On BioScience and Life and Such

OFF-switch #1 (Fear)

In FDH-OFF project on January 17, 2023 at 11:32 am

Update 2 on the Fear-Disgust-Hate project.

Update 1 established that reading something that contains a fear stimulus, activates aspects of the fear-response.

Next: Design written “OFF”-switches for reading-induced fear.

There are plenty information out there on how to counter a traditional fear response, both with and without, drugs. Obviously, in this setting we need to look at non-pharmaceutical intervention methods.

Since our aim is to counter the specific internal fear-response a given reader may get, my assumption is that typical therapy actions to counter fear in general, could be a starting point also for a written response to a written fear stimulus.

There are (at least) three well documented behavioral methods we can use as starting points (more in ref 1): 1) Cognitive-behavioral therapy, 2) Mindfulness-Based Psychotherapies and 3) Psychodynamic Psychotherapy.

Psychotherapy seems to be dependent on a one on one physical interaction and probably not very useful.

Mindfulness on the other hand may hold promise. Mindfulness uses therapy methods that makes you focus on bodily functions like your breathing, seeing or hearing, in a stress-reducing manner. Such therapy-inputs could also work in writing.

Cognitive behavioral therapy can either involve exposure to the fear-stimulus, which may be difficult to achieve in a written format, or using techniques to achieve some form of logical risk-assessment to counter problematic instinctive responses:

Cognitive therapy targets distorted thoughts using a number of techniques such as identifying inaccurate thinking, examining the evidence for and against automatic thoughts, challenging and changing maladaptive thoughts, altering problematic behaviors, and relating to other people in more adaptive ways. Psychoeducation about the tri-part model of emotion, the different forms of distorted thinking (eg, all-or-nothing thinking, jumping to conclusions, disqualifying the positive, etc), and cognitive restructuring is an integral part of cognitive therapy.

(ref 2).

Possible cognitive therapy techniques include: 1) Restructuring or re-framing of: “over-generalizations”, “over-emphasis on minor details” or “assuming the worst”; 2) Thought processes to replace negative thoughts with positive alternatives; and 3) Stress reducing techniques like deep-breathing.

Cognitive therapy in a written format, therefore also seems like a promising template for designing an OFF-switch.

Based on the therapy techniques mentioned above, I’m making the first draft of some potential standard-short-text responses to a written statement containing a fear stimulus.

First draft of Fear OFF-switches:

  1. I recognize your sentiments here, and understand your instinctive reaction. Take a deep breath or two, before continuing your discussion on this topic.
  2. I see that you have a strong reaction to [this subject]. Have you considered just looking out the window for a couple of minutes. Notice the color and texture in the world around you, and take those sensations in. Then consider your thoughts on [the subject] again.
  3. I noticed that you generalized [the subject] into [this]. Is it possible to re-frame this generalization into [something more accurate]
  4. You put a lot of emphasis on [this minor detail]. Is [this detail] really that important or could you imagine that other parts of the discussion may have more significance.
  5. Is it possible that you are assuming the worst and that this is unlikely to happen
  6. Is it possible for you to re-frame [given negative argument] into [a positive spin on argument].

The idea being that these standard-short-texts can be used as stand-alone comments to a given text or anywhere in a discussion-thread, on any web-site or social media platform.

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