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Palming

CHAPTER 12 - "Perfect Sight Without Glasses" by W.H. Batesi, M.D.

ALL the methods used in the cure of errors of refraction are simply different ways of obtaining relaxation, and most patients, though by no means all, find it easiest to relax with their eyes shut. This usually lessens the strain to see, and in such cases is followed by a temporary or more lasting improvement in vision.

Most patients are benefited merely by closing the eyes; and by alternately resting them for a few minutes or longer in this way and then opening them and looking at the Snellen test card for a second or less, flashes of improved vision are, as a rule, very quickly obtained. Some temporarily obtain almost normal vision by this means; and in rare cases a complete cure has been effected, sometimes in less than an hour.

But since some light comes through the closed eyelids, a still greater degree of relaxation can be obtained, in all but a few exceptional cases, by excluding it. This is done by covering the closed eyes with the palms of the hands (the fingers being crossed upon the forehead) in such a way as to avoid pressure on the eyeballs. So efficacious is this practice, which I have called "palmingi," as a means of relieving strain, that we all instinctively resort to it at times, and from it most patients are able to get a considerable degree of relaxation.

But even with the eyes closed and covered in such a way as to exclude all the light, the visual centers of the brain may still be disturbed, the eye may still strain to see; and instead of seeing a field so black that it is impossible to remember, imagine, or see anything blacker, as one ought normally to do when the optic nerve is not subject to the stimulation of light, the patient will see illusions of lights and colors ranging all the way from an imperfect black to kaleidoscopic appearances so vivid that they seem to be actually seen with the eyes. The worse the condition of the eyesight, as a rule, the more numerous, vivid and persistent these appearances are. Yet some persons with very imperfect sight are able to palm almost perfectly from the beginning, and are, therefore, very quickly cured. Any disturbance of mind or body, such as fatigue, hunger, anger, worry or depression, also makes it difficult for patients to see black when they palm, persons who can see it perfectly under ordinary conditions being often unable to do so without assistance when they are ill or in pain.

It is impossible to see a perfect black unless the eyesight is perfect, because only when the eyesight is perfect is the mind at rest; but some patients can without difficulty approximate such a black nearly enough to improve their eyesight, and as the eyesight improves the deepness of the black increases. Patients who fail to see even an approximate black when they palm state that instead of black they see streaks or floating clouds of gray, flashes of light, patches of red, blue, green, yellow, etc. Sometimes instead of an immovable black, clouds of black will be seen moving across the field. In other cases the black will be seen for a few seconds and then some other color will take its place. The different ways in which patients can fail to see black when their eyes are closed and covered are, in fact, very numerous and often very peculiar.

Vivid Colors Seen When Palming

Some patients have been so impressed with the vividness of the colors which they imagined they saw that no amount of argument could, or did, convince them that they did not actually see them with their eyes. If other people saw bright lights or colors, with their eyes closed and covered, they admitted that these things would be illusions; but what they themselves saw under the same conditions was reality. They would not believe, until they had themselves demonstrated the truth, that their illusions were due to an imagination beyond their control.

  Fig. 42. Palming  
  This is one of the most effective methods of obtaining relaxation of all the sensory nerves.  

Successful palming in these more difficult cases usually involves the practice of all the methods for improving the sight described in succeeding chapters. For reasons which will be explained in the following chapter, the majority of such patients may be greatly helped by the memory of a black object. They are directed to look at such an object at the distance at which the color can be seen best, close the eyes and remember the color, and repeat until the memory appears to be equal to the sight. Then they are instructed, while still holding the memory of the black, to cover the closed eyes with the palms of the hands in the manner just described. If the memory of the black is perfect, the whole background will be black. If it is not, or if it does not become so in the course of a few seconds, the eyes are opened and the black object regarded again.

Many patients become able by this method to see black almost perfectly for a short time; but most of them, even those whose eyes are not very bad, have great difficulty in seeing it continuously. Being unable to remember black for more than from three to five seconds, they cannot see black for a longer time than this. Such patients are helped by central fixation. When they have become able to see one part of a black object darker than the whole, they are able to remember the smaller area for a longer time than they could the larger one, and thus become able to see black for a longer period when they palm. They are also benefited by mental shiftingi (see Chapter XV) from one black object to another, or from one part of a black object to another.

  Fig. 43  
  Patient with atrophy of the optic nerve gets flashes of improved vision after palming.  

Mental Shifting!

It is impossible to see, remember, or imagine anything, even for as much as a second, without shifting from one part to another, or to some other object and back again; and the attempt to do so always produces strain. Those who think they are remembering a black object continuously are unconsciously comparing it with something not so black, or else its color and its position are constantly changing. It is impossible to remember even such a simple thing as a period perfectly black and stationary for more than a fraction of a second. When shifting is not done unconsciously patients must be encouraged to do it consciously. They may be directed, for instance, to remember successively a black hat, a black shoe, a black velvet dress, a black plush curtain, or a fold in the black dress or the black curtain, holding each one not more than a fraction of a second.

Many persons have been benefited by remembering all the letters of the alphabet in turn perfectly black. Others prefer to shift from one small black object, such as a period or a small letter, to another, or to swingi such an object in a manner to be described later (see Chapter XV).

In some cases the following method has proved successful: When the patient sees what he thinks is a perfect black, let him remember a piece of starch on this background, and on the starch the letter F as black as the background. Then let him let go of the starch and remember only the F, one part best, on the black background. In a short time the whole field may become as black as the blacker part of the F. The process can be repeated many times with a constant increase of blackness in the field.

In one case a patient who saw grey so vividly when she palmed that she was positive she saw it with her eyes, instead of merely imagining it, was able to obliterate nearly all of it by first imagining a black C on the grey field, then two black C's, and finally a multitude of overlapping C's.

Imperfect Memory Useful

It is impossible to remember black perfectly when it is not seen perfectly. If one sees it imperfectly, the best one can do is to remember it imperfectly. All persons, without exception, who can see or read diamond type at the near-point, no matter how great their myopiai may be, or how much the interior of the eye may be diseased, become able, as a rule, to see black with their eyes closed and covered more readily than patients with hypermetropia or astigmatism; because, while myopes cannot see anything perfectly, even at the