develop an irrational fear of being bitten by a white horse with a black
mouth. The phobia symbolizes the underlying conflict. And, by the
way, the father was, of course, white and had a black mustache!
Summary of the Ways or Means by which Stress is Developed
If psychologists completely understood how stress and fears
developed, we would know how to produce and reduce a phobia or an
anxiety state. We don't. There seems to be a wide variety of life
experiences which result in some form of stress, fear, anxiety, or
psychosomatic illness. It would be convenient if life were simpler but it
isn't. Perhaps a summary will help you review the ways you might
become stressed and anxious
Environmental factors and processes
Changes, such as sudden trauma, several big crises, or many
small daily hassles, cause stress. Intense stress years earlier,
especially in childhood, can predispose us to over-react to
Events, such as barriers and conflicts that prevent the changes
and goals we want, create stress. Having little control over our
lives, e.g. being "on the assembly line" instead of the boss,
contrary to popular belief, often increases stress and illness.
Many environmental factors, including excessive or impossible
demands, noise, boring or lonely work, stupid rules, unpleasant
people, etc., cause stress.
Conflicts in our interpersonal relationships cause stress directly
and can eventually cause anxieties and emotional disorders.
Constitutional or physiological processes
The human body has different ways of responding to stress;
one quick responding nerve-hormonal system involving
adrenaline, another long-lasting system involving cortisol, and
perhaps others. These systems not only determine the intensity
of our anxiety reactions but also our attitudes, energy level,
depression, and physical health after the stressful events are
over. As individuals, our nervous systems differ; however,
according to Richard Dienstbier at the University of Nebraska,
we may be able to modify our unique physiological reactions by
learning coping skills.
The genetic, constitutional, and intrauterine factors influence
stress. Some of us may have been born "nervous" and
"grouches." Almost certainly we are by nature prone to be shy
or outgoing, and we inherit a propensity for certain serious
psychological disorders. We don't know yet if different
treatments are required for genetically determined problems
than for learned problems.