great mass of the unconscious, plus the external world.

But every thought, relegated to the unconscious, through its association there—for it is plastic by nature—comes back to consciousness never quite the same, and meets never quite the same stimulus. And as a result a repeated mental experience is never twice exactly the same. So the conscious becomes the unconscious and the unconscious the conscious, and neither can be without the other.

Our problem is to understand the workings of the mind as it exists today, and to try to find some of its most constructive uses; and on that we shall focus attention. To that end we must first examine the various ways in which consciousness expresses itself.

We have recognized two distinct mental states—the conscious and the unconscious—and have found them constantly pressing each on the other’s domain. Our study of consciousness reveals the normal in the aspects of sleeping and waking, also various abnormal states. Consciousness may become excited, depressed, confused, delirious, or insane. We shall consider later some of the mental workings that account for these abnormal expressions. At present let us examine the mind’s