Another Dune question.

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Another Dune question.

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Ago 20, 2012, 9:53am

This question was raised in the Nebula winner Among Others. The question is: "Why does the Litany Against Fear work?" Will anyone besides myself confess to using it? I have my own theories but am interested in what everyone else has to say.

Ago 20, 2012, 10:12am

Good question. And while I can see people trying to use it for fear, Paul used it during this test -- while I can understand fighting fear, I have trouble seeing how it would help fighting actual excruciating pain.

Ago 20, 2012, 10:15am

I'd say it works the same way as any mantra during meditation. It helps distract the mind from other sensations. Now, as to why THAT works, I can't tell you at a biochemical level.

Ago 20, 2012, 12:14pm

>3 brightcopy: I think I read somewhere that effective meditation can cause release of natural (opiates ?), though I doubt many can bring themselves to that state at a moment's notice in everyday (or even more strenuous) circumstances.

My opinion would be that most of us tend to be creatures of habits with our own set of private little rituals for at least some situations. While the rituals may or may not have any actual effect on the situation or ourselves, they give at least an impression of control and familiarity which can be calming and beneficial.

Ago 20, 2012, 12:16pm

It's also an assertion of control and empowerment. For whatever reason, those kinds of steps can shape your thinking as opposed to feeling like you are a passive victim.

Ago 20, 2012, 2:00pm

Have to say, though, that if someone held a poisoned needle to my neck and told me to stick my hand in pain box, I'd feel like a passive victim! ;-)

Ago 20, 2012, 3:09pm

The first time I used the Litany Against Fear was when I was quitting smoking 20 years ago. I was a heavy smoker and quitting gave me mild anxiety attacks.

Now I routinely use the Litany for dental work. I've been having implant surgery which is kind of like the gom jabbar. ;>) And I have also used it while getting MRIs, nerve blocks and epidural injections (more fun.) Unlike the usual simple repetitive mantra, I think the Litany Against Fear works because it takes a bit of focus to say the correct words in the correct order. It is not that it doesn't have meaning and the words are in context, but for some reason, I find them a bit tricky to remember. So it is distracting. That's my theory anyway.

But I have often wondered whether I was the only one who used it, and, yes, as Jo Walton's protagonist wondered, "why it works."

Ago 20, 2012, 3:18pm

^7 I think that's awesome!

Ago 20, 2012, 3:21pm

>1 vwinsloe:

I tried it and a few other mantra's but none of them worked very well. I guess some people are more likely to be distracted by repeating something, anything, in the minds than other people. I don't think Herbert felt the Litany was some kind of magical spell or that it was a secret way of calming anyone's mind, though.

Editado: Ago 20, 2012, 8:23pm

So bizarre that this came up today as I was just thinking of this this morning, in the context of the Animaniacs episode. Yakko or Wakko is tied to some sort of death device by a Goldfinger-like character and he recites the litany against fear.

Ago 20, 2012, 10:27pm


endorphins ... I think. The link between pain and fear is that pain is a product of an impulse sent to the brain, a kind of warning or alert. Given that the Gom Jabbar was simulating the pain, rather than actually mutilating Paul's hand, overcoming fear is the test as the pain, although felt, is really not a product of actual damage. Whether fear or pain, its all about control of the mind.

Ago 20, 2012, 11:50pm

I see it as a basic meditation. Fear is the mind killer , is analogous to anxiety stops you being in the present ( mediation enables you to be present)

Ago 21, 2012, 7:41am

>10 Carnophile:

I used to watch Animaniacs religiously when I was younger and I don't recall that. Damn what a good cartoon!

Ago 21, 2012, 10:16am

The gom jabbar is the needle they poke you with if you pull your hand out of the box. It's not the actual box, and does in fact get used to kill people outside of the humanity test.

Ago 21, 2012, 11:20am

oops ... my bad. Still ... I think the point about why a meditative chant or state can actually work against pain and fear is valid.

Editado: Ago 22, 2012, 6:29am

>14 brightcopy: yes, the actual box didn't do anything but give the sensation of being burned alive. So while the nerve impulses were generating pain, there was no real physical harm being done. Paul Atreides did not know that he was not being physically harmed, and that it was just a test of his ability to control his animal instinct of self preservation.

>12 allan.hird: yes, I get that meditation enables you to be awake and mindful, and to make concious decisions. I wonder whether psychologists use this sort of approach with people who have phobias?

>9 Goran: It would be interesting to know where Herbert got the idea. He borrowed so much from sufiism and Arab culture. I wouldn't be at all surprised if there were something like the Litany Against Fear in one of those sources. So who knows what he thought?

Ago 21, 2012, 9:24pm

I find these Dune questions interesting but where is Ian Sales? He usually saturates the area with a flame thrower to sterilize it after one or two comments on Dune. I guess the Olympics took a lot out of him.

Ago 22, 2012, 7:43am

>16 vwinsloe:

You know, I never really thought of it. I was always under the impression he just thought the Litany and its concept was an interesting idea. I know he was greatly influence by his time in Afghanistan. Now you got me all curious!

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