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The mechanism of occurrence of aggression in the crisis situation: the affective-dynamic theory of adaptation


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Fourmanov Igor Alexander

The Head of Psychology department of the Belarussian State University, Doctor of psychology, professor

Home address: F. Skorina Pr., 151–1, ap. 270, Minsk, Republic of Belarus, 220114, ph. (017) 2639353

Work address: K. Marx st., 31, ap. 130, Psychology Department, Minsk, Republic of Belarus, 220050, ph. (017) 2274914, E-mail: psy@fef.bsu.unibel.by

In a basis of human behaviour needs which directly induce the individual to the activity directed on achievement of balance with an environment, id est adaptation lay. After L. I. Bozhovich we understand as need – reflected in the form of experience (instead of comprehension is necessary) individual’s requirement that is necessary for maintenance of ability to live of an organism and development of the person [1]. Basically activity is directed on search of subjects or objects of satisfaction of needs. The orientation of behaviour is determined by system of dominant motives.

Set of needs and motives forms motivational sphere in which it is possible to allocate two components: substantial and dynamic. The substantial component of motivation defines a prospective orientation of behaviour, nondirectly through an object in view or the accepted decision. The dynamic component carries out actually incentive function.

When the need is satisfied, to exchange the orientation of behaviour – behaviour varies goes on satisfaction of other actual need [2]. When the need is not satisfied, the orientation of motivation is kept, but its intensity begins to grow. There is an optimum of motivation outside which there is an emotional behaviour. The concept “optimum of motivation” is connected to adequacy or inadequacy of reactions to a situation and accordingly the relation between intensity of motivation and real opportunities of the subject in a concrete situation [3].

According to P. V. Simonov [4] as a result of reflection by the person of any actual need (its quality and size) and probabilities (opportunity) of her satisfaction on the basis of congenital and onthogenetic experience occur the certain emotions. The satisfaction or dissatisfaction of need derivates an emotional condition of pleasure or displeasure. S. L. Rubinshtain marked, that this or that emotional relation to the certain subject or the person, submitted in consciousness as direct experience, is formed on the basis of need as we realize dependence of their satisfaction on this subject or the person, testing those emotional conditions of pleasure or displeasure which they deliver to us [5]. Besides by virtue of variety of needs the same subject or the person may get for the person various and even opposite both positive, and negative emotional sense.

Other important condition of occurrence of emotional reaction, to deteminated growth of intensity of motivational system, is the estimation of probability of satisfaction of need. If the size of need accrues, and the estimation of probability of its satisfaction falls, such condition is experienced as negative, accompanying by negative emotional tone, and on the contrary [6] [7]. In particular, researches show, that the prediction of possible satisfaction of need may be the basic motivational condition of behaviour: the person puts to itself the goals which as it expects will result in recompensation, satisfaction of need [8]. The important goals with a high opportunity of achievement (the big hope) cause positive affect (joy, pleasure); the important purposes with low probability of achievement (weak hope) cause anxiety or depression [9]. Thus, force of intensity of motivation determines valency of an emotional background of behaviour.

The situation when the subject faces with “impossibility realizations of internal necessities of the life” [10], namely with an existing problem of potential or actual threat to satisfaction of basic needs from which the person may not leave and which may not allow in short time and a habitual way it is possible to characterize as crisis [11]. G. Caplan [12] allocates four consecutive stages of crisis:

  • the initial growth of a tension stimulating habitual ways of the decision of a problem;
  • the further growth of a tension in conditions when these ways appear ineffectual;
  • the even greater increase of a tension demanding mobilization of external and internal resources;
  • if all attempts appear vain anxiety and depression raises, there are feelings of feebleness and hopelessness, disorganization of the person and behaviour.

We shall note, that crisis may will be terminated on any of stages if threat disappears or any way of satisfaction of need is found out. Two variants of the sanction of a crisis situation are probable: 1) the main way to get rid of traumatic action of an increasing tension is reorientation on other objects or ways of satisfaction of needs (id est search of replacing object); 2) use of psychological protection: suppression, and also isolation of affect, repression (especially aggressive component), substitute, denial [13]. Thus the main place belongs to experience [10] which represents internal (mental) work and determines character and an orientation of actions with which help the person manages to transfer those or other living events, to restore the lost composure, will cope with a crisis situation. Originated in this case intensity, and also, the experiences connected to it, may influence occurrence (strengthening) of the certain personal features and models of behaviour.

Researches show, that result of long influence of an excessive level of stimulation (in our case of the tension connected to experience of necessity to satisfy need) there is a feeling of suffering. The suffering informs the person that to him badly and induces it to undertake the certain actions for elimination of the reason of suffering or to change the relation to the object serving as the reason to these. Thus, the suffering as affective process may serve as the reason or a source of behaviour, that is “a factor which supports or stops arising forms of behaviour”. It occurs according to a hedonistic principle of maximization of positive affectivity (joy, pleasure) and minimization of negative affectivity (suffering).

It is possible to specify two principal causes of occurrence of suffering. The first, it deprivation – a condition which arises at absence of a subject or an opportunity, necessary for satisfaction of need. Another, frustration – a condition which concerns to the consequences connected to process of satisfaction of need more: when for a way to object of satisfaction arise a various sort of a barrier or an obstacle. Here, probably, it is necessary to specify addition of a motivational tension emotional. An emotional tension – the condition described by a raised (an increased) level of activation and the emotional excitation appropriate to it (him) which are blocked in a expressive-performing phase (id est the emotional tension arises, as a rule, in situations which cause fear, but exclude flight; cause anger, but do impossible its expression). Therefore conditions deprivation and frustration may appear only under condition of achievement of the certain level of emotional excitation: intensity of suffering. Thus, according to “pleasure principle”, the suffering conducts as to increase of activity, increase of intensity of external reactions with the purpose of satisfaction of need, or results in amplification (strengthening) of internal activity, namely, to introduction of mechanisms of psychological defences, for reduction of a tension [6] [16]. Both that and another may be stimulated by the certain emotions accompanying either realization of need, or its restraint. In this connection distinguish sthenic emotions (resulting to increase of activity, to action) and asthenic (not inducing to action). The analysis of consequences of filling suffering shows, that the anger, fury, indignation concern to the first. It is possible to rank despondency, a depression, loneliness, isolation, insult, vigilance, anxiety as the second et cetera.

As one of base emotional reactions to suffering it is possible to consider emotion of fear. In this case the fear may arise as reaction of apprehension, that the need will not be satisfied because of absence of object of satisfaction or impossibility of elimination of an obstacle to achievement of the purpose, and the suffering will proceed. As specifies C. E. Izard, at fear the high tension, impulsiveness and activity are combined. At a behavioural level excessive intensity may carry out to block of actions, down to “standing stockstill bodies”, id est action stoping (asthenic fear). On the contrary, high excitation (impulsiveness and activity) may conduct to inadequate behaviour in the form of panic or destructive inefficient reactions (sthenic fear). However for people experiencing fear, the sensation of strong desire is common to escape or hide. Therefore, the fear, mainly promotes one type of behaviour – to behaviour exiting, flight from a situation [9]. In this case use of psychological defences just also is escape with traumaticperiences of suffering. At the same time, other outcome when escape reaction from a situation is accompanied by aggression [3] or reactions of removal of the object causing fear, by his destruction [17] is possible also.

Other base emotional reaction to suffering is the anger. From the point of view philogeneze the anger had the important value for a survival of the person as promoted mobilization of energy of the individual and made his ready to active self-defense [9]. According to S. Tomkins's theory the suffering is the congenital activator of anger due to that externally influence or the traumatic experiences causing continuous suffering, may lower a threshold of anger. The idea is those: as
the suffering is caused moderately high and constant neurone activation, the long suffering may result in transition of density neurone charges through a threshold of anger [14]. The more strongly the anger, especially strong and vigorous feels like the individual, and the more his readiness for physical actions. A. Bandura treats anger as one of the basic components of the general excitation which promotes occurrence of aggression [18].

Interaction in a triad “suffering-fear-anger” may be as adaptive, and disadaptive. His positive consequences may become the actions directed on overcoming of obstacles to satisfaction of needs, directed not admitting a crisis situation in the future. Disadaptation takes place then when anger occurbing from strong suffering at repeating attempts to find lost object of satisfaction of needs or to remove a barrier for a way to it, conducts to destructive aggression. It is necessary to note, that interaction of emotions – the complex phenomenon which may disorganized the actions resulting in occurrence of a crisis situation or a negative emotional condition, but in too time to organize the actions directed on reduction or elimination of unacceptable influences. Thus interaction of emotions comprises elements as disorganization, and the organizations of behaviour.

Interference of fear and anger may have an effect for character of adaptation of behaviour of the person directly. In particular, it agrees given R. Pluchik, H. Kellerman, H. Konte at significant domination of fear prevails the mechanism of suppression directed on exceptions from consciousness of ideas or experience, caused by negative emotions that results in formation of suppressed – aggressive type of behaviour. Aggression will be braked or transformed, as there is a strong fear, stimuled a prediction of punishment or requital [19]. In this case adaptation proceeds on strategy of the passive adaptation when the preference is given: It is dependent-obedient (described superconformizm, need for the help and trust on the part of associates, uncertainty in oneself, the unstable self-estimation, suppressed egoizm and aggression) or it is sumissive-timid (described by the modesty, the increased sense of guilt, selfaccusation) to styles of interpersonal relations with associates.

In case of relative parity of fear and angerthe mechanism of displacement – discharge the collected emotions on subjects, animals or people perceived as less dangerous for individual, instead of expression of emotions on the true objects causing negative emotions [20] may operate. Thus the passive – aggressive type of behaviour at which the most widespread are strategy of adaptive self-restriction with use collaborate-conventional (distinguished by aspiration to an establishment of compromises, to cooperation, search of a recognition at authoritative people, compensation repressed egocentrizm is formed and aggressions due to the increased friendliness), is mistrustful-skeptical (shown in sensitivity and suspiciousness, propensity to criticalness, to discontent associates, animosities) and is responsible-magnanimous (reflecting the expressed readiness to help and sympathize with associates, flexible role “arsenal”, skill to communicate, probably, problems of the suppressed or superseded animosities) styles.

When the anger is dominate emotion open aggressive reactions may be observed. Adaptation differs domination of processes of the active adaptation and use is rectilinear-aggressive (described by persistence, fieriness, irascibility, unfriendliness in the attitude of associates, spontaneity, persistence on achievement of the purpose, practicalness, feeling of animosities at counteraction and criticism in the address yourself), imperiously-leading (described by the high activity expressed by motivation of achievement, the tendency to the domination, the increased level of claims, impatience to criticism, orientation basically on own opinion, reassessment of own opportunities) and is independent-dominant (distinguished by the sure, independent, competing manner of behaviour, complacency, narcissism, the expressed feeling of the own superiority inadequately overestimated by a level of claims, the expressed feeling of rivalry) styles of mutual relation with associates.

On character of adaptation of behaviour of the person may render inderect influence some mental conditions arising as a result of interaction of fear and anger with other emotions.

  1. Anxiety. E. Gelgorn [21] in particular allocates two forms of anxiety. The excitable form described by anxiety, hyperactivity, sympathetic reactions. The brake form described of hipoactiveness, parasimpatic reactions. The first arises at increase of anger and conducts to amplification of aggression, the second at increase of fear and conducts to formation of negative mental conditions. H. Liddel's researches, for example, show, that internal fears which do not find external display, support more or less expressed condition of anxiety [22].
  2. Depression. In opinion of lines of authors a triad “suffering-fear-anger” is a part of a syndrome of depression which proceeds or because of frustration, or is reaction on deprivation. Both in that, and in the other case the mechanism is approximately identical and may consist of three phases. The first, at dissatisfaction of needs (requirements) the individual answers loss of object or impossibility of achievement of the purpose vigorous reactions in attempt to return that is lost or to achieve necessary. The second phase is characterized by anger and the aggression directed on object or an obstacle. And, at last, when the first and second phases do not give result, occurs “dismiss” from the promptings stimulating activity or adaptive behaviour. This full dismissness also causes depression [23].
  3. Psychotizm. A condition which is characterized by constant intensity, excity regardless to a degree of danger of a real situation. May result from suppression of emotions of fear or anger. It is usually shown in occurrence of images, fantases, dreams or ideas on causing damage to object of animosities.

Thus processes of adaptation are caused by a lot of the reasons of a psychological nature which are consequence (investigation) of non-uniformity onthogenetic development and features of mental human life.


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Published: 11th European Conference on Personality. Friedrich-Schiller-Universitat Jena, 21.7.–25.7.2002. Conference Program and Abstracts / Beatrice Rammstedt, Rainer Riemann (Eds.). — Lengerich ; Berlin; Bremen; Riga; Rom; Viernheim; Wien; Zagreb: Pabst Science Publishers, 2002. — pp. 141–142


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