Saturday, August 25, 2012

Stress is Dead

Stress, survival stress, soldier stress, combat stress. Stress training, stress inoculation training, stress exposure training. All of these concepts and training methods are referred to by the military, law enforcement, martial arts, and self defence activities to prepare their trainees to prevail in a violent encounter.

Anyone who refers to stress is like one of the blind men of Indostan who are asked to describe an elephant they have never seen by touching just one part of it: 'Though each was partly in the right, And all were in the wrong!'

Bruce Siddle's work has assumed the authority of commonly conceived wisdom within activities associated with preparing a person to operate in a high threat environment. His work is based on the deleterious effects of survival stress on survival and combat performance:
Incredibly, agencies and officers have been litigated under the assumption that the officer used negligent tactics which necessitated the use of deadly force. However, Breedlove's research provides us with a scientific explanation based upon eye anatomy and the affects of stress on the visual system. When a student's working heart rate rises above 145 BPM, the visual system decreases the peripheral field and attention focuses on a threat stimulus. Since the brain is demanding more information to deal with the threat, the student will invariably retreat from the threat to widen the peripheral field.
Though Siddle was partly in the right, he was also wrong.

Emotion involves physiological arousal. Even the severely limited fight-or-flight model included two emotions that are evolutionarily designed to deal with a threat: fear and anger. Both emotions involve a physiological reaction which is designed to prepare the body for the action associated with the emotion, and which is designed to deal with the threat in different ways. In both cases, the heart rate may rise above 145 BPM, but the action tendency is very different. Fear is a withdrawal behaviour while anger is an approach behaviour; even though both actions/emotions are designed to deal with a threat. If an individual experiences anger rather than fear when confronted with a threat, their heart rate may rise above 145 BPM but retreat would only be associated with fear. Approach/fight would be associated with anger. It's got nothing to do with the brain's demand for information to deal with the threat.

Stress focuses on anxiety-fear. This is a little understood fact. Even though it was derived from the fight-or-flight concept, it does not focus on anger. Both emotions are evolutionarily designed to deal with a threat.

The fight-or-flight concept was developed by Walter Cannon in the early 1920s. It was based on the responses of cats when confronted with a dog. What was the dog's responses when confronting the cat? Cannon was also one of the Indostan blind men.

Fredrickson proposed the broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. She differentiates between positive and negative emotions. Positive emotions broadens cognitive perception. Positive emotions are not studied to any great degree by emotion or stress theorists.

Emotion involves physiological arousal. Excitement/anticipation is an emotion. Stress is a prey-type concept involving, albeit often unknowingly, the negative emotion of anxiety-fear. Excitement/anticipation could be argued to be a predator-type emotion involving a physiologicial arousal and is a positive broaden-and-build positive emotion. It is probably associated with an approach behaviour rather than a withdrawal behaviour.

Threatening situations involve a multitude of emotions with heightened physiological arousal and different action tendencies. To suggest that everyone will act a particular way predicated on stress theory is naive at best.

1 comment:

  1. Nice... Have you read some Forney who's been looking into the amygdala; upper / lower amygdala - which takes either fear or anger..


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