Stress Pt. 2: Using Our Illusion

February 6th, 2017


 

“Illusion is the first of all pleasures.”

– Voltaire

 

 

Last week, we looked at how stress was also a matter of perception and identification (click here if you missed it). The more we perceived stress to be ‘out there’ the more powerless we became to change our situation. Likewise, the more we identified as a stressed person the more likely we were to attract and create even more stress in our lives.

 

swan paddling

 

We also said that stress is a normal part of our reptile brain’s survival responses – albeit poorly adapted to modern life. The more we stress, the more our body adapts to it as ‘normal’.

 

Is stress normal?

We saw last week in part one how we could affect each others stress levels. In a sense we could ‘infect’ a susceptible subject to resonate with our perception of the world as a stressful place of suffering.

 

The institute of Heart Math takes this concept very seriously and has demonstrated how the heart has an energy field that projects out into the space around us. It is very sensitive to the heart energy fields of others as well as being capable of influencing other’s energy.
heart-field

 

This gives us our first practical step in reducing our own stress levels: Be careful of the company we keep. The more we cultivate relationships with stressed people the more stress seeks to become justified and normalized.

 

Think of it as a well-meaning but dysfunctional homeostatic mechanism. When a person is highly stressed their energy field will seek confirmation of this world view. When it meets an opposing view it can feel threatened and attempt to ‘balance’ this energy between both parties. After all, opposition to a world view that we identify with can be stressful as we have invested ourselves in it.

 

If we accept stress as ‘normal’ then so it shall be. What many do not realize is that we have a choice in the matter…

 

 


Case study: The mysterious migraine

 

Many years ago a client came to me complaining of serious migraine attacks. So serious in fact that they often required a house call from her doctor and a shot of morphine to ease them. To be honest, outside of our talks about her situation, I could do little to help her symptoms.

 

A few months later I met her on the street and enquired about her migraines. “Oh, they disappeared.” was her reply. In the hope I might learn something I asked what other treatment she received that helped. “Oh no, I enjoyed our sessions and had no other treatments after that. I just changed my attitude.”

 

This demonstrates how powerful the mind-body interface can be. It also shows us how much of stress and suffering is self-generated. Therefore we must not only be careful of the company we keep but also the thoughts, feelings and attitudes we harbour about ourselves and our life.
Stress and aging

 

Traditional Chinese medicine makes a link between stress and aging. The Kidney/Adrenal gland complex is considered part of the Water element (for more on the Water element click here). It is the storehouse of our vital reserves of energy.

 

These reserves are only used for acute situations:

 

  • To create a life (sexual energy)
  • To save our life (emergency and danger)
  • To heal and recover (disease, trauma, exhaustion)
  • To renew energy (youthfulness, anti-aging)

 

If we allow our stressed, monkey mind to run fruitlessly down too many labyrinths of stress we can deplete these reserves and prematurely age our body in the process.

 

Think of this system as a battery pack. It distributes energy judiciously to keep us functioning at optimal levels as long as possible. If we accelerate this process with false alarms it will not be able to maintain this harmonious balance for long.

 

 

 

The Water element’s control of the bones and marrow, central nervous system (and therefore brain and memory function) teeth, head hair (amount and colour) along with a host of support functions to other areas can all become compromised as we become old before our time.

 

Stress has even been linked to degeneration of telomeres on the end of chromosomes that indicate aging. We can really stress ourselves into an early grave.
So why don’t we just let go of stress?

 

If stress is so bad for us why don’t we let go of it? As we have already mentioned, it is easy to become self-identified as a stressful person. Perversely, it can even afford us a certain status in our peer groups.

 

In part one, we saw how our need to belong to the group caused us to align with the group’s values. In some peer groups, stress is a sign of importance and status. “I’m so stressed!” can also be translated as “I’m doing such important things.”

 

I have observed that in corporate life, premature greying of the hair can be worn as a badge of honour. It implies that the person is working hard and taking on the big, important assignments. By association they are big and important. Our need for status and approval can age us before our time.
Materialism and stress

 

Survival in modern life usually refers to economic abundance. One of the surest ways to trigger our primitive survival stress reflexes is to get into debt.

 

Ironically many people try to releive stress through consuming. The shopping addiction may temporarily distract us from ourselves but it inevitably leads to debt and the ensuing survival stress triggers. In 2016, total outstanding consumer debt in the U.S. alone was $3.4 trillion.

 

That makes our materialistic, consumer society really a indebted, survival stress triggered one. One way to reduce stress then is to stop unnecessary spending, live simply and do what we can to be debt free.

 

 

Using our illusion

 

One of the first insights the seeker of wisdom learns is that we live in a type of illusion. A second insight may be more useful however: We create our illusion. While that may be, err, disillusioning for some it contains an opportunity as well.

 

If we create our (illusory) reality then we can choose to create something positive. Why have we assumed that doom and gloom are any more real or true than happiness and creativity for example? Therefore, it is not so much that the world is stressful of itself. It is more the mental creations we make and associate with a given situation or challenge that determine how we feel.

 

In order to consciously change our stress illusions we first have to stop feeding them:

 

  • Become aware of any negative phrases we repeat to ourselves and others about our perception of the world and consciously begin to remove them. If we nourish and reinforce a negative world view we will make it real to ourselves and attract others to support us in that.
  • Speaking of which, identify and remove yourself from those who nourish and support negativity and stress in you. ‘Misery loves company’. It thrives on it in fact – at our expense.
  • We can investigate our writhing, restless, monkey mind through the practice of meditation. 1
  • Exercise. The byproducts of stress are toxic to our body. The best way to eliminate them is through exercise. This increases the excretion rate of stress chemicals from the body. Modern research now sees exercise, particularly out in nature as a bigger aid to those suffering from depression than anti-depressive medications.

 

 

  • Wean yourself off the debt spiral of materialism and endless consuming. Simplify your life and spend more time with yourself and others.
  • Find a creative outlet. It may be something as simple as learning a musical instrument or doing a painting class. It might be more abstract like redecorating a room in your home or building an outdoor playhouse with your children.
  • Any new positive hobby or activity is strengthened by the company and support of others. Join a group that supports and shares your interests.
  • Create more time to meet people in real life by walking away from your computer. Leave home for a day without a mobile device.
  • Get a pet if you can look after one. The contact and company of pets are big stress relievers. It gives us a focus outside of ourselves. A well cared for pet is always glad to see us.

 

 

Stress out

 

The easiest way to leave stress out of our life then is to choose to. We have far more power over  how we experience the world than we give ourselves credit for. We may live in illusion but we can be creative with it.

 

Till the illusory stress of another Monday is creatively transformed into a stress-free week,

 

1 By a remarkable coincidence there is a meditation class at my clinic this Thursday. Click here for details

 


© Jeremy Halpin all rights reserved. All images are the author’s own unless otherwise indicated or if the original source is unknown at the time of writing. You can subscribe to this blog by clicking the button in the bottom right hand corner of the page – or share it on the social media of your choice. If you have any wishes or questions regarding subjects to be discussed on this blog use the contact information below. Jeremy is also available for seminars, lectures and personal consultation: info@jeremyhalpin.com

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