Business Phobias and self-detachment?
Nomophobia is ‘no-mobile-phone’ phobia, meaning the fear of being without your mobile phone and it is real.
Human beings have the capacity to detach from any situation, to resist and brave even the worst conditions – when they realize it is up to them – as their choices are always subject to their decisions, not the conditions.
They can therefore learn to detach from their mobile phone at the appropriate times, for the sake of others, whether that be at the bank or post office counter, when in a meeting or in the audience. The capacity to detach in this way is a uniquely human capability.
The skills and tactics to negotiate include a technique called ‘going to the balcony’, recommended if things start to get heated up. You are told to imagine you are sitting up in a balcony looking down on the negotiation to see how you are doing. Are you looking anxious, calm, nervous or agitated. By thinking of this you are temporarily detaching yourself from the situation.
Depending on your vintage, you may have grown up listening to your parents saying “count to 10” as a way to calm down and not over react. This again is another way to detach yourself from a situation, where counting to 10 buys you time to respond as opposed to instinctively react.
However, as humans we also possess the less well known phenomenon of self-detachment whereby we cannot only detach from a situation but can also detach from ourselves, something we do when we choose a personal attitude towards ourselves. When we use humor or heroism we are referred to the uniquely human capacity of self-detachment and by doing so we really take a stand toward our own biological, psychological and sociological conditions and determinants. Crucially this means we are free to shape our own character and responsible for what we make out of ourselves.
What matters is not the features and benefits of our selves, projects or place of work – rather the stand we take towards each of them and the capacity to take such a stand is what makes us human beings.
Fear of clarity
Many executives fear the danger of clarity as making things perfectly clear can result in a loss of power and or mystique.There are benefits to poor communication. There are reasons for this and they lie in the manifestation of the difference between public and private values. It is important to take in to account the private needs of the manager or executive if you are attempting to determine if more needs, wants and drives are being served, than are being frustrated in any change effort.
Paradoxical Intention for self-distancing
Self-detachment requires one to create distance. Distance can be achieved by rising above and opening up a new dimension within. This can be done when emotional feelings are overwhelming or suffering is due to pathogens.The word path-ogen means “that which produces suffering”[i] and there are two pathogenic patterns that are distinguished in logotherapy and relevant in self detachment, the phobic pattern and the obsessive compulsive pattern (Frankl, 1978, p116 & 151)[ii].
Phobic Pattern – Flight from Fear
The first pathogenic pattern relevant to soft skills learning is for people with anxiety disorders that are afraid of something that could happen to them (Frankl, 2004, p. 16)[iii]. This is most prevalent when being part of, or leading a team, particularly when the potential for conflict arises, whether that be R&D, Sales or operational based.
Depending on the attitude one may fear the worst, so to understand what constitutes the phobic pattern is a flight from fear, as a reaction to fear of fear. Fear of fear frequently turns out to be caused by the person’s apprehension, anxiety or anticipation about the potential effects of the anxiety attacks. They are afraid that they may collapse, faint or get a heart attack, or stroke. However one object of fear is fear itself, where the person refers to “anxiety about anxiety”, so the fear of fear, increases fear.
This anticipation is called anticipatory anxiety meaning the anxiety one anticipates, as a pre reflected self experience, where “the person reacts to an event with a fearful expectation of its recurrence” (Frankl, 1970, p. 102)[iv].
Fear however always tends to bring about precisely that which is feared and by the same token, anticipatory anxiety is liable and likely to trigger off what the patient so fearfully expects to happen. Thus a self sustaining vicious circle is established where a symptom evokes a phobia; the phobia provokes the symptom; and the recurrence of the symptom reinforces the phobia” (Frankl, 1978, p. 115)[v].
This fear can result in anxiety neuroses, as the anxiety of patients with anxiety disorders is potentiated to a fear of the anxiety (Frankl, 2004, p.191)[vi].
This fear of anxiety leads people to flee from anxiety, run away from anxiety, in the case of being afraid of spaces (Agoraphobia) they run by staying at home, or by running up the stairs instead of riding in the lift if one is afraid of suffocating (claustrophobia), or by avoiding going in to a room if one is afraid of blushing (erythrophobia). This is a reaction pattern.
So people with anxiety disorders take flight from the anxiety (Frankl, 2004, p.192)[vii] . However, “Just as fear makes real that which it fears, a forced desire makes impossible that which it intends” Frankl, 2004, p.192)[viii] as the direct intention of pleasure defeats itself. The more an individual aims at pleasure the more the aim is missed. In Logotherapy this is described as hyper intention. The same applies to excessive attention where logotherapy describes it as hyper attention.
When an act or performance is demanded by us or from us on behalf of a line or project manager, that demand has made the act or performance an object of attention or intention. But as we have noted, direct intention defeats itself. Besides, there are some activities that simply cannot be demanded, commanded or ordered, as they cannot be established at will. One cannot will to believe or will to befriend, love, or laugh, will (Frankl, 1978, p. 75)[ix]. This demand quality also stifles creativity as it leaves no room for the initiative to be taken (Frankl, 1978, p. 153)[x]. It suggests compliance rather than commitment.
In the case of neurotic fear of fear, we are dealing with a fear of something abnormal, as a person will watch themselves with high-strung attention and scrutinize the act to the point that it cannot help but be rendered impossible (Frankl, 20014, p.206)[xi]. This self observation is the most vicious thing in the self sustaining vicious circle already discussed.
Logotherapy makes use of this insofar as it attempts to lead patients in to paradoxically desiring, or intending precisely that which they so greatly fear. However, Frankl wondered what would happen if he linked the desire with something also abnormal, by instructing patients to make an attempt to desire precisely that which they fear (even momentarily). By doing this, they succeed in intending what they fear happening paradoxically and by doing so, the wind is taken out of the anticipation that they fear. The agoraphobic hyper intends on collapsing, the claustrophobic hyper intends on suffocating, while the erythrophobic hyper intends on blushing. By hyper intending paradoxically, it unblocks access to humor, the very important and unique human phenomenon for the capacity to self distance. The person learns to ridicule and laugh at their symptoms, thus distancing themselves from the fear.
By doing this they successfully replace a pathological fear with a paradoxical wish (Frankl, 1978, p.117)[xii].
This is the logotherapeutic technique called Paradoxical Intention that incorporates self distancing, that on strictly empirical grounds is also an important “coping mechanism”, built in to the human psyche (Frankl, 1978, p16.)[xiii]. “logotherapy teaches that fear of fear induces flight from fear and that a phobia really starts when this pathogenic pattern of avoidance has been established. Paradoxical intention then obviates such avoidance by generating a total inversion of the person’s intention to flee from their fear” Frankl, 1978, p.150)[xiv]. This gives the person the capacity to ridicule the trouble with a humorous formulation (Frankl, 1967, p. 152)[xv] with an effective technique that “bursts open and unhinges the circular mechanism” (Frankl, 2004, p. 16)[xvi]. People in projects would benefit greatly to be reminded that from time to time we must not take ourselves too seriously.
It also allows a person to distance himself not only from an event but also from himself. By adopting a humorous attitude towards a symptom one can detach himself from himself and laugh about himself. This would suggest we are not taking humor seriously enough.
Gordon Allport raised a question after Frankl had read a paper at Harvard University “whether or not that sound sense of humor which is inherent in the technique of paradoxical intention is equally available in all patients”? Frankl replied “that in principal each and every human being, by virtue of his humanness, is capable of detaching himself from himself and laughing about himself. But there are certainly quantitative differences in the degree to which the human capacity for self-detachment and the sound sense of humor can be mobilized” (Frankl, 1997, p. 109)[xvii].
Paradoxical Intention is a technique with significant promise to help people in projects respond more reasonably as opposed to react more instinctively. By learning how to apply such a technique will contribute enormously to reducing the levels of increasing stress in the workplace and appeal directly to “Human Asset Enhancement” where “humans increase in worth through enhanced knowledge or experience and likewise an organization is prudent to invest time and money on its most precious people assets as well as to guard against the mishap of their loss” (Allen, 2010, p. 3)[xviii].
For people in projects especially leaders, there is value in knowing where the source of any conflict resides. After all there is positive and negative conflict that has implications in how it is addressed.
In summary, paradoxical intention concerns itself with the inversion of intentions that characterize both patterns of phobic and obsessive compulsive reaction, namely the avoidance of fear or compulsion, through the flight from the former or the fight against the latter (Frankl, 2004, p. 16)[xxviii].
 Not only can no animal laugh in the sense of understanding and intuiting humour, but Frankl says “humor is a divine attribute as in three psalms God is referred to as a “laughing one”. The Will to Meaning, P.17.
 Frankl cites Lorenz (1967) “No longer is it tenable to deplore, as Lorenz did “that we do not as yet take humor seriously enough”. The Unheard Cry for Meaning, P.121.
 Frankl says this “is most conspicuous in cases of blasphemous obsessions”. The Unheard Cry for Meaning, P.116.
[ii] Frankl, Viktor. The Unheard Cry for Meaning.USA, Simon & Schuster, 1978
[iii] Frankl, Viktor. On the Theory and Therapy of Mental Disorders. UK, Brunner-Routledge, 2004
[iv] Frankl, Viktor. The Will to Meaning. USA, Penguin Books, 1970.
[v] Frankl, Viktor. The Unheard Cry for Meaning.USA, Simon & Schuster, 1978
[vi] Frankl, Viktor. On the Theory and Therapy of Mental Disorders. UK, Brunner-Routledge, 2004
[vii] Frankl, Viktor. On the Theory and Therapy of Mental Disorders. UK, Brunner-Routledge, 2004
[viii] Frankl, Viktor. On the Theory and Therapy of Mental Disorders. UK, Brunner-Routledge, 2004
[ix] Frankl, Viktor. The Unheard Cry for Meaning.USA, Simon & Schuster, 1978
[x] Frankl, Viktor. The Unheard Cry for Meaning.USA, Simon & Schuster, 1978
[xi] Frankl, Viktor. On the Theory and Therapy of Mental Disorders. UK, Brunner-Routledge, 2004
[xii] Frankl, Viktor. The Unheard Cry for Meaning.USA, Simon & Schuster, 1978
[xiii] Frankl, Viktor. The Unheard Cry for Meaning.USA, Simon & Schuster, 1978
[xiv] Frankl, Viktor. The Unheard Cry for Meaning.USA, Simon & Schuster, 1978
[xv] Frankl, Viktor. Psychotherapy & Existentialism. USA, Penguin Books, 1967
[xvi] Frankl, Viktor. On the Theory and Therapy of Mental Disorders. UK, Brunner-Routledge, 2004
[xvii] Frankl, Viktor. The Will to Meaning. USA, Penguin Books, 1970.
[xviii] Allen, Martin. Human Asset Management. UK, Cross Talk Journal, 2010.
[xix] Frankl, Viktor. On the Theory and Therapy of Mental Disorders. UK, Brunner-Routledge, 2004
[xx] Frankl, Viktor. The Unheard Cry for Meaning.USA, Simon & Schuster, 1978
[xxi] Frankl, Viktor. The Unheard Cry for Meaning.USA, Simon & Schuster, 1978
[xxii] Frankl, Viktor. The Will to Meaning. USA, Penguin Books, 1970.
[xxiii] Frankl, Viktor. The Unheard Cry for Meaning.USA, Simon & Schuster, 1978
[xxiv] Frankl, Viktor. The Will to Meaning. USA, Penguin Books, 1970.
[xxv] Frankl, Viktor. On the Theory and Therapy of Mental Disorders. UK, Brunner-Routledge, 2004
[xxvi] Frankl, Viktor. On the Theory and Therapy of Mental Disorders. UK, Brunner-Routledge, 2004
[xxvii] Frankl, Viktor. On the Theory and Therapy of Mental Disorders. UK, Brunner-Routledge, 2004
[xxviii] Frankl, Viktor. On the Theory and Therapy of Mental Disorders. UK, Brunner-Routledge, 2004
[xxix] Frankl, Viktor. The Unheard Cry for Meaning.USA, Simon & Schuster, 1978