Parturient women prepare to exert their muscles to the utmost in order to relieve their sufferings.

We thus see that the undirected radiation of nerve-force from the nerve-cells which are first affected--the long-continued habit of attempting by struggling to escape from the cause of suffering-- and the consciousness that voluntary muscular exertion relieves pain, have all probably concurred in giving a tendency to the most violent, almost convulsive, movements under extreme suffering; and such movements, including those of the vocal organs, are universally recognized as highly expressive of this condition.

As the mere touching of a sensitive nerve reacts in a direct manner on the heart, severe pain will obviously react on it in like manner, but far more energetically. Nevertheless, even in this case, we must not overlook the indirect effects of habit on the heart, as we shall see when we consider the signs of rage.

When a man suffers from an agony of pain, the perspiration often trickles down his face; and I have been assured by a veterinary surgeon that he has frequently seen drops falling from the belly and running down the inside of the thighs of horses, and from the bodies of cattle, when thus suffering. He has observed this, when there has been no struggling which would account for the perspiration. The whole body of the female hippopotamus, before alluded to, was covered with red-coloured perspiration whilst giving birth to her young. So it is with extreme fear; the same veterinary has often seen horses sweating from this cause; as has Mr. Bartlett with the rhinoceros; and with man it is a well-known symptom. The cause of perspiration bursting forth in these cases is quite obscure; but it is thought by some physiologists to be connected with the failing power of the capillary circulation; and we know that the vasomotor system, which regulates the capillary circulation, is much influenced by the mind. With respect to the movements of certain muscles of the face under great suffering, as well as from other emotions, these will be best considered when we treat of the special expressions of man and of the lower animals.

We will now turn to the characteristic symptoms of Rage. Under this powerful emotion the action of the heart is much accelerated,[9] or it may be much disturbed. The face reddens, or it becomes purple from the impeded return of the blood, or may turn deadly pale. The respiration is laboured, the chest heaves, and the dilated nostrils quiver. The whole body often trembles. The voice is affected. The teeth are clenched or ground together, and the muscular system is commonly stimulated to violent, almost frantic action. But the gestures of a man in this state usually differ from the purposeless writhings and struggles of one suffering from an agony of pain; for they represent more or less plainly the act of striking or fighting with an enemy.

All these signs of rage are probably in large part, and some of them appear to be wholly, due to the direct action of the excited sensorium. But animals of all kinds, and their progenitors before them, when attacked or threatened by an enemy, have exerted their utmost powers in fighting and in defending themselves. Unless an animal does thus act, or has the intention, or at least the desire, to attack its enemy, it cannot properly be said to be enraged. An inherited habit of muscular exertion will thus have been gained in association with rage; and this will directly or indirectly affect various organs, in nearly the same manner as does great bodily suffering.

[9] I am much indebted to Mr. A. H. Garrod for having informed me of M. Lorain's work on the pulse, in which a sphygmogram of a woman in a rage is given; and this shows much difference in the rate and other characters from that of the same woman in her ordinary state.

The heart no doubt will likewise be affected in a direct manner; but it will also in all probability be affected through habit; and all the more so from not being under the control of the will. We know that any great exertion which we voluntarily make, affects the heart, through mechanical and other principles which need not here be considered; and it was shown in the first chapter that nerve-force flows readily through habitually used channels,--through the nerves of voluntary or involuntary movement, and through those of sensation. Thus even a moderate amount of exertion will tend to act on the heart; and on the principle of association, of which so many instances have been given, we may feel nearly sure that any sensation or emotion, as great pain or rage, which has habitually led to much muscular action, will immediately influence the flow of nerve-force to the heart, although there may not be at the time any muscular exertion.

The Expression of Emotion in Man and Animals Page 31

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

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Charles Darwin

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