Sunday, August 5, 2018

The Strategic Use of Emotion to Counter Anxiety in Life

I'm working on book #2 which is tentatively titled, Fear and Fight: Understanding Our Natural and Learned Responses to a Threat. The mechanism responsible for our natural responses to a threat is also responsible for anxiety and panic disorders. 'As dire chance and fateful cock-up would have it' (Love Actually), I was diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder and panic disorder when researching and writing this book about the mechanism that is responsible for those disorders. I want to share a small part of it with you.

There is a paper that is the subject of a chapter in that book. The paper is about the strategic use of emotion to counter fear in war. The authors list five strategic uses of emotion to counter fear in war: appeal to reason (technically not a strategic use of emotion), the creation of anger, hate, spite, and hope. I've used the strategic use of emotion to counter anxiety in my life. That emotion is love.

Before we became a family, my now stepdaughter would ask me to watch her play football (Australian Rules). I'd say yes but wouldn't attend. Avoidance behaviour due GAD. When we became a family, she tearfully told me that she'd look for me when I said I'd attend her games but didn't. I vowed then, out of love, not to miss another of her games and I'd attend all of her training sessions.

Game day. Anxiety levels through the roof. Nausea, retching, vomiting, diarrhea, trembling, an overwhelming urge to avoid/flee. But I didn't. My partner, her mother, drives to the match because I cannot. I am tense and gripping on for sheer life while driving, seeing every car that comes close as a threat and acting accordingly. My partner gets nervous driving with me because she feels I'm overly critical about her driving. It's only recently that she's come to see my reaction for what they are and does not take my 'fear' personally.

I sat away from the other parents because of my GAD. I was nauseous and I have dry retched and vomited at the games, although by sitting apart no one else had to witness that.

Training sessions. I'd sit in the car and watch her train because I couldn't go down and join in with the other fathers. It was hard enough to get there let alone to socialise.

Over time, my damaged amygdala came to see these things as not threats and I was able to engage with the other parents and the teams admin. This is called 'exposure therapy' in psychological terms or 'stress exposure training' in stress terms. It was tough. Very tough. But I used the strategic use of love to counter fear/anxiety to support my stepdaughter and to enjoy watching her train and play.  Love provided me with the willpower to overcome the anxiety that was preventing me from watching her play and in the process hurting both of us.
 
It's not all perfect how. I still get extremely nervous in the car and I still feel my muscles tensing and have to consciously relax them, but I get the enjoyment of watching the young girl I love play football and she gets to have someone she loves watch her play football and enjoy it.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Dealing with pain by 'rethinking pain'

This article on treating lower back pain without drugs and surgery by 'rethinking pain' is in line with my chapter on pain in The Science Behind Fighting Techniques. This is the introduction to the chapter:

Zillmann defines aggressive behaviour as, ‘any and every activity by which a person seeks to inflict bodily damage or physical pain upon a person who is motivated to avoid such infliction’ (1979, 33). He distinguishes between offensive and defensive aggression. Offensive aggression is when a person seeks to inflict injury or pain upon a person who is not attempting or has not been attempting to inflict injury or pain upon them. Defensive aggression is when a person seeks to inflict injury or pain upon a person who is attempting or has been attempting to inflict injury or pain upon them. Offensive and defensive aggression are at the heart of all activities associated with preparing a person to engage in a violent encounter (Fight Activities; see chapter one). Injury and pain are at the heart of offensive and defensive aggression, therefore, injury and pain are at the heart of all Fight Activities. While injury and pain are at the heart of all Fight Activities, they are not explicitly studied in their literature. This book is unique in Fight Activities literature in explicitly exploring injury in chapter nine while this chapter explores pain.

 The abovementioned article is worth a read for anyone involved in the martial arts until they get to read my chapter on the subject.






Thursday, May 17, 2018

Women's Self-Defence and Fear

I'm working on my book tentatively titled Fear and Fight: Understanding Our Natural and Learned Responses to a Threat. Specifically I'm working on the chapter applying the information presented in the book to understand certain aspects of women's self-defence training.

I'm referring to an article written by Carrie A. Rentschler titled 'Women's Self-Defense: Physical Education for Everyday Life. In the introduction to her article, Rentschler explains that self-defence gives women tools to manager their fear. Fear is an emotion that was selected for in nature because it conferred a survival advantage on an individual. Why then do we need to manage our fear if fear was selected for in nature because it conferred a survival advantage on an individual?

Colonel John M. House, in Why War? Why an Army?, explains that soldiers must overcome their fear of death and injury in order to act and survive on the battlefield. Why must soldiers overcome their fear of death and injury in order to survive on the battlefield if fear was selected for in nature because it conferred a survival advantage on an individual? It's because of House's ordering of military priorities: act first, survive second. Act is mission accomplishment. As the U.S. Marine Corps says, 'Survival alone is not a desirable of a Marine.' Ways and means are developed by the military in order to overcome fear in battle in order to promote mission accomplishment over individual survival.

For women's self-defence, mission accomplishment is individual survival. So why then do we need to manage fear if fear was selected for in nature because it conferred a survival advantage on an individual?

The title of Gavin de Becker's best-selling book is The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals that Protect Us from Violence. Why look the 'gift horse' of fear in the mouth?

There are answers to that question, however, an understanding of the emotion of fear raises this question. A question that instructors of women's self-defence courses and those that write on the subject should address from the get-go. It's not enough to assume that fear is 'bad'; they need to say why fear is bad and in need of management.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Parasympathetic Backlash

Book #2 is tentatively titled: Fear and Fight: Understanding Our Natural and Learned Responses to a Threat. It integrates the theories of fight-or-flight, stress, emotion, and cognition in order to develop a survival process model that can be used to explore and explain our natural and learned responses to a threat. Our learned responses are in fact interventions in the survival process.

At the same time as I was researching and writing this book, I was diagnosed with anxiety and panic disorder. The mechanism responsible for these disorders is the same one responsible for our natural responses to a threat, therefore, I have a unique perspective as I have the opportunity of studying it from the inside and out.

Grossman explains how soldiers often fall asleep after battle not through exhaustion but due to a 'parasympathetic backlash.' In the heat of battle the sympathetic nervous system (fight-or-flight) is activated due to the emotions of fear, anger, or excitement being experienced. Immediately the action is passed the parasympathetic nervous system (rest-and-digest) is activated to counter the SNS symptoms and a return to homeostasis.

Emotion is all about homeostasis.

The other night, I experienced my own parasympathetic backlash. We moved house, a stressful event for most people but an absolute nightmare for someone suffering anxiety. Heightened anxiety, panic attacks, nausea, vomiting, trembling, narrowed cognitive and reasoning abilities, the works. That was extended because our property managers are attempting a 'cash grab' by using our security bond money to landscape the property garden.

I obsessively commenced a campaign against the property managers, and I do mean obsessive. However, when we received the final property condition report and security bond disposal documentation which revealed a lot less than I thought was going to be retained my anxiety dissipated. It is then that I can see how much the anxiety takes over my body and mind. That night I virtually passed out in front of the television at 7.30. Unheard of. It was a parasympathetic backlash experienced after my battle was over and the threat removed.

The final chapter in my book applies the information used to understand our natural and learned responses to a threat to anxiety with the aid of my own experience. My parasympathetic backlash experience will make its way into that chapter.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Turn Fear Into Anger, Spite, Hate in Order to Turn Flight Into Fight

After submitting my manuscript, The Science Behind Fighting Techniques, to a publisher, I have been working on book #2, Fear and Fight: Understanding Our Natural and Learned Responses to a Threat. For the past few days I've been working on the chapter looking at an article about the strategic use of emotion to counter fear in war.

The five strategies in the paper are:

Changing terror back to fear through rational discourse.
The creation of anger.
The creation of spite.
Threat of shame.
Inculcation of hope.

The first strategy is not strictly a strategic use of emotion to counter fear in war. It is a distraction strategy to take your mind of the threat stimuli.

The other four strategies are about turning fear into another emotion that promotes fight behaviour rather than fight behaviour.

Emotion is not just a feeling state. It is a process whereby an appraisal elicits a subjective feeling that motivates an instinctive behaviour that an automatic physiological reaction prepares the body to enact. The output of the process is the effect on the stimulus in order to return to an equilibrium state.

Each of the four strategic uses of emotion to counter fear in war target the appraisal component of the emotion (survival) process. They are interventions in the appraisal component of the emotion (survival) process.

Turning fear into anger is taken straight from nature's playbook. Many people who refer to the fight-or-flight concept, including the authors of the paper under review, associate both fight and flight with fear. Why would you need to counter fear in war if fight is an instinctive behaviour associated with fear? The founder of the fight-or-flight concept associated flight with fear but fight with anger. It has been found that the first impulse when threatened is to flee and fight is only engaged in when flight has been obstructed. That is, in fact, what Sun Tzu and a general from the 30 year war suggested to do in order to get your soldiers to fight. Cut off all means of retreat. Burn bridges, boats, etc.

Lazarus and Lazarus refer to spite as being part of the 'anger family.' It is similar to anger in motivating fight behaviour but it is different in that is a different type of fight behaviour. Solomon warns against using spite as a strategic use of emotion to counter fear in war and to turn flight into fight because it is a 'malicious envy with a wicked twist.'

Plutchik's psychoevolutionary theory of emotion contains eight primary emotions and by combining them they produce different emotions. Fear and Anger are among the eight primary emotions.

Spite (contempt) = disgust + anger
Envy = sadness + anger
Outrage = surprise + anger
Aggression = anticipation + anger
Pride = joy + anger
Dominance = trust + anger

Welcome to the anger family. They all have a common parent, anger, and its action tendency of fight. What makes them different, and what makes the fight behaviour different with different goals is anger's 'mate.'

There is more to this, however, this is the insight I gained last night. By writing about it on this blog I am also delving deeper into the theory I am creating.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Anxiety and Courage

I'm working on book #2 which is about understanding our natural and learned responses to a threat.

Our natural response to a threat is fear. Fear was selected for in nature because it conferred a survival advantage on an individual. It is adaptive. However, with an anxiety disorder, fear becomes maladaptive.

The action tendency of fear is flight (or withdrawal). The military want fight. The go-to response for the military to overcome fear in war is courage.

Courage is most often defined in terms of acting in spite of fear.

I have a diagnosed anxiety disorder. Not pleasant to say the least, however, I use it to study the mechanism responsible for fear from the inside as well as outside.

I have the perfect storm going on. I am moving house and I have an anxiety condition. Anyone who tells you that anxiety is nervousness does not know what they are talking about. Anxiety can be debilitating, not allowing you to function. You can't breathe, you are petrified. Of what? Amygdala has identified a threat in the environment but does not necessarily tell neocortex what that threat is.

Back to courage. If courage is acting in spite of fear, and anxiety is fear of something that is not actually a threat, is acting in spite of something that is not actually a threat courage?

One of the chapters in my book looks at a paper on the strategic use of emotion to overcome fear in war. The first strategy is not actually a strategic use of emotion to overcome fear. It's the use of 'rational discourse,' but actually refers to distraction.

I put that strategy into action on Monday when I was having a panic attack. I watched the football game. It took a half of football before I could focus on the game, but it finally worked.

Another strategic use of emotion to overcome fear is the 'inculcation of hope.' I have studied hope and discuss it in my book. There is a calculus to hope. Hope = willpower to change something + waypower.

I operate on willpower and do not experience hope. Intellectually I know I can do something that I fear but that does not reach amygdala and so the emotion of hope is not elicited.


Saturday, March 31, 2018

Moral and Physical Courage

The recent Australian cricket ball tampering scandal (sandpaper-gate) works as a case study for the 'enigma of courage' as General Sir Peter de la Billiere puts it in the forward to 2007 edition of Lord Moran's classic The Anatomy of Courage:


Moral courage is higher and rarer in quality than physical courage. It embraces all courage, and physical courage flows from it. We are all faced with decisions requiring moral courage in our daily lives, even at home – disciplining and teaching our children for example. It is applicable in business, in law, within institutions such as schools and hospitals. It takes moral courage to stand up against the crowd, to assist a victim of bullying or to reveal negligence where others would prefer it to remain hidden. Moral courage implies the belief that what you are doing or saying is right, and are willing to follow through your conviction regardless of personal popularity or favour. So easy to expound, so demanding to achieve. In my experience a person of high moral courage will seldom fail to demonstrate an equally distinguished level of physical courage.

There is no doubt that the three cricketers involved in this cheating scandal possessed physical courage, but did they possess moral courage? The courage to stand up against the crowd, which in this case was the 'leaders' of the team.

I agree with de la Billiere. Moral courage is rarer than physical courage. As Mark Twain says, 'It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare.'

Unfortunately the lack of moral courage is so common place that there is no lack of examples. Take for instance Senator Michaella Cash's weaselly 'apology' when she attacked the reputation of the women working for Bill Shorten. Unfortunately the lack of moral courage has become a feature of modern politics.

The martial arts teach physical courage, but does it teach moral courage. Many would sanctimoniously suggest that it does, but does it really? We teach physical courage. We develop ways and means of developing physical courage. But do we do the same with moral courage? And if so, how?

My experience with Jan de Jong's Self Defence School is that we were adept at teaching physical courage, however, some of the instructors demonstrated a lack of moral courage. How do we go about teaching moral courage?

PS: This post arises out of my work on the tentatively titled Fear and Fight: Understanding Our Natural and Learned Responses to a Threat.