A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis

By Sigmund Freud | Go to book overview

TWENTY-FIFTH LECTURE

GENERAL THEORY OF THE NEUROSES

Fear and Anxiety

ROBABLY you will term what I told you about ordinary nervousness in my last lecture most fragmentary and unsatisfactory information. I know this, and I think you were probably most surprised that I did not mention fear, which most nervous people complain of and describe as their greatest source of suffering. It can attain a terrible intensity which may result in the wildest enterprises. But I do not wish to fall short of your expectations in this matter. I intend, on the contrary, to treat the problem of the fear of nervous people with great accuracy and to discuss it with you at some length.

Fear itself needs no introduction; everyone has at some time or other known this sensation or, more precisely, this effect. It seems to me that we never seriously inquired why the nervous suffered so much more and so much more intensely under this condition. Perhaps it was thought a matter of course; it is usual to confuse the words "nervous" and "anxious" as though they meant the same thing. That is unjustifiable; there are anxious people who are not nervous, and nervous people who suffer from many symptoms, but not from the tendency to anxiety.

However that may be, it is certain that the problem of fear is the meeting point of many important questions, an enigma whose complete solution would cast a flood of light upon psychic life. I do not claim that I can furnish you with this complete solution, but you will certainly expect psychoanalysis to deal with this theme in a manner different from that of the schools of medicine. These schools seem to be interested primarily in the anatomical cause of the condition of fear. They say the medulla oblongata is irritated, and the patient learns that he is

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