PHYSICAL EXERCISES TO ACQUIRE POISE
Before preparing oneself by the exercise of reasoning and will-power for
the acquisition of poise, it is vitally necessary to make oneself
physically fit for the effort to be undertaken.
One should begin with this fundamental principle:
Timidity being a disease one must treat it just as one would any other
Like all other physical maladies it is sure to be the cause of
social prestige to those who suffer from it.
It must then be combated in the same way as any other infirmity of long
standing that threatens to ruin the life of the sufferer.
It is a grave mistake to consider it merely a mental ailment that can be
alleviated by nothing but psychological treatment.
One's nervous condition plays a very large part in the conquest of
We must, therefore, watch most carefully over the good health of the
body before taking any measures whatever to abolish a condition of
affairs that has been engendered by physical weakness and that will be
fostered by it unless such weakness can be eradicated or more or less
dissipated and ameliorated by a thousand little daily acts of care.
It must be understood that we are not now speaking of medical treatment.
We have reference merely to that common-sense hygiene which has become
more or less a part of modern existence, and the daily practise of
which, while firmly establishing the health, has at the same time an
undoubted reflex action upon the mind. It is a well-known fact that
energy is never found in a weakened body, and that people who are
suffering are clearly marked down to become the prey of those wasting
diseases, whose names, all more or less fantastic, may be classed as a
whole under the general heading of "nervous maladies."
To enumerate them is superfluous and unnecessary. Lack of poise gives
rise to all sorts of weaknesses, which are given the names of nervous
diseases and finally become classed in the category of phobias, of which
the starting-point is always a habit of fear due to excess of timidity.
This morbid disposition is the parent of a continual apprehensiveness
which is shown upon all sorts of occasions.
The man who has the space phobia is quite unable to cross an open space
unless he is supported or, at the very least, accompanied.
Claustrophobia is the malady of those who have a horror of close
quarters from which they can not easily make their escape.
Writers' cramp is nothing in the world but one of these exaggerated
Erythrophobia, that is to say the habit of inopportune and constant
blushing, is another of the commonest forms of excessive timidity.
Stammering is another of the tortures that people of poise do not
experience, except in those cases where it is caused by a physical
All these maladies attack only the timid.
There are many others, less serious in their nature, such as indecision,
exaggerated scrupulousness, extreme pliability, hypochondria. All of
these should be ruthlessly supprest the moment we become aware of them,
for they are one and all the forerunners of that mentally diseased
condition which gives rise to the phobias of which we have just been
To those who would seriously devote themselves to the cultivation of
poise it is, therefore, a vital necessity to be in a condition of
perfect health. It would be a misfortune, indeed, for them to find
themselves balked in their progress toward acquiring this quality by
anxieties regarding the condition of their bodies.
Any indisposition, not to mention actual diseases, has a tendency to
inhibit all initiative.
There is no room for doubt that a physical ailment by attracting to
itself the attention of the person who is attacked by it, prevents him
from giving the proper amount of energy to whatever he may be engaged
He thinks about nothing but his malady and quite forgets to take the
exercises that would enable him to alter his condition, to change his
actions, and even to make over his thoughts.
His thoughts above all. Physical well-being has an undeniable influence
upon one's mental health.
One very rarely sees a sick person who is happy. Even those who are
endowed with great force of character lose, under the burden of their
sufferings, part of their firmness of soul and of their legitimate
A very scientific force of hygiene is particularly recommended.
Excessive measures of any sort must be avoided for various reasons:
(1) They are antagonistic to the maintenance of a perfect physical
(2) They will inevitably grow to dominate the mind unduly.
When we speak of excesses, we intend to include those undertaken in the
way of work no less than those which are the outcome of the search for
Nevertheless we will hasten to add that these last are much the more to
What can be expected, for instance, from a man who has passed a night in
Morning finds him a weakling, good for nothing, and incapable of making
the slightest effort that calls for energy.
He is lucky, indeed, if his excesses have no disastrous results that
will destroy his happiness or his good name.
The fear of complications that may be the outcome of his gross pleasures
soon begins to haunt him and to usurp in his mind the place of nobler
and more useful impulses.
As to his health, it is hardly necessary for us to insist upon the
disorder that such habits must necessarily produce.
The least misfortune that he can look for is a profound lassitude and a
desire for rest which is the enemy of all virile effort.
The same thing is true of the man who indulges too freely in the
pleasures of the table. The work of digestion leaves him in an exhausted
condition and with a craving for repose that very soon results in a
complete lack of moral tone.
Even supposing that his daily routine consists of two principal meals,
and of two others of less importance, it will be easily understood that
the man who loads down his stomach with such a large amount of
continuous work will not be very apt to adapt himself readily to matters
of a wholly different kind.
To avoid pain, to sit inert, like a gorged animal, without attempting to
think, is the sole desire of the gluttons who are wearied by every
The same reasoning could be applied to the lazy, who suffer in health
from indulgence in their favorite vice.
It can not be disputed that lack of exercise is the cause of ailments
that have a marked effect upon the moral character.
Since physical laziness always goes hand in hand with mental apathy, it
follows that a dread of exerting oneself is always to be found coupled
with a hatred of being forced to think.
It is, therefore, essential for the man who would acquire poise to
fortify himself in advance against physical weaknesses which, by
undermining his will-power, will soon furnish him with the most
plausible reasons for losing interest in the steady application that is
needed for accomplishing his purpose.
In achieving the conquest of poise certain physical exercises, practised
every day, and vigorously followed out, will be found of considerable
Before discussing the practical methods which are at once their
starting-point and their result, we will consider in turn the series of
exercises that must be performed each day in order to keep oneself in
the condition of physical well-being which allows of the accomplishment
of moral reform.