Tuesday, March 6, 2018
Anxiety and Narrowing Thought-Action Repertoires
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.
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.