CHAPTER VIII:  The Source of Damage

We get hurt.

Just that, we get hurt.

Very early in life the first time, and repeatedly after that, we meet experiences of distress. When we meet one—whether the distress is physical (pain, illness, unconsciousness, anaesthesia, sedation, acute discomfort, etc.) or whether it is emotional distress (loss, fright, frustration, ridicule, boredom, etc.)—a particular effect takes place.

While hurting, physically or emotionally, our flexible human intelligence stops functioning.

The ability that is the essence of our humanness, our ability to see things as they are exactly and to contrive new exact responses to all new situations, is slowed down or becomes inoperative.

This is a simple, profound and important statement. It is a long-unfaced key to much that has been confusing about a human being’s activities. You will find that it sheds light into many dark puzzles about ourselves.

When I and my associates first realized, about two and a half years after we began the work that led to this descriptive model of a human, that we could actually generalize to this point, that we found no data that conflicted with this impression of a general principle, we were very excited.

We have remained excited, as this statement’s validity and importance have become more and more apparent. Yet, curiously enough, once seen, this general principle turns out to be part of the intuitive store of knowledge of our population. It reveals itself in descriptive phrases with which we are all familiar and which we all use to describe the effects of a distress experience.

Do these phrases seem familiar to you?

“I was scared out of my wits!”

“She was out of her mind with pain.”

“He was so mad he couldn’t hit the ground with his hat.”

“She seemed to be in a fog for months after her mother died.”

“You’d better take the rest of the day off. You’re so upset, you’ll only make mistakes, anyway.”

Give your attention to any one of these familiar statements. (There are many more just as familiar.) Each is a remarkably accurate description of a particular case of the general phenomenon—we can’t think intelligently while we are in distress.

This is a disadvantage, of course. We would much prefer to have “presence of mind” (note the intuitive accuracy of the familiar phrase) while distresses are occurring.

Temporary loss of intelligence is only the beginning of the mischief, however. Something even more serious and consequential ensues.

Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00