ADAPTIVE METHODS FOR MENTAL STRAIN MANAGEMENT

24. května 2012 v 15:52 | Prof.PhDr.Rudolf Kohoutek,CSc.
Adaptive methods for mental strain management may be broken down as follows:
General:
- aggression;
- escape.
Special:
Active (rather typical of extroverts):
- attracting of attention;
- identification;
- substitution;
- rationalisation;
- projection.
Passive (rather typical of introverts):
- isolation;
- negativism;
- regression;
- repression;
- fantasy.
It is necessary to realise that the individual adaptive techniques overlap and that
they do not exclude each other.

The adequate application of adaptive techniques results in the adaptation, which
is a certain status (level) of coping with effects which a person suffers in the social process.
Conditions of dysadaptation are the result of an inadequate application of adaptive
techniques.
Aggression is an active reaction to diffi cult situations in life which quickly reduces
the existing mental tension.
Aggression may be adequate or inadequate, specifi c, expressed differentially,
accurately focused or non-specifi c, non-differentiated, "blind". Specifi c aggression
requires a certain amount of feeling of dignity and strength.
We consider important the following list of behavioural signs or symptoms,
which may eventuate in aggression and verbal or also brachial aggression. They are
described e.g. by Milan Šulek (1998).
1. Overall affection (nervousness) and agitation.
2. Often and fast movements of upper limbs.
3. Warning gestures.
4. Foot tapping.
5. Long staring in the eyes.
6. Disturbance of the personal space of the manager.
7. Bumping in the table or other parts of equipment.
8. Taut up to tenacious posture.
9. Tense facial muscles.
10. Blushing.
11. Tics of facial muscles.
12. Bumping of fi st in the palm.
13. Poking.
14. Sudden change in behaviour.
15. Getting pale in the face.
If there has already been an aggressive reaction against some person, the following
approach is recommended:
1. One should try to make a calm impression, behave with self-control and self-assurance,
however not to be disapproving or bossy.
2. Speak in a normal tone.
3. Make attempts at the distraction and shifting of attention.
4. Approach step by step an escape path.
5. Avoid being "cornered" in the room.
6. If the aggressor has a weapon, s/he should be asked to put it down.
7. Eliminate objects (e.g. ash tray) which could be used as weapons by the aggressor.
8. People inciting the aggressor should disperse.
9. Non-involved people may be asked for help or for help mediation.
10. Do not look in a "different direction".
Aggression may be also broken down into an open (direct) and disguised aggression.
Disguised forms of aggression are, e.g., as follows: raillery, banter on the expense
of others, caricaturing of others, ignoring of the pleading of others, derogation, irony,
sarcasm, defamation, accusation of others for circumstances and self-accusation.
Open forms of aggression are, e.g., as follows: disapproving mimicking, verbal
offences, warning gestures, vulgar words, rebelling, brachial (hand) aggression, anger
attacks.
Heteroaggression is an aggression directed to other people.
Auto-aggression is an aggression directed to oneself. It may be total (suicide
attempt) or elective (biting one's lips, ripping one's hair out, etc.). A person punishes
oneself for things which s/he considers wrong.
Suppressed aggression often leads towards so-called somatisation: a psychosomatic
disease, high blood pressure, ulcerous disease, brachial attack, etc.
Transaggression is an aggression transferred to another object or person (also
vendetta belongs here).
This is, in a certain way, rather an escape than aggressive reaction. Let's mention
one example: In Japan, some large companies had dummies made with faces of managers
and other important local civil servants. Every employee may slap such dummies
in the face as s/he wishes.
A common example of so-called "cycling" is when a subordinate is verbally attacked
by his manager and he does not dare to protest; when he comes home, he rebukes
his wife without any reason; his wife vents her tension by slapping her child; the child
starts torturing some domestic animal or breaking down her/his toys.
Causes and conditions of aggression may be, e.g., as follows: frustration, confl
icts, stresses, excess of energy, lack of self-control and discipline, jealousy, rivalry,
feeling of not being understood, lack of acceptance feeling, fatigue, hunger, suffering,
disorder of the basic life mood, etc.
Human aggression (also aggression in children) was scientifically addressed e.g.
by Ivo Čermák (1999).
Resistance of an individual against frustration, so-called frustration tolerance,
stands for a functional unity of personality, motivation and social characteristics.
A case of a typical frustration, for example, may be a situation when a child's
failure in a cognitive demanding school task is made socially public on the background
of social acknowledgement of successful pupils (students).
Zdeněk Mlčák (1999) found out that both in a situation of frustration or devaluation
and a situation of acknowledgement - evaluation, introvert children show in a 1 %-level
of signifi cance a markedly higher level of anxiety as compared to extrovert children. In
individuals suffering from any form of central nervous system disorder, many impulses,
which are indifferent for healthy and well-balanced individuals, play a role of stressors
or labilisers.
Stressors (labilisers) together with other negative environmental conditions affect
mental and corporal health. Quality and quantity of health problems is closely linked
to the adaptability of an individual. Adaptability enables an individual to fl exibly
react to changes of external and internal environment and to head towards biopsychosocial
balance and wellness.
A pre-stress situation stands for such a level of tension which an individual is
able to withstand without succumbing to an increased neuroticism or nervousness.
Stress is manifested as tension which infl uences emotions, thinking, conative
effort and physical condition of every person. Stressful conditions are caused by socalled
stressful situations, which may be classifi ed into four groups as follows:
Anticipation stress (e.g. fear of possible failure or ridiculing);
Time stress (too many things must be done in a short period of time);
Event-related stress (we are endangered by acute extraordinary life events and
labilisers, e.g. serious illness);
Stress caused by negative social contact (misunderstanding in the family, at
work, with superior or subordinate people).
Approximately 57 % of stresses originate in the workplace, and around 43 % of
stresses originate in family and private life.
It is possible to distinguish manifestation of stress in the somatic area (e.g. headaches),
emotional area (e.g. hyperaesthesia) and the behavioural area (e.g. compulsive
overeating).
A higher resistance against frustration and stress is usually observed in so-called
"strong" personalities, and a lower resistance is found in "weaker" personalities with
over-sensitive and maladaptive reactions even to less demanding life situations.
To a large degree, the reaction depends on inherent (constitutional) characteristics
of the individual, health condition and age and experience in life, and a learnt
manner of coping with demanding situations.
A gradual increase of demands, problems and obstacles makes the organism to
cope with them and its resistance grows. On the other hand, an unexpected sudden collision
with a highly frustrating situation easily causes a condition of frustration or stress, or
it may lead towards the occurrence of a neurotic reaction or neurosis or other disorder.
An important role in the creation of optimistic life attitude and resistance to
frustration and stresses might be played by experiences of the individual obtained in
early childhood (e.g. refusal of the child; too severe approach to the child; inconsequent
education).
The escape is a manner of or attempt at the reduction of mental tension in
demanding life situations (especially in a strange territory).
Escape and its Types:
Physical:
Runaway,
Withdrawal.
Mental:
Purposeful overhearing or overlooking;
Evasion using a verbal excuse;
Unusually adaptive (conformist) behaviour;
Escape to loneliness, isolation, selective interaction;
An individual consciously and subconsciously evades people and situations which
could endanger her/his self-consciousness and disturb her/his feeling of her/his own
value, and on the contrary, s/he seeks such people and situations who confi rm her/
his positive self-approach or who even help to increase her/his self-consciousness;
Escape to intense or stereotype activity or work (e.g. washing the fl oor although it
is clean);
Escape to mysticism;
Escape to disease (e.g. in hysterical personalities, such an escape may be conscious,
purposeful but also semi-conscious or unconscious);
Escape to alcohol, drug-addiction;
Escape to resignation, to the world of illusions.
Active Adapting Operations
In terms of the fi rst out of two adapting techniques - aggression, we may describe
fi ve special types of active adapting operations:
- Drawing of attention;
- Identification;
- Substitution;
- Rationalisation;
- Projection.
Drawing of Attention
This means an increased egocentrism and a necessity to reduce the inferiority
complex. It often appears in neglected, overlooked, refused and underestimated persons,
or persons educated in a too strict manner, and also in people who were exposed to an
exaggerated admiration, exaggerated care and often provoked to acting, attraction and
"monkey tricks".
Examples of non-adequate drawing of attention are e.g. too loud speech, boasting,
ostentatious behaviour, exaggerating, not letting the others have their say, speaking
mostly of her/himself, non-reacting to suggestions of another person, eye-catching hairdo
and clothing, effort to attract attention by means of unusually self-contained or undisciplined
behaviour.
In young children, so-called "body language" may be observed: crying, breathholding,
fi ts of anger, wetting one's clothes, fouling, sucking one's thumb, nail biting,
pendulous movement, apastia, lingering over one's meal, vomiting, pulling faces, etc.
Some children draw attention of people around also by means of stammering, stuttering
or dyslalia in their speech even when they are capable of a correct pronunciation.
Identification ("identifying")
Identifi cation means that people take over certain manners of expression and
characteristics of other people. Not just the content is imitated but also the form: gestures,
mimicking, hair-style, clothing, voice melody, voice strength, vigour of speech of
people with whom one identifi es her/himself.
By means of identifi cation a person achieves socialisation on various levels
depending on the level of her/his ideal. By means of identifi cation a person takes selfconfi
dence and self-assurance; s/he stresses the merits of close people or groups to
which s/he belongs: e.g. a person boasts of the profession or property of her/his relatives,
success of her/his sports club, school or workplace, etc.
A person may identify her/himself with:
Individuals (parents; friend; teacher; actor; excellent, clever, educated individuals
but also frustrators);
Reference group (class, school, company, army branch, sports club, one's own or
foreign nation, etc.).
It is also possible to identify oneself with past values of a group, e.g. town tradition,
family origin;
Things (equipment of a fl at, summer house, car). Such people often think of what
they have and not who they are;
Ideas (e.g. Comenius, Hus, etc.).
The level and form of one's identifi cation is closely related to the integrity, stability
and moral level of the personality. If so-called neurotic (extremely exaggerated)
identifi cation occurs, i.e. introjection, the person loses her/his own personality and originality.
The person does not have her/his own vocabulary, lifestyle, expression, voice,
smile, movements and does not express her/his own thoughts. Knowing with what or
whom the person identifi es her/himself may be the starting point for her/his correct
education or re-education.
Substitution
This means alternative adaptive mechanisms (sublimation, compensation and
somatisation or conversion).
Sublimation ("refusing", "improvement") means that socially disapproved behaviour
is substituted with socially approved behaviour. Sublimation reduces the feeling
of guilt. Not every person is capable of sublimation.
Depth psychologists and educators consider the method of sublimation the most
effi cient method of education. Inner forces of a person are directed (inner instinctive
energies) and the energy of these is transformed to socially useful and valuable activity.
The compensation means that a person tries to compensate the impossibility of
the achievement of success in one area with a success in another area, no matter if such
an area is related or completely different. In such a case, an intellectually less equipped
person likes to show off her/his physical qualities and skills (e.g. swimming, wrestling),
ownership of material possessions or intake of large quantity of drinks, drugs or food.
Somatisation (conversion) means that a person transfers her/his mental strain into the
functioning of corporal systems (which leads, e.g. towards the development of high
blood pressure, gastric ulcers, inexplicable headaches, allergy problems and other civilisation
diseases).
Rationalisation
Rationalisation means explaining and excusing of rather improper and irrational
behaviour with socially acceptable rational reasons. Rationalisation protects against feelings
of one's guilt, remorse. On the other hand, alibism stands for a conscious transfer
of facts to different levels of meaning; it is a manifestation of rational constructivism,
which of course does not comply with the reality.
The reality is usually rationalised applying a method of "sour grapes" or "sweet
lemons". Applying the method of "sweet lemons" people make their situation subjectively
more bearable. For example, a person who has fallen ill feels happy because s/he will
have time for reading. A student, who has not been too successful in exams, may rationalise
her/his situation applying the method of "sour grapes": "I am not a boring crammer."
So-called intellectualisation is a mechanism similar to rationalisation; it is often
applied by people suffering from human-relations anxiety - it is an attempt at the
protection against emotional content of impressions or situations, an attempt at understanding
these exclusively from the rational point of view. However, an attempt at the
elimination of pain and other unpleasant emotional experiences often results in the loss
of ability to experience pleasant experiences.
Projection
This method reduces feelings of guilt, anxiety, tension, etc. applying the mechanism
of "I judge you according to myself". It is also related to suspicion, to paranoid
tendencies.
Projection may be assimilative or contrarious, refusing, negativistic. In relation
to the projection, psychoanalysis and psychotherapy also use terms transmission and
counter-transmission. This means blaming another person, blaming so-called "objective
causes," etc.
In an assimilative projection, a person attributes to others such characteristics
and motives which s/he admits in her/himself but of which s/he knows that they are not
correct ("everybody lies, steals, gets drunk, etc."). Such a person attributes her/his own
negative characteristics also to the others.
In a contrarious projection, a person attributes her/his guilt, negative characteristics,
omission and negligence to others, denying such characteristics in her/himself.
("I think you don't love me.") Externally, her/his behaviour is contrary to her/his real
motives. ("Everybody except me is inapt here ".) Also excuses such as an existence of
objective problems, extrapunitivity ("The machine is bad.") and impunitivity ("This is
force majeure, nobody can be blamed for this, not even I.").
Sometimes, in stead of contrarious projection, terms such as contrarious reaction,
formed aggression or reactive formation are used, ("Women are the cause of all the
depravation", wicked men use to say). A close relation of the projection (transfer) to
the repression may be observed in such a case. Sometimes, the negative projection may
be observed among the involved (there are pathological transfers and counter-transfers
observed).
Passive Adaptive Operations
In terms of the second basic adaptive technique - escape - the following fi ve
special types of passive adaptive operations may be described:
- Isolation;
- Negativism;
- Regression;
- Repression;
- Fantasy.
Isolation
This means a withdrawal into one's shell, into solitude, due to a fear of failure
when resolving a diffi cult situation, of humiliation, harsh competition.
Isolation may be short-term, transitory or long-term, chronic. The more diffi cult
the life situation, the more people become reserved. However, sometimes a paradoxical
reaction appears - some people, under the heavy pressure of fear and fatigue, become
spontaneously communicative, and such a communicativeness is discontinued only
when the critical situation is overcome.
Isolation reduces the opportunity to acquire manner of behaviour necessary for
living in a group, which increases the probability of frustration incidence in the future.
Isolation is often connected to resignation.
People suffering from some incurable physical handicap are prone to isolation,
apathy and solitude (e.g. deaf and hard of hearing people). Sometimes, however, after
having overcome the initial distrust or aversion, it is possible to achieve a limitation of
such a mechanism and such a resignation may be overcome.
Negativism
This is a behaviour contrarious to what is expected or required, or what is required
in a certain situation.
Sometimes this means an exaggerated tendency towards opposition, independence,
freedom and originality. It may be either passive or active, disguised or open.
Negativism is usually strengthened by concessions of the others. Some people are socalled
opponents on principle.
Adequately applied negativism strengthens self-consciousness, it helps to develop
independence, activity, initiative and stamina. It trains a person for the immunity against
undesirable effects, it helps the keep one's opinions also when being under pressure.
At the young age, negativism is manifested, e.g. by holding one's breath, affective
respiratory spasm, outbursts of anger, selective mutism, etc. In the teenage phase, an
increase of negativism may be observed. A young person, in her/his strive for independence,
likes to confront her/his opinions with those of the adults. In old people, negativism
is a form of a protest against decreased satisfaction with life processes.
Regression (infantilization)
This is a regression to a previous behaviour or reactions which were considered
acceptable in the previous phases of development, however, currently they are not
adequate.
Regression may be often observed in emotionally disappointed, old, injured and
sick people. A person behaves like a little child, or her/his behaviour is loutish or stubborn.
For example, a three-year-old child also wants a pacifi er after its younger sibling
is born; it starts wetting itself again although it was already able to keep clean, it wants
to be cuddled, nursed. Also elderly people's yearning for "good old times" belongs to
this category. In tired people, mechanisms of regression may be observed much more
frequently. Such people are e.g. more dependent on good human relations.
So-called fi xation is also a type of regression (e.g. stereotypifi cation of activities;
repetition of the same mistakes; e.g. importance of learning by heart is stressed in selfinstruction;
fi xation on the observance of one's own health condition), it means that one
become fi xed to a certain object or a manner of meeting one's needs in situations which
should require a different behaviour.
Transgression is a contrarious phenomena, i.e. behaviour higher from the developmental
point of view than it could be expected at a certain age (e.g. fear of death in
a healthy child; exaggerated politeness and austerity, etc.).
Repression
This means a complete or partial suppression, denial of different affect-charged
information, impulses, motives and facts. Such situations are suppressed which are
painful, burdensome, socially or personally unfavourable, etc.
A person often reacts by means of the repression mechanism to such thoughts
and tendencies which are not in compliance with her/his gaols, ideals and principles.
This is a sort of a selective perception.
In such cases, denial is a sort of a symbolic "eyes-shutting " and "ears-shutting"
to some adverse information and facts, which one cannot cope with and prefers to create
her/his own more optimistic version of the reality.
This includes the overhearing of warning, recommendation, invitation, request,
some forms of inattention, such as protection against overload, hysterical inactivation
and so-called segregation.
For example, a person who most of the time lives a decent life, forgets from time
to time her/his principles and goes to "blow off steam", in order to release her/his inner
tension and "retune" her/himself. However, segregation may lead towards disintegration,
a split of personality.
Repression is often connected to pervasive phobia (fear).
Fear is similar to anxiety, but it has an objective character. It also has a protective
function and it is based upon a functional tension. It is a preparation of the organism for
an increased activity, especially its fi rst phase (higher perception selectivity, accelerated
reactions, accelerated metabolism). In the second strengthened phase of fear, tension
becomes dysfunctional and it disturbs the activity.
Fantasy
The mechanism of an escape to fanciful, dream-like satisfaction of frustrated
and deprived necessities is sometimes observed also in artistic work (The Grandmother
by Božena Němcová), but also in non-creative mechanical work, monotonous activity,
lack of social participation, and also in an excessive social stimulation immediately after
a failure.
Fanciful adaptive mechanism reduces tension and anxiety. It often has a form of
daydreams. Three phases may be experienced during fanciful dreaming: escape, gradual
relaxation and a beginning of a new prospect. There is a certain danger in an exaggerated
fanciful dreaming as it may become a bad habit.
The substitute activity is related to fantasy; reading, video, movies, television,
tourism, sport, visits to entertainment centres, etc. are means of a temporary "shuttingoff"
of the external world. Such means are important for the maintaining of mental balance,
however they should not substitute the reality in a too one-sided manner. An increased
fanciful activity, so-called daydreams, is rather typical of the teenage character change.
People should apply the individual adaptive techniques in an adequate manner in
order to strive for an improvement of their mental and personal resistance when resolving
diffi cult life situations (including confl icts).
Every person should acquire the widest possible repertory of adaptive mechanisms
and apply these in the most differential and fl exible manner (in compliance with
environment, situation, age, time and area of life). This should also be the goal of the
educational care.
Preference of the individual types of adaptive techniques and the fi xation of these
depends on the grade to which a person has applied such a technique for tension reduction
in the past, on one's personality type and temperament. Even in diffi cult situations,
people should be able to keep calm and consider or change their goals and the ways
leading towards such goals.
Ethic aspects should be the principal criterion of suitability of the application of
adaptive techniques.
However, people do not always act in compliance with a certain objective condition
of things and facts, but in compliance with their own opinion, mood, emotion,
attitude, according to their subjective attribution, evaluation and interpretation of the
situation. An egocentric tendency of self-protective attribution is often observed, i.e.
a tendency to attribute one's success to her/himself and the failure to other people or
situation factors.
Lazarus's theory ( Jaro Křivohlavý, 1994) of four strategies of stress management
is also interesting: indifference, avoidance of the effect of noxa (stressor), attacking of
noxa and strengthening of one's own strength sources.
R.S. Lazarus (1999) says that a person assesses every traumatic episode from the
point of view of its importance which it has for her/his further life. In the primary assessment,
such an episode may mean threat, loss or challenge for a person. In the secondary
assessment, a person assesses her/his own possibilities for the solution or management
of such a traumatic or stressful situation. Effects of a traumatic episode are usually more
serious than a threatening stressful episode.
The strategy of indifference means that the individual tries to cope with the strain
by means of impassive behaviour and minimisation of her/his interest. However, s/he
may succumb to feelings of helplessness, despair, from subdepression to depression.
The strategy of noxa´s effect avoidance (stressor) means an attempt at the escape
from the situation in which the stressor exists. Fear and anxiety are common in such
a strategy.
The strategy of noxa´s attack is an active (up to aggressive) attack against the
effect of the stressor with the objective to reduce its intensity or to eliminate it completely.
The strategy of strengthening of one's own force sources means an increase of
resistance of organism against strain, improvement of self-control, self-command and
self-motivation, which is a precautionary measure before the stressful situation breakout.
In the case of the strain breakout, there is an effort to manage such a situation
in an adequate or optimum manner by means of the application of effi cient protective
techniques.
Many stresses and traumas could be prevented by the people who work with children
and young people, especially in the area of education, if knowledge of psychology
of health, psychohygienic, ethic and aesthetic standards were respected in the everyday
life.
Literature
Jankovský, J. Etika pro pomáhající profese. Praha: Triton, 2003.
Olivar, R.R. Etická výchova. Bratislava 1982.
Vacek, P. Psychologie morálky a výchova charakteru. Hradec Králové: Gaudeamus, 2013.
Žilinek, M. Étos a utvaranie mravnej identity osobnosti. Bratislava: Iris, 1997
 

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