“all the nerves and tentacles of his mind began to stir again”

From: The Shrimp and the Anemone (1944), by L.P. Hartley:

“Eustace gave an automatic smile. His quandary had eaten so far into him that it seemed to have passed out of reach of his conscious mind: and the notion of telling anyone about it no longer occurred to him. As well might a person with cancer hope to obtain relief by discussing it with his friends.

This paralysis of the emotions had one beneficial result–it gave Eustace an excellent night, but next day, the dreaded Wednesday, it relaxed its frozen hold, and all the nerves and tentacles of his mind began to stir again, causing him the most exquisite discomfort. Lessons were some help; he could not give his mind to them, but they exacted from him a certain amount of mechanical concentration. At midday he was free. He walked down to the beach without speaking to Hilda; he felt that she was someone else’s sister. Meanwhile a dialogue began to take place within him. There was a prosecutor and an apologist, and the subject of their argument was Eustace’s case. He listened. The apologist spoke first- indeed, he spoke most of the time.

“Eustace has always been a very good boy. He doesn’t steal or tell lies, and he nearly always does what he is told. He is helpful and unselfish. For instance, he took Miss Fothergill for a ride though he didn’t want to, and she asked him to tea, so of course he said he would go, though he was rather frightened.” “He must be a bit of a funk,” said the prosecutor, “to be afraid of a poor old lady.” “Oh no, not really. You see she was nearly half a lion, and a witch as well, and mad too, so really it was very brave of him to say he would go. But it kept him awake at night and he didn’t complain and bore it like a hero…” “What about his sister?” said the prosecutor. “Didn’t he ask her to come to bed early, because he was frightened? That wasn’t very brave.” “Oh, but she always thinks of what’s good for him, so naturally she didn’t want him to be frightened. Then he went to the dancing class and danced with a girl called Nancy Steptoe because she asked him to, though she is very pretty and all the boys wanted her to dance with them. And he danced very well and then they talked and she said Miss Fothergill was a witch and not quite all there, and tried to frighten him. And at last she asked him to go with her for a paper-chase instead of having tea with Miss Fothergill. But he said, ‘No, I have given my promise.’ He was an extremely brave boy to resist temptation like that. And Nancy said, ‘Then I shan’t speak to you again’, and he said ‘I don’t care’.”

At this point the prosecutor intervened violently, but Eustace contrived not to hear what he said. He was conscious of a kind of mental scuffle, in the course of which the prosecution seemed to be worsted and beaten off the field, for the apologist took up his tale uninterrupted.

“Of course Eustace could never have broken a promise because it is wrong to, besides Hilda wouldn’t like it. Naturally he was sorry to disappoint Nancy, especially as she said she was relying on him and the paper-chase couldn’t happen without him. But if he had gone he would have had to deceive Hilda and Minney and everyone, and that would have been very wicked. Eustace may have made mistakes but he has never done anything wrong and doesn’t mean to. And now he’s not afraid of going to see Miss Fothergill: as he walks to her house with Minney he’ll feel very glad he isn’t being a hare with Nancy. For one thing he is delicate and it would have been a strain on his heart.

“When he got to Miss Fothergill he told her about Nancy and she said ‘I’m so glad you came here instead. I like little boys who
keep their word and don’t tell lies and don’t deceive those who
love them. If you come a little nearer, Eustace, I’ll let you see my
hand–no one has ever seen it before–I’m going to show it to you
because I like you so much. Don’t be frightened…”

The reverie ceased abruptly. Eustace looked round, they had reached the site of the pond. It was a glorious day, though there was a bank of cloud hanging over the Lincolnshire coast.”

From http://www.nhs.uk:

“Symptoms of dissociative disorder can vary but may include:

  • feeling disconnected from yourself and the world around you
  • forgetting about certain time periods, events and personal information
  • feeling uncertain about who you are
  • having multiple distinct identities
  • feeling little or no physical pain

Dissociation is a way the mind copes with too much stress.

Periods of dissociation can last for a relatively short time (hours or days) or for much longer (weeks or months).

It can sometimes last for years, but usually if a person has other dissociative disorders.

Many people with a dissociative disorder have had a traumatic event during childhood.

They may dissociate and avoid dealing with it as a way of coping with it.”

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