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Published by: Dr Dushyant Kamal Dhari on Sep 06, 2012
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Socrates (470–399 BCE) developed a style of thinking based on the ques-

tioning of established assumptions and the seeking of answers in observable

phenomena and in underlying truths. Intelligence and reason dominated his

conceptualization of mental health and dysfunction. Like Pythagoras, he

believed that the soul and mind were interconnected. He insisted that people

care for their souls, since the body and its basic needs could corrupt both the

mind and the soul. According to Socrates, ‘‘raving, fear, disorderly passions,

and folly are due to the body.’’ Self-analysis, examining one’s inner mental life

to identify truth and reason, was seen as the pathway to a healthy mind. This

concept was another building block in the development of modern psycho-

therapy. Through knowledge, one could combat the temptations of the physi-

cal passions. ‘‘Know thyself’’ was Socrates’ directive to his followers who were

striving for a pure and healthy mind and soul.

Plato (429–347 BCE) established an academy in 387 BCE that became a

major seat of philosophical learning as the Classical Age drew to an end. Fol-

lowing the lead of Hippocrates and Socrates, Plato believed strongly in the

treatment of the whole person and recognized the need to address tempera-

ment issues along with the mental disorder. Plato supported the treatment of

the ‘‘head,’’ meaning the mind, to aid in the treatment of physical disorders.

This concept is currently being championed in modern medicine.

Although Plato believed that some mental pathology was caused by super-

natural forces, he proposed that mental disorders could also result from inter-

nal sources. Plato believed that overwhelming, powerful emotions and

conflicts between different components of the psyche could affect a person’s

behavior. He proposed that erroneous beliefs held by the patient were the

source of extreme emotions, such as anxiety, and behaviors followed upon that

belief system. Plato used education and rational discussions to alter a person’s

faulty beliefs, as we do today with cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Plato’s student Aristotle (384–322 BCE) was more of a scientist than a phi-

losopher. His areas of interest, which he pulled together into written treatises,

were a compilation of the knowledge of his time. Aristotle was the first person

Anxiety through the Ages: Prehistory to the 1800s 15

to observe and record descriptions and stages of human development. Despite

gathering evidence to the contrary, Aristotle accepted the notion that the

heart, not the brain, was the center of emotion and thought. He wrote,

‘‘The brain is a residue, lacking any sensitive faculty.’’ In his view, the heart

was the center of the soul and was capable of integrating all the senses.

Although he dismissed the importance of the brain, Aristotle emphasized

the value of sensory impressions in human behavior and learning. In addition,

Aristotle identified the significance of associational linkages and the reinforce-

ment of behavior as key avenues to learning. Associational linkages play a sig-

nificant role in the development and maintenance of anxiety, fears, and

phobias. Learning to be afraid of all dogs as a result of being bitten by one dog

is an example of the role that associations play in development of a phobia.

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