they even describe their anxiety in very similar words, even if they
have been reared completely apart. The power of the genes seems to
be amazing, but we have to guard against exaggerating the role of
Frustrations make us upset and making difficult decisions creates
anxiety (see conflicts described above). Pavlov's (see chapter 4,
classical conditioning) dogs had a "nervous breakdown" when forced to
distinguish between a circle paired with food and an ellipse that got
closer and closer to being a circle but was not paired with food. Like
Pavlov's dogs, many judgments we have to make are hard, e.g. is my
spouse joking or serious, is my friend irritated or not? It seems to be
"dog nature" and "human nature" to be stressed when we are
confused and don't know what to do.
Having an unusual or surprising experience also causes stress.
Donald Hebb found that chimpanzees had no fears until 4 months of
age. After that, familiar objects and unfamiliar objects (except for a
few, like snakes) caused no stress. But familiar objects shown in
unfamiliar ways caused fears, e.g. seeing a life-like model of a
person's head without the body is a scary experience for monkeys.
Most humans are also stressed by viewing a dead or mutilated body.
Pavlov's dogs and Hebb's chimps acquired these stress or fear
responses without any prior painful learning experiences being
involved. It appears that these reactions are innate in animals.
Likewise, protective reactions are instinctive, e.g. baby rats freeze
(with terror?) when a cat appears. Over 50% of parents of water
phobic children (aged 3 to 8) claim that their child had always been
afraid of water without any traumatic initial experience. Certain
animals learn certain fears very quickly and others very slowly, e.g. a
monkey immediately learns to fear a snake by seeing another monkey
terrified by a snake but does not learn to fear a flower in the same
way. This may be true for humans too. Perhaps other fears, like
speaking in front of groups or encountering a snake, are also partly
built into many humans at birth.
Just because you may have inherited a problem, such as being shy
or hypertensive, does not mean that you are helpless. It does mean
that, compared to others, you may require more effort--relaxation or
practice or desensitization or correcting one's thinking--to overcome
your constitutional tendency of fear, hyperactivity, speech anxiety, or
Since drugs (legal and illegal) influence our mood and stress
responses, it suggests that internal chemical factors, such as our
hormones, might influence our emotions too. The high percentage of
women who feel differently before their period further suggests this is
true. Indeed, it is important that every woman plot her feelings and
moods to determine if there is a cycle involved.