Celibacy Quotes

The Truth About Masturbation Part 2, Treatment

Bernarr Macfadden

Excerpt from Manhood
and Marriage
(1916)

Ch. 23, p. 150

THE TREATMENT

The important question is, how may the habit be conquered? Following that comes the question, how may one overcome the weakness resulting from it. For we shall have to deal not only with the actual habit, but with the various disorders of the generative system which it leaves behind. To a large extent the same treatment that will be required to overcome the effects of the habit will also help one to fight against it and overcome it.

The remedial measures must be of a two-fold character, physical and mental. It would be hard to say which of these is the more important part of the treatment, for both are absolutely essential. One can do nothing without the proper mental attitude and the strengthening of the will that will make possible the rigid restraint it will be necessary to exercise. Habit is the strongest thing in the world, and when this practice has been continued for a long time it is just as well to make up your mind in the beginning that you have a hard fight on your hands, and possibly a long fight. It is a fight, however, in which others have won and in which you can win if you stick to it.

In the first place the building up of bodily vigor is imperative, not only for its own sake but also for the sake of the stronger mind that will result from it and which is necessary for the fight against this evil. Strength of will and mind, you will find, are difficult to develop in a poorly functioning body, with a deficient blood supply to the brain and a broken-down system of nerves. One should therefore do everything possible to cultivate bodily vigor and strength. The more nearly you can attain to a body perfectly developed in other respects, the more hope you may have of regaining your sexual strength. Take a pride in your body and its strength. Build yourself up as nearly as possible into the condition of an athlete, not only by special exercises such as I am describing in another chapter, but by various athletic activities in the open air that are suited to your strength and muscular powers.

Remember that the most effective way of building up any part of the body is to improve the quality of the blood and increase the circulation. It is for this reason that exercise and other measures that tend to build up the entire constitution are essential in overcoming the effects of self-abuse. However, I am going to take up this matter in detail in the later chapters on exercise and other factors in virility building.

The diet is important and should be non-stimulating in character. Meat and eggs should not be used too freely, and in some few difficult cases in which the assimilation is especially poor, it would be better to avoid them entirely. The red meats are especially stimulating and objectionable in some cases, although they may be helpful in a case of impotence. Fish and chicken are less pronounced in their effect, and may be used moderately. Not only alcoholic drinks, but even tea and coffee, should be avoided, and it is hardly necessary to say that pepper, hot sauces and condiments of all kinds are objectionable. This does not necessarily apply to salt. Uncooked foods, particularly fruits, green salads, nuts, buttermilk and other things that you can eat and enjoy raw should be used extensively in the diet.

It is also important to avoid any inclination toward constipation. There is no doubt that this is an important factor in many cases, accumulations in the colon naturally pressing upon the prostate and crowding the other structures in such a way as to produce excitement of the parts, or at least to increase it. Therefore the bowels should be kept open and regular. There should be no irritation of the parts through an over-distended colon.

So far as the mental treatment of masturbation is concerned, the first great requirement is to enter into the fight with the unfaltering determination that you are going to break the habit, and then stick to it until you have done so. The second essential is to stop worrying about it, and the third is to become so busy, filling your life with so many forms of mental activity, that the old habit will not have any chance to assert itself or to worry you. Your mind must be so occupied with other matters that there will be no opportunity for dwelling on licentious thoughts. The fourth requirement is to avoid being too much by yourself, and to cultivate the society of refined people just as much as you possibly can.

If the habit has taken a strong hold, you may be disappointed to find that in spite of your best resolutions you have been unable to escape from its bondage. This is a fairly common experience with those who have been addicted to this practice for a considerable time. They struggle with all their will power, restraining themselves for perhaps a considerable period, and then some day the force of the old habit may be too much for them and they "fall." At least, the result of the struggle has been to make indulgence less frequent, and that is a great deal. But one should not be content with that. One should never stop fighting until the weakness has been mastered, finally and for all. Do not be discouraged if you should have occasional failures, but each time start out again with even greater determination than before to conquer the habit and to build up the physical strength and mental stamina that will make it easier for you to succeed.

Remember that each time you resist the inclination you are helping to form the habit of resistance. Each time you gain in the power to resist, and even though you may backslide occasionally, yet by continually resisting the impulse and fighting the good fight, you will gradually gain the strength of will that will enable you to stop the practice entirely. There are some who are able to break off once and for all in the very beginning. Make up your mind that you are going to be one of that class. But if you fail, don't be discouraged; just fight all the harder.

Cultivate pride and self-respect. Hold up your head. Make others respect you. No mat-ter what your work may be, even if it is only study of some kind, make up your mind that you will do the best that can be done. In that way you will gain the respect of others as well as of yourself. The psychological effect of your attitude toward others is a tremendous factor. Anything that will tend to add to your sense of pride will help you powerfully.

Personal cleanliness is a tremendous aid in this particular respect. Cultivate even a fastidious attitude toward the cleanliness of your person and your apparel. The feeling of immaculate cleanliness adds greatly to one's self-respect, and the effect upon the whole moral nature is such that one will less readily stoop to any depraved action. Try it out and you will see.

Many persons are so constituted that, the-manner in which they are dressed has a great deal to do with their mental attitude. As a rule the clothing need not be costly, but it should be kept clean and neat, free from spots of grease and not too much in need of pressing. Collars should he absolutely clean and fresh. It is true, however, that the better the clothes in respect to quality the better one feels in them. If you find that being well dressed as well as being clean is conducive to your sense of pride, then by all means cultivate the habit of dressing well. The psychology of clothes is always worth considering. Do every-thing possible—no matter what—to arouse your pride and self-respect. And especially, clothe your bones with a shapely and well-fitting muscular development. A good chest will do more than anything in the way of clothing to give you pride. If you cultivate a body that you can be proud of, you will be less inclined to abuse it.

Stop worrying and brooding over your trouble. Get your mind away from it. I have already explained that there is no danger of insanity, and that the mental symptoms are simply the result of the debility that naturally follows the loss of the chemically rich and highly vitalized fluids that should have been employed in building strength of brain and bone and muscle. You can absolutely depend upon it that as you tone up your vital organs and strengthen your body as a whole your mental powers will return to their full strength and you will gradually regain your sexual vigor.

So you can simply dismiss all these worries from your mind and devote yourself heart and soul to the work of getting back your manhood. Forget the past. Live for the present and the future. Make up your mind what you intend to do in a business or professional way, determine to be a success in your chosen work, and then strive for it, forgetting your weakness and the causes of it. Let your thoughts be positive and construetive, and they will crowd out the brooding, gloomy fancies. It is true that it is easier to say "Stop worrying," than to do it, but the way to do it is to fill your mind up with other things, so that the worry will simply drop out of sight and be forgotten. Let the dead past bury its dead. You are going to make a man of yourself in the best sense of the word, in every sense of the word, and let that determination satisfy you.

Mental activity is the greatest thing in the world by which to combat either this habit or any other. You cannot have too many interests to take up your time and attention. The one thing that will make success impossible is loafing. Idleness is the great insurmountable obstacle. If you have nothing to do, find something. Inactivity will give your mind a chance either to dwell upon erotic thoughts or to worry about your condition, and both of these should be rigidly avoided. Don't be lazy. Do something! Do many things ! In the very first place, get out of bed with a jump the instant you wake up. Make it a habit. Don't lie in bed for a while, even if it does feel soft and warm. If you are on the go from the time you wake up, you will be tired enough to sleep when you go to bed, so that you will have little time to lie awake.

To keep your mind occupied, cultivate all kinds of hobbies and sources of interest. It does not matter what these are, so long as they take up your whole attention. This keeping busy will do more than anything else to enable you to conquer the habit. Be as much of a faddist as you like. Take up singing. It will do you good. It has an inspirational quality as well as being physically beneficial. Or take up any other kind of music. Play in the band, if you like. That would give you the company of others, so much to be desired. If you are interested in art, study that. If you like writing, or amateur acting, try your hand at one or the other of them. Anything to keep your mind filled with healthy, constructive thoughts. If chemistry appeals to you, follow it up. Perhaps, you are good at mechanics, in which case cultivate your mechanical sense and skill. Motor-boating or any other form of motoring can be commended. Photography, wireless telegraphy or the making of model aeroplanes might interest you. Every one can find things that appeal to him.

Above all, don't forget the great outdoor pastimes. You may not have the muscular strength in the beginning to take up cross-country running, or real athletic pursuits, but at least you can start in with walking and possibly a little short run each day, until you build up the strength to engage in the more vigorous pastimes. According as they are suited to your strength, swimming, skating, hockey, handball, rowing, tennis, baseball, golf, riding, gardening, mountain climbing, tree climbing, cross-country walks—anything that keeps you away from idleness and at the same time builds up your body—will be useful.

It is of course imperative that you should avoid allowing your mind to dwell upon lustful fancies. Keep the thought of sex out of your head. Remember what I have said about "mental masturbation," which is almost as bad as the actual practice, and which is usually the first step toward self-abuse. Whenever you find your mind occupied with thoughts of this kind, immediately get up and do something active. It doesn't matter what it is. Run around the block. Stand on your head. Fix the back fence, or the front window, or attack any other little job that needs doing. Take a cold bath, shake the rugs, play the piano, or do anything else that comes to your mind. The more active and mentally stimulating it is, the better. Plan for some activity that you can always turn to immediately when any thought of sex enters your mind. The only way you can keep these thoughts out is by getting other things into your head to crowd them out. If you will follow my suggestion about having no idle time on your hands, you will have no trouble.

Perhaps the one best thing you can do when the old habit tempts you is to place yourself at once in the company of other people, when that is possible. Don't spend too much time by yourself.

The psychological effect of masturbation in causing a lack of self-confidence, timidity in meeting people, and a tendency to avoid them, especially members of the opposite sex, is a very curious one. It demonstrates that this practice is not only an offense against the physical integrity of the body, but that it is a spiritual and moral offense as well. After all, not much is known about psychology. The mysteries of the human mind are still unexplained, for the most part. However, it is at least clear in a case of this kind that the very heart and soul of the young man have been shocked and outraged by this unnatural act, and this shock apparently makes a profound impression upon the subconscious mind. The term, "soul-wound," as used by some of the psychologists, might express it. The impression must be very severe to bring about such strange deviations from the normal social attitude as is seen in this shrinking from other people and the inability to look them in the eye. It is perhaps a manifestation of a subconscious conscience. Apparently, down in the sub-conscious mind the masturbator carries a deep sense of his wrong-doing, and this works out in his guilt-like avoidance of the gaze and society of his fellows, and especially of those of the opposite sex.

Whatever the explanation, the practical thing to do in breaking away from this habit is to cultivate the company of others instead of avoiding it. The greatest of all mistakes is to be too much alone. If you could even manage to spend every minute of your waking time in the society of others it would keep you out of trouble and would make it easy to break the habit absolutely. In any case, be with others as much as possible, though of course they should not be people of vulgar tastes or with a vicious point of view. Bad associates would naturally be worse than none. However, fight against the tendency to-ward timidity or lack of confidence, and you will soon find that you are not so easily embarrassed. As you leave the habit further behind you you will find yourself more and more free from this curious mental condition.

Most of all I would strongly urge you to seek the company of refined members of the opposite sex. This is almost the best advice that I can offer. In an early chapter of this book I have already expressed the view that masturbation is to some extent the result of too much separation of the sexes. I am inclined to think that if there were more constant association between boys and girls there would be much less inclination to commit any such unnatural crime against the body. The mutual enjoyment of social intercourse between the two sexes is natural, and conduces to the physical, moral and spiritual welfare of both. Of course in the company of the opposite sex there should be no holding of hands or personal intimacies. It is often a good plan to join some congenial social group, such as is found in churches, the YMCA and other social or religious organizations.

It will of course be necessary for each one to study his own problem. In the light of what I have said any one should be able to plan some system of safeguarding himself against yielding to the force of habit. If there is any special excitement of the generative system, a cold spinal pack applied for twenty minutes or longer, will have a satisfactory depressing effect. Fold a towel lengthwise, wring out of cold water and place upon the spine. This will not have the injurious reaction of the bromide or other drug treatment for allaying sexual excitement.

In occasional instances, it might possibly be a good plan to change one's location, to occupy a different room, or even to go away into an entirely new environment. In this way one would be better able to get away from the force of suggestion that might cling to old surroundings. I do not say this is necessary, but it would often help.

Good books, poetry, history, oratory, music and all inspiring forms of art are among the re-fining influences that are valuable to' raise the level of one's thoughts to a higher plane. Beautiful pictures are helpful.

To what extent can one overcome the effects of self-abuse? It would be impossible to give an answer to this question that would fit all cases. It depends partly upon the natural strength possessed by each individual, partly upon the extent to which he has indulged in the practice and partly upon how long and faithfully he works to improve himself. In what I may call the average case the prospects of satisfactory results are always good. Cases even much worse than the average are always hopeful. Even where there is impotence it is often possible to recover a fair degree of virility.

I do not mean to say that a man can always regain quite the same degree of sexual strength that he would have possessed if he had never abused himself excessively, but as a rule what I would term a satisfactory degree of manhood can be regained. If one has not gone too far, such a degree of vigor may be recovered that no permanent injury will be noticeable. In any case, the results are more than worth striving for.

I will say frankly that one cannot expect to bring about revolutionary changes in a week or a month. It would take a considerable time. If the habit has extended over a period, of years it may take two or three years of persistent physical culture, clean living and clean thinking to realize a satisfactory change for the better. Re-member that I cannot promise such quick or such complete results in extreme eases as in the aver-age. Yet a few months will accomplish wonders for some persons. Perhaps I might say that as a general rule the length of time for getting satisfactory results depends partly upon the number of years during which the victim has been under the influence of the habit, with the reservation that the condition is much more serious when the practice has been commenced at or near puberty than when it has been begun in maturity or near maturity.

In a few instances in which complete impotence has existed for a number of years, following prolonged and violent indulgence in this vice, it is not possible to promise marked results. In many such cases improvement is possible. In some it is not. When persistent efforts do not produce results in these exceptional cases I feel that it is usually because the nerve-centers involved have been exhausted, literally used up or "burned out." But the cases in which no sexual improvement is possible are rare indeed and even in these the general health and vigor may be improved, with probably better functioning of the reproductive glands, to the extent that they may react upon the general health, though "potency" is not recovered.

There is another important question that I have been asked so many times in letters written to me for advice that I am sure it will be of interest to thousands of others as well. It is whether or not it is possible for the victim of masturbation to have normal and healthy children, after attaining good health. In reply to this I would say that it is entirely a question of your present vitality. If you have built up robust physical health, if you are happily married and seem to have fully recovered from the weakening effects of past follies, then you can rest assured that you will have normal and healthy children. It is not so much a question of your past as of your present condition. It is true that your past has had much to do with determining what your present condition is, but if you are sound and vigorous today, that is the important point. It is true that masturbation may be the cause of temporary sterility, the general debility reducing the vitality of the spermatozoa, but this condition may be overcome by increasing the constitutional strength.

In many letters I have been asked if the past practice of this habit„ long since discontinued, would leave any mental effect or hereditary stamp upon the offspring. There is no fear of this. The germ-plasm has been pretty well protected by kind and far-seeing Mother Nature against influences of this kind. The chief thing to consider, so far as healthy children are concerned, is the question of physical vitality, perfect nutrition and freedom from alcohol or other poisons. If both parents are properly nourished, if they have plenty of vitality, and are free from the effects of stimulants and poisons, they can be sure of normal, vigorous children.

Another question of vital interest has to do with the advisability of marriage following masturbation. This again depends upon individual circumstances and the present physical and sexual condition, rather than upon the question of past errors. Considering that without doubt the vast majority of men have masturbated at one time or another, it will be evident that the greater number of those who are now married must have done so. I do not mean that all married men are satisfactory husbands, but I do mean to say that the man who has masturbated and has not only discontinued the practice but recovered a fair degree of health is as fit for marriage as the majority of his sex. To him marriage is not only possible but advantageous.

Marriage should not be undertaken, however, in the rash manner commonly advised by the "family physician." One should first undertake a serious and persistent course of physical up-building to ensure a fit condition for marriage. In case of partial impotence or marked debility, two or three years of virility-building methods are advisable. Marriage has been much advised as a cure for masturbation. In some instances it is true that it may prove to be a complete solution of the problem, if the abuse has not been carried too far, and has been practiced in adult life chiefly because of an unmated existence. But when one is a slave to the habit, and has been decidedly weakened by it, marriage is the most dangerous of all remedies. Unless properly regulated it may weaken the sufferer still further, causing absolute impotence. Again, in many cases, the force of the habit is so strong that it is continued even after marriage, which certainly is not to be recommended. One should conquer the habit first. If the masturbator is able to demonstrate that he can refrain from his injurious practices for a period of several months at a time, that he is master of himself, and that he is a man in the true sense, then marriage might be permitted. With these pointers for guidance, any man should be able to solve the problem in his own case.

[END]

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