Table of contents:
Video: What Would Freud Say? Part 4 - Reviews, Self-development
Publishing excerpts from Sarah Tomley's book
- Sarah Tomley
- What would Freud say? How Great Therapists Would Solve Your Problems
- Publisher: Alpina Publisher, Moscow, 2018
What would Carl Jung say about your midlife crisis and the purchase of a red Ferrari? How would Berres Skinner explain why you keep your phone sticking? Would you like to turn to Erich Fromm for help in finding true love?
- What would Freud say? Part 1
- What would Freud say? Part 2
- What would Freud say? Part 3
Usually I'm so well-mannered … Where does this rage on the road come from? You are driving on a two-lane road, chatting with your husband, who is sitting next to you, and suddenly a car cuts you off, forcing you to hit the brakes. You and your husband are thrown back and forth, burning pain from an old injury pierces your neck, and the car behind you almost crashes into your bumper. A few seconds later, you see the intruder turning towards the cafe. What will you do?
Perhaps we would all like to react intelligently: "I'll stop by for a couple of minutes to calm down, and then I'll continue the trip." Unfortunately, psychologists have proven time and time again that we are not as far ahead in evolutionary terms as we think, and at times we respond by using brain functions that are common with other mammals, rather than higher cognitive functions available only to humans.
The courts are inundated with cases of people who are described by friends and family as "always so gentle and calm!" - but they attacked other drivers with boundless fury.
"Does he really look like a person who will send three letters to the driver, will carry a knife with him to pierce tires, spit in the face of the interlocutor during an argument, or will push the person twice?" - the lawyer will ask. “Of course not,” the relatives will answer. But for some reason they are accused of these violations. So what's going on?
Road rage activates the type of aggression that occurs instantly and uncontrollably, even in normally calm people. "Normal" aggression can be explained by personality traits, childhood experiences, environmental influences, and even epigenetics (a combination of nature and nurture), but something different is happening here. Research by psychologist Jaak Panksepp shows that the answer must be sought deeply in the human brain - at the subcortical level, where the structures and systems that make us related to other mammals are located.
We constantly, without resorting to awareness, process information about the world around us, which gives us a basic assessment of danger and safety - what to approach and what to avoid. Panksepp calls these processes "evolutionarily ancient, emotional-affective", they encourage us to act without thinking, while younger cognitive abilities (which are localized in the new cortex) help us think first and then do something.
One of our subcortical systems in common with other mammals is a set of neural networks that control basic, genetically encoded emotional and behavioral tendencies - in other words, the set of "instincts" that we have from birth. Punxepp believes they can be thought of as a computer's operating system, which resides in read only memory (ROM), while more complex learning and thinking systems are more like random access memory (RAM). The type of brain system, similar to ROM, is primary in relation to the RAM system: just like in a computer, permanent memory is necessary for basic functioning, and it is in it, according to Panksepp, that our "emotions, passions and hunger" live. We love to pretend we are closer to angels than to other animals, and tend to deny the existence of "lower passions"but their voice is always heard in our activities.
Panksepp's experiments revealed seven basic instincts: SEARCH, ANGER, FEAR, HIKING, CARE, GORGE, and GAME (he uses capital letters to distinguish between systems and common use of words). The SEARCH system encourages animals to explore the environment and search for objects they need to survive, including parents and food. No animal needs to be taught this, and neither do we need to learn how to experience or express fear, anger, pain, pleasure, or joy. Experiments have shown that these seven systems can be triggered by direct electrical stimulation to specific areas of the brain. When the Anger system is stimulated, animals' fur stands on end, they hiss and growl, and directs anger at any object in the environment that is perceived as a threat.
The RAGE system is the key to understanding sudden and unexplained aggression. Anger is triggered by events, the environment, but the emotion itself arises because certain types of stimuli act on the ANGER chain in the brain. Even a baby can be easily pissed off: press his arms against the body for a few seconds, and the baby will be pissed off by this restriction of freedom of action. This is a key trigger of the ANGER chain, in addition to frustration - because freedom of movement and achievement of an actual goal is part of the SEARCH system. They seem to be closely related: events that interfere with the SEARCH system can trigger a chain of RAGE. Panksepp asks: who hasn't experienced a brief outburst of frustration when a food and beverage machine takes money and doesn't give back the product? If you are not hungry or you still have money, perhapsyou will be able to use the mental faculties of the higher brain (neocortex) and tell yourself that the situation can be resolved. But, if you are hungry, there are no more trifles, you are hot and very thirsty, and besides, you are late for an important meeting, and at this moment the machine crashes, the ANGER system starts up so hard that the cognitive, rational system completely breaks down …
Thinking fast and slow
This point of view to some extent coincides with the concept of "fast and slow thinking" by Daniel Kahneman. Kahneman believes that we have access to two different types of thinking, which he calls System 1 and System 2.
Alas, the fast-acting System 1 “seeks connections” - structures and meanings and makes hasty conclusions (“he cut me off on purpose!”). System 2 is slower, it is able to recognize and deliver
questioned these findings. This system is responsible for self-control, but as Kahneman notes, System 2 is often lazy and easily tired (scientifically called "ego depletion"). In such conditions, she is only happy to follow the lead (often in vain) at the conclusions reached by System 1. So yes, the guy cut me off on purpose, she agrees. Self-control goes down the drain, and you follow System 1. Moreover, since System 1 does not tolerate the slightest uncertainty, you not only feel like he cut you off on purpose, you know it.
Panksepp recognizes the influence of higher cognitive intelligence on emotions responsible for the primary processing of information, just as Kahneman believes that sometimes System 2 affects System 1. However, Panksepp points out that this is a two-way process: thoughts can soften feelings, but they are carriers of symbolic ideas, and symbols are able to enhance feelings (for example, the symbolic gesture "show his fist").
This means that in animals, threats to survival trigger primary processes, but in humans, symbolic gestures and words can also trigger them. Combine the actual threat to survival with the territorial threat (the car cuts you off on the road) and add here the threat to a loved one (husband or child is traveling with you), as well as the ancient symbolic gesture of "raised middle finger", and together with internal factors that increase stress: fatigue, hunger or low blood sugar (System 2 needs glucose!) - bang! The neural network of ANGER is suddenly triggered at full power.
So what can I do?
Neuroscientist Douglas Fields, an expert on road anger, says you need to learn to recognize a false trigger - you are not in a life-threatening situation, and there is no need to “wipe the threat off the face of the earth,” despite the compelling feeling that you are. If you feel stress is building up, take steps to reduce stress before the trigger goes off. Eat, sleep, relax, turn on calm music.
If you notice an increase in physiological signs of anger (heart palpitations, clenched teeth), use the more subtle cognitive System 2 to counter the beliefs that are pouring out of the unconsciously operating System 1. Whatever you do, stop. Become aware of the situation, the process you are in. This is not easy for most of us, but it can be learned through the practice of mindfulness.
At San Quentin, California, a specialized mindfulness course is held in which inmates are taught to notice the "moment of imminent danger" when anger is about to spill over into rage and violence. All members are serving life sentences, and through the Turn Rage Into Force program, they are trained to develop the skills to track and manage the strong impulses that led them to crime.
The founder of the program, Jacques Verdouin, argues that at the moment of imminent danger, three events occur: everything accelerates, everything intensifies, and then a moment of regret comes. The skill of recognizing the moment of imminent danger helps to dispel road rage, like any other.