|Psychology of Sharks and Seals|
This activity enables you to look at your interpersonal style and at your style in relationship to the styles of others. You may find the activity most helpful if you first complete the activity and then read the discussion that follows. Once you have completed the discussion, return to the activity and reconsider your responses. Also, this will be a good time to consider your style in relationship to the styles of others.
Here focus is on your basic nature. It is important to get in touch with who you really are and to avoid responding in terms of how you would like to be or how you would like to be seen by others. In each of the five sets below, consider the descriptions of each personality type, get in touch with who you really are, and then circle either 'A' or 'B,' depending on which one most closely parallels your nature. It may help to think in terms of how you would respond or react during times of stress or tension. It is at these times when one's real nature tends to come to the surface.
(Note) It is really a jungle out there and is also important to understand the animals and to understand the animal group to which you belong. There is also the socialized civilized side of things, though. This is where consideration and tolerance come in. They are not of the nature of individuals but need to be learned over time and carefully cultivated. Using a 5-point scale with 5 representing very high, 4 representing high, 3 representing medium, 2 representing low, and 1 representing very low, how would you rate yourself in terms of being considerate with others in your family? Using the same rating scale, how would you rate yourself in terms of being tolerant with other people in your family? Can you give three examples of your being considerate and three of your being tolerant to support your rating?
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 zones.
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 client's identifying the group in which she best fits, education begins to focus on the effect of socialization on his natural style and on the client's 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 individual's 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.
|By Gary A. Crow, Ph.D. March 23, 2017|