In Search of Coronary-Prone Behavior: Beyond Type A

By Aron W. Siegman; Theodore M. Dembroski | Go to book overview

munications that cut off the person's social support network (cf. Hall, Friedman, & Harris, 1986)? Are the expressions merely the observable evidence of a biological predisposition to disease? Or, are the nonverbal expressions intimately involved in the disease process itself through some feedback mechanism? The answers to these questions have implications for the types of treatment interventions that might prove successful.

A speculative answer to these questions, based on knowledge of expressive style, is as follows. Characteristic modes of emotional responding in the individual are likely biologically determined at birth or formed at a very early age. However, emotional expressive responses are also influenced by the social situation. Furthermore, most nonverbal emotional expressions are innately tied to underlying emotional states but can be somewhat controlled through effort and learning. It is also likely true that most nonverbal emotional expressions play some role in maintaining or modulating the underlying emotions. So, for example, a very shy and unexpressive child probably has a matching nervous system and personality; but this child will learn to "express" more or less as a function of his or her culture and family environment. For example, Protestant, American males learn to be less emotionally expressive. If the shy child grows up to achieve his modest goals or to be stoically resigned to his situation, then this child might become what we have termed a "healthy unexpressive" person. An inherently sociable, competent, and expressive child might grow up to success as a healthy charismatic. Trouble would arise if the unexpressive child wanted, for example, to be president, or if the expressive child became excessively competitve, never satisfied with his achievements.

This line of reasoning again points out the tremendous importance of the degree of congruence between a person's self-image and predispositions on the one hand, and the person's social situation--family, job, and culture--on the other. A hard- driving job and a fast-moving culture may be healthy for some people and unhealthy for others. It makes no sense to tell everyone to slow down, to talk more slowly, or to smile more. It may, however, matter a great deal whether people are fulfilled in their lives.


REFERENCES

Angell M. ( 1985). "Disease as a reflection of the psyche." The New England Journal of Medicine, 312, 1570-1572

Antonovsky A. ( 1979). Health, stress and coping. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Appels A., Hoppener P., & Mulder P. ( 1987). "A questionnaire to assess premonitory symptoms of myocardial infarction." International Journal of Cardiology, 17, 15-24.

Booth-Kewley S., & Friedman H. S. ( 1987). "Psychological predictors of heart disease: A quantitative review." Psychological Bulletin, 101, 343-362.

Chesney M. A., & Rosenman R. H. (Eds.) ( 1985). Anger and hostility in cardiovascular and behavioral disorders. New York: Hemisphere.

Cohen F. ( 1979). "Personality, stress, and the development of illness." In G. C. Stone, F. Cohen, & N. E. Adler (Eds.), Health Psychology--A handbook (pp. 77-111). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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