Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Anxiety and Narrowing Thought-Action Repertoires

Book #2 deals with our natural and learned responses to a threat. It integrates the theories of fight-or-flight, stress, emotion, and cognition to develop an understanding of our evolved survival mechanism. That explains our natural responses to a threat and our learned responses are all interventions in that survival mechanism, or what I call the survival process.

A book I refer to is Performance Under Stress which focuses on 'soldier stress' and soldier performance. It has contributors who share stress research about various aspects of soldier stress and soldier performance. The editors then explain that the information presented is not just for soldier's but for everyone because everyone experiences stress to varying degrees.

In like fashion, my book is about natural and learned responses to a threat in a violence, aggression setting, however, the mechanism responsible for your natural responses to a threat are also responsible for anxiety conditions/disorders.

Ironically, I was diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder and panic disorder while researching and writing this book. In treating the disorder I have visited a few psychologists. I tried to explain certain 'symptoms' and could actually explain what exactly is going on. One aspect intrigued me as the psychologists had never heard of the research that explains the symptoms.

Barbara Fredrickson developed the broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. She distinguishes between positive and negative emotions. Positive emotions are associated with challenges or opportunities while negative emotions are associated with threats. Positive emotions do not tend to have action tendencies (joy-?) while negative emotions do (fear-flight). Fredrickson also considered the cognitive aspect of an emotional experience.

She explains how negative emotions narrow a person's thought-action repertoire. They increasingly focus on one way to deal with the threat. Their cognitive abilities, their reasoning, problem-solving, thought processes progressively narrow. This is why you cannot reason with a person who is angry, scared ... or anxious.

I know this from unfortunate experience. When you've come out the other side of an anxiety episode you see the many options that were available that you could not see while experiencing anxiety. You could not fix the 'problem' because your problem solving abilities are impaired while experiencing anxiety.

Negative emotions (anger, fear, anxiety) narrow a person's thought-action repertoire.

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