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Rivers' theory of the “danger instincts” is a key to the problem of moral and prevention of war neuroses.
These are believed to be largely mental, e.g., conflict between the instinct of self-preservation and the sense of duty.
This subject presents difficulties, because people react in so many different ways; a man may be impelled to run away, or to become aggressive or even motionless when in danger.
The importance of knowing all the reactions of the normal man to danger is, first—the need to know the normal before considering the abnormal states; second—the chemical warfare of the future will involve increased emotional stress; third—in such war, there will be an additional strain of inactivity during a gas attack.
Reaction by flight. Aggression. Manipulative activity. Immobility and collapse. Emotional states associated with reactions. Conflict between different tendencies the reason for collapse when in danger.
Relative severity of war neurosis in pilots, observers, balloon officers, Army officers and submarine crews. Investigation on reactions of pilots to danger and fear.
Knowledge of normal reactions to danger enables the medical officer to help to maintain moral by:—(a) Preparing the mind to meet danger. Explaining that fear is a natural emotion under certain circumstances. Need for self-control but not shame. (b) Prevention of repression. (c) Counter-suggestion and panic.
Difficulty in distinguishing cowardice from neurosis. Definition suggested. Medical tests.