Fear Is Insanity

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

When the animal begins really to fear, to drift beyond the line of the instinct of self-preservation,--it begins to lose self-control, and it then enters a state of head-long panic temporary insanity. When man begins really to fear, to drift beyond the line of the reason-act of self-preservation, he likewise begins to lose self-control. But all loss of self-control is a species of temporary insanity.

The condition called insanity will be evident from a moment's study of the words involved. The words "mind" and "man" are derived from the Sanskrit root, m a n, "to think;" the word "derange" originally meant "to put out of rank or order," and now means "to put the thinker out of order or rank." As the mind is not an entity, but is simply certain ways of being and doing which the human self has organized for its life purposes, we see that in insanity these organized ways have been "put out of rank," thrown out of "order" disorganized. They continue to act, but not in normal order. Of course the question of normality is always relative; nevertheless, allowing for relative differences among individuals, there is a standard of normal mental condition determined by the general human mind. This general standard, broadly defined, measures the normal for any mental power ---perception, consciousness, memory, imagination, reason, will, feelings, etc., and when such powers exhibit in considerable departure from the normal, in their independent action and in their inter-action particularly, there is suggestion or positive manifestation of insanity. In fear we have precisely such departure, more or less extensive, from the normal working of mind at its average best. Fear does not rightly perceive, remember, imagine, reason, will, or feel, and it makes a chaos of consciousness.


The main things in the general normal condition of the human self are self-preservation and self-interest. In the process of securing these ends the self of man, working through ages, has organized certain of its powers into what we call mind. All mental powers signify self-interest. Their normal working indicates self-interest man's best estate. And all along, the success of this ageless striving after best estate as em-bodied in best mental condition, or best organization of mind, has been measured, for one thing, by the elimination from life of the disorganization-factors of fear. The struggle of the human self to organize its powers to best possible efficiency and co-ordination has always been to get rid of fears as aliens and enemies. Other things being equal, the most ideally courageous soul is the sanest soul.

Every human being has the right of best self-interest. The truly sane person is the really sound person. There is your goal. Soundness is embodied self-interest. This does not mean, however, what is commonly called selfishness. Two children, are tetering on a board high from the ground. The one, who is selfish, cares nothing for the other balancing body, throws it off the board and itself gets a fall. The other, who cares for true self-interest, is careful to preserve the balance, and thus prevents both bodies from falling. Life is a vast balance. Self-interest looks after self as balanced against the other man. The entirely healthy man acts steadily in favor of his own soundness at the best and by so much as he does so he acts in the interest of all, for the man at his best is always the man for all. But these propositions are a declaration of war on fear.

When, for example, one indulges a violent rage, the injury to self is great, but a feeling of mere anger is, in a degree, as truly hurtful, for the emotion clouds reason and poisons the blood. Precisely so it is with fear. A paroxysm of terror inevitably injures self, but a case of mere fear is as truly opposed to self-interest, for it clouds reason and poisons the blood.

Sanity consists in standing for highest best personal estate. Insanity consists in ten thousand things contrary thereto. Fear, in any form, is one of this legion of evil things. It is a phase of insanity, however mild it may appear to be. The really sane soul refuses to indulge the luxury of fear, insisting solely on the action of reason instead, because there is no supposed good which fear suggests that reason alone may not secure.

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