What is Stress?
To counsel effectively counsellors and therapists need to be able to give all their attention to their clients. To do this they need to be relatively free from tension themselves. Lewis and Lowe1 point out that stimulation is extremely important to us all. Lack of it produces boredom and fatigue and the ensuing reactions are what we tend to recognize as stress. Over stimulation can also produce stress reactions, brought about by feelings of not being able to cope.There is a three stage reaction that enables the body to survive and adapt to change.
1. The Alarm Stage
This is accompanied by a surge of energy, concentration and power which helps individuals to perform in a crisis. Known as the Flight or Fight syndrome developed during the evolution in animals, a rush of adrenalin temporarily gives the alertness and energy to attack or run away. Alternatively, there is the Freeze Stage, or “possum” effect.
2. The Recuperation Stage
This is when the body repairs any damage caused by the Flight or Fight Stage.
3. The Normal State
This is a state of relaxed alertness. Continuing stress can become chronic, so the body does not recuperate, and this can cause real bodily harm.
Sources of Stress
Brady et al.2 point out that Freud characterized psychotherapy as an “impossible” profession. Counsellors and other mental health professionals are often engulfed in their clients’ pain, face hostility, have to keep confidences and deal with their own personal tragedies, failures and stresses.
Lewis and Lowe3 show that stress can come from external or internal sources. Working with Jung’s typology, extroverted sources can be environmental (such as physical working conditions) or interpersonal (such as the people you work with), internal (introverted) sources include their own physical, bodily conditions, emotional reactions and needs, and states of mind. How these might look with the eight Jungian types (ES, EN, ET, EF, IS, IN, IT, IF) is illustrated below.
Burnout, this flipping to the opposite, results from the tension between the Superior (most preferred) and Inferior (least preferred) Functions, and is a message from the psyche to stop overusing the preferred Function and to bring more balance again between the Functions. Play prevents burnout and helps reduce stress by allowing the underdeveloped Functions to emerge. The more preferred Functions for many therapists are Feeling and Intuition, so a loss of an inclination to care for others and a loss of enthusiasm may indicate symptoms of stress and burnout.Both stress and burnout can be viewed as positive mechanisms relating to the development of the Functions. Stress can be seen as messages from the psyche asking for development and differentiation of the underdeveloped Functions. Burnout can be seen as resulting from the overuse of Functions. For example, a creative writer may overuse Introverted Intuition and develop writer’s block, that is, lack of imagination. Overuse can come from the pleasure of using a Function, or an attempt to avoid the Inferior Function. In Jung’s theory, each one of us has within our psyche all of the Functions, in both Extroverted and Introverted forms.
Jung’s theory of Psychological Types7 focuses on the reconciliation of the opposite forces and feelings within the human psyche. In his biography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections it is recalled that in his teenage years he became conscious of two different and competing parts of himself and he referred to these as his Number 1, or conscious personality and his Number 2, or unconscious personality. The ego, the conscious sense of “I” can over identify with the superior Function, leading to disconnection with the inner world. It is in this inner and unconscious world that the Inferior Function mostly resides. Jung’s theory of types was an opportunity to reconcile the opposites and to understand more about his theory of psychic energy, or libido between the opposite poles of the individual.
In midlife, there is, at times, a surfacing of repressed material which may affect a person’s sense of identity. There is an unusual degree of vulnerability to changing perceptions, either from without or within. Mood changes, rises and falls in confidence and sense of the inner ground shifting are present. (Stein8). Storr9 wrote that the process of individuation at midlife in one towards a goal of wholeness of integration, a condition in which the different elements of the psyche become welded together in a new unity. Support and opportunities to explore our own life journey assist in this individuation.
Loneliness has a marked negative effect on health and the general sense of well being. (Murphy and Kupshik10). Support and supervision of therapists is imperative to overcome emotional and behavioural traps. These are belief patterns that result in a person acting in ways that confirm the negative belief. An example might be:
Games People Play
The patterns of over- and under use of the four Functions, in the Introverted and Extroverted forms, defend against fear and anxiety and lead to habitual responses by the Ego regardless of the demands of the inner and outer world. In Transactional Analysis (TA) these patterns can be regarded as games. Delunas11 and Lewis12 have linked these patterns or games to different Functions and Attitudes. Stress and burnout are extreme responses to these games.
Automatic Defence Patterns, Named Drivers in TA from Lewis,13 reprinted with permission
By becoming aware of these mechanisms it is then possible to diagnose the Functions that are being either overused or ignored. Stress and burnout patterns are a key to this as they are more extreme responses to these games. Rapid diagnosis can assist in resolution of the conflicts produced by these patterns. Balance can be re-established. Jung believed the psyche was self regulating and the typological model adds breadth to our understanding of the games we all play in our own defence, and the energy we use in that defence. Stress and burnout are indicative of energy depletion, and an imbalance in our psyche. Self awareness, supervision and support, can assist our own journey to wholeness and enable us to give quality attention to our clients.
Dr Sally A Campbell is President of the British Association for Psychological Type and Multicultural Correspondent for the Association for Psychological Type (USA)’s APT Bulletin. She is contactable at SACA, Training, Management & Development Consultancy, 2 College Fields, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 3HP, UK. telephone 00 44 117974 1184, fax 00 44 117 946 7637
1 Lewis, R. and Lowe, P. Individual Excellence. Kogan Page.
2 Brady, J., Healy, F, Norcross, J., and Guy. J. (1995) Stress in Counsellors: An Integrative Research Review in The Stresses of Counselling in Action, ed. Windy Dryden, Sage.
3 Lewis and Lowe op. cit.
4 Garden, A.M. (198S) The Effect of Jungian Type on Burnout, Journal of Psychological Type, 10, 3-10.
5 Garden, A.M. (1988) Jungian Type, Occupation and Burnout: an elaboration of an earlier study, Journal of Psychological Type, 14, 2-14.
6 Lewis, R. (1994) Personal Excellence. Using Jung’s Typology in Everyday Life. Adept Counselling, Oxford.
7 Jung, C. G. (1923) Psychological Types, Collected Works vol. 6, Routledge & Kegan Paul.
8 Stein, M. (1983) In Midlife – a Jungian perspective, Spring Publications.
9 Storr, A. (1988) Solitude, Flamingo. First published as The School of Genius, Andre Deutsch.
10 Murphy, P.M. and Kupshik, G. A. (1992) Loneliness, Stress and Welt-Being, Routledge.
11 Delunas, E. (1992) Survival Games People Play.
12 Lewis, R (1994) op.cit.
13 Lewis, R (1994) op.cit.