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Full text of "Man In The Modern World"

MAN IN THE MODERN  WORLD
has not yet been analysed physiologically, it would appear that the
normal lack of conflict between instincts which we have just been dis-
cussing is due to some similar type of nervous mechanism in the brain.
When we reach the human level, there are new complications; for,
as we have seen, one of the peculiarities of man is the abandonment
of any rigidity of instinct, and the provision of association-mechanisms
by which any activity of the mind, whether in the spheres of knowing,
feeling, or willing, can be brought into relation with any other. It is
through this that man has acquired the possibility of a unified mental
life. But, by the same token, the door is opened to the forces of dis-
ruption, which may destroy any such unity and even prevent him
from enjoying the efficiency of behaviour attained by animals. For,
as Sherrington has emphasized, the nervous system is like a funnel,
with a much larger space for intake than for outflow. The intake
cone of the funnel is represented by the receptor nerves, conveying
impulses inward to the central nervous system from the sense-organs:
the outflow tube is, then, through the effector nerves, conveying
impulses outwards to the muscles, and there are many more of the
former than of the latter. If we like to look at the matter from a
rather different standpoint, we may say that, since action can be
effected only by muscles (strictly speaking, also by the glands, which
are disregarded here for simplicity's sake), and since there are a
limited number of muscles in the body, the only way for useful activity
to be carried out is for the nervous system to impose a particular
pattern of action on them, and for all other competing or opposing
patterns to be cut out. Each pattern, when it has seized control of the
machinery of action, should be in supreme command, like the captain
of a ship. Animals are, in many ways, like ships which are com-
manded by a number of captains in turn, each specializing in one
kind of action, and popping up and down between the authority of
the bridge and the obscurity of their private cabins according to the
business on hand. Man is on the way to achieving permanent unity
of command, but the captain has a disconcerting way of dissolving
into a wrangling committee.
Even on the new basis, however, mechanisms exist for minimizing
conflict. They are what are known by psychologists as suppression
and repression. From our point of view, repression is the more inter-
esting. It implies the forcible imprisonment of one of two conflicting
impulses in the dungeons of the unconscious mind. The metaphor
is, however, imperfect. For the prisoner in the mental dungeon can
continue to influence the tyrant above in the daylight of conscious-
ness. In addition to a general neurosis, compulsive thoughts and acts
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