How to add years to your life
If you’re a Type A — too bad The beat goes on for Type B
ROY H. ROSENMAN
Drs. Meyer Friedman and Roy H. Rosenman, both practising cardiologists, have been studying the relationship between heart disease and emotional stress for more than 15 years. Their research has shown that a specific behavior pattern, which they call Type A, is the primary cause of heart disease. “In the absence of Type A Behavior Pattern” they say, “coronary heart disease almost never occurs before 70 years of age, regardless of the fatty foods eaten, the cigarettes smoked, or the lack of exercise. But when this behavior pattern is present, coronary heart disease can easily erupt in one’s thirties or forties.”
Type A Behavior Pattern into which roughly half of all North Americans fall, is a particular combination of traits, including excessive competitive drive, aggressiveness and a harrying sense of time urgency.
Drs. Friedman and Rosenman have also classified the person with the exact opposite behavior pattern to Type A, who is therefore less likely to suffer a ■ heart attack. This person, whom they call Type B, is rarely harried by desires to accumulate more and more possessions or to participate in an endlessly growing series of activities.
This excerpt from Type A Behavior And Your Heart, an important new book by Friedman and Rosenman, is reprinted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf Inc., and explains how a person with Type A symptoms can become less prone to heart attacks by changing to a Type B.
Perhaps no man, at first glance, seems less insecure than the typical Type A man. He bristles with confidence and appears to exude lavish amounts of self-assurance and self-conviction. How can we indict a man as being insecure who is always so eager to ask, “What is your problem and how can I help youl”, a man who is so loath to say, “I have a problem and I need your help”? We do so because we have found, after many years of studying the Type A man, that he either lost or never had any intrinsic “yardstick” by which he can gauge his
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HEART from page 30
own fundamental worth to his own satisfaction.
Somewhere in his development process he began to measure the value of his total personality or character by the number of his achievements. Moreover these achievements invariably must be those he believes capture the respect and admiration of his peers and superiors. He does not, however, care whether these achievements gain him the love or affection of his fellowman, although he does not particularly care to be disliked.
Having chosen this yardstick, he has committed himself irretrievably to a life course that can never bring him true equanimity. The number, not the quality, of his achievements must constantly increase to satiate an appetite that, unchecked by other restraints, ceaselessly increases. Second, he believes that the number of his achievements are always being judged by his peers and subordinates, and since the latter are constantly changing as he ascends in the socioeconomic scale, he feels that the number of his achievements must also rise.
Many people tend to rationalize the wretchedness of the means they use to reach their own ends.
The ordinary Type A person is no different. Although no more evil than anyone else, he is extremely apt to excuse many of his daily errors in living by pointing to his hoped for end. The real tragedy, of course, is that the Type A person’s fundamental immaturity never allows him to discern two basic truths, the first one being that the end of man is always the same, whether he has been a galley slave or a Moorish prince; and the second, that life is not a particular cluster of days that made up his childhood or that will envelop him in his senescence. Rather, life is a series of single days. Certain days, of course, become more important than others. But the Type A man, not realizing the real composition of his life as whole, allows thousands of days tó pass by unnoticed, c-tfrd unenjoyed, believing that there will be some sort of “end” that will finally explain and justify his time on earth.
If he manages to escape a heart attack or cancer and reaches 65 years of age, he may begin to wonder where this marvelous “end” is and when it will begin to cast its golden glow upon his waning years. Then the soul-crushing truth falls upon him. There is to be no great “end” but only a slow petering out, a period during which he must watch his mental md physical prowess fade gradually away. Only now, so very late, does he realize that his real life had been composed of days that had already passed away long ago.
If, then, you are to live a beautiful life, you first must begin to live beautiful days. And to live beautiful days, you also must think of beautiful things and
events, even if these things and events should seem silly to your business associates. After all, they don’t have to be told all that you think. We know a rather staid-appearing banker who almost daily walks in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park and amuses himself by private speculations about whether the flowers he sees there can dream, and if they do, just what do they dream about. Admittedly, he might not be asked to stay on several boards of directors if his colleagues were aware of his notions. They are his own closely guarded ideas!
And to be certain that you are living a
day-to-day life, be brave enough to pen your own obituary at intervals. Then you may judge what you have been, and what you have done. The practice might suggest some changes to be made before it is too late.
It would be unfair of us to suggest that this re-engineering will be an easy process or a painless one. It must go on for a period of years. You will find that it requires great persistence rather than a dramatic sort of courage; the measures to be adopted frequently run directly counter to impulses that have become
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natural to you. Tyrannizing habits that have been in command of you for decades will not yield to mere armchair resolutions or a few days of desultory attention. In our experience, the battle of new habits against old may have to continue indefinitely.
The procedures outlined here have for convenience been framed in terms of those who work in offices. But Type A behavior is found among persons of every class and profession. It originates within the person himself, not in his environment, and must be fought on home ground.
If you could free yourself of “hurry sickness,” at least 50% or more of your Type A Behavior Pattern would disappear. Although the Type A person frequently struggles against various challenges presented to him by his milieu, it is his battle against time that we suspect is the chief component sustaining his behavior pattern.
The very first step you must take is to revise your usual daily schedule of activities so as to eliminate as many events and activities as possible that do not contribute directly to your socioeconomic well-being. Previously, you worked to crowd in events; now you must work to shed events, even if they are closely linked to your business or profession.
For example, let’s assume that you are a dentist and that you previously scheduled yourself to treat a patient every 30 minutes, allowing yourself a fiveto 10minute interval of rest and relaxation every several hours (an interval, incidentally, that few Type A dentists allow). Under your new anti-Type A program, you will plan to see and treat a patient every 45 minutes, even though his therapy will require only 25 or 30 minutes. What change will this make in your life? Only this: you might make a little less money and feel strangely relaxed and carefree for part of every hour of your working days for the rest of your professional life.
Other activities in your life may re-
quire revisions if you are to recover from “hurry sickness.” For example, you may be one of those thousands of suburbanites who for years have arisen just in time to dress, eat breakfast, scan the newspaper, reach the station and board your train. Such a daily schedule, which never makes any time allowance for a protracted inspection of your garden, a chance conversation with your neighbor, or even a changed shirt in case you spill some coffee, carries with it, whether you will admit it or not, a note of regimentation. Though it’s early in the day, you have already begun your fight against time.
Why not arise 15 minutes earlier than you usually do? If you wish a second cup of coffee or want to dawdle a bit more over your newspaper, you will be able to do so. If you wish to take a stroll in your yard or garden, or even talk to a neighbor, you will have time.
You must also re-engineer your telephone habits if any person can telephone your office and be directly connected with you, regardless of what you may be doing or with whom you may be talking. The only reason why Type A persons allow themselves to be interrupted this way is that they are basically insecure. They always fear that a terribly important client or customer may telephone and become furiously upset were he denied immediate access. If you have this fear, and permit yourself to be interrupted continually, you are aggravating your “hurry sickness.”
If you are like most Type A persons, you are not much concerned about your everyday working surroundings. Unconsciously, however, these same surroundings and their disorderly jangle may play a very important part in nourishing your sense of time urgency.
If you work at a desk, for every unanswered letter or unfiled fragment of data, for every brochure and every memorandum to yourself that now clutters your desk or working space, there exists that much more “hurry sickness”
in you. All these items have one thing in common — they continually remind you of the fact that you are behind. And no matter how intriguing, important, or interesting any office visitor may prove to be, when your eye is ensnared by this sort of debris lying on your desk, your sense of time urgency is enhanced.
To help yourself relax you should sort all your mail and other messages each morning into three categories — messages requiring prompt replies, those allowing a delay in response, and those requiring no reply.
After such sorting, immediately answer the messages requiring a quick response. Then if you have a secretary, give her your dictated or written responses and advise her to hold the second category of messages for later answering and to file the third category — or even better, toss them in the wastebasket. She leaves; your desk is clear.
If you are a severely afflicted Type A, at noon you tend to substitute a restaurant table for your own desk. Indeed, sometimes you scribble numbers on the napkins and the blank spaces of the restaurant’s menu cards, as if they were your own office pads. Only the martini or the beer serves as a signal that a small change in your activities has taken place, except that the change is purely geographic. Luncheons, some of our patients have told us, allow “outside” committee meetings, as opposed to the normal “inside” committee meetings conducted during the rest of the day. Often too, lunchtime serves as the place where Type A persons launch their campaigns against competitors.
In re-engineering your life, you should seek to eliminate luncheons at which you continue to talk and think about the same things you do the rest of the day. Obviously, such luncheons cannot be completely eliminated — situations will arise when it will be necessary for you to mix your bread with your business.
But let us urge that you try to use your lunch period as an opportunity to meet yourself. Until you try seriously to discover what is the essence of your life and find out how to disengage it from the garbage of the days and years, your life will not be graced by peace — or your heart (most literally) with tranquillity.
Although not all Type A persons are plagued with a sense of free-floating hostility, the majority do harbor varying amounts of this destructive emotion. We have met some Type As so severely afflicted that they almost never enjoy a moment of tranquillity. One sees the darting, hateful, belligerent sparks escaping from their eyes even when they are merely asking the time of day.
How are you to re-engineer your daily living to keep your degree of hostility at its absolute minimum? First and fore-
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most, you must recognize that you do harbor flaws in your personality and that they are not virtues but defects. It is not easy for Type A persons to admit that they have any free-floating hostility, although some will admit that they “tend to be quick tempered.” So for our purposes, let us also assume that all “quicktempered” people do possess a varying amount of hostility.
Once you have admitted to yourself that you do possess hostility, then you can seek help from two of your other mental attributes in trying to hold it in check or even eradicate it. There are two methods. First, use your reasoning powers to check your tendency to see every situation as a challenge, designed to upset and annoy you. Second, use your sense of humor. Even if a provocative or irritating event does succeed in breaking through your first line of defense, your sense of humor still may serve to defuse your anger. Almost all of us are able to laugh at the other fellow, but it may require a little doing to develop a sense of humor exquisite and brave enough to permit us to laugh at ourselves. Your reengineered behavior will allow your free-floating hostility to emerge only after your power of reasoning has recognized the delivery of an insult worthy of being noticed — and your sense of humor agrees.
Type A Behavior Pattern, while originally growing out of a rather natural desire to acquire more and more things in less and less time, quickly reaches a stage in which the habits developed to achieve this goal break loose to take command over the person’s whole life. They emerge to harass their possessor even when there is no longer any real need for him either to hurry or to fight.
Unless you establish new habits meant to supersede and replace your old ones, you will not free yourself from the Type A illness. Here are some suggested “drills” that may help you do this.
Drill against hurry sickness
1. Perhaps one of the most important new habits you can establish is to review at least once a week the original causes of your present “hurry sickness.” Just as a doctor is far more likely to be able to cure a disease if he knows what causes it, you, too, will be better prepared to alter your degree of hurry sickness if you know why you have it.
2. Quit trying to think of more than one thing at a time.
3. If you do see someone doing a job slower than you know you can do it, don’t interfere with him unless you are positive he can’t do the job at all. If he can do it, but will finish five minutes later than you would have, remember that he is not suffering from “hurry sickness” — you are.
4. Tell yourself at least once a day that no enterprise ever failed because it was
executed too slowly, too well. If you find this difficult to believe, begin making a list of the men whom you know who have failed and then ask yourself which of these men failed because he did something too well, too slowly, and which failed because he erred in his judgment or in a crucial decision. Almost invariably you will find that it was an error of judgment or decision. Then ask yourself, “Are good judgments and decisions best formulated under unhurried circumstances or under deadline pressures?”
5. Desist from projecting your own sense of time urgency upon those with whom you come into contact.
6. Find periods each day during which you purposely seek total body relaxation and peace of mind. Since hundreds of thousands of people enthusiastically insist that their adoption of various Yogainspired techniques manages to accomplish just these ends, you might be well advised to investigate one of these procedures.
A drill against hostility
1. If you are overly hostile, certainly the most important drill measure you should adopt is that one in which you remind yourself of the fact that you are hostile. Being forewarned, you are far less inclined to flare up at any stimulus short of one that would induce hostility in anybody.
2. Begin to speak your thanks or appreciation to others when they have performed services for you. And do not do so, like so many hostile Type A subjects, with merely a grunt of thanks. Take the time to look the man or woman who has served you well full in the face and then in full and gracious sentences let him or her know how grateful you are.
A drill toward things worth being
1. Your first drill measure should consist of a daily reminder to yourself that no matter how many things you have acquired, if they have not improved your own spirit or mind, you have only become a more prestigious “caretaker” of the creative works of others. Now it is time for you to concentrate on making your character one of worth. This is the message you should relate to yourself as your most important drill measure.
2. You must also find the time to consolidate a few of your acquaintanceships or friendships into firm and spiritually rewarding intimacies. Only living things provide joy, and joy is an essential emotion. As Sophocles pointed out, when joy is killed, man no longer lives.
We can hope that in changing your behavior pattern you will have received not only a truly powerful protection against the premature advent of coronary heart disease, but something more — the joyous gift of a good and useful life lived in accord with what the ancient Greeks called “the golden mean.”