The nested formula for Menninger’s analysis up though Chapter 5 is crime(sin()), indicating that an element is missing and that element belongs to the realm of possibility. Chapter 6 fills in the blank. The title of the chapter is “Sin into Symptom”.
What makes “sin” possible? Menninger considered several perspectives on “free will”, including the legalist, the moralist and the behavioralist.
Then he posed a question: What if a “sin” is unwittingly committed?
All of us are under the illusion that we are in control of ourselves. But, what if our “voluntary” behaviors are – somehow – produced by “involuntary” processes (74-80)?
What appears to be “sin” may be a symptom.
The question is: A symptom of what? An illness? A syndrome?
Or could a symptom actually be a sign of a constructive response of an over- or under- stressed system?
Consider the sin – er, symptom – of “swearing”. Swearing is a tension-relieving device. As such, it may a healthy response to surprise or frustration. When swearing is habitual, then it may be a symptom of an “as healthy as one can get” response to some chronic surprise or frustration (89).
Habitual swearing may be a coping mechanism for a greater problem, just like a crutch is a coping mechanism for difficulties with walking.
So a symptom may not be simply a sign of an “illness”. It may be a sign of “coping with an illness”.