JAMA 100 Years Ago Section Editor:
Jennifer Reiling, Assistant Editor.
W. T. ENGLISH, A.M., M.D.PITTSBURGH, PA.
From the earliest records of primitive man there are evidences of a
wide range of his fears, and the noble advantages secured through the pedagogy
of fear. Ere reason ascended its lofty throne, fear expressed itself through
the somatic life, and with a celerity which outruns human thought still continues
to protect us against threatening harm, even before we know in what the harmful
thing consists. Whether originating in the soma or psyche, and however modified,
fear invariably appeals to the sentiency of the breathing apparatus and exalts
the pulmonary movements beyond the realms of automatism. Those fears which
in primeval days prompted directly the exercise of the pulmonary sentiency
or indirectly necessitated excessive activity of the lungs added to the efficiency
of these organs by maintaining and cultivating their primary allotment of
somatic and neural energy and became factors in the attainment of normal intercourse
between the nerves distributed to the breathing apparatus and the higher centers.
Hundreds of generations have regarded the respiratory organs with a reverential
awe, which is the outgrowth of fear, and the ancients considered the terms
"breath" and "breathing" as etymologic equivalents of "soul" and "spirit."
From the very nature of his inheritance, man is at birth a pulmophobiac. The
first new impulse is inaugurated through fears which are products of primal
psychisms and impels the newly born to fill his lungs with air, and as he
is but a reflex and automatic organism, these fears gain expression through
somatic channels. The teleologic significance of this awakening of the breathing
apparatus is emphasized by the oft-repeated and obvious prenatal efforts at
self-protection during that portion of gestation within the range of fetal
impressionability. The first betrayal of fear influence upon the pulmonary
apparatus on the child's advent into independent existence, is repeated thereafter
in consequence of each wavering or irregular action of the lungs. Sleeping
or waking, fear guards, protects and dominates respiration, as it does no
other function. Throughout the early life of those who have their proper legacy
of fear, the threatened pulmonary apparatus startles like a guilty thing,
as a result of limitations. Even in the semi-consciousness of dreams respiratory
modifications cause the most acute alarms.
PULMONARY FEARLESSNESS.*. JAMA. 2002;287(4):422. doi:10.1001/jama.287.4.422