A Stress is a distortion of a situation from a state of equilibrium to one of temporary imbalance. It results when an activity changes existing conditions, and requires management, usually because it affects us, someone, or something for which we are responsible. Stress, therefore, is ushered by change or a threat of change. Change that is slow, overt, or modest brings stress that is manageable. Change that is volatile, insidious, or massive brings stress that is extreme, sometimes beyond management. The management of stress, therefore, lies in the understanding of change, not in the attempt to harness it, restrain its effects, or mitigate the consequences of failure.
A Resource is an internal strength that is used to manage a Stress. A Resource can be mechanical, social, or personal. A mechanical resource is limited to the stress it is designed to manage. A social resource is only as effective as the collective personal resources of those recruited. A personal resource is owned, expandable and privately accessible. A personal resource is the resource of understanding driven by free will. “Understanding”, therefore, is the authority of the “manager”.
Management is the act of applying a resource to a stress. When the stress is well defined, it can easily be managed using either a mechanical, social, or fixed personal resource. When a stress is the result of volatile, insidious, or massive change, the authority of the manager is required. No authority, no matter how powerful, can manage change because change is the energy that gives rise to life. Rather, change must be explored so as to give rise to wisdom. It is in the application of wisdom that stress can be managed. Understanding Change is a process that uses an exploration of discovered facts and logical connections to show how to use a world of chaos and uncertainty to stimulate wisdom to manage more fully and satisfyingly.
The Stress of Change
“No man swims the same river twice; for it is never the same river and never the same man.” Heraclitus 550 BC.
Today, we are acutely aware of the presence of change, especially when it brings turmoil right to our doorsteps. Yet, many of us do not think of how this change evolves. We know that, long before a storm arrives, changes in pressure systems, humidity and temperature are accumulating. In the same way, we must understand that, long before our spouse gives us startling news, his/her thoughts were generating the changes that are revealed. Similarly, long before an organization undergoes restructuring, the seeds for change have been germinating in the thoughts of executives or in the behaviour of shareholders.
The problem with change today is that very little remains compartmentalized. Thus, the intents of executives can influence shareholders just as the fears of shareholders can influence executives. Similarly, the concerns of a spouse can influence the behaviour of their mate which, in turn, can generate newer concerns. Change is inevitable, persistent and pervasive.
Often, however, change is subtle. The flickering of the words on a video screen can be so rapid that they appear fixed. The eye muscles, however, must adjust to that activity to the extent that one hour of reading from the screen can tire the eyes to the equivalent of two or more hours of reading from the pages of a printed book.
The Resources of the Individual
“Despite what others think of me, I see myself as a little boy walking on the seashore and diverting myself by now and again picking up a smoother pebble or a prettier shell when all along, the great ocean of knowledge lies undiscovered before me.” Sir Isaac Newton.
As human beings, we have at our disposal many resources we can use to extend our reach and manage more effectively. Nonetheless, mechanical resources create as much new stress as it helps us manage old ones. Combines, for example, allow the farmer to harvest grain faster, but they also allow him to have more grain to harvest. Computers calculate business problems quickly, but they lead us into greater depth of problems that require solutions beyond what the computer can offer. Today, we live longer and have healthier bodies with vitamin enhanced strengths, but we are required to push our bodies for longer hours and over larger territory than before.
Mechanical tools can break down with a simple glitch. A tiny virus can destroy our health. Friends are not always there, and when they are, they may not be attentive to our needs. We must be able to rely on ourselves. And our greatest strength is our strength of understanding. Understanding can turn what appeared to be a massive stress into one that is manageable. But understanding is quickly redundant unless it is trained to flow with the pace of change that gives rise to the stress.
“Ah, but a man`s reach must exceed his grasp; or what`s a heaven for?” Robert Browning
Management is a balance, a state of harmony between an individual and the issues that confront them. In a stable model, harmony is easily achieved by fixating the issues, choosing only those that are compatible, or using mechanical resources to extend the reach of the individual. In an unstable model, issues cannot be fixated; compatible ones cannot be segregated and mechanical resources are quickly made redundant.
In an unstable model, harmony can only be reached through managing the individual to move with the change. This cannot be done with mechanical extensions or even with a super trained body or over informed mind. These are fixed resources. It can only be achieved through extending and enhancing the most flexible resource of the human being. This is the ability to examine the source of change and CREATE the understanding appropriate to the issue as it evolves. This is Understanding Change.
What is mechanical stress?
We live in a world where elements interact with each other at numerous levels. We know that the natural rotation of the earth will allow the differential heating of air molecules that will evolve into a breeze. We are aware of the process of evaporation and condensation that will eventually precipitate a thunderstorm. But we do not always recognize that these elements are the reason that much of life becomes stressful. It is because of the effect of these elements on the transmission of data, the stability of a building or a host of other connections that there is stress at work or things to do at home.
What comprises mechanical stress?
Major change in a business is an obvious one. An organization that is undergoing restructuring, downsizing, or takeovers presents its employees with the stress of uncertainty. Not only do these actions threaten to remove familiar touchstones, but they introduce new stresses that appear to be immense in their uncertainty even though they may be easier to embrace when they arrive. Less exotic are the mundane stresses of schedules, time demands and, of course, the fallout from an exacting, disorganized, or neurotic boss.
How is mechanical stress generated?
Look around you. If you could see it, you would notice that the apparent calm is punctuated by a host of activities that never stop. From the bacteria that are copulating before your very eyes to the air molecules and water droplets that are expanding and shrinking, there is activity. The radio waves and light waves that crisscross every cubic inch of space have been there before we had the instruments to pick them up. You cannot see these activities and their lives go on without directly disturbing any of your senses. But as they move, they are eroding structures, creating dust, establishing patterns that will precipitate an event or effect some part of your life. Mechanical stress is inevitable and pervasive.
Who is vulnerable to mechanical stress?
Anybody is vulnerable. However, it is usually the accountable, responsible person or the person in a position of authority who is most vulnerable to mechanical stress. Contrary to general belief, it is not the unintelligent, unmotivated, or weak person because Mechanical stress is as large only as one`s sense of responsibility allows. It is the degree to which completion is desired, not just the presence of the stress that allows it to be realized. Thus, the person who is claiming to be experiencing no stress may just be denying his/her awareness for fear that it reveals an inadequacy or is dismissing responsibility for events that should affect him/her.
What allows a person to realize mechanical stress?
Accountability! Stress is omnipresent. Everyone will realize stress when huge shifts occur in conditions that affect them directly. However, even under less oppressive conditions, the accountable person will realize it first and deepest. This is because a stress can only be realized if the responsibility is accepted. Once responsibility is accepted, the depth of perception can allow the more insightful person to realize more of the stress than can one who is naive. Alternately, the non-accountable person may only be driven to accept responsibility because a consequence is attached, either from an authority, or by the weight of the stress itself.
What is the Understanding Change position on mechanical stress?
Since the activities that create a mechanical stress are constantly occurring there is no real state of calm that can be achieved or expected. Perfection is a pipe dream. Management of a stress cannot then be either the suppression of its evolution or the attempt to keep up with its demands as they arise. Rather, it is the ability to understand the activity that generates the stress and influence that activity to a level that is acceptable. This brings two factors into play. The first is the determination of an acceptable level of completion. The second is the examination of hidden activity to define its parameters of growth. Therefore, one can only confront mechanical stress effectively by having a healthy regard for change and a self respect that is based on values that are immune to the change process. In other words, we must learn to define ourselves and our objectives by measures that are nurtured, not destroyed by change. This is the Understanding Change position and is taught in the Understanding Change tutorial.
What is Social Stress?
This is the stress of relating to another person. Each human being is an individual. We start life knowing nothing, and we grow in knowledge through the experiences we accumulate. There are so many experiences possible for us to encounter that no two people, even identical twins, can have the same combination of experiences. Therefore, in the presence of another person, anyone can pose a challenge or be affected by the differences that make each person distinct. Regardless of how compatible two people may be, there will be some part of one person`s actions or intents that will disturb the other. In short, just by being ourselves, we can introduce a stress on the people we encounter. Just by being themselves, other people may present stresses to us that, though comfortable to them, may be difficult for us to manage.
What makes relating stressful?
The fact that what one person is doing or saying may be so logical and familiar to them can distract them from recognizing that it may be uncomfortable to others. The fact that their intent or action may be so comfortable that it is pleasurable can make them want to share it more deliberately with the other. Thus, the stress of relating is more often an imposed stress than a naturally evolved one causing the recipient to be less prepared for it than they are for any other. More so, the interpretation of sharing can introduce a requirement for appreciation that precipitates new stresses even as the original stress still remains unresolved.
What are the pitfalls of social stress?
Naturally, an inconsiderate or selfish attempt to satisfy oneself without determining the desires or concerns of the other can create a stress from the doer to the receiver. Nonetheless, if the doer recognizes the discomfort of the receiver and suppresses their own differences, another type of stress is introduced. This is one imposed by the doer on himself/herself but interpreted as being required by the receiver. Thus, the doer experiences a stress which he/ she believes to be imposed by the demands or resistance of the receiver.
What is unique about social stress?
Social stress is unique for a number of reasons. First, it arises from the least identifiable source – the intents, desires or fears of another person. Second, it is imposed. No one has to initiate an action in order to be challenged by a stress that comes from another person with whom they work, live, or simply encounter. Finally, it hits us at our weakest periods. When self-esteem is weakest, we naturally are inclined to seek the acceptance or reassurance we can get from another person. We enter that relationship with a weakness and a need that is defined by that weakness. In addition, regardless of how familiar we are with the other person, they represent an unknown. Therefore, we can easily feel threatened by the presumed expectations or anticipated actions of the other person to the extent that self-esteem becomes fragile. Thus, it is a stress we experience when we are least competent to deal with it.
Who is Vulnerable to social stress?
Anyone who is actively seeking acceptance, recognition, or reassurance is vulnerable to the differences or disinterest expressed by the other person. Anyone who needs the cooperation of another in order to reach an objective may, if vulnerable to the attainment of the objective, become vulnerable to the way the other chooses to offer his/her cooperation. The former is frequent in intimate or mentor/protégé relationships. The latter can occur in almost any relationship, from client/manager to husband/wife, or various casual encounters, with the objective varying from well defined goals to presumptions of behaviours or expectations.
What makes social stress so difficult to manage?
Social Stress is difficult because there are two sources of activity which are also two recipients. Each person initiates as well as they receive. Nonetheless, each person sees the stress they receive without also seeing that which they impose. Therefore, each person justifies their actions according to the severity of the stress they receive. This creates a dynamic interchange that can introduce new stresses that are totally inappropriate to the circumstances.
What about the differences of the sexes? Do men and women relate specific to their gender?
No! This is a resounding and definitive no! Men and women behave differently for obvious reasons. Body structure and social preparation allow vastly different experiences between the sexes. Therefore, there is less overlap of experiences between individuals of different sexes than between individuals of the same sex. Still, however, each person remains the individual with their own uniqueness that makes them distinct from any other. Therefore, the difficulties of relating remain the result of the differences between individuals rather than differences between sexes. Feelings are similarly vulnerable, even if to different things. The way each person responds to being hurt may be different, but the experience of hurt and the vulnerability to it are unique to the individual rather than specific to the gender. Relating is a mental act. Expression is physical. Expression, therefore, can be gender specific. Relating, and the emotions it generates, is specific to the power of the individual over his/her vulnerability.
Is there a specific rule for relating to a boss or authority figure?
An authority figure is not a superior person who can restrict your personal development. He/she is only a person doing a job. Sometimes, they do their jobs with insight and with values that respect themselves and others. Sometimes they function with similar limitations under which you labour. Then, their actions are simply defences towards their own areas of responsibility. Unfortunately, their actions can create new stresses or consequences for you. Whenever two people are behaving defensively to a common condition and affecting each other, it is necessary for one to take the mature position and lead the other. Traditionally, it is the boss. Sometimes, you must take the mature position and look beyond your responsibilities and explore your boss` stresses or vulnerabilities, leading him/her to an effective conclusion (even if you must lose credit for your success). In short, manage your boss.
What is the Understanding Change position on social stress?
Since social stress is not just a function of the gender or the idiosyncrasies of only one person but is tied to the uniqueness of every individual, it can only be addressed by one person understanding the other as having a unique position on a common condition, just waiting to have it recognized. The Understanding Change model sees that, in any encounter, the other person is also a respondent to stresses the first one represents. Thus, that person`s actions are both creative and reactive. One can learn from their creative contribution. One cannot learn from their reactive defences. Therefore, the Understanding Change model proposes that one person take the mature route of synchronizing their presentations to the limitations of the other so that defences are reduced. Then it shows how to examine the differences of the other without being threatened by them but with a focus on being stimulated by them.
What is Biological Stress?
The body`s strength exists as a delicate balance of organ systems in a symbiotic relationship with each other. As one system adjusts to do its job, it allows a corresponding adjustment in others. For example, as the muscles use up more oxygen when running, the heart rate and breathing adjusts to provide the required amount of oxygen. Sometimes this balance is disturbed leading to a distortion in the way the systems relate to each other. For example, it is as abnormal to have a fast heart rate when resting as it is to have a slow one while running. When this imbalance occurs, it produces a state of biological stress.
Where is Biological Stress realized?
The distortion of biological stress can occur in a single organ system, for example in the heart or circulatory system. It can be general, for example, in conditions of general breakdown or burnout. It can be central, for example when the organ system that is affected is the central nervous system. Just as with other systems, the brain is formed of cells which can be distorted by any of the same forces that can distort other systems. Then, the stress may appear to be total or mental. It must be realized, however, that it is just a stress, a distortion of an organ system like any other. It is not really important to detail all the possible manifestations of biological stress as they are only indicators of the true distortion.
What Factors Can Cause Biological Stress?
If we consider that any distortion of existing balance constitutes a stress, then anything that can distort the balance between organ systems will create a biological stress. Thus, an injury will create a stress. So can a bacterial infection. Similarly, any other force acting within or upon the body will create a biological stress, from allergens to chemicals or temperature variations.
Can mental distress create biological stress?
Yes, often. In fact, this is the condition many people refer to when they discuss stress. The body is driven by the mind. Thus, the mind imposes stress on the body as though it is another type of external condition to the body. When, therefore, one is mentally distressed, the driving force on the body can be severe, confused, or inappropriately directed leading to the distortions we have identified as biological stress.