LIVING WITH STRESS<i> by Cary L. Cooper, Rachel D. Cooper and Lynn H. Eaker (Penguin: $7.95) </i>
Stress is one of the few types of pathological behavior that is not only condoned but often encouraged by our culture. Many character traits we might admire show up here, for example, not in a description of the successful personality, but in a chart of “Type A” (coronary prone) behavior. In our cave-dwelling days, the authors write, stress made sense: “Man needed to survive by a quick physical response to dangers and so his body developed the ability to rev up for a short time.” Today, however, our life-style does not allow us to react physically to stress. “Slugging an insolent clerk or smashing an empty automatic cash dispenser,” the authors write, “are not solutions allowed by today’s society.” Some of our resulting frustration is released vicariously, the authors contend (hence the popularity of violence on TV and in movies) but for the most part, “the body’s strong chemical and hormonal responses are like frustrated politicians: all dressed up with nowhere to go.” None of the stress management techniques explained here are new, but they are presented with unusual clarity and conciseness. Especially helpful is a chapter contrasting “maladaptive” reactions to stress (hiding feelings, fantasizing, avoiding people) with healthier behavior (talking things over with lots of friends, practicing deep meditation).