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Motivation and Anxiety - The Motive Center
August 31st, 2004
04:43 pm

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Motivation and Anxiety
One point I have made elsewhere, but perhaps not so explicitly, is that motives can provide you a source of anxiety. Since they are (1) emotional, (2) nonconscious, (3) arouse awareness to select signals, (4) are sources of energy, it is readily possible for someone with a given motive to react to a certain situation with nervous energy! It is emotional energy in any case; when over-aroused, it can become negative. A little anxiety can be good to mobilize action. One truism of coaching and development is that no one develops unless they want to. My favorite bad joke on this: how many psychologists does it take to screw in a light bulb? Only one, but the bulb has to want to change.

Another way to look at this is that you are more sensitive on some subjects than others, for reasons you yourself may not understand. Why does it bug you so much to be challenged on some things, but not others? Being second-guessed on work really bugs some people, but not others. Having your credentials challenged is infuriating for some people, but others just take it as a...well, a challenge!

This suggests your underlying motivation. A researcher named Wei Chen (I believe) found it was more effective to ask people what made them mad than what made them happy as a quick-and-dirty method of identifying motives. Worth remembering! If you have a problem getting angry inappropriately, perhaps you need to investigate what you are getting angry about...

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