Fear is probably the most prolific and predominant human emotion. That this is so is evident from a study of history in the folk lore, myth, and human experience down the ages. Fear is an underlying, motive in religion, in politics, in social customs and behaviour, stemming from man’s determined desire for survival.
Fear, the sensation, in its various forms and degrees, in the psychological component of response to threat.
Any kind of threat or menace calls forth an immediate response on the part of the individual thus put at risk. The threat may be to the person, endangering life or limb; it may be threat to the pocket, presaging financial loss or ruin;it may be a threat to prestige, involving damage to reputation or social disgrace.
Faced by immediate threat the primitive reaction is a desire to run away, to escape, to take refuge in flight. An alternative, when escape is not feasible, is to resist, to fight, to take counter action. Perhaps neither course may be possible, but in any case the one threatened cannot but react to the situation.
The first response will almost certainly be one of fear, which may give place later to anger. The threat may be real or imagined but if it persists, will give rise to anxiety, which has been described as a state of chronic fear. A further outcome of fear is hate for it is natural to hate what is feared and to desire its removal or destruction.
The response of threat has both a physical and a psychological component. The physical reason is evidenced by endocrine activity giving rise to vasomotor and neuromuscular disturbance.
The countenance may blanch or blush – going white with fear or purple with rage.
The eyes may blaze with fury or dilate with horror.
The skeletal muscles may tense in preparation for flight or fight, or the limbs may become paralysed and powerless, causing the victim to become “rooted to the spot”. Sometimes this type of response may prove a protective manoeuvre, when any movement is provocative of increased danger. On Occasion, as when faced by a cobra poised to strike, it is safer to “freeze” than to flee.
Other physical concomitants of the reaction are gooseflesh – hair stands on end; increase in rate of heart beat, palpitation; outpouring of cold sweat; acceleration of peristalsis – looseness of bowels; aphonia or dysarthria; dryness of the mouth; loss of appetite.
Accompanying these physical signs and associated intimately with them is the psychological emotion of either anger or fear, but initially, predominantly and most persistently that of fear.
The persistence of fear is not merely a matter of emotional distress; by reason of accompanying disturbance of physiological function it is also inimical to health and well being. Fear is at the root of many psychosomatic illness.
It is true that the best eliminator of fear is faith, confidence that engenders calm, but in as much as the physiological systems of the body are deeply involved suitable medication is frequently called for.
Sedatives, narcotics, tranquillisers, hallucinogenic drugs are not the answer. At best they may partially palliate, but often, they make things worse by suppression or by causing so-called “side-effect”. They may further give rise to the serious complication of drug-dependence or, even, addiction.
A Great Allayer of Fear
In the matter of allaying fear homoeopathy is of signal value; it possesses remedies capable of replacing panic by calm and apprehension by confidence.
Fear of Death may be prominent symptom in sickness. The remedies which can alleviate here are in the main violent poisons in the crude state which, therefore, hold the threat of death in the symptoms they induce.
Aconitum, Monk;s Hood, known as the “most poisonous plant in Britain”, is of special value when the fear is sheer panic, accompanied by extreme impatience and frantic restlessness.
Arnica exhibits a horror of imminent death in association with unbearable pain and a great fear of being touched or even approached.
Arsenicum Album, formerly the most popular weapon of the homicidal poisoner, is so sure he is going to die that he refuses both medicine and food, despite his feeling of utter exhaustion. Withal he is thirsty for sips of warm or hot water and incorrigibly restless in both mind and body.
Argentum Nitricum is a hurried, worried, apprehensive person who, when ill, adds fear of death to his usual repertoire of fears and apprehensions; so that he may actually predict the hour or even minute of his impending demise.
Gelsemium subjects when sick become so utterly low in mind and weak in body that the fear of death readily obtrudes. Muscular weakness may be the almost paretic and tremulousness so acute as to provoke a request to be held firmly or even to be sat on to control the shaking.