Thoughts on stress – the problem with the power of ‘idea’

While talking with someone the other day we got on the subject of stress.  I described it this way:

“If you are walking along a trail and a tiger comes out of the bushes you will be alarmed.  Your muscles tense up and your senses ‘wake up’.  A sense of fear will overcome you.  This is a normal response to some dangerous element standing before you.  It is something perceivable and imminently threatening.  With stress we get the same reaction but without the perceivable and imminently threatening quality.  The difference is that we are ‘threatened’ by an idea of what could happen not by something that is obviously ‘there’.”

In other words, it seems to me that stress seems is a result of ‘thinking’.  That is, it is a result of the abstraction of thought, of the consideration of things that don’t exist or are not imminent – the ‘idea’.  If we did not ‘think’ we would not get ‘stressed out’.   This is why work, particularly office-like work, is so stressful.  These are areas of work that are primarily ‘cranial’.  That is, they involve a lot of ‘thought’ as part of their functioning.  As a result, its only natural for ‘thought’ to play a role in everyday events of this type of work.

My personal experience is that stress seems to come for a number of reasons:

  • Having to complete things by a certain time.
  • In situations where I feel I do not have the control I’d like.
  • In the desperate attempt in fullfiling an ideal.
  • Where I don’t want the burden of the work or am not ‘in the mood’.

In all areas, really, everything revolves around a sense of having no control.  This, though, is a common occurance in life.  I do not believe that having no control is the cause for our being ‘stressed out’.   But, if you notice, they are all based in the ‘idea’ of what I must do and the problem is that I don’t seem to be completing what the ‘idea’ says I must do.  In other words, I have an image of what I am to do but cannot do it that way for some reason.  This desperate ‘image chasing’, in a way, causes stress.  We are chasing not after a ‘real thing’ but an ‘idea’, a preconceived conception of what will or should take place.  In some sense, though our ‘idea’ may seem real, we are really chasing after clouds. 

This shows that ideas aren’t as real as they seem.  Certainly, in our minds they can be as real as any animate object (like a tiger) but, deep down, they are not.  In many ways, the problem of stress shows that there are aspects of our mind that do not accept an ‘idea’ as real.  It must be remembered that there is more to our mind, and self, than ‘idea’ and thought.  There are parts of our mind that are without ‘idea’ and thought, without words and concepts, without concepts.  It’s for this reason that there becomes a ‘tension’ between the part of our mind that thinks its real (the ‘ideational mind’) and the part that doesn’t (the ‘non-ideational mind’).  This ‘tension’ or, rather, inconsistency, causes what we call stress.  It’s like a tug-of-war between different aspects of our different selfs.  When a person is really ‘stressed out’ it means that they take the ‘ideational’ fact as real.  But how many times have I heard people say something to this effect:  “There’s no point getting stressed out about it.  Things are never that bad”.  This shows a perspective of someone who does not ‘believe’ their ‘ideational mind’.  And, so, it shows that stress is very much related with how much you believe your ‘idea’ and ‘ideational mind’.  Oftentimes, though, the idea is so real that a person must believe their ‘ideational mind’ so that stress is inevitable.

One of the things that stress brings out is the need, also, for things to be on a ‘humanly manageable level’.  When a person is ‘stressed out’ that is because, in a way, things are not ‘humanly manageable’.  What this reveals is that ‘ideas’ aren’t as ‘human’ as we tend to think.  The fact of the matter is that too much ‘ideational thought’ alienates.  A person who ‘thinks too much’ ends up having problems, I’ve found.  They become disconntected and distant from things.  They tend to ‘live in their own world’ and so on.  Thought, like everything else, is good to a point.  When it goes beyond that it, too, can be unhealthy.  This also shows that thought is not ‘human experience’ in its entirety, as I’ve seen some people suggest, but just a small aspect of it.  Thought and ‘idea’, in actuality, consist of only a small part of ‘human experience’.  To focus on that alone is like looking at life through a tube.  As a result, a ‘humanly manageable’ situation is not based in thought and ‘idea’ but goes beyond it.  It seems to me that a ‘humanly manageable’ situation is primarily a situation and a sense a person has in that situation.  Let’s look at an insect, such as an ant.  It is geared and ‘designed’ for a specific environment, situation, and activity.  When it is in its proper environment it functions well.  But when you take it out of its environment such as in different weather, or put it in water, or any place it is not ‘designed’ for, it is ‘lost’.  It has an increased likelihood it will die.  All living things are geared to a specific situation and environment.  There they function well.  But when you take them out of that situation and environment it can cause problems for them and could kill them.  In many ways, that’s what the the emphasis on ‘idea’ has done to humanity.  We have taken a small aspect of the human mind – the ‘idea’ – and so emphasized it that it has actually taken us out of the ‘human sphere’.  In effect, the overemphasis on ‘idea’ has alienated and ‘detached’ humanity from itself.   To put it simply:  we, on our own accord, have actually took us out of our own ‘environment’ for which we were ‘designed’.  This, to me is one of the traits and dilemmas of the modern world.  When we overemphasized ‘idea’ we take us out of our ‘human sphere’ and, subsequantly, tend to put ourselves in a ‘humanly unmanageable’ situation repetetively.  It doesn’t seem like ‘idea’ can cause such effects at first glance.  But, looking closer you can see that overemphasizing the ‘idea’, as we do nowadays, can be a bad thing.  As I said above, it is a big cause for stress, which can literally kill someone over time.

I know from personal experience (from being a person who has studied a lot and thought about things) that a person needs to manage their thought and ‘idea’ and its influence in their life.  This may sound odd but thought and ‘idea’ can have a similar effect as drugs.  It can give a ‘high’, create an illusionary world, and become addicting to the point that you have to have it in everything.  In some sense, modern people are ‘addicted’ to the drug called ‘idea’.  That’s part of the problem of the modern world.  Through ‘idea’ we have created an inhuman world, a world that seems good in abstraction and seems to make sense but, deep down, it is actually alienating and dehumanizing.  This is part of the illusion of the modern world.  The modern world has, to some extent, created an endless variety of ‘humanly unmanageable’ situations.

Another example of ‘humanly unmanageable’ situations is war.   In the wars of the modern world (in which some can be minor) we are a seeing an unprecedented increase in war trauma.  Guys who see a small amount of action can have life long effects from that action.  Centuries ago guys were seeing death up close and not having any problems at all.  I have always felt that a major element of modern war trauma is that the soldiers now are not fighting on a ‘human’ level.  It’s no longer ‘human to human’ but ‘human to machine’.  As a result, it creates a sense of alienation and inability to react which, in some ways, is similar to the stress I spoke about above.  In both cases a ‘stress’ is created by an ‘inhuman’ quality created by the situation they are in.

This entry was posted in Life in general, Modern life and society, Philosophy, Psychology and psychoanalysis and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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