With the hustle and bustle and intensity of life today, it is almost irrational to believe that getting through a day without some form of stress is possible. Stress affects every aspect of our lives, in all seven areas of life, which are: spiritual, mental, vocational, financial, family, social, and physical. So, what can we do to moderate the immediate and long-term effects of this inevitable, life affecting feeling of stress?
Well, first it is important to more clearly define stress. Since change is inevitable, we can define stress as the inability to adapt to an ever-changing environment. The source of our perceptions of and response to stress is rooted deeply in our inner ecology and biology and relates to earlier predator and prey dynamics; either we fear the loss of something we require for sustenance (prey) or we feel fear of the gain of something that will interfere with or jeopardise our survival (predator).
Each of us has a unique set of values, things that are most important and highest on our list of priorities down to things that are lower on our list of values or priorities. Predator and prey can be explained as becoming vulnerable and gullible, “prey” to that which supports our highest values and skeptical and invulnerable, “predators” to that which challenges them. Our hierarchy of values literally dictates the way we perceive our world, make decisions in it and act upon it and therefore governs our destinies and our adaptability to changing environments and therefore stress levels.
This is the nature of the predator-prey food chain within all living ecosystems, including our own. We maximally grow and develop at the border of support and challenge. This has been biologically demonstrated in every species including our own. We have something that supports us which is the food, the prey that we eat, and we have something that challenges us, the predator that keeps us on our toes. We must have a balance of both in order to continue to grow, adapt and maximally evolve as a species. Therefore we require both support and challenge in order to adapt to our ever transforming environment.
When we have difficulties adapting we feel stress. There are two types of stress: Eustress and distress. Eustress is essential. It is required to ensure maximal growth and development and involves embracing both the supportive and challenging events equally and simultaneously. Distress involves perceiving challenging events without equally and simultaneous supportive events. Distress can erode productivity and initiate apparent chaos in any one or more areas of life. It is common for people to both infatuate with (seek) and resent (avoid) certain people, activities, events and beliefs. These maintain balance through our lives. When we unrealistically expect supportive without challenging events to occur we add to our levels of distress.
Our infatuations occur when we perceive more support than challenge from a specific source, and distress occurs when we experience the fear of loss of that source. When our values are supported, our dopamine and oxytocin levels are elevated in our brains. Our infatuations are actually forms of addiction to these brain chemicals elevated. Conversely, our resentment occurs when we perceive more challenge than support, and the subsequent distress is a fear of the gain of the source of resentment.
Both our infatuations and resentments take up space and time in our minds, distracting and clouding our thinking. It is imperative to neutralise the intensity of these in order to gain a balanced and poised state of mind and being. The stronger our infatuations and/or resentments, the harder it is for us to adapt and the more chaotic our minds become.
In Buddhism these two poles were called attachments, but they can alternatively be termed likes and dislikes. The stronger these attachments are, the more distressed our lives become. Knowing how to calm those attractive and repulsive emotions down can reduce their effects. Stress is actually a feedback mechanism to help us to be more authentic, productive and inspired or more balanced or poised with our perceptions.
Infatuations and/or resentments can occur in any of the seven areas of our lives and can be connected to anything that is perceived as offering more challenge than support or more support than challenge; business deals, relationships, family situations, and fantasies of anything that is unrealistic.
In order to assist people in neutralising the often highly emotionally charged effects of distress, I have developed a methodology which is basically a series of questions designed to neutralise the emotional charges caused by these infatuations and resentments, in order to bring back balance and poise. The Method contains a total of 48 questions; however the first three below will assist in dissolving some of the distress caused by highly charged emotional responses to infatuations or resentments:
- If something has happened where we see more challenge than support, it is wise for us to ask what the benefits to us are. It is essential not to stop asking this question until we have managed to balance the perceived negative aspects with benefits. This will neutralise our emotional and distressing charge. There are truly equal benefits to every situation and action. I have dealt with thousands of cases, involving some of the most challenging events that could occur and have consistently found a balance of benefits to drawbacks once an honest and thorough investigation was pursued.
- We then would be wise to ask ourselves where do we do that particular challenging action? We judge people more harshly when we are unable to see that what is in them is also in us. As Aristotle believed, the see-er, the seen and the seeing are the same. Every human being has every character trait in some form. I have seen this time and again during my seminars and workshops and through nearly four decades of research. Sometimes we are too proud or humble to admit that what we see in others is in fact inside us. When we keep looking we will find that we have done that same thing we are resenting and challenged by.
- Finally, ask what the drawback would be if that particular event hadn’t happened. This is a powerful question to ask as it brings a new perspective into play in any situation.
In addition, a valuable exercise is to write down at the end of each day, what we learnt, what we accomplished and what we have experienced that we can be grateful for. The more gratitude we have in our hearts, the more events we will be given to be grateful for. Gratitude ensures a poised and balanced mind and transforms imbalanced distress into poised eustress.
We all deserve to have balance and this can be achieved quite easily by asking quality questions and not allowing our emotions and misperceptions to cloud our minds and unnecessarily distress our lives. This was one of the purposes of creating the Demartini Method – to transform poison into poise.
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