Handling Stress Part 2: Locating the Source of Our Stress
Learning to deal with the stresses and the strains that arise from our reactions to experiences can result is something we all can benefit from. Understanding the way our mind manifests stress gives us a leg up in dealing with it and empowers us to reduce being put under stress in the first place. We looked at this in part one by examining how the mind integrates experiences and the sources of our stress. The next pieces of the puzzle are recognizing when we are under stress, reducing it, finding the source and learning from it.
The key element to grasp is that we are the source of the stress and strain we experience. Others or our experiences can trigger but not cause it. We are speaking of mental and emotional stress, not physical stresses such as over exertion, pushing mentally or physically or even dealing with various physical issues. That said, the mind is what reacts if one should find themselves in any of these situations and so there will also be emotional elements to them. By this I mean stress manifests itself in all aspects of our being; it can affect our thinking, emotions and physical bodies. It is most challenging to recognize when it is subtle or when small amounts of stress have built up over a period of time.
It is also of value to note that the “right” kinds of stress can be good. We grow in some way when we push ourselves to achieve some goal. One only gets stronger if they work their muscles, that work results in stress on the body and the mind, but, it is not restrictive. If it is something we want to accomplish then we are not working against ourselves. It is when the stress is limiting that we should deal with it.
Recognizing when we are under stress
Our stresses and strains are manifestations of our resistance on one level or another to our experiences. Furthermore, resistance at any level or aspect of us is reflected in the others. This is because while our vehicles or bodies are separate in one way they are intrinsically linked to each other. Our thoughts manifest emotions that in turn affect our etheric and then physical bodies. It is a two-way street though on the downward path we find the tendency to be towards manifestation as the mode of transmission and in the upward path is activation. By tendency towards manifestation I am referring to how a though can manifest a vibration in “emotional matter”; however, if that form already exists it will be activated or energized rather than a new form.
This is the same as the process of evolution. On the downward path towards taking on physical form, referred to as the devolutionary arc, we acquired the various vehicles we have and on the upward path, the evolutionary arc we learn to use them. So it is accurate to say that the vibrations of a thought manifest an emotional reaction which in turn manifests certain reactions in our physical body. On the upward path a physical change activates but does not create an emotional reaction and in turn an emotional reaction activates thought forms but does not create them. Hence, a resistive thought manifests stresses that radiate down and in turn manifest emotions and physical stresses.
One can find lists of the signs stress and strain on many websites and they can be quite long with a large number relating to our bodies reactions to it. However, stress can originate in any of our vehicles which will then be reflected in our other body’s vehicles in one form or another. We can learn to notice our stresses on any of these levels though most will likely notice the affect on our physicality first as this is where we tend to focus our attention.
For instance, we can see the consequence of stress and strain by paying attention to how our bodies are acting and noticing abnormalities. Examples would be such things as headaches, pain, dizziness, nausea, going to the bathroom more frequently, trouble sleeping, difficulty in breathing, diminished sexual desires, tiredness or fatigue and weight changes and so on. The manifestation of stress at the emotional level would be those such as anger, frustration, irritability, depression, edginess, anxiety, and guilt and blame and so on. Finally at the mental level we can experience difficulty in concentrating, making decisions or forgetfulness, our thoughts may be racing or we find we disoriented and other issues that impair our minds functioning.
We also must be aware that any normal physical, emotional or mental challenges we may have are not necessarily the result of stresses we have manifested in our lives. For example, a sign that we notice might have another source such as their being due to a heart condition, diabetes, allergies, and pathogens in our system and various mental disorders and so on where the source is either genetic or environmental. If we are experiencing headaches and assume that it is stress we could miss and therefore not get help for a more serious physical issue. At the same time, we can still manifest stresses as the result of such conditions. This occurs when we would like things to be otherwise, we cannot change them and are unable to accept the consequences or conditions they impose. One must be aware that control is an illusion and when a situation comes into being that changes our conditions we can either accept it and move on or resist it. In the later case all we are doing is adding unnecessary, stress to our lives. While resistance is understandable, and it can take time to overcome it, there is great power in being able to let go of our needs and the negative reactions they manifest when it is related to something we cannot change.
Another way stress can be noticeable is when we experience a flush in our chest or a knot in the pit of our stomach. These two reactions are tied to our chakra system and indicate, respectively, our minds concern over what it believes to be a loss of control over a situation or a direct threat to our security. The mind reacts this way, using the bodies built in flight or fight mechanism, not because there is necessarily a threat to either our control or security, rather because it has been trained or programmed to need certain things, which in turn leads it to react in this manner.
This is something I touched on in part one of this series when I mentioned that our only actual needs are for food and water though one can also include shelter from environmental challenges. One could also argue that companionship and love and so forth are needs; however, I do not include them as core needs because not having them may result in our not being “happy”, though we will not likely die without them. All the other needs we have are ones we have manifested and accepted throughout our lives. We do likely have not done so consciously, nonetheless we have taken them on. Observe a young child and you can see that, for example, they lack the concern of older children or adults for material things, approval and money and so on.
Significant stresses are typically obvious ones, examples being losing one’s job, a serious illness or the death of someone we care about, a disaster that affects us and relationship changes. Stress and the strain can be more challenging to notice when they build gradually. For example, we can experience minor issues and try to shrug them off or simply ignore them believing them to be insignificant, but they are not. Unless we deal with them consciously and completely they will remain. This can lead to situations where we feel out of sorts or “not ourselves” but can’t put our finger and if allowed to continue unabated it can be debilitating.
It is of value to be aware that the longer stress remains the greater the likelihood that it will lead to strain. Stress is a great teacher but one must be aware that not dealing with stress leads to strain that can and often does result in the establishment of chronic conditions of various kinds. By this I mean that it will impact us and affects our quality of life and can lead to emotional and mental challenges and affect our health. Also, when stresses build up gradually we can come to accept our stressed state as being normal and so not really notice them. By doing this we have allowed ourselves to become trapped by them. Until we recognize or notice the stress or stain we do not and cannot deal with them, but once we do the healing process can begin.
Locating the source of stress
The next step after recognizing we are under stress or strain, which occurs when stress has been allowed to continue, is to find its source(s). The sources are thoughts in our own minds that lead to our reactions. One may think that this would make it is simple to resolve, but it is certainly is not. People can tell us to just get over it or let it go, but this is not necessarily easy to do especially since stress is not caused by a single thought, further, the stress we experience is often the result of deep rooted thought forms. This plays a significant role in making it harder to relate a particular stress reaction to a root cause.
The primary source of the stress we experience is related to fears of various kinds. It could be fear of loss, pain or suffering of some kind or it could be fear of or of unfulfilled wants or desires and so on. This determination is made by our minds when it reacts to and integrates an experience. Part of this process includes an evaluation of the experience along with a mental forecast of possible outcomes. When it does this it notices when an outcome, be it likely or even possible, does not match its expectations. Both the level of risk the mind will tolerate and its expectations are also thoughts that arose out of previous experiences. If level of risk or expectations exceed what it considers to be acceptable limits thoughts of concern arise, which in turn lead to an emotional reaction such as uncertainly, trepidation or fear. The emotional reaction that occurs depends primarily on the degree of risk.
One way to visualize this is to imagine that the mind has a mapped out path that it would like to take. When an experience appears to take us on a different path the mind reacts. The strength of the minds reaction is proportional to the divergence between these two paths. Greater the divergence results in a stronger reaction. Of note is that one can use the energy of the divergence to make change or grow if we are focused on retaining that rather clinging to the one thought(s). The non-conscious mind takes its cue from our conscious thoughts and so we can get a push off of the strength of the reaction, rather than let it pull us back.
In terms of our reaction, the mind utilizes our built in fight or flight mechanism when reacting to a perceived risk. The interesting thing is that it does not differentiate between a risk or threat to one’s person from one to an idea. We can react with every bit as much fear when we think we may not have enough money to pay our bills as we do when a long held belief is threatened by new information. This the mind does not differentiate between external and internal realities. Both are essentially virtually to the mind hence from its perspective a thought is every bit as real as a physical object.
Even though the experience itself does not necessarily indicate the actual thought or thoughts that gave rise to the stress reaction it is certainly a pointer to it regardless of how deeply buried the source or sources are. To locate the source of our stress the first order of business is to try to determine what aspect of the experience we are having is leading to our stress. This can be relatively easy when the threat or risk is obvious such as what could happen if we are called in to the boss’s office and suspect we are going to be disciplined. It is not so obvious when there is nothing in the experience that we can attribute our reaction to.
An example of the latter, as well as how deeply buried the sources of our stress can be, occurred to me a number of years ago when I entered a room to attend a meeting. It was a room I had never been in before and at the time I was in a good frame of mind and there was nothing about the meeting that was threatening in any way. However, almost as soon as I entered the room I noticed a shift in my energy from positive to unmistakeable trepidation. I immediately tried to ascertain the source of the trepidation by examining my thoughts but nothing stood out. I then looked slowly around at everything the room, including the people there to try to notice if there was a trigger for my reaction. Nothing stood out as a source of my trepidation.
The next thing I did was to examine the energy in the room and that given off by those present as we do react at some level to the thoughts or feelings of others. Also the ambient energies around us can trigger non-conscious reactions. Once again nothing came to light yet the feeling of trepidation continued. It was not strong but remained readily discernible. I was puzzled and continued trying to discern what triggered my trepidation; however, as the meeting was about to start I took a mental note of the room and the energy of my trepidation for reference before quickly dealing with it by grounding and clearing the energy. I also quickly centred myself and focused on the meeting, which went smoothly.
Later at home I tried to figure out what had led to my trepidation but was unsuccessful. My reaction had been relatively weak; however, I was not comfortable with not knowing why I had reacted the way I did. To resolve or at least try to do so I meditated on the experience as it is far easier to examine subtle thoughts and energies when in such a posture. As is my normal practice when meditating, I grounded, cleared my energy and centered myself. After that I narrowed my attention (1) so that when I went back through the experience I had few extraneous thoughts going on. I then went back to my memory of the event replayed it starting at a point in time just before I entered the room. Being focused I could see the event almost as if it was happening in real time and let it roll forward up to the point where I noticed the trepidation.
Even though the energy I perceived earlier was fairly subtle I magnified it by narrowing my attention. The energy of the trepidation, being emotional, was manifested by the thoughts my mind had at the time. By this I mean that when the emotional energy is active the thoughts that gave rise to it are also activated (2). As a result one can follow the energy of emotions to the thought(s) that gave rise to them. As a point of note, when doing this one does not want to hunt for the thoughts, try to remember or even imagine what the source thought may be. This act reengages our mind and because we have so many thoughts in there the mind will look for similarity based on what we are thinking at the time. If we could find the thought that way we already would have. Further, by thinking thoughts that have nothing to do with what we are seeking we activate many irrelevant thoughts and perhaps not even the one we are looking for. In this case what was doing was looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack so any interference by the mind makes the task orders of magnitude more difficult. What we want is to hear in this case is the thought or thoughts that are a “match” to the emotional energy.
Quieting the mind magnifies whatever thoughts or vibrations (such as those of emotions) are active. This is where grounding is very helpful because if I was working on a strong emotional reaction one can become overwhelmed by it and with the generally being a loss of focus. Once I had the strengthened emotion prominent in my awareness I just let it be there. Visual impressions and images began to “appear” and one came out very strong. I did not think about it, for the reason previously given, but I did let the feel of it grow and then remembered being a young child in a crib in a small bedroom. I was crying and scared and had the feeling that no one could hear me and that this had happened a few times. I felt what I had felt back then and more of the memory came through. What happened next was just came out of the blue. As I was trying not to lose the moment of remembering I got the impression of the meeting room I was in superimposed on that bedroom and oddly enough the rooms shared a couple features. These features were both rooms had a single window high up on the wall to my left and were of similar shape and colour.
I had created the thoughts that gave rise to my trepidation by my reaction when I was a child. They remained in my mind albeit they were very weak thoughts ever since. Being an adult I was able to look back on it and understand my reaction at the time and could then let it go. I this by fully accepting my new awareness of what had happened, feeling it and by doing so essentially made it “the only truth”. When I did that I felt the emotional trepidation vanish.
Psychologists and psychiatrists use a similar technique when they talk through issues with their patients. While doing it this way can take a lot longer and does not always yield results as the patient has many active thoughts it utilizes the exact same process of association. Word association is based on commonalities between the energies just as the example I shared regarding what I did in meditation. Words and feelings trigger memories that one works through to find the ones that are being sought. This is the process we want to apply when trying to find the source of our stress reaction.
People often are reluctant to do such things because they find it painful to both allow the emotions to remain and to touch the experiences where we reacted in “pain” and manifested the thoughts in the first place. There is no need to fear this. For one thing the thoughts and memories are there now, just buried and they cannot harm us. The only caveat being that one should only do this if they are prepared to work on and resolve an issue otherwise they risk further energizing the emotions and thoughts associated with old issues.
One can work on any stress or personal issue this way. That said it gets more challenging when the thoughts that are giving rise to our emotions are ones our minds created behind the scenes when it integrated the experience. This means we may never have been conscious of the thought itself. For example, whether we know it or not we all have thoughts or beliefs about the nature of our existence even if we cannot articulate what they are. In the case of my experience I was conscious though in a rudimentary way of my fear. If I had not been then the thought I would have been looking for would have been more like hunting for a ghost in the machine. Nonetheless, if one is clear they can do this as well.
Finding the source thought can be challenging especially when the thought is a high level belief and one we may be reluctant to give up even if they can find the belief(s) that set up the conditions that lead to stress. This is in part due to the fact that high level beliefs are the most interconnected thoughts we have. This means that there can be a number of beliefs and lower level thoughts entangled with it. When this happens we have to work through the thoughts one at a time. Such thoughts are harder to work on because changes to it affect a vast number of thoughts. Also, the longer they have persisted and been activated the more resilient they are.
What can aid us in this is getting to know ourselves better and this starts with developing an awareness of just what sort of things we actually believe (3). Assuming we can find the thought or belief that is leading to our stress reaction we must be able to give it up or let it go or it will remain as a potential source of stress for the rest of our lives. It is as simple as that. This can occurs if, for example, it is an old reaction based on other experiences or upon which many others are based (as I mentioned), we have a sense of entitlement to or righteousness in the reactions we had that created them or we fear the change and so on. We can only let go of such things when we are ready. That said, if we look for and find the thoughts that are leading to our reaction or “suffering”, at least we know the thoughts that are the source can gradually work on letting them go in a similar fashion.
The process of letting go does not erase or negate the previous thoughts. What occurs essentially is we are putting a new vibration onto the thought with the result being that it longer acts on its own, but will do so with the new vibration we applied to it. Remember our thoughts about the past are not in the past. All that was, is or ever will be is here right now. There is no such thing as the past, what there is of the past we carry the past with us now and as such we can change it.
It is also important to recognize that thoughts such as good and bad or right and wrong and so on are personal and a product of our own minds (4). They are not universal. We are the ones that make particular things or ideas important as they do not have any inherent importance on their own. We created and empowered them and only we can balance them out or let them go.
As a last example, let us say that I am stressed at work over something such as I made a mistake and am about to be disciplined for it. In this case my stress could be related to my self esteem and possibly fears of losing my job and the various consequences that could arise. I may notice the stress by the knot in the pit of my stomach or the strong flush in my chest both of which stir up our emotions. Or I may have not been paying attention and just feel scared, very frustrated or angry. Regardless of how I ended up in the circumstances I find myself in a situation I cannot control what my boss may or may not do. The fact is I am the one who manifested whatever need, want or desire that my mind feels is threatened and only I can deal with it. It is my reaction that is leading to stress and it is only my reaction that I can control or do anything about.
The first part of the Serenity Prayer says this well:
“God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.”
Meditation is not the only method available to us for locating the source of our stress. I already mentioned one of the methods mental health professional employ to help us find and then deal with our stress, another is to use automatic writing (5). Talking to trusted friends or even just spending some time in contemplation can also be of aid to us in working through and past our stress. In the end it boils down to our making a choice between living with the stress and its consequences or doing what we can to resolve it. This is true even though a particular stress we feel could be associated with a life lesson we are working on.
We should try to remember that we are not entitled to anything in life and so “what will be - will be”. In the case of our mistake at work, all we can do is accept that we made a mistake regardless of why we made it. This will not likely end the stress, especially if there are consequences to be dealt with. However, staying stressed changes nothing, it only means we continue to be the victim of our own mind. There are not entitlements in life, it is what it is.
Regardless of what we may personally want, desire or have allowed ourselves to need the fact remains that we either accept our circumstances and try to make what we can out of them or we will continue to suffer. We are not entitled to a good job which helps us buy the things we like, we are not entitled to get our way or have what we want occur. Life is not something we can control no matter how hard we may try, to think otherwise is erroneous. Yes, it may appear that we can, at times, because we make choices and the outcomes that follow are what we expected or anticipated. This does not mean we were in control of them. Control is an illusion for I am willing to bet that we have all had experiences where we made choices but circumstances beyond our control changed the outcome. That can happen at any time and just because what we expect happens often or nearly all the time does not imply that we are in control.
The fundamental idea here is that while the triggers for our stress can be external the source of our stress is with us. Also, our emotional reactions and the thoughts that gave rise to them are intrinsically linked. What we become attached to, dependent on, expect, need, desire or want and the degree to which we do is what leads to the stresses and strains in life. Where experiences run contrary to our thoughts an emotional reaction is evoked, one that can lead us directly to the thought or thoughts that gave rise to it if we learn to listen.
Make no mistake, we allow this to happen. We took them on when we are too young to understand and decide for ourselves or because we have not been paying due attention to our reactions to experiences and our thinking is not reasoned or our observations are superficial and so on. This means that when we want to find out why we are stressed we look within. While looking without or inventing creative ways to work around or avoid our stress can provide short term relief they solve nothing. The sources of stress remain; in fact by doing this we are likely adding more sources of stress to our lives. However, this is something we can choose to allow as it all boils down to personal choice: resolve the issue that is the source of our stress or live with the consequences of it.
End of Part 2
==> Continue to Part 3: Untying the Knots
==> Return to Part 1: How Our Reactions Rule
© 2013 Allan Beveridge