We spoke before about such problems as muscle tension and spasm being due to a continuous tension maintained by the central nervous system. In other words, instead of there being just occasional impulses going to the part of the body that is in tension, the impulses tend to run continuously. Thus a condition of the body can be maintained by the nervous system alone. This, however, is the job of the endocrine glands. They function to provide steady, continuous conditions of the organism. They produce overall changes in general activity in the same way that the nerves produce intermittent types of activity. A disease of muscle tension that occurs in the presence of certain stimuli is there because there was a tension present at the time of some sensitizing event or at the time of a series of conditioning events. The tension is produced because the nerves to the muscle are functioning abnormally. Through the rules of negative conditioning, then, this may become more and more pronounced with each new trial. In the same fashion an interruption of the normal secretory patterns of an endocrine gland by negatively programmed events may also sow the seed for future dysfunction. Let's see how this might happen in a particular case.
Let us imagine that Betty has parents who, for some reason, are sensitive to any noise or activity above a certain level. Each time Betty begins to play and becomes very active or loud, her mother and father come in, yell at her, and tell her to go to bed. Thus several stimuli are becoming linked with a reflex in which enthusiastic activity causes an increase in tension, such as that which is experienced when the child is punished. Later on, then, being very active is associated with increased fear, and thus, through avoidance programming, the child becomes trained to be less and less active.
The gland controlling overall bodily activity is the thyroid gland. As this conditioning grows stronger and stronger through the years, the overall program, which the mind is carrying out, becomes less active. The way the body generally carries out the commands to become less active is to decrease the output of thyroid hormone. By the time Betty has reached twenty or thirty years of age, the program may be strong enough that its effects are noticed, and she may go to a doctor to learn that she has an underactive thyroid gland.
Other situations might cause an individual to develop an overactive gland. Graves' disease (thyrotoxicosis) is a malfunction of the endocrine system in which huge amounts of thyroid hormone are released into the bloodstream by the thyroid. This release is believed by many to be because of overactivity of the pituitary gland, which controls the thyroid. The pituitary, in turn, is controlled by way of the hypothalamus, a higher center in the brain. In many studies patients with hyperthyroidism relate the onset to major emotional or traumatic crises in their lives (that is, stressful situations that tell the unconscious that it should do something). Some of the symptoms seem like a prolonged negative (escape) response: elevated metabolic rate, increased sweating, diarrhea, rapid heartbeat, tremor, and apprehensiveness. Perhaps the unconscious believes that the crisis is here to stay and so it develops a lasting glandular alteration.
Or let us say that Betty, at the age of three years, discovers that she feels a pleasurable sensation when she plays with her clitoris. As she is experiencing this joyous new discovery, she is discovered by her prudish mother, who becomes horrified and spanks her, telling her she is a bad girl and forcing her to wash her hands and go to bed. Thus there is an association of the functioning of the sexual glands and the sexual parts of the body with the feeling of tension. As Betty grows older and finds herself becoming interested in boys, her mother's attitude makes itself felt in her life. All her endeavors to meet and go out with boys are greeted with maternal disapproval, leading to tension on Betty's part. In other words, whenever the sexual glands are functioning normally, which includes stimulating the body, there is an associated tension. As both a child and as a teenager, then, the activity of Betty's sexual glands and the sexual parts of Betty's body are being disturbed.