NUMBER 650ē 7 DECEMBER ē STRESS
More andmore we are beginning to appreciate the power of physical stress.í It involves the basic survival skills. What are the students eating? Many kids have diets that encourage hyper activity. How much are they sleeping? Many of the kids are in situations where they are over stimulated. By the time school starts, they are ready to fall asleep or are so irritable they canít function. When you look at developmental stress and psychological stress you begin to realize that some of our kids have multiple stresses. They are overwhelmed by so many forces. When you have stress you have feelings that go along with it. It is interesting to note that all feelings are real. You just canít choose your feelings. Someone gave us a very inappropriate message when they decided that there are such things as good feelings and bad feelings. There are only feelings. You cannot choose your feelings. The only thing you can choose is whether you own those feelings and accept those feelings as a basic part of being a human being. Remember, feelings come from the old brain and the old brain is three hundred zillion years old. It has survived, it is developed, it is very effective in helping man fight or run. It is only the frontal brain that has developed recently. Man is an emotional being, not a rational being. Under stress what takes over: thinking or feeling? Unfortunately, feelings take over. The question is whether you can accept those feelings and bring them under control. If you act out feelings of frustration and anger, you will have trouble with authority, peers, learning, and rules. If when you get scared, you run away, and you simply respond to feeling scared, then you will have trouble. The issue is to acknowledge your feelings, and yet not allow your feelings to determine your behavior.
We talk about the differences between having feelings and being had by your feelings. When youíre had by your feelings they flood you and therefore they take charge of you. An emotional disturbance amounts to a flood of emotions that makes you dysfunctional. We know that feelings are not cognitive, yet we have to acknowledge their existence and hope that by acknowledging them we can bring them under cognitive control. If youíre able to accept your own feelings, you can begin to work on the initial stress that caused them. What almost always happens is that you have the stress and the feeling. Then you either act out the feelings directly or you use defense mechanisms. Defense mechanisms help us avoid the anxiety and pain of our feelings. In the process we deny what the real problem is. This creates a new problem.
If you are frustrated and angry, but cannot act on your feelings, what usually happens is called projection. You begin to attribute to other people what you feel. You say "Iím not angry, youíre angry." "Why are you looking at me that way for?" We have a video tape of a kid whoís crying. The teacher says to him, "Corey, I can see how sad you are. Are those tears running down your face?" Corey says, "No, itís just water." The need to deny oneís feelings can be very powerful. Displacement is a common process that kids use. If something happens to a child, some frustration from some incident, they feel angry and, of course, they donít act it out toward the person they feel angry at, they bring it to the agency and act it out toward you, in a setting that is more comfortable.
Long, N. J. (1988) Conflict in Human Interaction: Danger or Opportunity? The Child and Youth Care Administrator, Vol. 1 Fall 1988