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considerably advanced stage, much beyond that of simple fear.
Primitively mind regards events as being, or about to be, with no sense
either of their certainty or uncertainty. Early mind cannot appreciate
certainty, for it knows not uncertainty, it has not yet accomplished the
prevision to which certainty and uncertainty may attach; it cannot say,
“I fear this will happen,” or “I fear that will not happen,” but only “I
fear or do not fear the thing happening, the event coming.” The world of
the earliest psychical life is simply factual, and the fears are simple
and wholly undifferentiated. Fear certainly antedates the perception of
contingency and of one’s own agency in producing contingency. Even in
the ordinary fears in human consciousness sense of personal power in
relation to pain-giver is actually subsequent to the fear phenomenon and
reacts upon it, but is not constitutive of it in its first impulse.

Fear is first graduated by the increasing discrimination as to the
amount of pain and injury to be inflicted, and later it is graduated by
the sense of the painful event as more or less contingent, either in the
natural course of things, or as determined by the individual’s strength
in warding off impending evil. Taking chances and risks is learned, and
becomes often very advantageous. Fear is also greatly diminished and
modified by acquiring a sense of one’s individual power in overcoming or
resisting pain given. The rabbit, often chased by a clumsy dog,
evidently fears him less and less. Man, both by his increasing knowledge
of natural contingencies and by his increasing power over elemental and
animal pain-giving forces, fears less and less. The inevitable evil,
sure to come, and sure to overcome, is that which strikes intensest
fear, as we often see in criminals led to execution.

The discrimination between the animate and the inanimate also
differentiates fear. When this distinction is fully achieved, the
attitude of mind toward each in fear is plainly distinct. The thing,
perceived as having psychic powers, and capable of purposive evil and
self-directive of its movements, awakens thereby a complex of feelings
which rapidly develops beyond our present powers of analysis to follow
them. For the present sketch of the early natural history of fear it is
sufficient merely to remark this differentiation as one of prime value
in the struggle for existence.

However, as we have before suggested (p. 106), the nature of fear,
purely in itself considered, does not depend on the nature of the object
feared; thus fear of cold and fear of heat are perfectly alike as
psychic facts, though having regard to very diverse physical facts.
Animistic mind, indeed, reacts to all objects differently from
naturalistic mind, yet in its essential quality fear is identical in
both. In fear of a storm, both as a purely physical manifestation and as
the expression of the psychical nature of a deity, the fear act is by
itself quite the same; the fear pain and the willing are quite the same,
but on the more external, the representation side, they do greatly
differ, the complication being greater in the latter instance, and
introducing a complex of feelings. Fear in the narrowest sense does not
reach to the object to consider its nature, to regard its objective
quality, for this is the base of very different feelings; but fear
proper is engrossed in object purely for its immediate pain
significance; it is given up to viewing personal pain infliction. I am
inclined to think, then, that we shall find that mind is primarily
neither animistic nor naturalistic. The only interpretation of object
which is first made is as pain or pleasure given, and a personalizing
and impersonalizing stage is decidedly later. We must remember that mind
at first goes only so far as it is positively obliged to by the struggle
for existence; and hence, though it is quite impossible for us to fully
realize such a simple state, yet originally objects were discriminated
merely as pleasure and pain sources. Object at first was of the more
vague sort, merely an indefinite _locus_ for pleasure-pain; something
painful or pleasurable is the discrimination, but attribution of
sentiency or insentiency is not yet reached, for no interpretation of
the sort is yet imperatively demanded. It is so ingrained in us to
perceive beings as either living or non-living, that it is quite
impossible to thoroughly conceive a state so primitive as to be unable
to rise to this attribution or distinction. However, like the bare
statement of a fourth dimension in space, the statement that
pre-animistic mind exists or has existed, a way of looking at objects
entirely without reference to their personal or impersonal quality—this
is intelligible, and hypothetically required by a complete theory of the
evolution of mind. In a _dolce far niente_ of perfect sensuousness, even
the adult man sometimes approximates this stage, and the actions of very
young infants are best interpreted as expressions of a similar state.
Things for them seem entirely uninterpreted and unperceived, except as
imparters of crass sensual pains and pleasures, as mere pleasure-pain
potencies.

A very important differentiation of fear is brought about by the
extension of the time sense. Fear begins with a _minimum_ of time sense;
only the immediately impending, the absolutely imminent danger, suffices
to awaken fear. But in the struggle for existence the advantage of being
influenced for action by the more and more remote, in time, determines a
rapid extension in time to feared events. With man actions are thus
influenced by fears, which reach even beyond the present life. The
cautious and prudent are those whose fears are far-sighted, and who,
conducting themselves accordingly, maintain supremacy over the
short-sighted and improvident. _Carpe diem_ is, from the point of view
of evolutionary psychology, the cry of the retrogressive fool.

The time differentiation of fear is recognised in popular language in
the term—dread. I am frightened in the night by a sudden noise; I am
alarmed for the safety of a child awaking near a precipice; but I dread
next week’s task. Of course dread, like other popular psychological
terms, is plastic, and often denotes fear in general, and is often used
intensively, or to denote vague fear, still it is the most correct and
distinctive term for fear of a more or less remote event. It would be
most interesting to investigate the relation of distance in time of
feared event to intensity of the fear, but we have as yet no standards
for estimating in mathematical ratios either time or intensity
psychologically considered. It is not, of course, physical determination
of time as minutes, hours, etc., with which we are concerned, but only
with variations in sense of nearness or remoteness of event. Our sense
of time is most variable, and fluctuates from many causes, so that hours
sometimes seem minutes, and minutes at other times seem hours. However,
there is, doubtless, other things being equal, some fixed relation
between our sense of the nearness and remoteness of a fearful event and
the intensity of the fear, but we may well doubt whether it can ever be
reduced to any law of inverse squares like that of physical intensities.
A criminal sentenced to die at the expiration of thirty days certainly
has a marked increase in fear as time approaches, or rather, as he has
sense of the time approaching, but a quantitative analysis is beyond our
present powers.

A most important but tolerably late differentiation is the altruistic
form of fear—fear, not of others, but for others. Psychic life is at
first wholly self-centred, there is no perception of things or interest
in them otherwise than as bearing on the experience of the self. Other
selves are wholly unrecognised, and pain-giving effects to them are then
unperceivable. In very young infants we see a close approximation to
primitive selfish life. The exact point in the history of life when
altruism is developed by the struggle of existence is not at present
determinable, but we may well believe that it arose with the evolution
of the sexes in separate individuals. Fear for mate and offspring is
obviously an essential advantage in the progress and perpetuation of the
kind. Pure altruism is not at first attained, and there is only the
faintest gleam of appreciation of pain-states in others, and genuine
feeling therefor. The sexual appetite is, like other appetites, purely
selfish at first, and the animal fears the loss of what will satisfy in
an individualistic way, quite as he fears that food may be taken away or
destroyed. Even in higher psychisms much that we readily interpret as
altruistic is often mainly personal; it is not a true regard and emotion
at pain and injury imminent to others, a manifestation of feeling at
their experience as such, but mostly a feeling for their experience only
so far as it involves our pleasure-pain. When sociality and
interdependence of organisms is attained as a great advantage in the
struggle of life, when personal experience is perceived as dependent
upon experiences of others, then a feeling value attaches to the
experienceable for others, yet selfishly at first. Even parental
oversight and care must originally have been selfish—the satisfaction of
a personal craving, rather than the promotion of the well-being of
another, considered for its own sake. Real and pure altruism must,
indeed, be accounted, even in human society, as a rare phenomenon,
perfect self-forgetfulness being almost impossible even for the most
developed consciousness, owing to the strength and persistence of an
indefinite heredity of selfishness. Fear for others is, then, in truth,
merely an indirect fear for ourselves; and particularly so is this true
in all lower consciousness. But we must acknowledge that elements of
real altruism do enter and do grow in value and strength in the
evolution of consciousness, and we must, if we adhere strictly to the
principle of personal advantage as determining evolution, find a reason
here for a singular and seemingly incompatible manifestation. Regard for
the good of others is not always indirectly regard for personal good,
and self-sacrifice is certainly an element in psychic life, even in
lower consciousness, where we often seem to see a distinct struggle
between egoistic fear and altruistic fear, as in animals protecting
their young. But we see the same in an animal defending food from being
acquired by its enemies.

Advantage for the race is certainly gained, but this wholly
unconsciously; and it plays no part in the actual psychism of the
individual. In a highly social, which is also in the most effective and
advantageous mode of life, it is certain that the purely self-seeking
will be at a disadvantage in general, whereas those who give themselves
up to help others are by others so helped, that the final _status_ of
the individual is higher and better than if he had been wholly a
self-seeker. However, he who, perceiving this law, sets out to be
altruistic for his own ends, invariably suffers defeat in the long run,
for entire disinterestedness can alone avail. But the problem of
altruism, from an evolutionary point of view, cannot here be further
remarked on; a fuller discussion would lead us too far afield. However,
we are convinced that altruism springs up and grows like the other
elements of psychic life, as functional in the largest way to the
demands of life in the struggle for existence.

Horror is a distinctive term for altruistic fear. When on a train, I am
_terrified_ if I perceive a collision imminent and inevitable, but as a
mere spectator walking near the tracks, I am _horrified_ by the prospect
of a collision. One may be “in mortal terror,” but not in mortal horror.

Our sense of the feelings of others towards us, whether they be egoistic
or altruistic, determines a large class of reflex emotions which are
often very subtle. If we perceive that some one is fearing us or fearing
for us there is immediate reaction on our part. Feeling response to
feeling acts and reacts in a multitude of complex ways, as we cannot but
observe when in the company of very “sensitive” people. The “sensitive”
one is he whose emotional life is governed by his perception of the
feelings of others toward himself, and he becomes wonderfully responsive
to the least expressions of emotion toward himself. The delicate
responsiveness of women, their intuitions, are merely quick
perceptiveness of emotion expression. The fears of such are largely
concerned with this dependence on the emotional attitudes of others
toward themselves; they fear to incur displeasure, they fear loss of
love, etc. Thus psychical phenomena become more and more determined by
psychical phenomena as interpreted and considered with reference to the
self. Panic is contagious fear, and has originated and been developed as
securing mutual safety in societies of animals. However, there is less
real fear on occasions of panic than is often supposed, for much of the
expression which we read as fear inspired is really merely imitative,
and does not signify any real basis of emotion. Moreover, we must note
that there is no direct contagion, but the perception of fear in others
merely leads us to dimly body forth some fearful events as impending,
which representation involves the full phenomenon of fear. There is also
a discrimination as to those who shall impart fear; the fear of a child
on shipboard will not start a panic, while the fear of a captain would.
Convinced that there is something worth fearing, we fear, and make
frantic efforts to escape.

We have before mentioned (p. 89) the peculiar fear of fear. The latest
and culminating differentiation of fear is awe, and the highest, most
refined development of awe is in the feeling for the sublime. The sense
of magnitude and mighty potency of injurious agents or agencies in
themselves considered, and not as immediately affecting the individual
or any individual, is the essential element in awe as a species of fear.
This fear is then neither egoistic nor altruistic, but impersonal. We
fear neither for ourselves nor others in standing awestruck at the foot
of Niagara, but a sense of overwhelming greatness and might stirs a
thrill of emotion which is at bottom a sublimation of fear. The view
which to a peasant or an animal would give terror, or produce no
emotional effect whatever, with very rational and sensitive minds
produces awe. Awe does not, as early emotions and fear generally, lead
directly to will, it is not a stimulant to action, and thus has not been
evolved by the principle of usefulness for action which governs the
general course of physiological and psychical evolution. It is evident
that with awe and the sense of the sublime emotion has a value and end
in itself. In the higher evolution of man we see that the psychic
elements evolve no longer in a strict dependency for their value in
securing advantage and success in the struggle for existence, but
comfortable existence being practically assured, psychic development is
pushed on in lines ethical, emotional and intellectual, for no practical
end, but for their own intrinsic value. Thus the feeling for the sublime
is a purely independent development, which, indeed, is based upon man’s
capacity to fear egoistically and altruistically, but is really
exercised solely for its own sake. A consciousness which has had no
common fear stage, could never arrive at awe. We stand in awe of persons
who are totally beyond us in their superiority, who exist in a sphere of
power and glory, which transcends even our understanding, and thus awe
has a religious as well as æsthetic side.

The chief differentiations then of fear we note as intensive dread, as
altruistic horror, as impersonal awe. The chronological order of
evolution may be denoted in this order—fright, alarm, terror, dread,
horror.




CHAPTER IX
_ON DESPAIR_


Despair is a phase of painful emotion which is certainly related to
fear, yet is very distant from it. Despair has always a fear basis; we
can only despair where fear is implied, and what does not excite fear
will give no hold for despair. I must first fear a pain before I can
despair of escaping it. The prisoner condemned to death must fear death
before he will be in despair at the prospect of it. Yet while despair
always implies fear, fear may often exist and that in very strong form
without despair. The prisoner often displays great fear, but no despair.

There is, in fact, a strong contrast between fear and despair. Fear
normally stimulates effort, despair depresses it. Fear is active,
despair passive. Deep dejection and lassitude mark despair, while fear
is intense agitation and activity. Fear in its original and normal
function is stimulant of defensive action, fear as paralytic being
secondary or abnormal, but in normal despair there is absolute
inertness. Fear, again, in contrast with despair, is direct and
transitive. I fear the pain or injury, but my despair is only in
relation to it, despair _of_, _in_ despair, etc. Fear is at the evil
itself, it is a direct attitude of mind toward it, through an ideal
pre-experiencing, the very representation of any pain as experienceable
carrying with it a thrill of fear. But despair concerns itself, not with
the pain _per se_ as experienceable, but with the inevitability of the
painful. Fear rests upon idea of pain, despair, upon idea of its
inevitability. “I despair of escape,” means a recoil of painful emotion
at inevitability of painful experience. Sense of complete and permanent
inability to attain an end, whether release from pain, or positively, a
securing a pleasure, generates commonly this distressful emotion.
Despair is not then simple pain at pain, but at the unavertibility of
the pain. Despair is then the mind bent down and crushed by the sense of
the inevitable and irremediable nature of the pain, positive or
negative, it experiences or is to experience. Despair is, indeed,
hopelessness, though all hopelessness is not despair. There is no hope
in stolidity or in stoicism, psychic modes quite distinct from despair,
but which take the place with some natures.

Again, we must note that while fear has its degrees, and may be but
partial, despair is always complete collapse. I may fear a little but
not despair a little, I may be frightened “just the least bit,” but not
despair a little bit. The hostess who is “in despair” because the ice
cream has not come, speaks truly, however, for the affair is for her so
important and momentous as to be the basis of real despair. That which
is the occasion of despair must always be or seem of capital value.

An adjacent and often precedent state to despair is desperation, which
is a feeling of the almost inevitable. In the face of heavy odds there
is often awakened a painful emotion which we term desperation, and which
leads to strong and furious will action, to an intense and general
struggle which is often advantageous. An enemy fears to drive his
adversary to desperation. In desperation we take one chance in a
thousand or in a million; for example, the leader of a forlorn hope. It
would be difficult to say whether despair or desperation contains more
of pain, but they are obviously quite opposite in their character. To
combative temperaments and with pugnacious animals the sense of the
seeming inevitable is often stimulative of desperation rather than
despair. Such are “game” to the last. A criminal of this type will run
amuck rather than submit to his fate in despair. The desperado is
defiant to the end. With some whose natures are balanced between
reflection and action there are in the face of the inevitable or almost
inevitable rapid fluctuations of despair and desperation.

Dismay is another form closely akin to despair. Dismay is the immediate
result for feeling of a sudden cognition of great difficulties and pains
as imminent. As the transition stage of rapid movement in feeling toward
despair, as the sudden falling in temperature from hope, it is really
incipient despair. Dismay is essentially temporary, and settles quickly
into despair or rises into renewed hope. Though but such a passing mode,
it yet has for the moment that sense of self-efficiency annihilated
which is so characteristic of despair. Consternation is very intense
dismay.

But what now is the real quality and inner nature of despair? what
essentially is this strange drooping before inevitable loss, injury and
pain? and what is its significance for life? Despair is certainly a very
advanced and complex emotion, and we can do no more at present than
merely remark on some of its most striking features.

A most noticeable and remarkable quality of despair is its introactive
tendency. When the whole strength and vital motive, of a full-grown
teleologic psychic life—the _dilettante_ is not capable of despair—is
suddenly and completely withdrawn, there results, not indifference nor
_ennui_ but a deep disturbance which is active on the _minus_ side of
mental life. The complete breaking up of great and absorbing hopes and
of the free objective activity flowing from them brings will tension
down, not simply to _nil_, but gives it a spring back into the negative
region beyond the line of mere quiescence and indifferentism. Despair is
a revulsive process by which the whole mind is broken up, just as a
propeller wheel running at high speed out of water or an engine working
at high pressure when disconnected from its shafting, tend to wrench and
shatter themselves. Desire is not really extinct, but latent; though
smothered it burns inward. This is that peculiar cankering, corroding
quality, which is always so marked in despair. Will, not self-shattered,
but forcibly pent by external circumstances, gives a sullen restlessness
to the mental life now turned in upon itself. Hence the capacity for
despair will be directly as the co-ordinate capacity for action and
reflection in any individual, and as such co-ordination marks the
highest level of conscious life, despair is certainly a phenomenon of
exceptionally complex and advanced consciousness.

Again, we note that despair is intensely and oppressively a pain state,
but the dull despair pain is distinct from racking fear pain. What now
is the nature of despair pain, and what the reason for its peculiar
quality? Here is not as in fear a feeling pain at pain, but at the idea
of its inevitability and completely destructive power. The actual pain
foreseen may seem bearable and excite little feeling, but it is the
total loss of personal success, the complete thwarting of
self-realization, that moves the mind to despair, that causes that
sickening, dull, emotional pain which we term despair. Thus despair is
eminently a disease of self-hood, an egoistic distemper, the strong and
large individuality being peculiarly subject to it. However, the general
problem of despair pain is practically the same as of the origin and
nature of fear pain, which has already been discussed. Whether any mere
representation induces pain, and how it does so, is certainly one of the
most difficult problems of emotional psychology. We have in a previous
chapter sought to indicate in a general way that purely subjective or
mental pain which is not in any wise revival of sensation or objective
does really exist. Also since pain _per se_ is always simple and
identical, the differentiation of pains as seemingly quite different in
kind, as fear pain, despair pain, etc., is really due to sensation,
will, and other elements which closely adhere to pain and give it a
certain local colouring. The whole emotion is a complex of various
factors which are closely knit into a single state which to common
observation seems simple, but which is really constituted in its
_ensemble_ by the total specific forces of many elements. In psychics,
as in physics, we know that common sense analysis of phenomena must be
at fault, and that one who says “I certainly have an entirely different
pain when I fear and when I despair,” is as much in the wrong as he who
maintains essential diversities in material substance, or radical
distinctions of species in the organic world. So we must believe that
the peculiar quality of the pain in despair exists, not in the pain
itself, but is really the colouring result from various coincident
sensations and ideas. The lowering of the mental tone far below the zero



Online LibraryHiram M. (Hiram Miner) StanleyStudies in the Evolutionary Psychology of Feeling → online text (page 10 of 32)