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Chapter 4

Chapter 4 - Coping Processes.docx

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Psychology 2035A/B
Doug Hazlewood

CHAPTER 4: COPING PROCESSES THE CONCEPT OF COPING  Coping: efforts to master, reduce, or tolerate the demands created by stress;  People cope with stress in different ways 400 distinct coping techniques  Carver, Scheier, and Weintraub found that they could sort their participants’ coping tactics into 14 categories Types of Coping Strategy Coping Strategy Example Active coping I take additional action to try to get rid of the problem Planning I come up with a strategy about what to do Suppression of competing activities I put aside other activities in order to concentrate on this Restraint coping I force myself to wait for the right time to do something Seeking social support for instrumental reI ask people who have had similar experiences what they did Seeking social support for emotional reasoI talk to someone about how I feel Focus on and venting of emotions I get upset and let my emotions out Positive reinterpretation and growth I look for the good in what is happening Acceptance I learn to live with it Denial I refuse to believe that it has happened Turning to religion I seek God’s help Behavioural disengagement I give up the attempt to get what I want Mental disengagement I turn to work or other substitute activities to take my mind off things Alcohol-drug disengagement I drink alcohol or take drugs in order to think about it less  Its most adaptive to use a variety of coping strategies  People come to rely on some strategies more than others  HOWEVER, flexibility in coping is more desirable than consistently relying on the same strategy   increased resilience & decreased distress during stressful events  Flexible copers can differentiate among stressful events in terms of controllability and impact  which is important information to know when choosing a coping strategy  Avoid being in a rut of problematic strategy  Coping strategies show only moderate stability across varied situations  Coping strategies vary in their adaptive value (range: helpful  counterproductive)  How effective they are vs. how counterproductive  No strategy is guaranteed successful; depends on the situation COMMON COPING PATTERNS OF LIMITED VALUE GIVING UP  This response of apathy and inaction tends to be associated with the emotional reactions of sadness and dejection  Learned Helplessness: a passive behavior produced by exposure to unavoidable aversive events  Martin Seligman: helplessness is product of conditioning  Rats given electric shock they couldn’t escape  Rats were then given shocks  taught how to escape  some rats didn’t even bother to learn how to escape  experiment parallel with people < fatalism, resignation, passively accepting setbacks  In adolescents, learned helplessness is associated with disengagement in academics & an increase in depression  Environmental stressors, such as excessive noise, crowding, and traffic, often produce a syndrome that resembles learned helplessness  Seligman’s revised theory: cognitive interpretation of aversive events determines whether they develop learned helplessness  Helplessness occurs when individuals come to believe that the events are out of their control  Usually in people who exhibit a pessimistic explanatory style  Tend to attribute setbacks to personal inadequacies instead of situational factors  Associated with poorer physical health and increased depression and anxiety  Carver & Colleagues: Behavioral Disengagement (giving up)  Associated with Increased distress th  September 11 increased anxiety shortly after the attack, even for those indirectly affected  Adaptive in some instances  Example: If you are thrown into a job that you are not equipped to handle, it might be better to quit rather than face constant pressure and diminishing self-esteem  Withdrawing effort from unattainable goals can be an effective coping strategy, associated with a reduction in anxiety and depression and better self-reported health ACTING AGGRESSIVELY  Road Rage: maladaptive ways in which drivers cope with the stress, anxiety, and hostility experienced while driving  Common enough  professionals are calling for road rage to become an official psychiatric diagnosis  Aggression: is any behavior intended to hurt someone, physically or verbally  Frustration-Aggression Hypothesis: aggression is always due to frustration  Decades of research eventually showed that there isn’t an inevitable link between the two but frustration does frequently elicit aggression  When someone is provoked, displaced aggression is a common response  More likely if the person ruminates about being provoked, if he or she has a depleted capacity for self-control, or if alcohol is involved  Feelings of security and anonymity in one’s personal space also influence aggressive tendencies  Road rage more common in those who report a territorial attachment to their cars, and those who feel anonymous or detached in their cars because of locked doors or tinted windows  Catharsis: behaving aggressively could get pent-up emotion out of one’s system and thus be adaptive (Freud)  Society accepts this hypothesis, BUT experimental studies finds that behaving in an aggressive manner tends to fuel more anger and aggression  Playing violent games was related to increased aggression, physiological arousal, and aggressive thoughts and to decreased prosocial behavior  Relationship b/w media violence vs. aggressive behaviour almost as strong as the relationship between smoking and cancer  Desensitizes people to violent acts, encourages self-views and automatic aggressive responses and increases feelings of hostility  Preliminary research using brain-imaging procedures  although people are aware that video game violence is fantasy, the brain reacts to it as if it is real  Some argue that anger can be beneficial when one is about to engage in a confrontational task  As a coping strategy, acting aggressively has little value  Usually backfires because it elicits aggressive responses from others that generate more anger  Parents, children, spouses and bosses usually feel obliged to aggress back at you  Interpersonal conflicts that often emerge from aggressive behavior actually induce additional stress INDULGING YOURSELF  Stress sometimes leads to reduced impulse control or self-indulgence  i.e. Eating sweets, shopping, drinking, smoking gambling, drug use etc  General relationship between stress and poor physical health might be attributable in part to these unhealthy behaviors  Developing alternative rewards is a common response to stress; compensate by pursuing substitute forms of satisfaction  Internet Addiction: spending an inordinate amount of time on the Internet and inability to control online use  These people tend to feel anxious, depressed, or empty when they are not online  Interferes with their functioning at work, school, home, leading victims to start concealing the extent of their dependence on the Internet  Not limited to shy, male computer whizzes, as one might expect; not strictly Western phenomenon  Rates are higher in China than in the US  This coping strategy can result in a disruption of time, ultimately increasing one’s stress levels  Connecting with online social support has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety  however, if a person consistently responds to stress with excessive self-indulgence, obvious problems are likely to develop  Poor nutrition, obesity etc.  Immediate pleasure gives way to regret, guilt, or embarrassment  given the risks, it has rather marginal adaptive value BLAMING YOURSELF  When confronted by stress (especially frustration and pressure), people often become highly self-critical (negative self-talk) 1. Unreasonably attribute their failures to personal shortcomings 2. Focus on negative feedback from others while ignoring favorable feedback 3. Make unduly pessimistic projections about the future  Self blame is associated with increased distress and depression for individuals who have experienced a variety of traumas such as sexual assault, war, and natural disasters  Heightened PTSD symptoms and greater feelings of shame  Increased depression and anxiety for those dealing with serious health issues  Recognizing ones weakness has value, but self-blame as a coping strategy can be enormously counterproductive USING DEFENSIVE COPING The Nature of Defense Mechanisms  Defense Mechanisms: are largely unconscious reactions that protect a person from unpleasant emotions such as anxiety and guilt Common Defense Mechanisms Mechanism Example Denial of reality: protecting oneself from unpleaA smoker concludes that the evidence linking refusing to perceive or face it cigarette smoke to health problems is scientifically worthless Fantasy: Gratifying frustrated desires by imaginary aA socially inept and inhibited young man imagines himself chosen by a group of women to provide them with sexual satisfaction Intellectualization (isolation): Cutting off emotion A prisoner on death row awaiting execution resists appeal on situations or separating incompatible attitudes in lohis behalf and coldly insists that the letter of the law be compartments followed Undoing: Atoning for or trying to magically dispel unA woman who feels guilty about insulting her co-worker desires or acts excessively praises her after each insult Overcompensation: Covering up felt weaknesses by emphA dangerously overweight woman goes on eating binges when some desirable characteristic, or making up for frustshe feels neglected by her husband one area by over gratification in another What do defense mechanisms defend against?  Shield the individual from the emotional discomfort elicited by stress  Ward off unwelcome emotions or reduce their intensity (first emotion to ward off: anxiety)  Usually anxiety is a result of some threat to their self-esteem  Guilt and dejections are two other emotions that people often try to evade through defense maneuver  Prevent dangerous feelings of anger from exploding into acts of aggression How do they work?  Self-deception: distorting reality so it does not appear so threatening  Block awareness of possibility of event happening  too difficult to deny?  fantasy Are they conscious or unconscious?  Originally assumed that defenses operate entirely at an unconscious level  but the concept of defense mechanisms has been broadened to include maneuver that people may have some awareness of  verdict? Defense mechanisms operate at varying levels of awareness Are they normal?  YES. Most people use them on a regular basis  Not only neurotic people use Can Defense Mechanisms Ever Be Healthy?  NO. (more often than not.)  Associated with increased negative affect, depression and suicide risk  Poor way of coping because 1. It is an avoidant strategy and avoidance rarely provides a genuine solution to our problems  Increased chronic and acute life stressors as well as increased depressive symptoms 2. denial, fantasy, projection  wishful thinking  accomplish little 3. Related to poor health, because it often leads people to delay facing up to their problems  Block out obvious warming of signs of cancer or diabetes and failed to obtain needed medical care  Defensive “illusions” may be adaptive for mental health and well-being 1. “Normal” (non-depressed) people tend to have overly favorable self-images 2. Overestimate the degree to which they control chance events 3. More prone to display unrealistic optimism in making projections about their future  Positive illusions promote well-being and positive health outcomes  AIDS patients with unrealistically optimistic expectations of the likely course of their disease actually experience a less rapid course of illness  Quicker cardiovascular recovery from stress, and lower levels of a key stress hormone  Study of retirees found that those who held an exaggerated youthful bias reported higher self-esteem, better perceived health and less boredom than those who held an accurate perception of their age  However, overly favorable self-ratings are correlated with maladaptive personality traits  It is all a matter of degree & there is an optimal margin of illusion  Extreme self-deception is maladaptive, but small illusions may often be beneficial THE NATURE OF CONSTRUCTIVE COPING  Constructive Coping: efforts to deal with stressful events that are judged to be relatively healthful  What makes a coping strategy constructive?  gray area.  Key points of constructive coping 1. Confronting problems directly  Task relevant and action oriented  Involves conscious effort to rationally evaluate your options in an effort to solve your problems 2. Take Effort  Active process that involves planning 3. Based on reasonably realistic appraisals of your stress and coping resources 4. Learning to recognize and manage potentially disruptive emotional reactions to stress 5. learning to exert some control over potentially harmful or destructive habitual behaviors  Acquisition of some behavioral self-control Constructive Coping Tactics  Appraisal-focused coping: aimed at changing one’s interpretation of stressful events  Detecting and disputing negative self-talk  Rational thinking  Using positive reinterpretation  Finding humor in the situation  Turning to religion  Problem-focused coping: aimed at altering the stressful situation itself  Active problem solving  Seeking social support  Enhancing time management  Improving self-control  Becoming more assertive  Emotion focused coping: aimed at managing potential emotional distress  Releasing pent-up emotions  Distracting oneself  Managing hostile feelings and forgiving others  Exercising  Meditating  Using systematic relaxation procedures APPRAISAL-FOCUSED CONSTRUCTIVE COPING ELLIS’S RATIONAL THINKING  Believed people could short-circuit their emotional reactions to stress by altering their appraisals of stressful events  Rational-emotive behavior therapy: is an approach to therapy that focuses on altering clients’ patterns of irrational thinking to reduce maladaptive emotions and behavior  Believed that you feel what you think; problematic emotions are caused by negative self talk  Catastrophic thinking: involves unrealistic appraisals of stress that exaggerate the magnitude of one’s problems  Used A-B-C sequence to explain his ideas  A: Activating event  Event that produces stress  B: Belief System  Appraisal of the stress  C: Consequence  Consequence of negative thinking  Emotional distress: feelings of anger etc.  Importance of phase B  B is what causes C; people often don’t think this and believe that A causes C  Research indicates that the tendency toward catastrophic thinking is a risk factor for developing posttraumatic stress disorder  “mountains out of molehills”  A  C Roots of Catastrophic thinking  Usually based on an unreasonable premise (i.e. “I must have approval from everyone” ORs “I must perform well in all endeavors”)  To facilitate emotional self-control, important to learn to spot irrational assumptions and the unhealthy patterns of thought that they generate  Common irrational assumptions 1. I must have love and affection from certain people  Believe that they should be liked by everyone they come into contact with  When they fall in love, they tend to believe that their future happiness depends absolutely on the continuation of that one, special relationship; if it ends they’re screwed Makes the person anxious during a relationship and severely depressed if it comes to an end 2. I must perform well in all endeavors  We are taught that victory brings happiness  Best level is NOT typical level (not norm)  set themselves up for inevitable frustration 3. Other people should always behave competently and be considerate of me  Not everyone is competent and considerate; shouldn’t always expect it 4. Events should always go the way I like  Some people won’t tolerate any kind of setback  Believe they are entitled to something unrealistic and doomed to be violated Reducing Catastrophic Thinking 1. Detect catastrophic thinking  Ask yourself why you’re upset and look for key words that often show up in catastrophic thinking, such as should, ought, always, never, and must 2. Dispute the irrational assumptions that cause it  Once assumptions are unearthed, irrationality may be quite obvious  Replace your catastrophic thinking with more low-key, rational analyses HUMOR AS A STRESS REDUCER  Acts as a buffer to lessen the negative impact of stress on mood  Associated with enhanced immune functioning  Different types of humor vary in effectiveness  Affiliative (used to engage or amuse others)  Self-enhancing (maintaining a humorous perspective in the face of adversity)  related to better mental health  Self defeating (used at one’s own expense)  Aggressive (criticizing or ridiculing others)  poorer mental health  Using a lot of self-defeating humor and very little self-enhancing or affiliative humor is associated with increased depression  How does it reduce?  Affects the appraisals of stressful events (put less threatening spin on things)  Increases the experience of positive emotions  Study: participants who practiced laughing 15 minutes a day for three weeks showed significant increases in positive emotions, even 90 days after the study was over  Study: Strategies associated with increased positive emotions were most strongly associated with well-being  Positive social interactions, which promote social support  High-humor people may benefit from not taking themselves as seriously as low-humor people  Don’t have an inflated sense of self-importance, then defeats, embarrassments and even tragedies should have less pervasive emotional consequences for them POSITIVE REINTERPRETATION  Recognizing that things could be worse  Making positive comparisons with others is a common coping mechanism that can result in improved mood and self-esteem  Simply imagine yourself
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