In the history of man we have passed the stage of overcoming our natural environment. We no longer fear for food or shelter. We have paused, and have come to examine ourselves a little. We see evidence of our growing introspection in the great demand for psychology courses in our schools and universities the introspective nature of modern literature and drama and the subjective quality of modern abstract art. We are examining ourselves, and this is all to the good. But with it we are becoming preoccupied with our own minds and what is going on in them. Unless this increased introspection is accompanied by increased understanding, it leads to greater vulnerability to psychological stresses. Every psychiatrist must see this daily in his practice. Stresses which would otherwise go unheeded become magnified by our own introspection. A common clinical example is the way in which many women keep examining and pondering over their own sexual responsiveness. This almost invariably is the result of introspection after reading popular psychology, and it does little but increase the patient’s anxiety and so further reduces her emotional response in the matter about which she has become so concerned.
The same may occur in relation to pain. The individual who has become excessively introspective keeps examining his sensations. Minor painful stimuli which would ordinarily go unnoticed are brought into clear focus by his introspection. As a result there is a general lowering of the pain threshold, which is just the reverse of what we are aiming for in this study.