If you will a bodily movement and that movement immediately follows, you are certainly justified in concluding that your mind has caused the bodily movement. Every conscious, voluntary movement that you make, and you are making thousands of them every hour, is a distinct example of mind activity causing bodily action. In fact, the very will to make any bodily movement is nothing more nor less than a mental state.
The will to do a thing is simply the belief, the conviction, that the appropriate bodily movement is about to occur. The whole scientific world is agreed on this. For example, in order to bend your forefinger do you first think it over, then deliberately put forth some special form of energy? Not at all: The very thought of bending the finger, if unhindered by conflicting ideas, is enough to bend it. Note this general law: The idea of any bodily action tends to produce the action. This conception of thought as impellent – that is to say, as impelling bodily activity – is of absolutely fundamental importance.
Swing a locket in front of you, holding the end of the chain with both hands. You will soon see that it will swing in harmony with your thoughts. If you think of a circle, it will swing around in a circle. If you think of the movement of a pendulum, the locket will swing back and forth.
These experiments not only illustrate the impelling energy of thought and its power to induce bodily action, but they indicate also that the bodily effects of mental action are not limited to bodily movements that are conscious and voluntary. The fact is, every mental state whether you consider it as involving an act of the will or not, is followed some kind of bodily effect, and every bodily action is preceded by some distinct kind of mental activity. From the practical science point of view every thought causes its particular bodily effects.
This is true of simple sensations. It is true of impulses, ideas and emotions. It is true of pleasures and pains. It is true of conscious mental activity. It is true of unconscious mental activity. It is true of the whole range of mental life.
Since the mental conditions that produce bodily effects are not limited to those mental conditions in which there is a conscious exercise of the will, it follows that the bodily effects produced by mental action are not limited to movements of what are known as the voluntary muscles.
On the contrary, they include changes and movements in all of the so-called involuntary muscles, and in every kind of bodily structure. They include changes and movements in every part of the physical organism, from changes in the action of heart, lungs, stomach, liver and other viscera, to changes in the secretions of glands and in the caliber of the tiniest blood-vessels. A few instances such as are familiar to the introspective experience of everyone will illustrate the scope of the mind’s control over the body.
Emotion always causes numerous and intense bodily effects. Furious anger may cause frowning brows, grinding teeth, contracted jaws, clenched fists, panting breath, growling cries, bright redness of the face or sudden paleness. None of these effects is voluntary; we may not even be conscious of them.
Adapted from Psychology and Achievement by Warren Hilton, 2004
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