Recently I came into contact with a woman who in material terms had everything most people could ever hope to wish for. She had a gorgeous house and to give you an idea of the home, her address was the name of her home and a town and postcode.
However I discovered that she suffered with nerves and as we spoke I noticed scars that indicated a history of self harm. As I came away, I thought that her situation encapsulated the paradox of our times.
In material terms, we have attined an incredible level of wealth. As families we can entertain ourselves in a mindboggling range of ways. Our homes are filled with video game consoles, dvd players, computers, mp3s and flat screen tvs.
With broadband internet access we are close to having access to every film, documentary or tv programme ever made. We can access more information now than the most privileged Researcher, just a decade or two ago.
Yet every Parent still hears their children complaining that they are bored and there is nothing to do. Still families waste their nights in pointless arguments that move them no closer to the goals they reach for.
Still crime in ‘underprivileged’ areas is explained in terms of there not being enough activities available for youths. And despite the collective intelligence of our planet, we still suffer frustration, despair and stress in our day to day lives.
Because the problem was never one of material lack. The problem was one of mindset. There are still ‘primitive’ tribes that live as we lived two or three thousand years ago. And they have stronger relationships and often are happier than we are. Yet we have the arrogance to destroy their way of life, in order to ‘civilise’ them and to help them have the prosperity, that we do not take the time to enjoy.
Stress is perhaps the plague, the blight of our time. It steals from us our peace of mind, our clarity of thought and the ability to fully enjoy our lives and our interactions with others.
There are tons of material written on stress management every day. I know because I have a system set up that notifies me immediately whenever anything is published on the topic. Yet I am continually dismayed and disheartened to read what is published.
There are two main threads of the topic. One is Reiki Healers, Massage Therapists, Meditation Teachers and similar people expressing how their field and practice can aid stress management. Often these practices can provide some relief or even help in managing stress to some degree.
The second thread comes from self proclaimed stress management experts. It is this group that most dismays me. What most disappoints me is that they often seem more concerned with proving themselves as an Expert rather than finding a solution.
I’ve always believed the title of Expert, if it means anything, should be bestowed and not claimed. It should come from results and not certificates. And the louder someone shouts, the less authoritative and knowledgable they tend to be.
The information they provide all seems to come from the same basic Psychology textbook. To me expertise or even just doing your job effectively and getting Client’s results has to come from treading new ground and developing new solutions and ideas. Not relying on the concepts and framework developed by someone 50 years ago.
If I sound like I’m having a rant I’m sorry, but quite frankly laziness, sloppiness and incompetence drive me mad. I fervently believe that if you can’t get results, if you can’t expand the field and metaphorically tread where no man has gone before, then you should either get to work on mastering the basics fast or pick another field.
You see where this is all leads to is what you have out there on hundreds of stress management websites. The same regurgitated rubbish, delivered in a finger pointing tone of I’m the Teacher. ‘Now do this and don’t do this’.
But life cannot be lived by prescription. Or it becomes automation. Life is an evolving and unfolding realisation.
The birth of society brought with it the curse of conformity. And ever since humanity has been shackled with rules and regulations. But the human spirit was not built to be confined to rigidity and so any attempt at imprisoning it creates negative emotion.
You only have to look at the diet industry to see that prescribed rules don’t work. Research suggests there’s a 95% failure rate of Dieters. The diet industry has grown rapidly over the last 30-40 years. So were it effective we would expect to see a decrease in obesity. Back in the years between 1976 and 1980, the age adjusted prevalence of obesity was 14.5%. By 1988 – 1994, after the increasing interest in Aerobics and a growth in diet book salesthe obesity rate had not dropped, but instead increased to 22.5%.
Today after collectively spending -100 billion per year, just in the U.S, Obesity rates have rocketed. Look at the slideshow below. It vividly displays the increase in obesity rates despite the incredible range of diet plans and aids.
Uploaded on authorSTREAM by Amateur
Or look at Health Clubs. How many people start off wanting to exercise and yet weeks later, their good intentions are just added to their list of perceived failures. Another weight weighing down on them making them feel as if they are somehow lacking.
Yet the simple truth is that we were never built or designed to fit in with the limited knowledge that the world contains. Our role here is to break new ground. That is what evolution is. Building on the base we have and taking it a step further.
Therefore by definition, the situations in your life are unique and different from any that have gone before. As a result, no one can give you an instruction manual of what to do.
Meditation, massages, hot baths, breathing, autogenics and all the other weird and wonderful ways that are touted as wonder cures may be right for you at some times and in some situations. But they are not a universal cure.
These are all tools to help you. But what you need beyond these tools is an overall strategy for living that steers you through life with least pain and helps you achieve all that you want. Let me use an analogy to make the point clearer.
In the Western world today, we are fortunate to have a range of medical treatments.
- If we cut ourselves we prevent infection with a plaster.
- If we have an unbearable headache, we can take an analgesic.
- If we catch a bacterial infection we can take anti-biotics.
- If we develop a malign tumour we can cut it out or zap it with pills or radio waves.
- If we clog up our arteries, we can have a heart bypass.
- And if one of our organs packs up, we can sometimes replace it.
Of course I’m simplifying, but the key is that there are a huge range of treatments and the reason why medical professionals are highly trained and highly paid, is because we rely on their judgement in what the best approach is to each individual case. And in some cases, they will improvise a competely original approach.
However this hasn’t always been true. Some tribes used to believe sickness came from the God’s and the cure came via a Shaman’s rituals. In other times leeches were used to were used to cure almost every ailment, including; obesity, hemorrhoids, nephritis, laryngitis, eye disorders as well as mental illness.
However as medical science evolved, it’s Practitioner’s realised that there were no universal cures. There were only practices and medication that could aid the body’s recovery.
However these practice alone do not guarantee health. In other worlds, if you never moved off your couch, lived on takeaways, drank, smoked and were highly stressed, than even sophisticated medical attention cannot help you to avoid illnesses and poor health.
So whilst, medical science can help, the best way of achieving health is by living a healthy life. Following your body’s design and using it in a way that will bring it into balance and thrive.
Now unlike medical science, the field of stress is very new. Throughout our species’s history, our main focus has been on ensuring survival. And so there has been little focused attention on it. In terms of comparable evolution we are at a similar stage to when medicine believed in bloodletting.
And this is why there are so many people jumping around promising miracle cures for tools such as biofeedback, autogenics, subliminal sound and all these other techniques.
But just as health requires a healthy lifestyle, so too does stress management require a positive approach to living.
Stress happens when you get off balance and off course in your life. It’s like falling off a bike. You don’t need a set of rules and prescriptions to get back into the saddle and riding again do you? You just get back on and work on balancing yourself better next time.
It’s much the same with stress in your life. It happens because you got off balance. The better you get at balancing yourself, the less stress you’ll experience and the better you’ll deal with stress when it does pop up again. It’s something that you develop skill and proficiency at with experience and effort.
Being stressed or stress-free depends not on which technique you use, but on your approach to life.
Advanced Stress Management Guide Contents