Introduction: Plunging into the emotional climate of the holiday season can be stressful. There is the potential stress of shopping, travel, deadlines, family issues, finances, aging, health issues, natural and man-made disasters. Some face the hardship of being alone without friends, family or loved ones. How we navigate holiday stress can depend on how we think about such things.
Background: Hans Selye tells us there is positive stress and negative distress and that our goal must be stress without distress. The Roman philosopher Epictetus tells us events don’t stress us and that we stress ourselves by what we tell ourselves about events: stress, like beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder! Alfred Korczybski asked us to think about thinking. Albert Ellis identified thought-styles lurking behind stress and distress. Philosopher Robert Hartman encouraged us to become aware of Feeler (F), Doer (D) and Thinker (T) ways of thinking and behaving.
Thinking about thinking and Holiday Stress: Most stress is interpersonal in nature. This gives rise to the expression “heaven and hell are other people.” With this in mind, let’s focus on interpersonal holiday stress where we sometimes find ourselves at odds with others in ways that result in garden variety stress or painful distress.
The holiday season is upon us. There is little time for psychobabble. Let’s approach holiday stress with the proverbial KISS principle in mind. What is more stressful than being misunderstood by someone over something important? This happens when we are momentarily a Feeler (F), while the other person is a Doer (D) or Thinker (T). The result is stress born of a difference in momentary Feeler (F), Doer (D), Thinker (T) mind-sets, bias or orientations resulting in failures to capture attention, much less empathy. In addition to your existing social skills, all you need to manage holiday stress is KISS consciousness which encourages awareness of shifting Feeler (F), Doer (D) and Thinker (T) mind-sets that pop up, especially in the emotional climate of holidays.
KISS Consciousness: Here is a KISS exercise you can practice in the time remaining. In addition to your acquired social skills, say to yourself: “Hey! Look! Am I now a Feeler, Doer or Thinker?” “Is she (he) a Feeler (F) Doer (D) or Thinker (T)?” “Does it matter?” For good measure add “What do I really want and how do I go about getting it?” Stay focused! Also pay attention to body-language associated with Feeler (F), Doer (D) and Thinker (T) habits which have a way of ruling our lives. It helps to visualize a family of three around a Christmas tree, and the doer body-language of father intent on getting the tree decorated, the feeler body-language of mother holding decorations that are family heirlooms, and the thinker body-language of a teenage daughter lost in thoughts of her own. Experience tells you what this body-language looks like. Pay attention.
Fox Consciousness is the rest of our story. As a bonus, let’s consider more impersonal stress such as computer viruses, identity theft, gifts that don’t arrive on time, drunk drivers, reckless drivers and so forth. We have the choice of responding like an “angry bear,” a “scared rabbit;” or the “clever fox.” Only the “clever fox” easily achieves the goal of stress without distress. This often requires the temporary suspension of Feeler (F) and Doer (D) behavior, and a shift to a Thinker (T) orientation processing reality-problems, “someone stole my identity,” and head-problems, “OMG I failed,” so as to avoid painful impersonal distress.
The “clever fox” knows what can be changed, what cannot be changed, and the difference between the two and this awareness prevents reality from coming up and slapping us in the face. The “clever fox” also sticks to "sad and bad thinking" and rejects “awfulistic” and “catastrophic” thinking. In fact, the “clever fox” avoids “awfulizing” or “castrophizing” about anything in keeping with the philosophy called Stoicism. Doesn’t this make sense in our imperfect world of fallible human beings? The fox wants us to know that with practice this mental discipline of measured detachment from upsetting events will come alive within us with practice ....and deliver the practical goal of stress without distress.
Impersonal events, like those mentioned, don’t create stress. It is how we think about them that creates stress. We significantly upset ourselves without a KISS consciousness sufficient to manage interpersonal conflicts and Fox consciousness to manage impersonal conflicts. Remember, the goal is stress-without-distress!
Conclusion: Returning to interpersonal distress, you will benefit from knowing the behavioral consequences of “clashing FDTs.” In the time remaining, supplement your social skills by owning your FDTs and recognizing those of others around you. Pace yourself accordingly! Don’t step on the FDTs of others, and strive to maneuver with yours! People with different FDT orientations will have trouble connecting in a meaningful and empathic way. Monitoring interpersonal Feeler (F), Doer (D) and Thinker (T) behavior (KISS consciousness) will help you manage both stress and distress. The beauty of our KISS exercise is that it is simple and grounded in axiological science. It has also proven useful to clinicians, coaches and business entrepreneurs the world over. Discover the power of KISS consciousness and Fox Consciousness this holiday season.
© Dr. Leon Pomeroy, Ph.D. ______________________
Linda Niewiadomski shares the following poetic interpretation of our cognitive FDTs. Ronald Dodson provided the graphics. These mind-sets, cognitive styles or orientations vary as to sensitivity, balance, plasticity, and order of influence; all of which have consequences.
“FEELER (F) orientation-Jane is a feeler / Wears her heart upon her sleeve / Empathy is her middle name / By your side, she’ll never leave;
“DOER (D) orientation-Mary is a doer / she’s always busy as a bee / Takes no time to feel or think / Her goals won’t set her free;
“THINKER (T) orientation-Nancy is a thinker / Analytical to the bone / Lost in thought and questioning / she spends her time alone.”
You have learned your ABCs and 123s. It’s time to learn your FDTs
Below is a graphic personification of the Feeler (F), Doer (D) and Thinker (T) in all of us: