Stress is the gateway to opposing surviving – thriving states

I visited a beautiful place. But there were signs there warning of danger lurking. Indeed, my freedom of movement was curtailed by the closure of my intended pathway. Starting innocently with joy in my heart, I ended with the mixed emotions of exhilaration and mild fear.

So how does one proceed when there is a conflict between my desired actions and how I feel? I have an outcome in mind yet I feel most uncomfortable proceeding. My progress is being stymied by factors I have not yet identified, yet I persist because my ego and social expectations dictate that I must. I think I am in control but I am not.

I am in a state of incongruity, where my conscious mind believes in its own omnipotence yet my unconscious mind knows otherwise, the latter mind, humbly, stridently and unequivocally asserting its dominance. The unconscious mind that prioritises survival, and hence its constant vigilance to optimise just that. Meantime, our conscious mind is just the ‘icing on the cake’ when times are good.

It is simply a myth to believe we can achieve nirvana in this lifetime. Perhaps fleetingly, at times, with or without the assistance of substances, but never for an extended period. We shall always return to a baseline, or normal state, time and time again. That is life. Coping with it means we become skilled at achieving controlled incongruous.

As a very old Rollings Stones’ song says, “you can’t always get what you what… but if you try sometimes, you might find, you get what you need”. We can never consistently achieve a harmony, an alignment, an unfettered compatibility, between what we know and how we feel, what we intend to do and our associated emotions, what we believe and what we do, etc. Some call the phenomenon dissonance. We could say our mind and body are discordant mostly, but gained wisdom teaches us to manage this as we need to. We can never be free of our human frailties just because we wish it, but we can learn to manage what we cannot otherwise control.

So to stress. A gateway to motivate us to pursue learning and acquire wisdom, to learn to cope, and thus practise controlled incongruence. Or to succumb to the primal forces of our unconscious mind and experience distress as survival becomes numero uno. Survival that first must assure our physical viability, but all too often includes the protection of our ego.

Stress can be considered in terms of the supply and demand paradigm. On the supply side are the personal resources we accumulate or sustain to cope with the pressures we may be encountering. Such resources include adequate good quality sleep and nutrition, regular exercise and the compassionate and loving support of significant others. Also included are psychological factors related to personal resilience, confidence, mindfulness skills, creativity, and quite simply, being able to think, problem solve and achieve optimal decision-making because of one’s safety and loved status. The demand side includes those factors that jeopardise our physical and psychological safety. Physical dangers are obvious but the latter includes threats to our ego, bullying or abuse experiences, humiliation, rejection, being ignored, excluded, etc.

To cope with stress, and prevent it spiraling into the abyss of distress, we must enhance and nurture our personal resources, to supply ourselves with the ‘weaponry’ to move beyond fear and failure. Similarly, we do need to discover and investigate ways to reduce the demands placed upon ourselves. Demands we may have allowed to escalate and replicate while we were simply overwhelmed in our survival mode state. Too emotional to think rationally.

Work out what you want in any work or life-related situation, then devise a process of how to achieve that. Then focus on the that. Be process focused, task focused, not outcome or ego-focused. We need never fail when we work a process, just facilitate continuous improvement. But if we focus on outcome only, we may become empty once we get there, or become distressed, resentful, anxious, depressed, etc, when we fail.

Stress is designed to focus your mind on what is most important now. If your health, and that of your loved ones, is top priority, then you will value the process of staying well. Once this is prioritised, all other success will follow.

When you choose to know that you are safe to be the best man (or woman) you can be, everything will work out just fine. And as you acknowledge that you are loved and respected, you will be fuelled to get started today. You are wonderful, you are special, so go and spread the goodwill, and make this world a better place. Imagine if … most other people would do the same?

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