Why there's no such thing as stress!
Newsflash! There is no such thing as stress.
Okay, I don’t quite mean that. As we have all felt it, the media/popular culture tell us what causes it, and we can even get time off work if our doctors say we have got it. So it must be real. Well, it might feel real, but it isn’t ‘true’.
The Oxford dictionary defines stress as: “A state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.”
Now this succinctly demonstrates, the common misunderstanding. Because quite simply, external events and circumstances don’t create stress (or any feelings for that matter).
It truly does not work like that. It might look like that when we are in the middle of a stressful experience, and it is an excellent illusion, but it is completely inaccurate.
It all comes down to a very simple yet profound principle, that in any moment our feelings are only ever coming from our thinking
Have you met a baby with a stress condition? No. They can’t use thinking to apply meaning like we can (they might appear to get upset, i.e. they cry when you don’t feed them, but that is not stress, that is ‘I am hungry and this how I let you know, because you seem to have forgotten my tummy is small’). So at a default nature, stress is optional or at least fleeting.
We think stress is normal
A fascinating thing to me is that we have come to normalise levels of stress. We actually expect we should feel stressed during certain circumstances e.g. building a business, moving house, parenting, and even Christmas lunch with the relatives! For some it is almost worn as a merit badge of their commitment to success.
Well, the good news is you can get what you want in life without having to go via the ‘stress is necessary’ or ‘stress is inevitable’ routes.
So how does it work?
Very simply. It all comes down to a very simple yet profound principle, that in any moment our feelings are only ever coming from our thinking. Nowhere else. It is truly ‘inside-out’.
But we have normalised the ‘outside-in’ illusion.
But aren’t some things just inherently stressful?
Only if you engage in a personal narrative of thoughts that create stressful feelings.
All our thoughts are formless, arbitrary and transient. They can appear and disappear in an instant.
We have all have an innate psychological immune system that works perfectly if we let it, the trouble is most of society lives in a misunderstanding about how that system works. We try to manage the system and control our thinking.
It works much better when get out the way.
Surely it isn’t that simple?
Well at a psychological functioning level, it is – ask any two year old, who throws a tantrum one minute and is smiling the next. Their stress is fleeting.
So why do we as adults give weight to stressful thoughts? Because we have normalised the idea that external events create stress, and cannot see that it is an illusion. We believe external events are the source of our well-being, so we have a misunderstood need to control the outside world. Well-being and resilience are innate and they are our default as human beings. The balance is disrupted when you get in the way by trying to use personal thought to control and manage your happiness.
We are born stress free.
Once we truly realise how our psychological functioning works, in that nothing in the outside world determines our feelings, it has life-changing implications – including how we relate to, and deal with, stress. There is no longer a need to avoid stress by altering your situation, as the stress doesn’t really exist.
It is like thinking it would be a good idea to give your child better places to hide when they are scared watching the wicked witch on the TV show, rather than explaining the nature of TV.
Have a look for yourself
‘Nice idea’ you might be thinking – but I urge you to realise this as the truth of the human system, not just an idea or a tool to feel better. However I don’t need to convince you myself, because you can just have a look for yourself.
Next time you ‘feel better’ about something, have a look, as you might surprise yourself that the only think that substantially changed was how much thinking and meaning you gave it.
So what do you see in this?