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.
Phosphorus, naturally artistic, fearful, intensely imaginative almost inevitably becomes afraid of dying when ill.
Secale, the rye-fungus ergot, a virulent neuro-muscular poison, includes anxiety and fear of death in its alarming syndrome of burnings, haemorrhages, paraesthesias and tendency to gangrene (St. Anthony’s Fire).
Fear of the Dark
Fear of the Dark is essentially the fear of the unknown. It is frequently inculcated in sensitive children by a nurse or some other person who ought to know better. To the imaginative child this world of blank darkness becomes peopled with all manner of horrific and malignant denizens, from whom the only escape is into light and the company of friendly folk.
Calcarea Carbonica children are desirous of company, extremely jumpy and easily startled; noises heard in the dark acquire all sorts of sinister connotations.
Cannabis Indica subjects with all their perceptions, sensations and emotions magnified to the 10th degree quite naturally exhibit a horror of darkness.
Camphora patients showing anxiety and restlessness almost to the point of frenzy are terrified and particularly scared of everything nearby in the dark.
Lycopodium types like to know just where the are and what is going on here; they shrink from what is new, unaccustomed and unknown. Hence they too fear the dark with all its vagueness and uncertain possibilities.
Medorrhinum amid a plethora of fears, tendency to start at the slightest sound, a sense of unreality, hypersensitivity to touch, has also acute fear of the dark.
Phosphorus, over excitable, highly imaginative could be expected to fear the dark.
Pulsatilla so dependent on the company of other people is naturally afraid when alone in a dark room.
Stramonium, the poisonous rank-smelling week Thorn-apple, deserves mention in this connection. There is intense fear in the dark and a desire for a dim light in the bedroom at night. Oddly enough there is also a dread of glistening objects. There is also a liability to stumble if moving in the dark or even if attempting to walk with the eyes closed.
Fear to Cross the Road or Fear of Going Out of the House. This peculiar disability is not uncommon. It may be associated with attacks of panic in which the sufferer suddenly trembles violently, may be unable to remain standing, sweats, weeps, has a rapid pulse and feels extreme unreasoning fear.
In an article in the Lancet referring to this condition it is stated, “the impression remains that there was no adequate treatment for these housebound women”.
This seems an unnecessarily gloomy attitude when a remedy, Aconitum, with just this Materia Medica picture is available. Some patients indeed refer to their supply of Aconitum as their “panic powders” or “pills” as the case may be. This invaluable remedy is not only a pain reliever, it is also a fear-allayer.
Lack of Self-Confidence
Fear of failure. This tormenting emotion or mental attitude does not denote any lack of ability; rather does it derive from a basal lack of self confidence.
Three remedies call for special mention in this connection.
Anacardium, the Marketing- Nut, is characterised by sudden loss of memory, irresolution – unable to come to a definite decision about anything – complete lack of self-confidence. A feature of this remedy is a feeling of improved well- being while eating.
Lycopodium, the Club Moss, over conscientious, perfectionist, fearful of a new role lest he fail to succeed, lacks self-confidence but generally does quite well when actually at grips with the situation.
Pulsatilla, mild, amenable, anxious to please, is scared lest she fail to do so.
A Plethora of Fears. Some unfortunates are fearful on several scores, may perhaps be afraid of “they don’t really know what”. The rubric “full of fears” is found under quite a number of remedies, notably Arsenicum Album, Calcarea Carbonica, Causticum, Graphites, Lac Caninum, Medorrhinum, Phosphorus, Tuberculinum.
In a recent number of the Journal of the American Institute of Homoeopathy, Dr. F. K. Bellokossy mentions a Medorrhinum patient who “has most of all fears in the repertory; fear if disease, fire, pain, insanity, high places, flying, strangers, spiders, snakes, spending money foolishly, trifles, appearing on stage”. An extreme case, but Medorrhinum is a remedy of extremes.
Fear of Feathers, or anything which flutters and flaps may be met with. It may be associated with a fear of cats or dogs, which would suggest Tuberculinum.
Fear of Someone Behind, like the snake lurking in the grass, impels the victim to seek the back seat on the bus or get back to the wall at a party. The remedy is Lachesis.
Fear of Knives. This fortunately is not often encountered. It is a horrible fear lest seeing a knife or other weapon lying handy it be picked up to inflict hurt on someone, perhaps even one’s child.
Remedies suggested to counter this fear are Arsenicum Album, the “worried to distraction” remedy and Nux Vomica, capable of outbreaks of sudden violence when exasperated beyond measure. In one case, however, the remedy proved to be Coffea, chosen because aggravation occurred quite irrationally when she was amongst others and everybody seemed gay and happy.
Fear which Persists. When fear initiated by some terrifying experience continues to haunt and cause distress the remedy of choice is Opium.
It is, of course, essential to track down and uncover the cause of the fear in each individual case. If the threat is real then it must be faced with courage and common sense.
If, as is often the case, the threat is imaginary, lacking substance and actuality, it must be hauled into the daylight and seen for what it is or, rather, for what it is not. The indicated remedy will give invaluable help.