The Negative Effect of Fear on the Mind (Part 1)

By Lee E. Warren B.A., D.D.

(© 2003 Vol. 12, No. 3, PLIM REPORT)

(Feel free to copy and circulate this article for non-commercial purposes provided the Web site and author are cited.)

See Related Articles: PSYCHOLOGY

 Jb. 23:13 “But he (Elohim) is in one mind, and who can turn him? 

and what his soul desireth, even that he doeth...”

 The most powerful forces known to man are not nuclear weapons, nor nature’s awesome wonders, such as the might of an earthquake, the power of the sun, or mastery of a hurricane, but the thoughts and ideas of the mind. The irony of thoughts or ideas is that no one has ever seen or handled them with the physical senses nor have the philosophers proven their existence. Yet everyone personally has conceived an idea and reflected on a thought in their mind. In fact, no one would argue that the mind is ever without a thought or idea.

We use ideas and thoughts everyday for emotions, creativity, problem solving, etc., and they constitute our very reality. However, man knows more about the nature of matter and electricity than he knows about thoughts and ideas in his mind. In fact, the word ‘thought’ or ‘idea’ has never been defined as matter has been. We all know that matter consists of atoms, which are composed of protons, neutrons, and electrons. But what is the substance of thoughts? Or from whence do thoughts and ideas come? These are questions of great debate in psychology and philosophy. Recent scientific discoveries in medicine and other fields of science have moved man’s concepts of consciousness and mind toward the non-material.

 Do thoughts really affect the physical body?

Various studies have dealt with the affect thoughts have on the body and mind. Thoughts, as ethereal as vapor, have a profound affect on the mind and body. There are cases of people dying in their sleep of a frightening dream or nightmare. We know this to be true for people who are awake have actually been scared to death! So we see that thoughts have a very powerful affect on the biochemistry of the physical body. The master Yahshua the Messiah warned his disciple of negative thoughts. He stated, “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornication, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man (Matt. 15:18-20).” These negative thoughts have a powerful affect on both the mind and the body. 

Can examining the natural body’s response to thoughts

help us understand the spiritual affect of ideas on the soul?

Science, being unable to directly analyze the affect thoughts have on the mind, opt to redefine mind as the brain and analyze the affects emotions have on the physical body. (See May/June 1993 “PLIM REPORT,” p. 23 “Do images in our minds stimulate a biological response?”) The Apostle Paul and the Messiah said that the natural or physical things point to the spiritual (Rom. 1:19-20; John 3:12). Since it is impossible to examine the affect ideas have on the mind or soul without a physical example, we can examine various emotions in the brain and their affects on the physical body (see illustration on p. 28). Thus, the physical body is an image of the invisible soul (I Cor. 15:44) and the brain is the visible image of the mind.

In Part One of this article we will examine the affect of fear, panic, terror, and anxiety on the body using case studies to understand their affect on the soul. Part two will examine the physiological operation of fear on the body to understand how it affects the soul. 

How are fear, panic, terror, and anxiety defined?

According to the American Heritage Dictionary fear is: “an emotion of alarm and agitation caused by the expectation or realization of danger; Extreme reverence or awe, as toward a supreme power.” Fear can also have a positive side by causing us to avoid danger, such as that written by King Solomon. “The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of knowledge... (Prov. 1:7).” However, this article will examine the negative affects of fear and the physical body’s reaction to it. The medical and psychological definitions are as follows. “Fright, dread. Primitively, the emotional reaction to an environmental threat; it now also, presents itself frequently as an indicator of inner problems. .... (Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary). Panic is: “a sudden overpowering terror, often affecting many people [Fr. panique, terrified].” Terror is: “an intense, overpowering fear. [Lat. terror <terrere, to frighten.]” Anxiety in principle is the very same emotion as fear because the physiological responses in the body are similar. Anxiety is defined as: “A troubled feeling; expressing a feeling of dread or fear especially of the future or distress over a real or imagined threat to one’s mental or physical well being (Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary).

It must be understood that fear, panic, anxiety, or terror are spiritual principles. In fact, Yahweh told Israel that if they violated his laws and ordinances they would experience those negative principles by means of the plagues Yahweh would bring upon them (Deut. 28:15-68; Lev. 26:14-39). 

Are there studies that document the affects of fear on the physical body?

Let us examine some documented cases that deal with fear and prove the power of the mind to bring fear into materialization. In the New York Times, July 26, 1970, an article entitled “Child’s Death in London Laid to Fear of Dentist” was published and also included in a book entitled Psychosomatics by Howard R. and Martha E. Lewis (© 1975 Viking Press), p. 27. A four-year-old child had a bad experience with a local anesthetic for stitches taken from her forehead. When she went to the dentist to have some baby teeth extracted, she screamed hysterically in the dentist’s chair. He gave the child a sedative to quiet her for the examination. Within a few minutes after having her teeth removed, the child had a heart attack and was rushed to the hospital where she died two days later. The autopsy found very high levels of adrenaline in her blood stream due to fear that caused her to have a heart attack. Fear of the dentist resulted in the child’s death. So we see excess fear can be catastrophic on a man’s mind. 

Do snakebite victims die from venom or fear?

In another example from Psychosomatics the authors write about fear. “There is some evidence that extreme anxiety, in the form of panic and terror, can be fatal. Eighty-five present of the people who die from snakebite don’t have enough venom in their bloodstream to account for their deaths. Then how do the die? Researchers suggest that the terror felt by a person who receives a potentially fatal snakebite may cause heart failure (p. 261).” It is startling to note that NOT THE SNAKE’S VENOM, but the fear and shock in the victim’s minds and their presumed image of death associated with a snake bite causes them to have a heart attack. In short, the meaning the victim associates with the snakebite causes his death? (Please refer to the May/June 1993 “PLIM REPORT,” p. 21 “How does the mind react to fear?”) 

Can fear of pain during childbirth alter the reproductive process?

The most interesting example of fear and its affects on the body can be shown in a case where the fear of pain during  pregnancy actually closed the Fallopian tubes of a woman. The patient was married at twenty and wanted to start a family right away, but after three years of trying without conception, she went to a doctor. It was known by medical science that injury and infection can cause the Fallopian tubes to close. Dr. Flanders Dunbar, who described this case, said it is now known that: “...emotional crisis or shock can close these tubes just as it may make one clench one’s fist (Psychosomatics, p. 215-216).” He stated that he found his patient’s tubes closed during ovulation, but when the ovulation was over, he found

his patient’s tubes open again. The obvious conclusion, said Dr. Dunbar, “was that the muscles contracted involuntarily at the time of ovulation.”  The reason for the closing of the tubes was the woman’s deep fear of pain associated with childbirth in her mind. These fears and images were placed in her when she was a child. Again we see the reproductive system of a woman reacting to fear’s power on the mind. There are numerous cases in medicine where fear impairs the operation of the reproduction system. Some men have become impotent due to real or imaginary fears.

 Can thinking you are dying, cause you to die?

Let us examine a case of fear where a black man thought he was fatally shot and dying. “... Fear had seized him with tremendous power, he shook like an aspen leaf, he bordered on the state of collapse and death seemed imminent. Not finding any blood ... all clothes removed and, while he was being undressed, a flattened bullet fell upon the floor. The doctor exhibited the bullet to the frightened patient, explaining that he had had a miraculous escape, whereupon his countenance improved, his temperature became normal and the look of life returned to his eyes which had been fixed with the gaze of death, ... (Your Psychic Powers and How to Develop Them, p. 26, by Hereward Carrington, © 1975 Newcastle Pub. Co.).” Thus, we see that the principle of fear totally paralyzed the man’s mind. Because he perceived that he was .fatally wounded, he exhibited signs of dying. However, when the bullet was presented to him as proof that he had not been shot, he recovered immediately and all the death causing symptoms ceased. His recuperation showed forth that death was conceived in the mind and brought into materialization, or as Solomon said: “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he:... (Prov. 23:7).” This example leads us to investigate the power of fear on the mind and body in the case of ancient religions, such as Voodoo. 

Is Voodoo real or mere superstition?

Dr. Larry Dossey in his book Meaning & Medicine p. 57 quoted a study on voodoo by a Harvard professor of physiology, Walter Cannon, entitled “Voodoo Death.” Cannon wrote this in the American Anthropologist 44 (1942), pp. 169-181. Walter Cannon’s related a case originally recorded by the explorer Merolla in his diary during his voyage to the Congo in 1692. The story began with a young Negro boy lodged in a friend’s house overnight. The next morning the friend prepared a breakfast of wild hen, a food strictly forbidden by their custom and tradition. The boy asked his friend if he had cooked wild hen and was told no. So he ignorantly ate the wild hen. “..A few years later when the two met again, the old man asked the younger if he would eat a wild hen. He answered that he had been solemnly charged by the wizard not to eat that food. Thereupon the host began to laugh and asked why he refused it now after having eaten it at his table before. On hearing the news the Negro immediately began to tremble, so great was he possessed by fear, and in less than 24 hours he was dead.” Again we see a trivial situation of eating a wild hen causing a catastrophe because the eater believed the interpretation or meaning attached to eating the forbidden food. 

Does modern voodoo or mesmerization still occur?

Many may find a man dying from a primitive belief of a wizard hard to believe and accept. Yet there is proof that the same situation is present today, especially in medicine. Dr. Dossey states in his book, “Many patients trust their physician implicitly and are prepared to believe anything he or she says. For them the doctor’s utterances may have oracular power. Many sensitive physicians realize the power of their words and use them purposefully to bring about healing affects in their patients. Some, however, do not. When a patient hangs on the physician’s every word, and when the physician is insensitive to their effects, a potentially lethal brew forms (Meaning & Medicine, p. 76).”

Dr. Dossey quotes Jon Kabat-Zinn who developed and heads the Stress Reduction Clinic of the University of Massachusetts Medical School. The following case is from Kabat-Zinn’s book Full Catastrophe Living which is a study that proves the assertion that patient’s trust their doctor’s implicitly. The case is about a well known Harvard cardiologist, Dr. Bernard Lown, training at Harvard Medical school under the tutelage of the noted specialist Dr. S. A. Levine. Now Dr. Levine was an accomplished clinician who possessed an awesome presence, and it was said that his patients literally believed every word he said. The situation arose that one of his patient’s, Mrs. S., had tricuspid valve, the narrowing of one of the valves on the right side of her heart. She had experienced a low grade chronic heart failure, but was helped with medication.

Dr. Levine, entering the clinic with a group of trainees, warmly greeted Mrs. S., and examined her. Upon leaving her room, he said to the young doctors, “This woman has TS.” Mrs. S.’s demeanor changed immediately. “...She appeared fearful and began to breathe rapidly and deeply, obviously hyperventilating. Soon her skin was drenched with perspiration, and her pulse increased to more than 150 per minute.... her lungs were filling with fluid, although they were clear a few minutes earlier... Dr. Lown asked her why she was so upset. She replied that Dr. Levine had said that she had TS, which she knew meant “terminal situation.” This amused Dr. Lown initially, for he knew the acronym stood for “tricuspid stenosis,” the condition of her heart value. Mrs. S. failed, however, to be reassured by this explanation, and her congestion worsened. Her lungs continued to fill with fluid and she lost consciousness, unable to breathe.....” She died later in the day from intractable heart failure. So we see how today in our medically advanced society, a few misinterpreted words can be as deadly as the primitive Congo boy eating wild hen. 

Can principles of Voodoo be found in our everyday lives?

The American psychologist William James explains how fear within any social group causes conformity to the mores and social values of that society (an example of modern Voodoo) in Principles of Psychology. “A man’s social me is the recognition ... he gets from his mates ... we have an innate propensity to get ourselves noticed, and noticed favorably, by our kind. No more fiendish punishment could be devised ... than that one should ... remain absolutely unnoticed ... If no one turned round when we entered, answered when we spoke..., but ... acted as if we were nonexisting things, a kind of rage and impotent despair would ... well up in us, from which the cruelest bodily tortures would be a relief; for these would make us feel

that ... we had not sunk to such a depth as to be unworthy of attention at all. (quoted from Meaning & Medicine by Larry Dossey, M.D., p. 58)” The affect fear has on the physiological operation of the body has been well documented by medical science and psychology. Here fear is being used as a psychological tool to cause an individual to conform to society.

 How does the physical body react to fear?

The affect fear has on the physiological operation of the body has been well documented by medical science and psychology. Hereward Carrington in his book Your Psychic Powers and How to Develop Them, p. 26 wrote, “It is an interesting fact that fear and all depressing emotions of a similar nature serve to constrict or contract the body - while mirth, love altruism and all the higher emotions serve to produce both physical and mental relaxation....”

This statement along with the numerous case studies presented give sufficient scientific proof and evidence that thoughts, ideas, and emotions alter the body’s biochemistry and the health of the body. Likewise, erroneous doctrines and beliefs in the mind affect the eternal life of the soul for an eternity. Excess fear or any other negative attribute elicits a negative response in the soul as correlated to negative reactions in the physical body.

 Can negative emotions be held in the

mind without a negative reaction on the body?

Emmet Fox, scientist, philosopher, and spiritual teacher, wrote about the affect of negative emotions on the body. “It cannot be too often repeated that to entertain feelings of anger, resentment, jealousy, spite,..., is certain to damage your health in some way or other, and quite likely to damage it very severely indeed. Remember that the question of the justification ... does not arise at all. It has absolutely nothing to do with the results, for the thing is a matter of natural law.

A woman said: ‘I have a right to be angry,’ meaning that she had been the victim of very shabby treatment, and that she consequently possessed a kind of license or special permit to hold angry feelings without their natural consequences upon the body following. This, of course, is absurd. There is no one to give such a permit, and if it could be done—if general laws could ever be set aside in special instances—we should have, not a universe, but a chaos. If you press the button, from no matter what motive, good or bad—to save a man’s life or to murder him—the electric bell will ring; because that is the law of electricity. If you drank a deadly poison inadvertently, you would die or at least seriously damage your body, because such is the law. You may have mistakenly supposed it to be a harmless fluid, but that would make no difference because the law takes no account of intentions. For the same reason, to entertain negative emotions is to order trouble... quite independently of any seeming justification... (Sermon on the Mount, p. 90-91)” 

Is physical torment to the body only a type of hell?

The physical body can have no peace as long as the mind (or brain) is full of fear and will utterly collapse from it. Now fear manifested in the soul or spiritual body is far worse than the affects of fear on the physical body. The soul never passes out or loses consciousness. So the pains and feelings of fear are a thousand times more intense in the soul and can last for an eternity. This is truly hell—never, never, never,... ever entering the state of Peace, Joy and righteousness, which is the Kingdom Of Yahweh (Rom. 14:17). So the mind of man must be transformed and renewed in order to inherit the state of peace and joy.


Dr. Henry C. Kinley wrote that man will never understand the torment and pain a soul can suffer in hell until he understands the physical torment of the body is only a type.

“The failure on the part of mankind to definitely understand what hell really is, is partly due to his not comprehending fully the three-fold makeup of the physical body. Mankind naturally thinks of his physical body when one speaks of everlasting punishment in a Lake of Fire and Brimstone, forever and since human flesh can not burn forever without being consumed, he dismisses the idea of such physical punishment. Then if he does discern that man has a spiritual body, he cannot quite comprehend how this would be affected by a physical fire in a Lake of Brimstone. In addition, he does not discern that a spiritual body can experience pain, grief, sorrow, torment, etc. having existed in a physical body all of his life and experienced physical pain, shed physical tears and endured physical agony (Elohim the Archetype Original Pattern of the Universe, “ A Condensed Explanation of Hell,” p. 114).”


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