I Viewed The Morning With Alarm

Merriam-Webster defines Alarm as,

: a device that makes a loud sound as a warning or signal

: a feeling of fear caused by a sudden sense of danger

: a warning of danger

Alarm is a primary emotion paired with Aggression. Alarm is a blend of Fear and Surprise. In Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions this emotion is listed as Awe. But the meaning of Awe has changed over time, from the original meaning of fear to one of wonder, and Alarm seems a better characterization for the combination of Fear and Surprise.

Alarm is the sudden activation of the fear circuit in the amygdala within our brains. The amygdala is the early warning response center, the call to attention, where words or consciousness are not involved. In case of a major emergency, the amygdala bypasses the conscious brain and immediately initiates the release of adrenaline to increase awareness and ability for action by the body.

The amygdala is also directly responsible for the processing of emotions and memory. When we are in danger and experience fear, the vividness of the emotional response is captured here, and a memory is created. Therefore, when we receive a signal from our perception – an unexpected surprise of perceived danger – without requiring conscious recall, we can act immediately to save ourselves.

The artist for Caricatures displays this feeling of alarm by the image of a person who is startled by the presence of a spider. The immediate physical response is visible through the startled look – the wide open eyes, the gasping mouth, the hands raised in fear, and the hair standing on end. It is a distinctive view into the feeling of alarm.

The emotion Alarm in the Caricature series of sketches.

The emotion Alarm in the Caricature series of sketches.

The artist for Watercolors displays alarm though different imagery. Here a skier turns around and sees the onrushing snow of an avalanche. Without any conscious recall of past situations, the skier knows this is very dangerous. We can imagine the alarm felt by the skier, and the frantic activity to outrun the avalanche.

The emotion Alarm in the Watercolor series of sketches.

The emotion Alarm in the Watercolor series of sketches.

Is Anger Bad?


Merriam-Webster defines anger as, “a strong feeling of being upset or annoyed because of something wrong or bad : the feeling that makes someone want to hurt other people, to shout, etc. : the feeling of being angry”.

When we feel fear, it is because of an imminent physical threat. But anger is provoked by something we hear or see which makes us feel wronged, makes us feel our boundaries have been violated. Without even knowing it we can cycle very quickly from fear to anger, e.g., when we swerve to avert a collision in traffic. The incipient fear of an accident is instantaneously replaced by anger at the other driver’s poor driving.

Fear and anger result in arousal of our central nervous system. But while fear makes us feel cold and clammy, with anger we feel heat and fire. Physically, our heart rate and blood pressure increases, our muscles tense and make us quiver and shake. Our mind is turbulent – we feel wronged, that what is happening is unjust, unfair or undeserved. Our actions signal this agitation in body and mind – we yell or scream, clench our teeth, tense our body and want to explode, hit something or someone.

Anger has many benefits. Anger helps us express our value system and morals when we feel something is unfair or unjust, and it can motivate us to reach our goals in the face of problems and barriers. Anger is a signal to others that we are upset and annoyed, that there is a problem that needs to be resolved. Anger can help us understand our needs and come up with a plan to meet those needs.

We are also aware that there are many downsides of anger when we do not manage it well. Anger makes people uncomfortable and can lead to poor choices and outcomes.

In the Caricatures series of sketches, the artist has displayed anger through faces turned away from each other. Each feels wronged over some injustice or unfairness, and because of their anger, they are not communicating. Their emotions are hot, faces are red, steam is rising above their heads. Each is waiting for the other to make the first move to resolve the situation. We’ve all been in this situation in our relationships.


The emotion Anger in the Caricature series of sketches.

In the Watercolors series of sketches, the artist shows a human eye with a burning flame to communicate the idea that anger is a fire inside us. Fire shows how strongly we feel at being wronged, while the visibility of the blaze communicates the feeling of anger to others.


The emotion Anger in the Watercolor series of sketches.

The Story of Fear

Merriam-Webster defines fear as, “to be afraid (of something or someone); to expect or worry about (something bad or unpleasant); to be afraid and worried”.

Fear is the emotion we feel when there is a specific and immediate threat to our physical self. We address this threat through the “fight or flight” response, or, in cases of extreme terror, through the “freeze response”.

Fear is a basic emotion tapping into a very primitive involuntary circuit. When we encounter fear, it takes over the brain and the body, elbowing out all other thoughts, and leading to bodily processes of sweating and shaking. Other rapid and instinctive actions include expanding sensory surfaces to take in more information by raising eyebrows, opening eyes wide, and stretching lips horizontally to scream or shout.

Fear can also be a story that we tell ourselves. This story may involve the future development of a threat towards something we value – security, health, life, money, or property. These fears are often learned, can be as real as the those involving imminent physical danger, and are different but closely related to anxiety. While fear is the focus on “a known external danger”, anxiety is “a generalized response to an unknown threat or internal conflict”.

In the Caricatures series of sketches, the artist depicts Fear by a person cowering under the bedcovers at the sight of spectral arms reaching out towards the person. The hair is standing on end, the face is covered, the eyes are wide, and danger is imminent. Everyone will recognize this feeling of fear – where all you want to do is to make the fear inducing object go away.

The emotion Fear in the Caricature series of Sketches

The emotion Fear in the Caricature series of Sketches

The artist preparing the Watercolors series of sketches used different imagery, but equally evocative of the feeling of fear. A person is entering a pitch black room and is becoming aware of something inside the room. The image plays up our human unease with threats that lie waiting for us in darkness. It also represents imminent personal danger and the story we tell ourselves of a developing threat.

The emotion Fear in the Watercolor series of Sketches

The emotion Fear in the Watercolor series of Sketches

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