Hiram M. (Hiram Miner) Stanley.

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experiences is wholly subsequent to the simple sense of experience. All
experience is, of course, in time, but far from being of time.

An organism, which has suffered knowingly from an object, and so feared,
attains at length the power of fearing antecedent to any real injury.
This seems to be brought about somewhat in the following manner: If I in
any way, as by a pin pricking, rouse a sleeping animal to a cognition of
an object which has often injured it, and which it has often feared,
immediately there would re-occur the original concomitants of the
cognition in the previous cases; there would be pain, cognition of pain,
ascription to object, and fear, all merely revivals, and happening most
probably before any actual injury, etc., received in the present case.
Now these revivals, as before insisted, do not and cannot in themselves
alone form a new fear. This is only constituted when the revival pains
are known as such, when they are not merely presented in consciousness,
but represented as belonging to past experience of thing, and so to be
experienced. The thing is thereby truly _interpreted_ for its feeling
value. Not merely pain, as being experienced, is connected with thing,
but as having been experienced, and to be experienced. Thus only arises
that sense of the experienceable, that real _apprehension_ for the
future, which is so valuable an acquisition in the struggle for
existence. Feeling quality comes thus to be assigned as real and
permanent property of things, and every cognition comes to imply
representation of feeling value, and so to be a basis for emotion. But
all sense of experienceability is founded on sense of experience; the
sense of things as possibilities of sensation and feeling is based on
actual relatings of feelings to objects in simple direct experiences.

Fear is in itself pre-eminently a painful state, and we have to inquire
as to the origin and nature of this pain. The statement of the problem
in general form is, how does that which does not yet please or pain, but
is only cognized as about to do so, give immediate pleasure or pain?

We have already expressed the opinion that fear is based on more than
mere pain revivals; there must be true representation, the revival must
be appreciated as representation of past experience, and indicative of
future. The painful agitation consequent on prospect of pain seems,
indeed, to include as pain element more than revival pain, but it is
only seeming. Where does the pain come from which a person feels at the
mere prospect of pain unless from the past? The pain is, of course, not
the identical pain feared. Again, one cannot see how a cognition in
itself, entirely empty of feeling, can cause a pain, except as acting as
a link in a chain of association whereby conjoined past pains are
revived. So far as fear is pain, it is, we may be told, revival, for
representation of pain is not pain, and cannot cause pain. The pain
which arises from cognition of pain to be experienced appears in a
strict analysis to be wholly re-occurrence stimulated thereby, and not
any new and peculiar mode of pain at pain. That this is the case is
apparent from the fact that we can only have the pain of fear so far as
we have experienced pain. Poignant pains experienced are the basis of
poignant pain in fear. The knowledge that you are soon to re-experience
an intense pain leads to an intense dread, in which the intense pain is
revived from former experience. There are, to be sure, in the phenomena
of fear in highly developed consciousness, complex pains which cannot be
ascribed to revivals, reflexes upon consciousness of the great tension
and agitation thereof, pain of loss of self-possession and self-power,
and other modes which proceed from consciousness of consciousness, but
this does not bear upon the question how mere cognition of pain, as to
be experienced, can in itself give pain; how there arises from mere
apprehension a pain which is more than and distinct from the revival

But, however we may be puzzled to see how mere cognition of
experienceable pain develops a peculiar pain which is the essence of
fear, yet we must acknowledge its production to be a fact. We may say,
indeed, that the bare thought of pain even when conveyed by the printed
word—the abstract sign of an arbitrary vocal name—is not without a tinge
of a peculiar fear-pain which does not wholly consist of revivals. When
preparing to go out into the storm on a very cold day I have pain in
anticipation of the pain I am to receive from the bitterly cold wind.
Now I may have preliminary shiverings, and there may be recurrent
painful sensations as I look intently at the raging elements, pains
which return from actual experiences which I have before undergone and
at the time knowingly connected with wind and snow. But all these
revivals, while the basis of my fear, do not give the distinct pain
quality of the fear. The pain which I do experience when I actually step
into the biting blast I know at once to be entirely distinct in quality
from that which I before felt at the anticipation, the real pain, of
fear. Again, when I say, “I was deeply pained to hear of it,” and when I
say, “The noise pained me greatly,” I indicate that difference between
purely mental distress and sensuous pain, between pain at representation
and pain referred to presentation, which is to be emphasized in all our
study of emotion. With a man in the hands of hostile Indians the
tortures of fear are quite distinct in quality from the tortures
actually endured. The agony of fear is a _genus_ apart from the agony of
physical pain.

Again, if the pain in fear were derived from revivals, then the nature
of the pain in different states of fear would be as different as the
sensations feared. But as a matter of fact the pain in fear of cold,
fear of heat, of famine, of punishment, etc., is substantially of the
same quality. I may fear one more than another, but the real mental
agitation and pain which constitute the fear are in all cases
essentially the same. If the pain in fear were sensation revivals, then
fear of cold and fear of heat would be quite diverse and contrary in
quality of pain value, but we all know that the dread of a cold day and
of a hot day are in themselves essentially the same in nature. As far as
the states are pure fear and have a pain quality, the conscious activity
in both is entirely similar.

Further, if the pain in fear were wholly of revival nature, not only
should we expect fear of different sensations to be correspondingly
distinct, but we should also expect the pain in fear to never exceed in
amount and intensity the pain feared as indicated by measure of past
experience. But we know that our fears are often much more painful than
pain feared and than our experience of past pain. The pang of fear, of
sudden fright, is often more acute and intense than any direct pain we
have ever experienced. The terrible convulsions of fear which we see in
the insane give evidence of pain which could not have been reflection
from direct experience. That excessive and sudden fear which turns men’s
hair gray in a few hours and transforms their whole physical system is
plainly not any revival from the individual’s past experience. As
revealed by its effects it is often, perhaps, greater than the whole
amount of pain they have ever suffered. Where, in the direct-experience
form, pain is greater in the fear than the real pain suffered, we
express the fact by the common phrase, “more scared than hurt.” In all
such cases the pain in fear is not the revival of past experiences of
the object feared.

Fear is, in the main, the peculiar pain coming from consciousness of
experienceable pain, but in general in all complex consciousness it is
marked by dissolution and weakening of mental force. There is a
shrinking of will, and a clouding of cognition, a general unsettling of
all mental elements, a commotion or agitation which destroys the organic
_consensus_ of consciousness. But any excessive functioning of some
element in consciousness, of emotion life, as fear, or of any other
form, is unbalancing and detracts from normal activity of the whole.
Fear, however, in its normal measure and form arose and was developed as
a desirable stimulant; where it becomes paralyzing in its force, it is
pathological in quality. Also where fear is pathologically intense it
tends to disappear in sensation feared. Cognition becomes so weakened
that sense of representativeness is lost, the thing feared is no longer
brought before the mind in its potential quality, but is immediately
apprehended as present in its influence—though really objectively
absent—hallucination is produced, and fear naturally reverts to its
earliest and direct form in immediate experience. As cognition is still
further weakened the sense of object as giving pain is lost and fear in
any form entirely disappears. The pain is not felt which before was
feared to be felt. Fear thus in the general order of its disappearance
repeats the order of its appearance and growth.

Fear always includes some sense of object. The apprehension of something
evil to happen is the basis of all fear, but the thing, or, subjectively
speaking, the objectifying, may be extremely vague. We may fear that
some harm is to befall us, but what and how, we know not. We must
suppose that in early stages this bare objectifying of approaching pain
was a regular incipient form, that an indefinite fear preceded every
case of defined fear. We, as a rule, attain a full objectifying with
such ease and rapidity that this form does not often appear.

A complete fear movement, then with reference to cognition includes four
stages: first, a very general sense of object as about to give pain;
second, an increasing definition of object up to the maximum of
clearness, thus marking the highest efficiency of the fear function;
third, a decreasing definition of object till, fourth, a purely
indefinite objectifying is again reached. Every fear, if it attains a
normal life, will rise, culminate, and decline in this way. Even in man,
where the full development of single simple psychoses rarely proceed
undisturbed, there is yet observed a general tendency toward these
stages. I awaken in the night at a sudden noise with slight and vague
fear; suspicious sounds increase my fear and I listen and look more
intently till I see clearly and quite fully crouching near the bed a
dark body which I make out to be an armed burglar; as he approaches with
his pointed weapon fear will most likely become so intense that I see
less and less clearly, and a shot might terrify me into vague but very
intense fear. If the object is discerned to be not a burglar but a
chair, the fear quickly lapses. At a certain point of maximum clearness
either a weakening or an intensifying of fear weakens cognition. Too
much or too little pain is equally injurious to the knowing activity.
Low psychisms examine and clearly define only that from which they have
something to fear or hope.

The qualitative relation of the pain of fear to the pain feared varies
greatly with the evolution of mind. Fear-pain could not have originated
as a substitutionary function for the real pain except by being at the
first somewhat less in quality than the pain to be endured, otherwise
there would be no economy in the function. The progress of this function
is to secure at less and less expense of fear-pain the suitable
reaction. The function of fear being to escape a greater direct pain by
a less indirect one, the progress of the function is in diminishing the
amount of fear-pain for required effectiveness. The small original gain
in the ratio is increased by small increments till in the highest minds
proportion of fear-pain to pain feared might be represented by
1⁄∞. The pain in the usual fear which commonly induces me to step from
the track before an approaching train, or which enables me after
reading some advice on the subject to take precautions against the
cholera, is evidently in infinitesimal relation to the pain feared.
When fear is unsuccessful, as in anticipating a visit to the dentist,
we, of course, suffer a double pain, both the fear-pain and the
pain feared.

Often we must observe that the pain of fear is equal to or greater than
the experience feared, and we have to ask how this disadvantageous
excess could have been evolved. Often the pain of anticipation turns out
to be far greater than the pain anticipated. However, a little
reflection assures us that the excess of fear in many cases is only in
appearance. We do not fear too much upon the judgment we have formed as
to the coming pain, but we have by error of judgment assigned too much
value to the pain. When a person being initiated into a secret society
trembles with fear at being told to jump from a precipice, when he
really is to jump but a few feet downward, his fear was perfectly just
according to his judgment. If his belief is perfectly assured, the
mortal fear will make him offer the most strenuous resistance and most
likely secure his release from the ordeal. In all such cases the feeling
is right enough, but the estimate of future experience is inaccurate.
When an animal is terrified at its own shadow the fear is justly
proportioned to the estimate of danger, which, however, happens to be
erroneous. In the evolution of mind in the struggle for existence, more
and more accurate calculations of possible injury are attained, and fear
becomes more and more rational. Educated men fear only what is worthy of
fear; they fear many things that lower minds do not, and do not fear
many things they do. The true excess of fear is where we fear against
judgment, as when, knowing the safety of travel by rail, I am yet
constantly in fear while aboard a railway train. When I still continue
to fear, though I know the fear to be groundless, this is a true
hypertrophy of fear. We constantly observe those who are fearful and
timid against their own reason. When dangers known are compared with
dangers obscure or unknown—and perceived to be unknowable—the fear of
the unknown often prevails against the fear of the known, and we prefer
with Hamlet to fear the ills we have than fly to others we know not of.

I must in conclusion express my conviction that while the physiological
and objective study of fear and other emotions is of very considerable
value, yet it is only introspective analysis which can reveal the true
nature and genesis of fear and all emotion. What fear is and what is the
process of its development can only be determined by the direct study of
consciousness as a life factor in the struggle for existence. This I
attempt in the present chapter, with the main result that fear, as
indeed every emotion, does not consist of pain or cognition-revivals in
any form, but is a feeling reaction from the representation of the
feeling potency of the object.


Fear, according to the analysis we have made, includes representation of
object in its feeling value, predominant tone of mental pain, and will
recoil. Fear in its primitive form, as we have seen, was a sudden and
transitory phenomenon in consciousness, a simple thrill of feeling
awaking will to spasmodic violent effort in the struggle for existence.
All states of fear in early psychical history were practically alike in
quantity, quality and intensity. Every fear is like every other fear in
its pain tone and will effort. Every object and event considered as
painful is equally feared; there is no distinction of more or less fear,
nor any qualitative differentiation. Very young children manifest equal
fear disturbance and seemingly identical in nature on all fearful
occasions. Prospect of vaccination, of a scratch, of the pulling of a
tooth, of a whipping, of an amputation, produce equally paroxysms of
fear, waves of painful emotion, which discharge themselves in muscular
contortions. The lowest animals likewise appear in all cases frightened
to the same degree and in the same way. It must be said, however, that
this period of simple undifferentiated fear is undoubtedly very brief,
and embraces in the individual and the race but a comparatively small
number of phenomena; but a careful study, even by the method of
approximation will, I believe, show it to be a definite initial phase.

While this primitive undifferentiated fear, which acts with the same
force and quality in all instances, confers upon the organism which
possesses it a great superiority over those which do not possess it, in
the race for life, and thus marks a great advance in psychical progress,
yet it is manifestly uneconomical in its action in that there should be
precisely the same amount and quality of reaction in all cases. So when
a considerable number of organisms had attained the power to fear,
competition would inevitably lead to some differentiation, and this
doubtless first in the direction of greater economy. The animal which
could fear much or little, according to the degree of actual injury
threatened, would have a great advantage in the struggle for existence
over his fellows. The amount of pain in prospect is definitely gauged,
and the fear pain becomes proportioned thereto, and so the will effort
and muscular exertions. Fear in its earliest form sets the whole motor
apparatus going at the highest rate, the whole organism is at the
highest pitch of activity, and life and death struggle happens at every
apprehension of pain, no matter how small the reality. Later, through
discrimination, animals become capable of either a slight scare or a
great fear, according to circumstances. The fear force is gradually
rationalized and made less spasmodic and so more adaptive. The fear pain
becomes proportioned to the real amount of pain and so to injury
actually imminent.

This mode of evolution by decrease rather than increase of intensity
may seem peculiar. Fear, however, certainly originates as a simple
outburst of considerable strength relative to the individual organism,
and the first step in fear growth is a development in the
representation-of-object element in fear which tends to reduce the
essence of fear as pain-emotion. Spasmodic primitive fear in becoming
intelligent loses intensity in the essential feeling aspect. Other
things being equal, the intensity of fear is inversely as the
definition of its object. The dimly and uncertainly known is always
thereby more fearful than the well known and familiar. However, as
regards primitive psychism, we must remark that all phenomena are very
large in relative quantity to individual capacity, but very small in
absolute psychological quantity. A fear which convulses a very small
mind would make but a very small disturbance in a mind of very great
capacity. An amount of fear which would absorb completely one
consciousness capacity, would require comparatively little force in a
mind of greater calibre. The lowest minds are possessed by their
fears, higher minds possess them, do not “lose their heads,” _i.e._,
both cognition and will co-exist as stable controlling elements.
Primitive consciousness is constantly at saturation point, phenomena
occur only in linear consecutive order, and every phenomenon is a
feeling-willing which absorbs the low conscious capacity. It may then,
perhaps, be regarded that the evolution of fear is not through
absolute decrease in intensity, but an increase of conscious capacity,
whereby greater definition of object becomes possible and coincident
with fear-pain of original quantity. The complete determination of
this question must then await a fuller analysis, but the relation to
individual capacity in the evolution of fear remains apparent.
Whatever may be the absolute quantity and intensity of the fear
phenomenon, its relative quantity and intensity changes very greatly.

The number of adaptive degrees of fear which are ultimately evolved and
of which any very high mind is susceptible, is quite beyond our present
means of psychological analysis. We have no phobometer to register all
the gradations, other than the popular usage of language, but between “I
was scared just the least bit,” and “I was scared stiff,” or “scared to
death,” there is certainly a vast number of intermediaries. Terror is an
intensive term denoting strong fear, and a terrible fright is a
redundancy for extreme fear. By the use of adjectives and various
qualifying phases we roughly denote a number of fear degrees, but
scientific precision is wholly lacking. Such expressions as “I have very
little fear of him,” “I fear him a little,” “I fear him greatly,” “I
fear him very much,” convey a meaning indeed, but no exact measurement
is indicated.

Terror is often used as a term not merely for fear in general, but for
fear which paralyzes by its force. The individual is often “rooted to
the spot” by terror, he loses all power of motion and becomes as an
inert mass. With animals even of the lower grades this is doubtless
often a pathological manifestation. We find that predatory animals are
often furnished with apparatus to inspire benumbing fear in their
victims. Various means, as inflation of size, strident noises, etc., are
employed with great effect. On the other hand, we find that predacious
animals seek to reduce the stimulus of fear in their victims by quieting
and alluring methods. Both hypertrophy and atrophy of fear are
disadvantageous, and we should see then in paralyzing terror an instance
of over-development of useful function which produces the direct
opposite of the normal fear. Fear, the great means of salvation to all
weaker organisms, is also in its highest intensities taken advantage of
by enemies. Hence the due graduation and restraint of fear becomes one
of the most important lines of mental evolution for the organism preyed
upon, but the over stimulation or undue weakening of the fear function
in its prey becomes a most important object and advantage for the
predacious animal. This evolution is often by the individual
disadvantageous variation when this is advantage to some other organism;
and, as living beings are soon divided into the two classes, those who
flee and those who pursue, the destroying and preserving of the chief
psychological defence becomes a leading form of psychic growth of a
pathologic character. Fear in its origin was certainly a stimulant to
action and not sedative. However, so far as fear effects an unconscious
mimicry of death it often reaches thereby negatively to conservative
action, and paralyzing fear is thus explained by the general law of
advantage in the struggle for existence. We can then trace a double
evolution of fear, on the one hand as leading to action, on the other to
inaction, but the former will, I think, be found to be the primitive
form. The primary and main function of fear in all life is in a duly
modulated energizing in view of approaching injury, and the depressing
mode is secondary and exceptional.

Again, we must remark upon the sense of personal weakness, or,
objectively stated, the sense of overwhelming power, as entering into
fear. I cannot agree with Mr. Mercier that this is a mark of all fear.
In its origin and early gradations fear, as we have noticed it in the
immediately preceding paragraphs, requires no other cognition than that
of pain to come. Self-measurement of power in relation to that of pain
giving object is certainly too complex to be primitive, nor do the
simplest forms of fear as we observe them in ourselves and judge of them
in lower organisms pre-suppose any such process. Primitively every
perception of painful event fills consciousness with the impetuous
self-conserving fear revulsion. There is neither time nor capacity for
estimating one’s own strength or weakness in relation to opposing power.
By the very low intelligence only the immediately imminent is
apprehended, and action is always immediate, short, and decisive. In
fact, it is now probable that originally painful events are really
actualized by the mind, and the fear is thus at the event as actual,
rather than as ideal, as represented as to be. Certain it is that mind,
in its hurry to get ahead of natural harmful agencies in their action,
must in its earliest pre-apprehensions have no room or time for dynamic

Of course the whole value of sense of one’s own superior power is in
fear, thereby securing the contingency of the painful event, but sense
of contingency upon one’s own efforts no doubt first occurs at a

Online LibraryHiram M. (Hiram Miner) StanleyStudies in the Evolutionary Psychology of Feeling → online text (page 9 of 32)