If this activity is compared to the interpersonal style type
activity, it will be seen that the sharks, lions, bears, tigers, and buzzards
reflect the same elements or characteristics as were attributed to dictators
and levitators. Further, seals, lambs,
beavers, turtles, and bees reflect the same elements or characteristics as were
attributed to facilitators and gravitators.
This activity may, then, be understood in relationship to and as an
extension of the earlier, interpersonal style type activity.
Ordinarily, individuals participating in the activity will
tend to identify with group A: sharks-lions-bears-tigers-buzzards and with
group B: seals-lambs-beavers-turtles-bees.
The fact is that their day-to-day functioning may actually reflect this
mixed and blended pattern. The tendency
is, though, for them to move nearly exclusively toward the A group or the B
group during times of stress, tension, conflict, confusion, or ambiguity. The tendency is to move into their comfort
Group A individuals tend, by nature, to be more aggressive
and individualistic, while members of group B tend to be more passive and
socially oriented. Although individuals
sometimes have difficulty recognizing this comfort zone tendency, others
members of the family usually have no difficulty assigning each family member
to one of the two groups.
Once the consultant has facilitated the clients identifying
the group in which she best fits, education begins to focus on the effect of
socialization on his natural style and on the clients ability to recognize and
modify the style during times of stress, confusion, or interpersonal
ambiguity. The activity becomes a
measure of the extent to which the client is experiencing stress insofar as she
will tend to go to the extremes within group A or the extremes within group B,
moving in a direction consistent with her natural tendency. Understanding and recognizing this tendency
is, then, the first step in developing more socialized, more effective style
during times of stress.
Group A individuals learn to recognize their typical stress
reactions in terms of the characteristics designating their group. They will find themselves becoming more
intensely focused on and preoccupied with the situations and individuals with
whom they are interacting. Their
involvement becomes very intense and tends to exclude other interests and
activities. At times, this may take on
an almost obsessive quality. They also
develop an increased need to be decisive, make something happen, and take
charge of both the situation and of other people in the situation.
This group A tendency compounds in terms of being more
forceful and assertive sometimes edging on aggressiveness. The individuals level of spontaneity shifts
to what is easily perceived by others as insensitivity and a lack of concern
for their feelings and thoughts. The
intense control experienced by the individual is intended to convey an attitude
of relaxed positiveness and confidence.
The underlying tension and anxiety, however, come through and are easily
seen by others as the primary state of the individual. Group A people under extreme stress take on a
driven quality with their normally energetic and attractive approach becoming
overwhelming and, to some extent, overbearing.
The usual responses they get from others to their flexibility and
supportiveness are quickly replaced by a reciprocal anxiety and quality of
apprehension. The group A person has
become, from the point of view of others, unpredictable and potentially
dangerous in socioemotional terms. Along
with experiencing extreme stress, she becomes a stress carrier, quickly
transferring her stress and tension to others.
Group B individuals in times of extreme stress begin to
manifest that natural helpfulness becomes a need to do things for others and to
be all things to all people. Their
nervousness and apprehension are managed through seeming to take little
seriously and seeming as if they think everyone wants to play and not really
deal with the serious issues or concerns.
In this sense, their attitude is sometimes perceived by others as
somewhat childish and inappropriate.
Type B individuals also begin to find their security in being
loyal to others without rational appraisal of the goals and direction inherent
in this unquestioning loyalty. Their
normal gentleness becomes passivity and increases their vulnerability. This is compounded by their openness that
becomes excessive in the direction of self-disclosure and an absence of
self-protection. Their sense of
responsibility intensifies and increases to the point of becoming a
self-imposed burden with compounds with an increased need to be seen as
dependable which may result in their pushing themselves past the point of
responsible participation. What is
usually a very desirable quality of patience becomes an inability to act,
developing a quality of socioemotional immobilization.
The result of these tendencies is a high level of ambiguity
and uncertainty that results in increased anxiety and tension as a result of a
perceived inability to consistently play their parts in the group. At this point, their usually appealing,
accepting approach to others moves into the realm of fatalism and powerlessness
and a sense of being defeated and unappreciated.
Whether extreme stress moves one toward the group A
adaptation of the sharks or the group B adaptation of the seals, the effect is
counterproductive for the individual.
This is true whether the tendency is mild or more toward the
extreme. In either event, the individual
needs to move toward a socialized, interpersonal adaptation. With the support and coaching of the
consultant, both the sharks and the seals learn to develop early awareness of
and recognition of stress reactions and adaptational patterns in
themselves. Once this recognition has
occurred and has been accompanied by education directed to understanding the
reaction pattern, consultation focuses in terms of more effective self-management
and interpersonal participation.
Sharks will find that their stress levels reduce as they
become more helpful and playful, loyalty-oriented and gentle, sensitive to
their interpersonal responsibilities and more open with others, conscious of
being there for others and being a dependable participant, developing a longer
perspective with increased patience and more socioemotional consistency, and
simply being more accepting of others, who they are, and what their needs and
interests are. Sharks best manage stress
reactions by emulating the strengths of the seals, with the seals achieving the
same end through emulating the strengths of the sharks.