Updated: Aug 3, 2022
A short introduction to the questions why some situations are stressful for some people and not at all for others.
The term stress is used very loosely ‘My day was very stressful’ or I feel so stressed’, but what are you actually saying?
It is usually used in the negative sense and generally accompanied by unpleasant emotions or physical discomfort. In fact we are more concerned when the stress we encounter is unpleasant. When we find a challenging, joyful situation that raises our adrenalin and blood pressure it can still be defined as stress but in a more positive sense of the word. We relish the rush and excitement of this moment are happy. There is no need or desire to change anything. Only when we see the stressful moment in a negative light do we want to do something about it or react to it.
Attuned to the individual
The ‘stress’ as such varies depending on who is living the experience. For example, one person may hate the ‘stress’ at work while his colleague may be enjoying the excitement of it. Two different interpretations of the situation with opposing results. Therefore ‘stress’ is quite personal and very much attuned to the individual point of view.
Our value system
This is our own value judgement at work. Each of us are familiar with what we like or dislike to varying degrees; I hate carrots, I love this book, I don't like snow.... and these value judgements are personal and idiosyncratic, no other person will have exactly the same tastes and values. They are a part of us, they are who we are. We live our lives according to them. Our choice of friends, leisure activities, clothes, jobs and so forth depend on our individual preferences. Imagine if we didn't have a way to value something or someone. How could we survive not being able to dislike the feelings of cold and exhaustion, for example.
High and low value states
Our capacity to discriminate between harmful and favourable living conditions, enable us to not only survive but to be happy. For example, I enjoy sitting in the sun by the sea and am happy doing it. My whole being is affected by this and I am relaxed, calm and content. Any response is global because we cannot separate our physical and psychological selves. When we perceive something as low value there is also a global response which leaves us feeling unhappy, uncomfortable, tense.... something we don't like. Although these low value states enable us to register something is amiss in our lives, we automatically aim to change or get rid of them.
What are we saying?
When talking about how stressful the day was or how stressed we felt, we are actually reacting to a negative state we find ourselves in. There is an order of responses and reactions. First of all, we value a situation as stressful and have immediate psycho-physical responses of fear, tension or anxiety. We register them as bad, wrong and unpleasant, so duly try to change or eliminate these feelings we attribute to 'stress'.
The sequence is this; value a situation as stressful - triggers unified (psycho-physical) response as warning - register as low value feelings - try to modify or eradicate 'bad' feelings
In the following posts I will continue to discuss why common reactions to stress have little long-term impact and ask the question we never think to ask.
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