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“Have we lived too fast?”

May 9, 2022

This is the question the physician S. Weir Mitchell fretted in his 1871 book “Wear and Tear, or Hints for the Overworked”

He glorified earlier settlers who “lived sturdily by their own hands,” and who didn’t have “the thousand intricate problems … which perplex those who struggle to-day in our teeming city hives.”

Mitchell and George Beard, a neurologist who coined the term neurasthenia in 1869, saw the disease as a direct consequence of modern life.

Neurasthenia took these age-old problems of happiness and comfort and medicalized them.

Then neurasthenia was a fashionable disease, and a lot of writers and artists embraced it with a passion.— National Geographic, 19 Aug. 2016.

Variously described as shattered nerves, nervous collapse, neurasthenia, or nervous breakdown, the illness was the focus of extensive medical discussion during the Victorian and Edwardian decades. Few doctors could decide whether the nervous breakdown was a physiological disorder, to be cured by medication, or a moral weakness for which the patient needed psychiatric care.

A Disorder of Qi: Breathing Exercise as a Cure for Neurasthenia in Japan, 1900–1945

Neurasthenia became a common disease and caused widespread concern in Japan at the turn of the twentieth century, whereas only a couple of decades earlier the term “nerve” had been unfamiliar, if not unknown, to many Japanese. By exploring the theories and practices of breathing exercise—one of the most popular treatments for neurasthenia at the time -people who practiced breathing exercises for their nervous ills perceived, conceived, and accordingly cared for their nerves.  Yu-Chuan Wu

Mirbeau’s novel offers trenchant satire that will endure.

Neurasthenic, written in 1901, receives a modern translation from Justin Vicari. Mirbeau wrote his acerbic satire of French hypocrisies on the heels of two other groundbreaking novels, The Torture Garden (1899) and Dairy of a Chambermaid (1900).

Vicari likens Mirbeau’s scorched earth satire to Aristophanes, Jonathan Swift, Louis-Ferdinand Céline, and William S. Burroughs. Those familiar with the “dark poetry” of Bill Hicks and the stand-up of George Carlin would appreciate the mean-spirited drubbing Mirbeau gives this Boschian tableau of human awfulness. Karl Wolff

Happy perusing this condition folk, also called ‘Americanitis‘: The Disease of Living Too Fast.

  1. I had not heard of this condition before. However, it makes a great deal of sense. The very thought that proper breath techniques can bring relief says something powerful…life is breath.
    Thank you!

    • Oh i just love how you conclude is just powerful Poet, thank you.
      Yes, the word sparked my interst when reading on another nerve topic, so I decided to explore the condition.
      Always a cherry on the cake when on comes across an author who wrote about it and analysing society using satire.
      Thank you for passing by.
      Happy Monday to you.

  2. Timothy Price permalink

    The world keeps getting faster and there are lots of shattered nerves these days.

    • Yes, you right, people are chasing and chasing, a dream, or their dreams and alot of times we spin out of control. It’s a global condition.

  3. I really didn’t know anything about it before your blog! Now life is faster so people are suffering from many diseases. Well shared 🙂

    • Thank you for reading. The word caught my attention and I was quite amazed to find that the conditiom it was/is explored neuroligical journals

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