Stress is a sign that there is a mismatch between us and our environment or situation. We also know from thousands of studies, that if the situation doesn’t change, the stress does not just go away, it will keep mounting until something gives, either us- or there is a change in the environment we are in.
This is where the idea of the Strong and Healthy Self came from, biologically, nature created us as efficiency junkies, so we don’t spend energy unless it is important, so similarly, we don’t feel stress unless it is important. It is a signalling system that we have become so detached from, we started to see it as the problem, as opposed to using it as our guide!
So on the one hand we are incredible efficiency junkies, but on the other we are amazing learning machines. This means that we have a glitch in the system, because those of us who learn at an early age that certain feelings are not ok to have or that they are bad in some way (ie. anger, sadness, getting excited about things, etc), then we will guard AGAINST experiencing those feelings because we learned they are dangerous! At our core, we are SURVIVAL MACHINES, and this will always trump everything else.
So if we made the connection, correct or not, that anger made our parents isolate us, or perhaps punish us more, or our only experience with it was violent or scary, we learn anger is bad. If when we were sad it seemed to make our parents upset, invalidating and/or less emotionally available- we learn being sad is bad. And if every time we looked forward to something we were massively disappointed, or we were told in an upset tone to settle down every time we got excited about things, we learn not to get excited and shut those feelings down. Basically, we usually become programmed to avoid feelings that have been associated with a negative consequence. This is where DEFENSES, the Triangles of Conflict and the Triangle of Persons come in. They evolved to try to keep us safe in our tribes as we became increasingly social as a species. In short, we learned that if we could keep our tribe happy with us, we were more likely to survive.
Seems all good right? NOPE- as is usually the case with complex systems, there is a glitch. When we learn defences early on, we learn to disconnect from our signalling system, and see it as the problem- in other words, we learn to ignore our strong and healthy self, stop paying attention to what makes us feel stronger or weaker, and focus on the anxiety or distress as the problem.
We see that right now, in our society, we are stressed AND we are using maladaptive coping mechanisms (defences) to deal with it!
Lets look at statistics for Canada:
- 20% of Canadians are suffering from mental illness, (especially depression and anxiety being two of the most common ones)
- 55-70% of adults in any given province are obese or overweight
- Addiction remains a problem in all walks of life in Canada
- High blood pressure, disability due to health issues and dentists needing to treat jaw pain and teeth grinding at night are higher than ever before in history!
So what does this mean for us?
Well, it also turns out that nature appears to be selecting/ favouring those who are developing SELF-AWARENESS (aka the Observer self or those with the ability for “meta-cognition”). It appears that it is those of us who are best able to REFLECT on our own behaviour, SEE our PATTERNS and then CHOOSE based on our values, that are BEST ABLE TO ADAPT to our environments (=> less stress). Those who are not adapting are starting to die earlier of obesity related concerns, hypertension, cardiovascular issues, mental health issues etc! Essentially, nature is favouring people who are able to trouble-shoot our own glitch and learn to LISTEN TO THEIR STRONG AND HEALTHY SELF AND CO-EXIST IN TRIBES, JUST HEALTHIER ONES! (which they learn to choose once they are more consistently listening to their strong and healthy self)
I hope this was motivating to stay the path to all of you out there who are ADAPTING as we speak! See you all next week!