Sources of Stress in the Drive for Power

  • David C. McClelland


Physiologists, psychiatrists, and psychologists have long been interested in the impact of stress on the organism. Years ago Selye (1936) identified a general adaptation syndrome which characterized the way the body responded to any demands made upon it. Eyer (1975) has described the syndrome this way. “Stress@@@ leads to psychological and physiological arousal. Arousal consists of a series of internal changes that prepare the body for ‘flight or fight’ @@@among the acute changes (over seconds, minutes) are: a rise in heart rate and blood pressure; changes in the distribution of blood, e.g., more to brain and muscle, less to skin and stomach; a release into the blood of energy producing compounds such as glucose and fatty acids @@@ both the acute and restorative changes are initiated and coordinated by the brain through its control of the autonomic and endocrine systems. For example, during the acute response the changes in blood pressure, blood flow, and heart rate are mediated by activation of many parts of the sympathetic nervous system and corresponding suppression of activity in many parts of the parasympathetic system. During this period there is also heightened release of such hormones as cortisol, epinephrine, norepinephrine, growth hormone, thyroxine, etc., from endocrine organs. At the same time release of other hormones, for example, insulin and sex hormones, is suppressed. The net effect of these hormonal changes is an accelerated breakdown of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins to provide energy (catabolism) and a slowing of the body’s synthetic processes (anabolism).” Repeated stress and mobilization of the body in this way eventually predisposes the individual to all sorts of pathology, particularly cardiovascular diseases (cf. Levi, 1971). People suffering from essential hypertension and heart disease in turn are described frequently as having a particular behavioral style which suggests chronic sympathetic activation. They display “extremes of competitiveness, striving for achievement, aggressiveness (sometimes stringently repressed), haste, impatience, restlessness, hyperalertness, explosiveness of speech, tenseness of facial musculature, and feelings of being under the pressure of time and under the challenge of responsibility” (Jenkins, 1971). Psychiatrists studying essential hypertensives (individuals with chronic high blood pressure) conclude “that they live under a permanent life stress from which they are unable to free themselves, that they are sinking under the burden of responsibility @@@ that they are unable to cope with their duties @@@” (see Brod, 1971, Jenkins, 1971). Similarly, Wolf (1971), notes that individuals susceptible to heart attack seem to be forever struggling very hard to live up to the demands of a situation which they cannot quite satisfy.


Heart Attack Physiological Arousal Life Change Power Stress Stress Source 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bakan, D. (1966). The Duality of Human Existence. Chicago: Rand McNally.Google Scholar
  2. Boyatzis, R., and Dailey, C. (1975). The effects of stress-inducing life changes. Boston, Mass.: McBer and Co.Google Scholar
  3. Brenner, M. H. (1973). Mental Illness and the Economy. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Brod, J. (1971). The influence of higher nervous processes induced by psychosocial environment on the development of essential hypertention. In Society, Stress and Disease (L. Levi, Ed.). London: Oxford University Press, pp. 312–323.Google Scholar
  5. Easterlin, R. A. (1968). Population, Labor Force and Long Swings in Economic Growth: the American Experience. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Eyer, J. (1975). Stress-Related Mortality and Social Organization. Philadelphia: Department of Biology, University of Pennsylvania.Google Scholar
  7. Frankenhaeuser, M. (1973). Experimental Approaches to the Study of Catecholamines and Emotion. Stockholm: Psychological Laboratories, University of Stockholm.Google Scholar
  8. Frankenhaeuser, M. (1971). Experimental approaches to the study of human behaviour as related to neuroendocrine functions. In Society, Stress and Disease (L. Levi, Ed.). London: Oxford University Press, pp. 22–35.Google Scholar
  9. Friedman, M. (1969). Pathogenesis of Coronary Artery Disease. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  10. Jenkins, C. D. (1971). Psychologic and social precursors of coronary disease. N. Engl. J. Med. 284, 244–255, 307-317.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Kluckhohn, F., and Strodtbeck, F. L. (1961). Variations in Value Orientations. Evanston, Ill.: Row Peterson.Google Scholar
  12. Lapin, B. A., and Cherkovich, G. M. (1971). Environmental changes causing the development of neuroses and corticovisceral pathology in monkeys. In Society, Stress and Disease (L. Levi, Ed.). London: Oxford University Press, pp. 266–279.Google Scholar
  13. Levi, L. (Ed.) (1971). Society, Stress and Disease. London: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Lundberg, U., Theorell, T., and Lind, E. (1973). Life Changes and Myocardial Infarction. Stockholm: Psychological Laboratories, University of Stockholm.Google Scholar
  15. McClelland, D. C. (1961). The Achieving Society. New York: Van Nostrand.Google Scholar
  16. McClelland, D. C. (1975). Power: The Inner Experience. New York: Irvington, Halsted-Wiley.Google Scholar
  17. McClelland, D. C., Davis, W. N., Kalin, R., and Wanner, E. (1972). The Drinking Man. New York, Free Press.Google Scholar
  18. Myager, V. (1971). Psychic trauma and cortical-diencephalic interrelationships. In Society, Stress and Disease (L. Levi, Ed.). London: Oxford University Press, pp. 258–260.Google Scholar
  19. Myrsten, A.-L., Post, B., and Frankenhaeuser, M. (1971). Catecholamine output during and after acute alcoholic intoxication. Percept. Mot. Skills 33, 652–654.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Rahe, R. H. (1972). Subjects’ recent life changes and their near future illness susceptibility. Adv. Psychosomatic Med. 8, 2–19.Google Scholar
  21. Raab, W. (1971). Cardiotaxic biochemical effects of emotional-environmental Stressorsfundamentals of psychocardiology. In Society, Stress and Disease (L. Levi, Ed.). London: Oxford University Press, pp. 331–337.Google Scholar
  22. Regestein, Q., and Schwartz, G. (1975). A psychophysiological model of sudden cardiac death. Unpublished paper, Department of Psychology and Social Relations, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.Google Scholar
  23. Schacter, S., and Singer, J. E. (1962). Cognitive, social, and physiological determinants of emotional state. Psychol. Rev. 69, 379–399.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Selye, H. (1971). The evolution of the stress concept—stress and cardiovascular disease. In Society, Stress and Disease (L. Levi, Ed.). London: Oxford University Press, pp. 299–310.Google Scholar
  25. Selye, H. (1936). A syndrome produced by diverse nocuous agents. Nature 138, 32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Southwood, K. E. Some sources of political disorder: a cross-national analysis. Champaign, Ill.: Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Illinois.Google Scholar
  27. Steele, R. S. (1973). The physiological concomitants of psychogenic motive arousal in college males. Ph.D. thesis, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.Google Scholar
  28. Theorell, T., Lind, E., Fröberg, J., Karlsson, C.-G., and Levi L. (1972). A longitudinal study of 21 subjects with coronary heart disease: Life changes, catecholamine secretion, and related biomedical reactions. Psychosomatic Medicine 34, 505–516.Google Scholar
  29. Vander, A. J., Sherman, J. H., and Luciano, D. S. (1970). Human Physiology: The Mechanisms of Body function. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  30. Veroff, J., Atkinson, J. W., Feld, S. C., and Gurin, G. (1960). The use of thematic apperception to assess motivation in a nationwide interview study. Psychol. Monogr. 74, 12 (whole number 499).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Wallace, R. K., and Benson, H. (1972). The physiology of meditation. Sci. Am. 226, 84–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Wilsnack, S. C. (1974). The effects of social drinking on women’s fantasy. J. Personal. 42, 43–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Winter, D. G. (1973). The Power Motive. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  34. Wolf, S. (1971). Psychosocial forces in myocardial infarction and sudden death. In Society, Stress and Disease (L. Levi, Ed.). London: Oxford University Press, pp. 324–330.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1976

Authors and Affiliations

  • David C. McClelland
    • 1
  1. 1.Harvard UniversityCambridgeUSA

Personalised recommendations