December 13, 2009

Be the Stress You Want to See in the World

Or, How to Be Part of the New Stress Global Snowball Effect.

I swear to you, if hear hear another person talk about “how bad times are right now,” I am going to have my ears permanently sealed. While I’m at it, I’ll have my eyelids sewn shut and take up residence in a nice, calm desert.

Oops. I’m stressing over other people’s stressing. How is that working out for me today? Not so much, that’s how it’s working.

I’m told that moods are, in fact, contagious. According to this point of view, we’re a bunch of human tuning forks interconnected in a Universe so mind-bogglingly big that even thinking about a bigness on that scale can give you an ice cream headache.

Change the Channel?

But, see, here’s my problem with the whole “bad moods are contagious” point of view. If we are all truly interconnected with everything, and if the Universe is as unfathomably huge as all that, then it should be a simple matter to change the dial on our Contagio-meter. That makes sense, doesn’t it?

Maybe I can choose to move my attention elsewhere.

I’ll grant you that the gravity well created by a stressed out, depressed person can suck you right in if you decide to park near it. Bad moods are not, however, some sort of cosmic black hole so powerful that we cannot hope to ever see the light again.

The human mind is a funny thing. It plays tricks on us. It makes things up all the time.

Let me give you an example.

My wife and I were having a conversation about depression. She asked me what it was like when I was having a bed spell of it, and I described my symptoms. She listened, made the comment that everybody feels that way sometimes, and that maybe you just have to get on with life anyway.

Well. I got angry about that. I got ashamed that I sometimes have a difficult time snapping out of a depressive state. I got all down-in-the-gravity-well of self-pity about it.

My mind made all of it up.

Yes, I Choose Every Thought

Mind you, the type of what I labeled as anxiety and depression I struggled with over the years was very real to me. The physical symptoms and thinking I labeled as anxiety and depression seemed as solid as the chair I’m sitting in right now.

However, there are the symptoms and there is the story I tell about them. They are not the same thing.

My anger. My depression. My fill-in-the-blank. Mere labels and explanations. Those labels represent my attempts to make sense out of it all. But the explanation is not the fact.

So when I got angry about what my wife said, I wasn’t simply making up a story of anger in my mind. I was choosing to do so. I was getting angry about ANOTHER fiction — HER story. I had gotten myself worked up over a story.

All I had to do was shift my attention to recognize the story, and the bad feelings went away. Vamoosed. Skedaddled. Split.

So all this talk about stressing out and so on is really just that. It’s talk. I stress out because I tune into the stress-out channel. I hook into a fiction. I choose to stress. Yikes. I can become a self-eating watermelon of stress faster than you can say, “monkey brain.”


So, the next time I decide to be the stress I want to see in the world, I’ll take a little comfort in the fact that it isn’t real anywhere except in the story-mongering talk radio station of my mind.

Then maybe I can tune in another station. Like the Silly Me station. Or the Bad Pun station.

Might as well. It’s all made up anyhow.

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