Outwitting Our Nerves eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 322 pages of information about Outwitting Our Nerves.


Instinct Emotion

Nutritive Instinct Hunger
Flight Fear
Repulsion Disgust
Curiosity Wonder
Self-assertion Positive Self-feeling (Elation)
Self-abasement Negative Self-feeling (Subjection)
Gregariousness Emotion unnamed
Acquisition Love of Possession
Construction Emotion unnamed
Pugnacity Anger
Reproductive Instinct Emotion unnamed
Parental Instinct Tender Emotion

These are the fundamental tendencies or dispositions with which every human being is endowed as he comes into the world.  Differing in degree in different individuals, they unite in varying proportions to form various kinds of dispositions, but are in greater or less degree the common property of us all.

There flows through the life of every creature a steady stream of energy.  Scientists have not been able to decide on a descriptive term for this all-important life-force.  It has been variously called “libido,” “vital impulse” or “elan vital,” “the spirit of life,” “horme,” and “creative energy.”  The chief business of this life-force seems to be the preservation and development of the individual and the preservation and development of the race.  In the service of these two needs have grown up these habit-reactions which we call instincts.  The first ten of our list belong under the heading of self-preservation and the last two under that of race-preservation.  As hunger is the most urgent representative of the self-preservative group, and as reproduction and parental care make up the race-preservative group, some scientists refer all impulses to the two great instincts of nutrition and sex, using these words in the widest sense.  However, it will be useful for our purpose to follow McDougall’s classification and to examine individually the various tendencies of the two groups.

=In Debt to Our Ancestors.= An instinct is the result of the experience of the race, laid in brain and nerve-cells ready for use.  It is a gift from our ancestors, an inheritance from the education of the age-long line of beings who have gone before.  In the struggle for existence, it has been necessary for the members of the race to feed themselves, to run away from danger, to fight, to herd together, to reproduce themselves, to care for their young, and to do various other things which make for the well-being or preservation of the race.  The individuals that did these things at the right time survived and passed on to their offspring an inherited tendency to this kind of reaction.  McDougall defines an instinct as “an inherited or innate psycho-physical disposition which determines its possessor to perceive or pay attention to objects of a certain class, to experience an emotional excitement

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Outwitting Our Nerves from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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