Conflict and stress order revised


No matter how resourceful people may be in coping with problems, the circumstances of life inevitably involve stress. Motives are not easily satisfied and there are obstacles that must be overcome, decisions to be made, and delay to be tolerated. People seem to be living in a nervous society. Under this situation there is a need to make adjustments here and there (Halonen and Santrock, 1996). This paper attempts to help one become aware of how people respond to frustration and stress. The following statements of the problem guide the inquirer as to the direction of this paper.

Problem statement 1: What is frustration and when does it occur?

Problem statement 2: What factors cause frustration?

Problem statement 3: What is a conflict and what motives present the greatest potential for conflict?

Problem statement 4: What are some if the immediate reactions to frustrations?

Problem statement 5: What cause people to react to frustrations?

Problem statement 6: How are defense mechanisms described and to what extent can defense mechanism be used?

Problem statement 7: In what extent can defense mechanisms be used?

Problem statement 8: What are the physiological effects of stress?


Problem statement 1: What is frustration and when does it occur?

As an event, the thwarting circumstances that block or interfere with goal-directed activity is frustration. As a state, it is the annoyance, confusion, or anger engendered by being thwarted , disappointment and defeated (Halonen and Santrock, 1996).

Problem statement 2: What factors cause frustration?

Physical Environment in the forms of obstacles such as traffic jams, crowded lines at the supermarket, droughts that destroy a farmer’s crops, noise that prevents concentration, floods that delay people in their travel comprise this category. Social Environment as well such as restrictions imposed by other people laws, customs, and norms of society cause frustration. In addition there is the individual’s own limitation such lack of specific abilities and /or physical handicaps. Lastly conflict contributes to the occurrence of frustration (Morris and Maisto, 1999).

Problem statement 3: What is a conflict and what motives present the greatest potential for conflict?

Related to frustration is the state of conflict which results when one must make a choice of alternatives and cannot arrive at a decision.

One of the confusing things about frustration and conflict is that each may be the consequence of the other. An example is when a guy meets a girl and asks for a date and is turned down, results to frustration. He then asks himself: should I ask again or should I give up? That is conflict.

There are four types of conflict and these include:

Approach-approach. This type of conflict occurs when the individual has two desirable but mutually exclusive goals. An illustration for this is when a student who has just finished his course is offered two jobs which are both good but he must only select one of these jobs (Morris and Maisto, 1999).

Avoidance – avoidance. A type of conflict that occurs when there are two undesirable situations but cannot avoid one without encountering the other. A father dislikes his job but cannot resign because he has a family to support (Morris and Maisto, 1999).

Approach – avoidance. The conflict occurs when a person us both attracted and repelled by the same object, person or situation. This is difficult to resolve. A male student likes to play basketball to acquire social acceptance but at the same time is afraid to be hurt and thought of as weak and sickly or incapable of playing this game (Morris and Maisto, 1999).

Double/multiple approach. In this type of conflict one is attracted to two positive goals but each one has negative alternatives. A man has two job offers. One job could pay a much higher salary but has to go abroad which could mean loneliness from home.

Another job is just within the city where he resides but not pay as much. He must still make a choice though. In this society there are motives which are most pervasive and difficult to resolve. These motives generally occur between the following areas: (1) Independence versus dependence is expressed when in times of stress, a person may resort to the dependence characteristics of childhood to have someone take care of him and solve his problems.

But a person may be taught that the ability to stand on one’s own and assume responsibility is a mark of maturity; (2) Intimacy versus isolation is found in the desire to be close to another and to share one’s innermost thoughts and emotions may conflict with the fear of being hurt or rejected if one exposes too much of oneself; (3)

Cooperation versus competition – competition begins in early childhood, among siblings, continues through schools, and culminates in business and professional rivalry. At the same time, a person is urged to cooperate with the help of others. Such contradictory expectations have the potential for producing conflict; and (4) Impulses expression versus moral standards – All societies have to regulate impulses to some degree. Sex and aggression are two areas in which one’s impulses most frequently conflict with moral standards. The violation of these standards may generate strong feelings of guilt (Morris and Maisto, 1999).

Problem statement 4: What are some of the immediate reactions to frustrations?

Aggression is usually an immediate reaction to frustration. Generally, aggression is a kind of behavior intended to harm another person. It is either expressed physically or verbally. There are also two kinds of aggression namely: the direct aggression and displaced or indirect aggression. In many instances, the frustrated individual cannot express aggression against the source of frustration. Sometimes the source is vague and intangible. The person does not know what to attack and yet feels angry and seeks something to attack.

Sometimes the person responsible for the frustration is so powerful that an attack would be dangerous. In this case the aggressive action is directed toward an innocent person or scapegoat rather than toward the actual cause of the frustration. This is displaced aggression. Apathy is another response to frustration which is just the opposite of aggression. This kind of behavior shows indifference or withdrawal.

Children whose aggressive outbursts are never successful, who find they have no power to satisfy their needs by means of their own actions, may well resort to apathy and withdrawal when confronted with subsequent frustrating situations. Regression is a behavior described as a return to childish forms of behavior. Adults sometimes resort to immature forms of behavior when faced with frustrating situations like to yell or start a fist fight, give up any attempt to cope and seek someone to solve the problem for them (Morris and Maisto, 1999).

Problem statement 5: What cause people to react to frustrations?

To explain the reactions to frustrations, psychologists have introduced the concept of anxiety. By anxiety, it means the unpleasant emotion characterized by terms like “worry”, “apprehension”, “dread”, and “fear”, “threat” that all experience at times in varying degrees. Because anxiety is a very uncomfortable emotion, it cannot be tolerated for long. People are strongly motivated to do something to alleviate the discomfort, often using a combination of defensive and coping strategies (Morris and Maisto, 1999).

Problem statement 6: How are defense mechanisms described and to what extent can defense mechanism be used?

According to Freud, the term, defense mechanism, refers to the unconscious processes that protect a person against anxiety by distorting reality in some way. The strategies do change the way the person perceives or thinks about it. Hence, they all involve an element of self-deception (Morris and Maisto, 1999).

A few defense mechanisms worth mentioning include:

Denial – This is a defense mechanism by which unacceptable impulses or ideas are not perceived or allowed into full awareness. An example could be a cardiac patient may deny fear of death anytime (Atkinson et al., 1993).

Repression – This is a denial of an impulse or memory that might provoke feelings of guilt by its disappearance from awareness. This denial is a defense mechanism against internal threats. Feelings for example of hostility toward a love one may be vanished from memory because it causes anxiety (Atkinson et al., 1993).

Suppression – As distinguished from repression, the process is one of deliberate self-control that is keeping impulses, wishes, privately while denying publicly (Atkinson et al., 1993).

Rationalization – A defense mechanism in which self-esteem is maintained by assigning plausible and acceptable reasons for conduct entered on impulsively or for less acceptable reasons.

Reaction-formation – a defense mechanism in which a person denies a disapproved motive through giving strong expression to its opposite.

Projection – A defense mechanism in which people protect themselves from awareness of their own undesirable traits by attributing those traits excessively to others (Atkinson et al., 1993).

Intellectualization – a defense mechanism tries to make a person gain detachment from an emotionally threatening situation by dealing with it in abstract, intellectual terms. A doctor cannot afford to become emotionally involved with each patient. A certain degree of detachment is needed for competent functioning (Atkinson et al., 1993).

Displacement – this refers to a motive that is not directly expressed but appears in more acceptable form (Atkinson et al., 1993).

Compensation – this defense f\mechanism allows the individual to counterbalance his feelings of inadequacy by doing well in another activity. A crippled individual for example, could develop his physique through body building exercise or excelling in sports. This is a positive compensatory act (Atkinson et al., 1993).

Problem statement 7: In what extent can defense mechanisms be used?

Defense mechanism can be compared to drugs that reduce symptoms without curing the ailment. Similarly, defense mechanisms may provide relief from anxiety until more realistic ways of solving personal problems can be worked out (Hilgard, et al., 1983).

Although they are helpful as a temporary relief, defense mechanisms distort reality and thus prevent effective problem solving. A person who depends on defense mechanisms may never learn more effective ways of coping (Morris and Maisto, 1999).

Problem statement 8: What are the physiological effects of stress?

Some stress is necessary for normal functioning. The nervous system apparently needs a certain amount of stimulation to function properly. But stress that is too intense or prolonged can have destructive physiological and psychological effects. The actions of autonomic nervous system that prepare the organism for emergency can, if prolonged lead to such physical disorders as ulcers, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

Severe stress can also impair the organisms’ immune responses, decreasing its ability to fight off invading bacteria and viruses. It is estimated that more than half of all medical problems are believed to be related to emotional stress. Psychosomatic disorders such as allergies, migraine, headaches, high blood pressure, heart disease, ulcers and even acne are among the illnesses that are related to emotional stress (Hilgard, et al., 1983).


Frustrations occur when progress toward a goal is blocked or delayed and when two motives conflict, satisfaction of one leads to the blocking of the other. For as long as a human individual is alive and functioning in whatever milieu he is in, these forces are at work, often straining and draining him. Coping and defense strategies oftentimes become indispensable but later become debilitating for most if no longer controlled and regulated. The severity of stress depends on the situation’s predictability, the potential for control, the individual’s cognitive evaluation, his feelings of competency, and the presence of social supports (Halonen and Santrock, 1996).


Atkinson, R.L., R.C. Atkinson, E.E. Smith, D.J. Bem, and S. Nolen-Hoeksema, 1993. Introduction to Psychology, 13th ed. New York: Harcourt College Publishers.

Halonen, J.S. and J.W. Santrock. 1996. Psychology: Contexts of behavior, Dubuque, IA: Brown and Benchmark, p.810.

Hilgard, ER, RR Atkinson, and RC Atkinson, 1983. Introduction        to Psychology. 7th ed., New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanich,          Inc.

Morris, Charles G. & Albert Maisto, 1999. Understanding      Psychology. 4th ed. Prentice Hall, Inc. P. 73.