March 2016 ~ Dealing with Stress: Type A Behavior
Dealing with Stress: Type A Behavior
Stress comes from your perception of — and reaction to — events and conditions.
We know that men — especially men who diligently pursue success — want jobs and relationships that are challenging. We often set up both career and relationships in ways that create some challenge. This may lead men to pursue jobs or relationships where there is a significant possibility of failure. In general, men want their performance to be witnessed so that their success will be recognized, which serves to increase the stakes. High stakes produce stress.
Men organize and pull together all of their available skills, energy, focus and resources to address challenges. This depletes them. Stress is a state of readiness over an inappropriate period of time — the inability to let go and relax. This produces unsettling thoughts, exaggerated fear, inability to slow or eliminate thoughts, and overly negative thoughts. Did you ever notice how the thought of pleasant circumstances or events fade and the troubling thought remains? Men’s stress takes on three basic forms:
There may be a fourth condition: Some men impose stress on themselves even in the absences of challenge or conflict.
It is my belief that this is associated with the individual’s need to be prepared, his need to satisfy his self doubts about his ability to "ramp-up" and to get prepared to meet the challenge in the appropriate time frame.
Hyper-vigilance has been documented in men who have been at war or involved in traumatic, life-threatening jobs. They have learned to stay alert at all costs because their life or the lives of others depended on it. What they have not learned is how to relax when the life-threatening danger is no longer real.
Few of us even notice these "stressors." We consider them the price of being ready, the price of doing business, the price of "dealing with things" or the price of meeting the challenge. We often subconsciously perceive this on-going preparedness as "battle hardening."
This on-going need for hyper-vigilance brings me to a very important major point — the discussion of what has become known as the TYPE A behavior. The TYPE A behavior characteristics are just that — a behavior pattern that can shorten the lives of those affected. The good news: there is a great deal someone can do about it. This is something I know much about — I am one!
Type Abehavior was first introduced to the world by Drs. Meyer Friedman, MD and Ray Rosenman, MD. Identification of Type A behavior was the result of extensive research into the causes of the most common causes of heart disease. The #1 cause of heart disease was men’s inability to acknowledge and control this behavior — not diet, not lack of exercise. While poor diet and lack of exercise are well-known contributors to heart disease, the major contributor is sustained stress on our systems.
Type A traits are behavior tendencies that we have developed over a long period of time and, frequently, are behavior patterns that we are unaware of in ourselves — traits and tendencies we choose not to acknowledge. They are frequently behavior traits that society praises, thus making them quite sought after in terms of workplace promotions and success. Personally, Type A behavior is quite lethal to many who possess them.
The primary cause of heart attack is this distinct Type A behavior pattern. The Type A behavior pattern bears an extremely close correlation to the incidence of heart disease, far closer than such causes as smoking, improper diet, lack of exercise or obesity. With one American in five suffering a coronary before age sixty, Friedman and Rosen have been able to show that more than 90 percent of those victims are Type A.
Just what is Type A behavior? It is a special, well-defined pattern marked by a compelling sense of time urgency ("hurry sickness") consisting of aggressiveness and competitiveness, usually combined with a marked amount of free-floating anxiety and hostility. Type A people engage in chronic, continuous struggles against circumstances, against others and against themselves. The behavior is common among hard driving and successful businessmen and executives. It is just as likely to be found in factory workers, accountants or golf pros. Due to sociological pressures, about half of all American males are prone to some form of this behavior.
It is important that you recognize the patterns of behavior that make up the Type A behavior. If you are honest with yourself and you are actually aware of your own tendencies and traits, you will have no trouble identifying this behavior pattern if you have it.
Once you have completed the list, ask a friend or your spouse whether you assessment was correct. If the two of you disagree, they are probably right.
The following is a description of the Type A as outlined by Friedman and Rosenman:
If you have:
2) If you always move, walk and eat rapidly.
3) If you feel impatient with the rate at which most events take place.
4) You suffer from impatience if you find it difficult to restrain yourself from hurrying the speech of others and resort to such devices as saying very quickly over and over "uh huh, uh huh" or, "Yes yes, Yes yes," to someone who is talking, unconsciously urging them to "get on with it" or hasten their rate of speech. You suffer from impatience if you attempt to finish the sentence of the person who is speaking.
Other signs of impatience: If you become unduly irritated or even enraged when a car ahead of you in your lane runs at a pace you consider too slow; if you find it anguishing to wait in line or to wait your turn to be seated at a public place; if you find it intolerable to watch others perform tasks you know you could do faster; if you become impatient with yourself as you are obligated to perform repetitious duties (making bank deposits, keeping ledgers, even signing your name), all of which are necessary but take you away from doing things you really have an interest in doing; if you find yourself hurrying your own reading or always attempting to obtain condensation or summaries of truly interesting and worthwhile literature. Impatience is a hallmark. As I wrote this review of impatience, I couldn’t help but feel it just wasn’t going fast enough . . . I wonder what that means?
5) If you engage in Polyphasic thought or performance, frequently striving to think of — or do — two or more things simultaneously. For example, if while trying to listen to another person’s speech, you persist in continuing to think about an irrelevant subject, you are indulging in polyphasic thought. Similarly, if while golfing, fishing or sightseeing, you continue to ponder your business or professional problems or while using an electric razor, you attempt also to eat your breakfast or drive your car. If while driving, you attempt to record or dictate letters or memos, you are indulging in polyphasic performance. This performance is one of the most common traits in the Type A man. Often, Type A men will attempt to do more than two things simultaneously.
6) If you find it difficult to refrain from talking about or bringing the theme of any conversation around to those subjects that especially interest you and when unable to accomplish this, you pretend to listen while really preoccupied with your own thoughts.
7) If you usually feel vaguely guilty when you attempt to relax and do absolutely nothing for several hours or days.
8) If you no longer observe the more important or interesting or lovely objects that you encounter in your daily life. For example, if you enter a strange office, store or home, and after leaving any of these places, you cannot recall what was in them, you no longer are observing well — or for that matter enjoying life very much.
9) If you do not have any time to spare becoming the things worth being because you are are so preoccupied with getting the things worth having.
10) If you attempt to schedule more and more in less and less time, and in doing so, make fewer and fewer allowances for unforeseen contingencies. One of the core components of Type A behavior is this chronic sense of time urgency.
11) If upon meeting another Type A person, you feel compelled to challenge him. This is a telltale trait because no one arouses the aggressive and/or hostile feelings of a Type A person more quickly than another Type A person.
12) If you resort to certain characteristic gestures or nervous tics. For example, if in conversation, you frequently clench your fist or bang your hand upon a table or pound one fist into the palm of your hand in order to emphasize a conversational point, you are exhibiting Type A behavior. Similarly, if the corners of your mouth spasmodically, in tic-like fashion, jerk backward slightly exposing your teeth or if you habitually clench your jaw or even grind your teeth, you are subject to muscular phenomena suggesting the presence of a continuous struggle, which is, of course, the kernel of the Type A behavior Pattern.
13) If you believe whatever success you have enjoyed has been due in good part to your ability to get things done faster than your fellow men and if you are afraid to stop doing things faster and faster.
14) If you find yourself increasingly committed to translating and evaluating not only your own but the activities of others in terms of numbers.
The above characteristics are of the fully developed, hard-core Type A. Many people properly classified as Type A exhibit these characteristics in lesser degree. If you are moderately afflicted, you rarely feel or display much hostility. Your aggressiveness, although in excess, has still not evolved into free-floating rancor. You do not bristle with the barely governable rage that sees this so often just below the surface of the fully developed Type A. Similarly, your impatience is not of towering proportions. You may attempt to squeeze more and more events into smaller and smaller pieces of time at work. Often, you can avoid this practice at off-hours, willing to resume the behavior as soon as work similar conditions present themselves.
Likewise, as a moderate Type A, you are obsessively involved in acquisition of sheer numbers. You are still aware of gathering many uncounted, charming aspects of full-bodied, full-souled living, even if you cannot completely enjoy and lose yourself in them.
One of the truly detrimental characteristics is the Type A man’s ability to simply quit listening if they are bored. It is amazing how easy it is for us to pretend to be listening when we are actually thinking about something else. Likewise, our impatience with slow conversation and other people’s slow thinking leads us to dominate the conversation with our own rhetoric and opinions. We talk to avoid the dead silence, silence that accompanies conversations with slower responding individuals.
There is a serious need for self-appraisal if you find any, many or most of these characteristics applicable to you and your behavior.
I want to reiterate — many of these behaviors have been a long time developing. They may not be obvious to you. Please find people around you who can give you some insight into whether these patterns fit you. That insight alone may well save your life.
Books by Michael Anthony
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The life of inner peace, being harmonious and without stress, is the easiest type of existence.
- Norman Vincent Peale
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Page updated: March 01, 2016
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