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The Stress Emotions: Anger and Fear
I found it interesting that the chapter states that anger is found in all animals (higher animals that are capable of such expressions as I imagine an earthworm does not express anger) and yet offers evidence that anger is not instinctual in nature in humans (the Seville Statement). If anger is a core emotion, then it is probably experienced to some degree in all of us, and certainly cultural norms could alter the expression of anger and aggression. Nonetheless, the chapter spends a great deal of time discussing cultural differences in the gender expression of anger in the West. There are some good points made concerning expectations of boys and girls regarding how emotions are to be expressed, but the bottom line appears that despite all of the popular books and popular opinion that males and females express or experience anger differently, several research reports indicate otherwise. I found this quite interesting. I think that most of that attitude (men and women express anger differently) may be due to a confirmation bias.
The chapter focuses on the physical effects of anger, and busts a few myths that I had thought were factual. First, the notion of catharsis, or blowing off steam, does not reduce anger but instead enhances it. However, the chapter offers suggesting to making the blowing off steam as a resourceful method of resolving anger such as directing the expression towards the source, reestablishing self-control, etc. Since anger can sometimes be an issue for me personally, I found these useful. Secondly, the frustration-aggression hypothesis is not really supported by the research, so while frustration might lead to aggressive behavior, it is not a constant. I also found this interesting as in the past I have tried to figure out what frustrations made me angry in general, when in fact the frustration may have really been due to guilt, unresolved issues after being angry, or other factors. I need to think about my anger in order to understand it. The other issue concerns the deleterious health issues that have been linked to mismanaged anger. First, one has to have a lot of anger and stress to develop heart disease or ulcers and secondly these are not causal factors for ill health but instead risk factors. I did not think that the chapter was clear enough about this relationship.
I found the anger mismanagement styles section very informative. I tend to vary between an exploder and an underhander. I have known somatizers and self-punishers, but do not really express such tendencies regularly myself. However, the issue with typing these is that we all probably engage in all of these styles of anger mismanagement to some degree. I am more apt to explode, but if there is a big status difference in myself and the object of my anger I tend to hold it in. However, I am rarely one to go the self-punishing light unless the results of my exploding really are catastrophic.
I think that the hostility element of my anger is the most damaging part of it for me and the creative anger strategies at the end of this section were quite helpful to me. I tend to be a reactor and perhaps being more proactive, as these techniques suggest, would allow me to get a little more control of my tendency to react to my anger. It is during these periods where my anger becomes unproductive. By slowing down, taking a time out (which is really important for me because I defuse rather quickly, but sometimes the damage my anger causes does not), planning ahead, and keeping a journal are some proactive strategies I can benefit from. I also think using the journal to categorize high potential anger situations for me can make me mindful of my tendencies. All in all I found this chapter quite helpful in helping me recognize the potential origins of my anger and designing a strategy to help me express it and deal with it in a more positive manner.
I found this portion of the chapter weaker than the anger section. I do not agree with Seaward equating the terms anxiety and fear. Clinicians use anxiety to describe dysphoric feelings on uneasiness that not associated with a specific target or have lower level intensity than fear. Fear is typically more intense and is associated with a target. There is a reason why the clinical psychologists use the two terms to describe generally different qualities of apprehensive feelings. Seward also defines the six major human fears and in typical fashion he does not provide a citation, but I also found these lacking. For example if Mike Tyson was mad at me and about punch my lights out I would be terrified. What fear is that? I am not afraid of dying I'm just afraid of the pain and damage that is coming at me. There is no fear of pain on this list. Moreover, the fear of death can be subsumed under the fear of loss of dominance or fear of the unknown. I thought this explanation was weak. In a sense fear is often tied to losing control, the unknown, the anticipation of pain, and a few other factors.
Most of my fear-related chronic stress is related to the loss of control. I also thought the strategies section here was weak as well. Much of the stress chronic stress that people endure in life is related to their perception of a loss of control over their circumstances. Interestingly, I read Victor Frankl's book Man's Search for Meaning (which I was amazed to find mentioned in chapter eight). Frankl, a peer of Freud's, spent years in a Nazi concentration camp and endured numerous tortures that I could never even imagine. He truly lost control of his entire life including his wife and kids (all murdered), his decision making, his freedom, and all his basic rights. He nearly escaped execution numerous times. But, he came to the realization that people always have control over how they choose to respond to the situations in their life, no matter how bad things may seem. In dealing with chronic stress related to fear I need to keep this in mind and use techniques like some cognitive restructuring as outlined near the end of the chapter and chapter 8, relaxation, and exposure. But the realization that I cannot control many events outside myself, but I can control how I react to them is the key to reducing stress.
Chapter 8 Cognitive Restructuring: Reframing
This chapter is quite useful and in terms of where I was heading related to thinking about my own issues with chronic stress it validated a few things for me and helped me rethink others. First the chapter discusses cognitive distortions as they information processing by the brain. The use of self-talk and the distortions of toxic thoughts as categorized by Ellis were very helpful in assisting me to understand my own stress. Looking back at my stress diary I can see where I have a tendency to use pessimism, catastrophizing, magnifying, and polarizing quite often. Referring back to chapter five and tying it into the current chapter, I think that first being mindful of these tendencies is quite important for me. In reading the chapter and thinking about all of this I need to remember to accept life as not always being rosy and remembering where my real control over things lies. As stated previously and brought up in this chapter, it is my perception of events that exacerbates chronic stress levels. And my perception of events is often subjectively blown out of proportion to reality. When I distort events I create stress which leads to a narrowing of my perception, which leads to more distortion, etc. I never really thought about issues like this before, but I can see where I was playing the role of the victim and in a sense leading myself into self-fulfilling prophecies while at the same time rationalizing that I was right about being a victim and having no control all the time. The chapter discusses positive psychology and the power of being positive, I used to think that was being unrealistic but after reading the chapter I realize that being positive is being realistic and what I have been doing is been unrealistic. If I were too likewise use Pollyanna distortions in response to stressful events I would be considered delusional. So in a sense I have been delusional in my perceptions of the world by distorting their salience in a negative manner.
The question becomes how do I reframe my tendency to be a victim by engaging in cognitive distortions? The chapter discusses this in great detail. Kind of like the anger management strategy in chapter five, one good first step is to recognize when I am using a distortion and try and stop myself (thought stopping or a time out). Then I need to…[continue]
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