Cold shower in history
It is a fact that occasionally, a cold shower can be a good substitute for a cold water swim. Here I present you with some historical facts to think about while taking a shower.
Can you even imagine a day without a shower? Probably not, the same as 2/3 of Americans. About a century ago, people mostly preferred an occasional bathe. Believe it or not, the first showers were not meant to perform today’s hygienic purposes. They were meant to be a treatment of insanity, so good for mental health.
In the 18th century, doctors assumed and were assured that cold water could calm inflammations everywhere in the body (joints, wounds). If the brains would be inflamed (read: mentally ill), it could have the same result. In this concept of healing, also fear was thought to cause order in a disordered brain.
Shower generating fear
To generate that fear, doctors regularly showered patients with cold water as shock therapy – without warning! Such showers would last until they create the fear of death in a patient. The main purpose was to corner stubborn and disobedient patients to the will of their doctor.
For instance, I read about this case from the middle 18th century about an unidentified married woman who was declared mad because she wanted to leave her spouse. Her doctor performed the therapy of a cold shower on her. He tied her blindfolded, sitting in a tub and let down big quantities of water on her – about 15 tones of water in 90 minutes in 3 trials. The fact she was inexpressibly terrorised wasn’t disturbing for her doctor.
He concluded that the treatment was a success. In the end, he confirmed in his writing everything he did to her as a part of therapy. He achieves that she after all let go of her stubbornness and begged him to let her return to her husband. You already know how the story ends – he granted her wish and delivered her to her loving husband. Of course, she did it merrily and happily. Successful treatment, don’t you agree? Cold shower did its job.
Cold shower treatments – known as hydropathy – were used also in the 19th century in the criminal justice system. Besides solitude, cold showers offered a great way to cause an unpleasant sensation on the body without leaving marks of the beat. Anyway, problems seemed to start showing when it was discovered that – hydropathy can kill – if used by ignorant practitioners. In the end, doctors and the public turned against this method and soon it becomes just a part of history.
However, showers didn’t vanish not from prisons nor hospitals. They were just used a bit differently. This time the hygiene came in focus, once again, seasoned by fear. The idea emerged. In prisons, it was detected that regular use of warm water in combination with soap, prevents illness to be spread all over. At that time prisoners were fortunate to be bathed 4 times a year, if whatsoever, and they did what needed not to lose this privilege.
At the end
Soon after inventing prison monitored showers by the French prison doctor, the idea of using the shower in general to minimise the spread of various disease among people emerged. Showers became the main part of public-health initiatives all over the world. Soon it resulted in people installing showers in their homes. The advertising industry added its contribution and now you’ve got people obsessed by over showering.
What do you think they would say about this short history excerpt?