The Prevention of Insanity: Mans Power Over Himself to Prevent Insanity.
Most persons who have suffered from the malady of thought must at one period or other of their lives have had a feeling that it would not be a hard matter to become insane, that in fact something of an effort was required to preserve their sanity. To those in whose blood a tendency to insanity runs this effort must without doubt be a sustained and severe one, being no less in some instances than a continual struggle to oppose the strong bent of their being. How far then is a man responsible for going mad? This is a question which has not been much considered; yet it is one well worthy of deep consideration; for it is certain that a man has, or might have, some power over himself to prevent insanity. [Authors note: More than twenty years ago, a small volume, entitled 'Man's Power over Himself to prevent or control Insanity," was published. It contained the substance of two lectures given at the Royal Institution, by the late Reverend John Barlow, and was one of a series of Small Books on Great Subjects.] However it be brought about, it is the dethronement of will, the loss of the power of co-ordinating the ideas and feelings; and in the wise development of the control of will over the thoughts and feelings there is a power in ourselves which makes strongly for sanity. [...] A great purpose earnestly pursued through life, a purpose to the achievement of which the energies of the individual have been definitely bent, and which has, therefore, involved much renunciation and discipline of self, has perhaps been a saving labour to the one, while the absence of such a life-aim, whether great in itself or great to the individual in the self-discipline which its pursuit entailed, may have left the other without a sufficiently powerful motive to self-government, and so have opened the door to the perturbed streams of thought and feeling which make for madness.