Stress Is Derived from Thought

Emotion is sometimes a burden for me, just as it is for you. No matter how educated, talented and charming we are, the act of living will likely always present us with a number of emotional challenges. There really is no way around it.  Changing the way we perceive and  think about the events we encounter in our lives may result in some reduction in stress. As long as there is disagreement, discord and conflict, however, there will always be a bit of stress to go around (and around).

Our emotional potential, especially our potential to express stress, was originated by Nature to help ensure our survival as a species. Stress is not only a sure way of protecting ourselves and others from danger and harm, but it is also our best teacher – providing us with opportunities to be creative, resourceful and reflective of our behavior. Stress can assist in resolving personal and social conflicts and can be helpful in fortifying relationships, making our purpose and survival as a species more likely. After all, over the span of our  existence, our continued survival on this plant has been dependent upon how well we cooperate, congregate and copulate. Stress, in all its forms, helps accommodate those basic, instinctive drives. Although our emotional potential is quite plastic and continues to serve a number of adaptive purposes, we don’t often use our stress response to meet the goal for which it was designed 195,000 years ago. While we still demand tribal conformity among our neighbors, social obedience it is not as necessary as it once was.  We can still congregate, copulate and cooperate without the mutual assistance of everyone who assembles within our boundaries. Yet we respond to divergence from social norm as if it were still a threat to our very existence.

“You can’t be gay!”

“Who says?”

“You weren’t raised right.”

“I don’t have to behave the way you want me to.”

“You will if I beat you.”

“Bring it.”

In addition to the unnecessary, outmoded social stimulation we provide to our stress response, we have replaced threats to our safety and survival with inconveniences, delays, setbacks, impediments to our goals, hassles and holdups.  Unemployment was once an angry gorilla, home foreclosure used to be a wild boar and  criticism and disapproval have replaced a stampeding herd of buffalo. Modern wo/man is no longer chased through the jungle by a drove of starving jack rabbits, but is now faced with traffic jams, bad hair, criticism, baldness, bigotry, poverty, homophobia, ethnocentricity and discrimination – each of which evokes a stress response similar to one we would express if these were true threats to our own lives and the safety of our families and communities.

Stress is derived from thought.  The type of thoughts that are likely to evoke the stress response are anything related to discord, conflict or dissension.  When we perceive threat, for example, as a result of being criticized, our bodies and minds go into a protective mode that often overpowers our senses, transfixes us on the source of the perceived danger and transforms us into a psychological and physical powerhouse.  We are, within nanoseconds of our thinking, fortified by various hormones and neurochemicals that will likely protect us from our perception of danger, responding in much the same way as it would if it were facing a rabid spider monkey.

In reality it could be just you facing a discourteous cashier and suddenly you are squared off preparing to wrestle a Sleestak in Land of the Lost.

“How VERY dare you point out that I am bald?”

“You are bald.”

“Why you! You shall be thrashed for your boldness!”

“Bring it, Baldy.”

We are gifted with only one stress response and it was designed for reconciling events that threaten our survival and promoting congregation, copulation and cooperation. Modern man must, however, navigate the world, using as h/er primary method for reconciling disagreement, an automatic stress response that neither accommodates nor recognizes the difference between criticism and a terribly unhappy African elephant.


10 responses

  1. I totally agree; stress becomes so hard to escape – from time to time. As much as we want to avoid, it still creeps up at us. As you said, it’s how we handle it , that really counts.

  2. I have to break it to my husband today that he has to stay permanently in the nursing home (he is there already), so I am bringing home for the day to do so. I realise now that the reason he keeps forgetting that this is imminent is stress borne of fear of what must seem to him like a sort of attack. Your article helps.

  3. Pingback: Stress Is Derived from Thought |

  4. Pingback: Make Difficult People Happy « Mental Health Food

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