Sunday, October 23, 2016

Book Review: The Psychology of Relaxation

I fell upon 'The Psychology of Relaxation by George Thomas White Patrick' while on the search for a good answer for the question 'Why people drink'. This book begins with a discussion on the importance of relaxation and how the American society is laboring to promote such opportunities. There is, the book says, “a need to think more deeply on the whole subject of work and play”. This may be a world problem of the present age, and that “perhaps great social questions may be involved”.
“An age of great activity”, the author notes, shall result in “(i) an increase of wealth, culture, and refinement, followed by a marked increase of population; (ii) a movement of the people toward the large cities; and (iii) a displacement of the higher types of people by the lower, followed by an increase of crime, vagabondage, suicide, and feeble-mindedness.” Which is what is leading to rapid and extreme fatigue of the higher brain and an unusual and imperative demand for rest and relaxation, as the author posits.
Though we have various means already available for rest and relaxation, in sleep, play, sport, laughter, etc., the demands made upon the working brain are in excess of the powers of repair provided by these natural means of relaxation. The author then examines various theories of play (Spencer, Groos, Recapitulation) and compares them critically.
The author then examines the craving for narcotic drugs, tobacco, and alcohol, and also recreation crazes. “The rhythm of moral and social progress probably follows the same law. Periods of rapid progress are followed by periods of rest and relaxation”. Hence we are shocked routinely by waves of vice and epidemics of immorality. We hear suddenly of conditions of astonishing laxity of morals in certain areas, which are supposed to be models of propriety, and we say that the world is going to the bad. But our judgment is too hasty; these are only signs of progress.
An examination of the theories of laughter comes next. (Laughter is due to sudden release from a strained and tense situation, it is due to subconscious satisfaction, etc) Laughter in grown-ups is identified as the accompaniment of the relief of Inner tension, a momentary escape from social rigors back to primeval freedom. This is followed by insight into swearing, asseverations and kinds of profanity, sounds or words that are most terrifying.
The universal desire for alcohol is examined in the end, asking a pertinent question in this regard, why men desire alcohol. All societies take efforts for its moderation, but instead of a decrease in the consumption of alcohol, what is seen is a steady increase. If play tires us, with activity, alcohol does it with inactivity. And one more variable enters here - human intelligence. Intelligence, originally intended as a motor center for hand, foot, and the muscles of the trunk, has now become a center for thought and sustained effort. We constantly find excitement in our use of brain. “If the men of the ancient world could come to life again, their first impression, you may be sure, would be that mankind had gone mad”, says author, and we continue exploring the creative power of human consciousness.
This book conceals an original thought. Use of creative power of the brain, for inventing new avenues for relaxation. Which can give a fitting rationale to the widespread and unceasing activity, the human society always is seized of. We are working, to find new ways to relax!
The book also points to inadequacy in our appreciation of the role of alcohol in human society. Which is giving credence to the ideas I have expressed in this regard, through my book 'The Unsure Male'. (That alcohol is of great use to humans, as a digression)