A physician once remarked to me as a proof of the exciting nature of anger, that a man when excessively jaded will sometimes invent imaginary offences and put himself into a passion, unconsciously for the sake of reinvigorating himself; and since hearing this remark, I have occasionally recognized its full truth.

Several other states of mind appear to be at first exciting, but soon become depressing to an extreme degree. When a mother suddenly loses her child, sometimes she is frantic with grief, and must be considered to be in an excited state; she walks wildly about, tears her hair or clothes, and wrings her hands. This latter action is perhaps due to the principle of antithesis, betraying an inward sense of helplessness and that nothing can be done. The other wild and violent movements may be in part explained by the relief experienced through muscular exertion, and in part by the undirected overflow of nerve-force from the excited sensorium. But under the sudden loss of a beloved person, one of the first and commonest thoughts which occurs, is that something more might have been done to save the lost one. An excellent observer,[12] in describing the behaviour of a girl at the sudden death of her father, says she "went about the house wringing her hands like a creature demented, saying `It was her fault;' `I should never have left him;' `If I had only sat up with him,' " &c. With such ideas vividly present before the mind, there would arise, through the principle of associated habit, the strongest tendency to energetic action of some kind.

As soon as the sufferer is fully conscious that nothing can be done, despair or deep sorrow takes the place of frantic grief. The sufferer sits motionless, or gently rocks to and fro; the circulation becomes languid; respiration is almost forgotten, and deep sighs are drawn.

[12] "Mrs. Oliphant, in her novel of `Miss Majoribanks,' p. 362. All this reacts on the brain, and prostration soon follows with collapsed muscles and dulled eyes. As associated habit no longer prompts the sufferer to action, he is urged by his friends to voluntary exertion, and not to give way to silent, motionless grief. Exertion stimulates the heart, and this reacts on the brain, and aids the mind to bear its heavy load.

Pain, if severe, soon induces extreme depression or prostration; but it is at first a stimulant and excites to action, as we see when we whip a horse, and as is shown by the horrid tortures inflicted in foreign lands on exhausted dray-bullocks, to rouse them to renewed exertion. Fear again is the most depressing of all the emotions; and it soon induces utter, helpless prostration, as if in consequence of, or in association with, the most violent and prolonged attempts to escape from the danger, though no such attempts have actually been made. Nevertheless, even extreme fear often acts at first as a powerful stimulant. A man or animal driven through terror to desperation, is endowed with wonderful strength, and is notoriously dangerous in the highest degree.

On the whole we may conclude that the principle of the direct action of the sensorium on the body, due to the constitution of the nervous system, and from the first independent of the will, has been highly influential in determining many expressions. Good instances are afforded by the trembling of the muscles, the sweating of the skin, the modified secretions of the alimentary canal and glands, under various emotions and sensations. But actions of this kind are often combined with others, which follow from our first principle, namely, that actions which have often been of direct or indirect service, under certain states of the mind, in order to gratify or relieve certain sensations, desires, &c., are still performed under analogous circumstances through mere habit although of no service. We have combinations of this kind, at least in part, in the frantic gestures of rage and in the writhings of extreme pain; and, perhaps, in the increased action of the heart and of the respiratory organs.

The Expression of Emotion in Man and Animals Page 34

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

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Charles Darwin

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