Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Scare - Pt 2

Originally published in Blog Them Out of the Stone Age on April 28, 2005

Deception is a fundamental aspect of war. The enemy systematically tries to mislead you as to his real intentions and capabilities, which leads to uncertainty and therefore often anxiety. The most formidable adversaries are usually masters of this. I once wrote on this subject using as my example Confederate cavalry general Nathan Bedford Forrest:
"Warfare, despite its various refinements, touches basic human emotions. The most fundamental of these is fear. It is not difficult to imagine that Forrest's [prewar] days on the Mississippi frontier had educated him in the coarse art of instilling fear. The key was to rattle an opponent and keep him rattled. Forrest had an expression for it: "Keep up the scare." When he advanced toward [the Federal garrison at] Jackson [Tennessee] with kettle drums beating to simulate infantry, and when he suddenly swung on his pursuers at Parkers Crossroads, Forrest was doing his best to generate fear. There was nothing really novel in this approach: the violence of war can have no other purpose than the creation of fear through the threat of wounds and death. But Forrest was unusually clear-eyed about the value of inflicting fear. He did it instinctively and he did it well."

The experience of depression is often much like this. Joy simply drains out of life, replaced by listlessness, anxiety, even outright dread. The actual cause of the depression may be biochemical but the mind, spurred by the illness, searches for a circumstantial explanation and always finds it. In broad outline the illness "keeps up the scare" by playing on universal fears: that one is a failure, that one is unloved and unlovable, that life itself is meaningless. But the details are insidiously specific to each individual because the illness, in effect, knows what scares you most.

Part 1 - Part 2

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