Roger Abrantes: “Bottom line: we need to be nuanced about stress. Events causing healthy stress responses are necessary for enhancing attention to details, formation of memory, creation of bonds, and learning—and too much stress or for too long works against it.”
For a nuanced treatment of stress Abrantes might be interested in my theory of stress as emotional counterweight to “pure” emotion.
An immediate-moment manner of analysis led me in the 1980’s to see stress as the equal/opposite to emotion, and how stress serves as an emotional record of an animal’s experiences. Qualitatively, in other words in the specific manner by which it was acquired, stress is a physical record that enables an animal to be guided by its past experiences. However these specifics simultaneously project the past onto the moment and this is only adaptive to a point, i.e. in successfully avoiding pain and fear. However this can also project a trauma forward and fabricate something innocuous into a nonexistent threat. This is maladaptive as every owner of a reactive dog knows all too well. So the problem with the Qualitative experience of stress is that while it enables the dog to avoid previous unpleasantries, it doesn’t equip it to successfully adapt to new sources of resistance.
On the other hand, Quantitatively, stress can serve as a lump sum emotional ballast so that when processed by the hunger circuitry it thereby becomes an emotional counterbalance to what the dog is attracted to and this then elicits a flow memory from the emotional data bank of experience, i.e. its “puppy mind.” Now the dog is informed how to couple its energies to this source of resistance by way of “mirroring.” In this manner it can adapt to its nuanced qualities without reliving its own trauma/fear memories. This is how new information, aka a feeling, comes into being. In my view, this mirroring which generates an out-of-body like state of emotional suspension is the real purpose of mirror neurons rather than the cognitive aspects that have mistakenly been attributed to them. It is this emotional coupling by way of stress as emotional counter ballast that allows for emotional bonding so that the past is put aside and a new connection is made. An immediate-moment manner of analysis of canine behavior brought me to this nuanced view of stress decades before the findings of epigenetics and the understanding of stress affecting genetic expression. Stress as an emotional counterweight is the mechanics of bonding. Stress as the equal and opposite to emotion is the source of collectivized, complex and adaptive behavior.
Here’s a simple rule. If stress knocks the individual out of balance, it’s bad. If in contrast stress leads to grounding, i.e. processed through the hunger circuitry, then it is good. In the former instincts and/or old habits are in charge, in the latter, a dog goes by feel.