Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Managing your fears

My magpie mind came across this study today as I was scanning the various feeds that I look at to spot stuff for this blog.  Psychology is fascinating to me, particularly how we relate in social situations.  I suppose some of that relates to that booklet I pointed to the other day on human combative behaviour, where two different modes of attack were presented - the predator and the alpha male.

Today I saw this article reported, which is of a study of MMA fighters, the impact fear has on them and how they handle it.   The whole article is available here:  Managing Emotional Manhood: Fighting and Fostering Fear in Mixed Martial Arts Here is the abstract:

Based on two years of fieldwork and over 100 interviews, we analyze mixed martial arts fighters’ fears, how they managed them, and how they adopted intimidating personas to evoke fear in opponents. We conceptualize this process as “managing emotional manhood,” which refers to emotion management that signifies, in the dramaturgical sense, masculine selves. Our study aims to deepen our understanding of how men’s emotion work is gendered and, more generally, to bring together two lines of research: studies of gendered emotion management and studies of emotional identity work. We further propose that managing emotional manhood is a dynamic and trans-situational process that can be explored in diverse settings.

It is a really interesting study and definitely worth reading through over a cup of coffee.  What I find interesting is the analysis of how the men in the study handle that fear and how the authors extrapolate those methods into other circumstances.

The methods that they pull out from the fighters can all be applied in everyday life.  Some of it reads like pop psychology but the reality from which they extract these methods does lend some credance to it all.  The methods: scripting, framing, othering.  It also talks about how fighters foster fear in their opponents - winning fights before they start. 

The end of the study is interesting:

Putting on a convincing manhood act requires more than using language and the body; it also requires emotion work. By suppressing fear, empathy, pain, and shame and evoking confidence and pride, males signify their alleged possession of masculine selves. Such emotion work may thus create an emotional orientation that primes men to subordinate and harm others. And by signifying masculine selves through evoking fear and shame in others, such men are likely to more easily secure others’ deference and accrue rewards and status. Managing emotional manhood, whether it occurs in a locker room or boardroom, at home or the Oval Office, likely plays a key role in maintain- ing unequal social arrangements.
 The same processes that are used in the cage can be used in the rest of life.....It is also useful to think through how  methods could be used in everyday life to handle fear in lots of situations.

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