Conflict Frustration and Stress

When an individual must choose one or the other of two goals or has both positive and negative feelings about a particular goal, he faces conflict frustration. Since motives may be either positive or negative—either seeking or avoiding—there are four possible types of conflict: approach-approach, avoidance-avoidance, approach-avoidance, and double approach-avoidance. Check out also this instruction video about Conflict Frustration and Stress:

Approach-approach conflict. When the individual has two desirable but mutually exclusive goals, his situation is described as an approach-approach conflict: For example, a child holding a valued toy may see a kitten he wants to pet. In order to take up the kitten, he must put down the toy.

At the adult level, a young man may want to marry and also to finish his education but, for financial reasons, not be able to do both. Conflicts of this type must usually be resolved by choosing one goal over the other, either excluding one entirely or deciding which to do first.

Avoidance-avoidance conflict. When the individual seeks to avoid two unpleasant alternatives but cannot directly avoid one without encountering the other, he is confronted with an avoidance-avoidance conflict. For example, a student may not want to do all the studying a course requires, but neither does he want to fail the course.

Or he may want to avoid working with some person on a committee but not wish to offend him by saying so. Conflicts of this type are most often resolved by “leaving the field.” In the first example, the individual might drop the course. In the second, he might resign from the committee and volunteer for a different activity. All this, of course, is part of the Human Mind-Body Psychology.

Approach-avoidance conflict. In an approach-avoidance conflict, the individual is attracted to an object or state of affairs and simultaneously repelled by something associated with it. For example, a child may want to pick a water lily in a pond but be afraid to wade out to get it.

Or a person may want to safeguard his health by going to the doctor for a physical checkup but fear the possible consequences of such a visit. The closer the individual gets to the goal, the more strongly he is repelled by the negative aspects associated with it. Approach-avoidance conflict usually produces indecision and vacillating behavior.

Double approach-avoidance. A more complex kind of conflict is double approach-avoidance; in which both courses of action have good and bad features which must be weighed in order for a choice to be made. For example, a salesman may have to decide between two jobs—one with a rather small territory in a pleasant climate but with lower pay and the other requiring more travel in a colder climate but allowing him to handle a product he especially enjoys selling. As you will understand, there are obvious relations with Anxiety Disorder symptoms.

There are both successful and unsuccessful ways of adjusting to any type of frustration. In the following sections, we shall examine some of the most common reaction patterns.

When goal-directed activities are blocked, normal individuals experience physiological and psychological reactions which continue as long as the needs remain unsatisfied. The physiological response to frustration is one of the many conditions which Hans Selye has called stress.

Even though the “good sport” may meet defeat with a smile, his loss represents some degree of frustration and, therefore, of stress. As we have seen, severe and prolonged stress can lead to a variety of ills, from ulcers to heart trouble.