What Is Stress? A Systems Perspective | Marco Del Giudice et. al. (2018)

The term “stress” is used to capture important phenomena at multiple levels of biological organization, but finding a general and rigorous definition of the concept has provenchallenging. Current models in the behavioral literature emphasize the cognitive aspects of stress, which is said to occur when threats to the organism are perceived as uncontrollable and/or unpredictable. Here we adopt the perspective of systems biology and take a step toward a general definition of stress by unpacking the concept in light of control theory. Our goal is to clarify the concept so as to facilitate integrative research and formal analysis. We argue that stress occurs when a biological control system detects a failure to control a fitness-critical variable, which may be either internal or external to the organism. Biological control systems typically include both feedback (reactive, compensatory) and feedforward (predictive, anticipatory) components; their interplay accounts for the complex phenomenology of stress in living organisms. The simple and abstract definition we propose applies to animals, plants, and single cells, highlighting connections across levels of organization. In the final section of the paper we explore some extensions of our approach and suggest directions for future research. Specifically, we discuss the classic concepts of conditioning and hormesis and review relevant work on cellular stress responses; show how control theory suggests the existence of fundamental trade-offs in the design of stress responses; and point to potential insights into the effects of novel environmental conditions, including those resulting from anthropogenic change.

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Societal Contexts for Family Relations: Development, Violence and Stress | Raine Eisler (2016)

The effect of families on whether children do or do not flourish has long been recognized by psychology. However, families do not spring up in isolation from their social, economic, and cultural contexts. As the primary means of socialization, families have to prepare children to function in their larger cultural context. In other words, what we are dealing with is not a matter of simple causes and effects but of mutually supporting interactive systems dynamics.

Analyzing these interactive dynamics has been the focus of my multi-disciplinary cross-cultural historical study of human societies. (Eisler, 1987; 1995; 2000; 2007) This study led to the identification of two underlying cultural configurations that transcend conventional categories such as religious vs. secular, Eastern vs. Western, preindustrial vs. industrial, or rightist vs. leftist: the partnership system and the domination system.

No society is a pure domination or partnership system. However, as I will briefly develop in this chapter, the degree to which a society orients to either end of the partnership/domination continuum affects the kinds of beliefs and behaviors people consider normal or abnormal, moral or immoral, and even possible or impossible – with profound implications for whether or not children flourish. Read More

The preparatory set: a novel approach to understanding stress, trauma, and the bodymind therapies

Front. Hum. Neurosci., 01 April 2015 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2015.00178 The preparatory set: a novel approach to understanding stress, trauma, and the bodymind therapies Peter Payne and Mardi A. Crane-Godreau* Microbiology and Immunology, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, Lebanon, NH, USA Basic to all motile life is a differential approach/avoid response to perceived features of environment.… Read More