As a layman, it seems to me that humans have 2 primary strategies for controlling stress (cortisol). I tend to use the words “connection” and “aggression” to refer to these strategies.
The “connection strategy” involves deepening an empathetic connection with others. This deeper connection enables us to be aware of their current emotional state and thus to set them at ease which opens them up to be influenced. Because we can now feel their emotional state in real time, we can calibrate our interactions with them to influence their thoughts, feelings and actions more skillfully.
I like to think of this as the Non Violent Communication strategy used by Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, etc. to remain calm even when threatened with danger.
It seems that oxytocin is involved in this connection strategy. When our response to stress involves shifting our focus and intention to connection, oxytocin increases and cortisol decreases. (I think)
The “aggression strategy”, on the other hand, seems to involve involves taking determined action to conquer something that we believe to be causing the stress.
I am guessing that hormones like adrenaline and maybe testosterone are involved in this process but I’m not sure.
What is actually happening neurochemically when we get aggressive?
I believe that serotonin is involved in both strategies. Serotonin being the neurochemical that is released when we have confidence that our needs can be met. I believe that both the connection and aggression strategies seek to reduce cortisol and increase serotonin, but I would really like to understand exactly how this works. Especially for the case of aggression.