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<ul><li><p>NEITHER LIBERTY NOR SAFETY:THE IMPACT OF FEAR ON </p><p>INDIVIDUALS, INSTITUTIONS,AND SOCIETIES, PART II</p><p>SANDRA L. BLOOM, CommunityWorks</p><p>ABSTRACT This is the second in a series of four papers that look at the ways that mindsand bodies of individuals are affected by severe stress and use that as a way of developinga deeper understanding of what happens to stressed individuals who come together toform stressed organizations and the impact of this stress on organizational leaders. Theseries will also explore the parallel process that occurs when traumatized individuals andstressed organizations come together to form stressed societies. Part I focused on thebasic human stress response. In Part II, we will begin exploring the more extended impactof severe, chronic, and repetitive exposure to stress on the functioning of the emotionalsystem, the ways in which human beings tend to adapt to adversity and thus come to normalize highly abnormal behaviour.</p><p>UNMANAGEABLE AFFECT ANDAGGRESSION: LOSS OF VOLUMECONTROL</p><p>Infants are born with a number of rawaffects, the word used to describe the bio-logical building blocks of emotional expe-rience. At birth we have only two settingsfor our internal emotional switch: on andoff. As a child develops, caregivers, andlater peers, model and teach the manage-ment of these raw affective states so thataffective arousal comes to match the degreeof importance of the stimuli. As early as 11weeks, babies have already learned tomatch their mothers expressions ofsadness, anger, fear and happiness and have begun to join these expressions with</p><p>behaviours that suggest that matching ismeaningful. They are also beginning thelifelong process that involves using infor-mation about emotion to make decisionsfor their own behaviour, including lookingto other people to know whether theyshould engage in certain behaviours(Salovey and Sluyter, 1996).</p><p>As a result of this complex process, bythe time we reach adulthood losing a penshould not arouse the same intensity of lossas losing a beloved pet; a neighbours doggoing through your trash (probably) doesnot arouse the same degree of anger as theneighbour smacking your child; a terrorismalert in another country does not producethe same level of fear as it does when the same alert occurs nearby. We call this</p><p>Psychotherapy and Politics International, 2(3) 212228, 2004 Whurr Publishers Ltd212</p><p>PPI_2.3_3rd 10/8/04 11:26 AM Page 212</p></li><li><p>emotional modulation our volume control,using the analogy of a knob on a radio oramplifier. Although there is enormous cul-tural variation in the methods each cultureuses to manage specif ic affect states, allcultures teach their children to do so.Emotional management is critical to learn-ing and the capacity to exercise reasonedjudgement. Emotions prioritize thinking bydirecting attention to important informa-tion. Emotions are sufficiently vivid andavailable to be used as aids for judgementand memory. Emotional mood swingschange ones perspective, encouraging mul-tiple points of view, and emotional statesdifferentially encourage specific problemapproaches (Mayer and Salovey, 1997).</p><p>Children who are exposed to repeatedexperiences of overwhelming arousal donot have the kind of safety and protectionthat they need for normal brain develop-ment and therefore they may never developnormal modulation of arousal, and thisseverely compromises their capacity foremotional management. As a result theyare frequently chronically irritable, angry,unable to manage aggression, impulsive,and anxious. This compromised emotionalmanagement interferes with learning andthe development of mature thoughtprocesses. Emotional dysregulation is adangerous handicap for the individual andfor the group because it is so likely to leadto violence directed at the self or others.</p><p>Children and the adults they become who experience compromised emotionalmanagement will experience high levels ofanxiety when alone and in interpersonalinteractions. They will understandablytherefore do anything they can to establishsome level of self-soothing and self-control. Under such circumstances, peoplefrequently turn to substances, like drugs oralcohol, or behaviours like sex or eating or</p><p>risk-taking behaviour, or even engagementin violence, including self-mutilation, all ofwhich help them to calm down, at leasttemporarily, largely because of the internalchemical effects of the substance or behav-iour. Human beings, human touch, couldalso serve as a self-smoothing device, butfor trauma survivors, trusting humanbeings may be too difficult. </p><p>As children or as adults, the experienceof overwhelming terror destabilizes ourinternal system of arousal the internalvolume control knob that we normallyuse to regulate our emotions. People whohave been traumatized lose this capacity tomodulate arousal and manage affect.Instead of being able to adjust theirvolume control, the person is reduced toonly an on-or-off switch, losing allcontrol over the amount of arousal theyexperience to any stimulus, even one asunthreatening as a lost pen or a neighboursdog. They tend to stay irritable, jumpy, andon-edge. It takes only a relatively minimalfearful stimulus for them to experienceterror and their own typical defensive reac-tions to fear. </p><p>To complicate the situation further emotions can kill. It is possible to die offright or to die of a broken heart. Mostfrightened people do not die, however,because of the built-in safety valve thatwe call dissociation. Dissociation isdefined as a disruption in the usually inte-grated functions of consciousness,memory, identity, or perception of the environment (American PsychiatricAssociation, 1994). Dissociation buffersthe central nervous system against life-threatening shock. Through the dissocia-tion of affect we are able to cut off all ouremotions and in extreme cases of repetitiveand almost unendurable trauma this isknown as emotional numbing. We can</p><p>Neither liberty nor safety 213</p><p>PPI_2.3_3rd 10/8/04 11:26 AM Page 213</p></li><li><p>214</p><p>also dissociate from the overwhelmingevent itself so that there are no words avail-able to even recall the event (amnesia). Thefailure to remember the events or toconnect the emotions associated with theevents with the memories of the events candoom the person to re-enact the traumaticevents later in life (Van der Kolk, 1989;Terr, 1990). Emotions are built-in, part ofour evolutionary, biological heritage andwe cannot eliminate them we can onlysuppress them and this may not generallybe a good thing to do. There is an abun-dance of evidence from various sourcesthat unexpressed emotions may be verydamaging to ones mental, social, cognitiveand physical health (Pennebaker, 1997).</p><p>The failure to develop healthy ways ofmanaging emotional arousal also interfereswith relationships. Mature emotional man-agement endows us with the abilities tointerpret the meanings that emotionsconvey regarding relationships, to under-stand complex feelings, and to recognizelikely transitions among emotions. Thegradual acquisition of this emotional intel-ligence allows us to monitor emotions inrelation to ourselves and others whilegiving us the ability to manage emotion inourselves and others by moderating nega-tive emotions and enhancing pleasant oneswithout repressing or exaggerating theinformation they convey (Mayer andSalovey, 1997).</p><p>Compromised emotional managementskills are also one mechanism of intergen-erational transmission since these skillsbuild up over time in the interactionbetween parent and child. Parents who havecompromised skills will be unable toprovide the important emotional learningexperiences that their children require.Instead, the children will adapt to theparental style of managing emotions. </p><p>LOSS OF VOLUME CONTROL INAN ORGANIZATIONAL CONTEXT</p><p>How does an organization manage emo-tional states? It does so through the normalproblem-solving, decision-making, andconflict-resolution methods that must existfor any organization to operate effectively.Although most organizations within oursociety function in a fundamentally hierar-chical, top-down manner, in a calm,healthy, well-functioning system there is acertain amount of natural democraticprocess that occurs in the day-to-day opera-tions of solving group problems, makingdecisions in teams, and resolving conflictamong members of the organization. Themore complex the work demands, thegreater the necessity for collaboration andintegration and therefore the more likelythat a system of teamwork will evolve. Fora team to function properly there must be acertain level of trust among team memberswho must all share in the establishment ofsatisfactory group norms. These are thenorms that enable the group to tolerate thenormal amount of anxiety that existsamong people working on a task; tolerateuncertainty long enough for creativeproblem solutions to emerge; promote bal-anced and integrated decision making sothat all essential points of view are synthe-sized; contain and resolve the inevitableconflicts that arise between members of agroup; and complete its tasks. </p><p>For groups, as for individuals, emotionsroutinely inform the thought processes ofthe group and are critical to group learningand judgement; therefore group emotionalprocesses must be constructively managedand contained. This is frequently the criticaljob of leadership. The more at ease the leaderis with promoting democratic processes and transparency while minimizing the</p><p>Bloom</p><p>PPI_2.3_3rd 10/8/04 11:26 AM Page 214</p></li><li><p>potentially negative impact of hierarchicalstructures, the more effective the groupproblem solving is likely to be. In exertingdemocratic leadership he or she is therebyreducing the abusive use of power whilepromoting more creative problem solvingand diverse input enabling the evolution offar more complex strategies. The greaterthe availability of conflict resolution tech-niques, the greater the willingness on thepart of all group members to engage in, andeven welcome, conflict as a stimulant forcreativity and change. When there is lessconflict avoidance there are likely to be farfewer long-standing and corrosive buriedresentments.</p><p>In organizations under stress, however,this healthier level of function is likely tobe sacrificed in service of facing the emer-gency. Hierarchies can respond morerapidly and mobilize action to defendagainst further damage. Problems similar tothose we witness in individuals underchronic stress occur, however, when thisemergency state is prolonged or repetitive.Organizations can become chronicallyhyperaroused, functioning in crisis mode,unable to process one difficult experiencebefore another crisis has emerged.Hierarchical structures concentrate powerand, in these circumstances, power caneasily come to be used abusively and in away that perpetuates rather than attenuatesthe concentration of power. Transparencydisappears and secrecy increases under thisinfluence. Communication networksbecome compromised as those in powerbecome more punishing, and the likelihoodof error is increased as a result. In such asituation, conflicts tend to remain unre-solved and tension and resentment mount under the surface of everyday groupfunctioning. Helplessness, passivity, andpassive-aggressive behaviours on the part</p><p>of the underlings in the hierarchy increasewhile leaders become increasingly control-ling and punitive. In this way the organiza-tion becomes ever more radically split, withdifferent parts of the organization assumingthe role of managing and/or expressing dif-ferent emotions that are then subsequentlysuppressed. This is not a situation thatleads to individual or organizational healthbut instead to increasing levels of dysfunc-tion and diminished productivity.</p><p>In an organization under stress the loss ofvolume control or affect modulation isevident in emotional extremes and highlevels of prevailing tension. At one extremethere may be an emotional numbing, with asevere constriction of emotional expres-sion. Walking into such an environment,one can sense an atmosphere of depression,apathy, a lack of energy, silence and constriction. An absence of humour, cama-raderie, and playfulness is evident. In sucha depressed organization, an employee canbounce into work in the morning, on top ofthe world, and upon entering the off iceexperience a sense of clouded miseryaccompanied by the sensation of an oppres-sive weight dropping down like a mantleover ones shoulders. Activity may beslowed, workloads become suffocating,thinking is banked down to a minimum,productivity declines. There is also likely tobe a high level of illness among themembers of the organization.</p><p>At the other extreme is the volatile organization, characterized by too littlecontainment of unruly emotions. In such anenvironment there may be a great deal offree-floating hostility and aggression. Thisis a climate that supports and encouragesbullying and other forms of overtly destruc-tive behaviours. It may also be a climatethat supports the use of addictive sub-stances and behaviours. Humour may be</p><p>Neither liberty nor safety 215</p><p>PPI_2.3_3rd 10/8/04 11:26 AM Page 215</p></li><li><p>216</p><p>present but used as a weapon and thereforelikely to be brash, provocative, and fre-quently aimed at a vulnerable individual orgroup. Volatile organizations are readilyprovoked to heightened arousal and minorcrises are blown up to be major threats. Itrequires little provocation for a volatileorganization to attack an external enemy.Organizations that respond to stress in thisway are likely to become addicted tocrisis and if external forces are not assail-ing them, internal conflicting forces willtake over the role to guarantee that nothing</p><p>gets focused on except the response to theimmediate threat. Such climates are likelyto tolerate excessive drug and alcohol useand misuse, workaholism, and other formsof self-abuse.</p><p>Chronically stressed organizations, likeindividuals, may go through recurrentcycles of these emotional management dif-ficulties. The organizational style is likelyto be greatly influenced by the emotionalmanagement style of the leaders and like-wise, the leaders may be chosen as aresponse to the emotional management</p><p>Bloom</p><p>September 11 may go down as one of themost tragic events in modern history notonly because of the thousands of deaths itcaused but also because it so seriously dis-torted American perceptions about itselfand the world. It has knocked Americadown into a dank and dangerous cul desac, making it susceptible to apocalypticvisions of darkness rather than motivatingit toward high visions of human possibil-ity. (Garrison, 2003, 45)</p><p>We are truly sleepwalking throughhistory. In my heart of hearts I pray thatthis great nation and its good and trustingcitizens are not in for a rudest of awaken-ings. To engage in war is always to pick awild card. And war must always be a lastresort, not a first choice. I truly must ques-tion the judgment of any President whocan say that a massive unprovoked mili-tary attack on a nation which is over 50percent children is in the highest moral</p><p>traditions o...</p></li></ul>