How To Make Stress Become a Friend

Worth Reading From Off the Web — Excerpts from https://www.ted.com/talks/kelly_mcgonigal_how_to_make_stress_your_friend

A major study concluded that people who experienced a lot of stress but did not view stress as harmful were no more likely to be negatively affected, and, in fact, had the lowest risk of dying of anyone in the study, including people who had relatively little stress.

The researchers estimated that over the eight years they were tracking deaths, 182,000 Americans died prematurely, not from stress, but from the belief that stress is bad for you.

That is over 20,000 deaths a year. Now, if that estimate is correct, that would make believing stress is bad for you the 15th largest cause of death in the United States last year, killing more people than skin cancer, HIV/AIDS and homicide.

Okay. Some bad news first. People who experienced a lot of stress in the previous year had a 43 percent increased risk of dying. But that was only true for the people who also believed that stress is harmful for your health

So this study got me wondering: Can changing how you think about stress make you healthier? And here the science says yes. When you change your mind about stress, you can change your body’s response to stress.

How to make stress your friend

Symptoms of stress — pounding heart, sweaty palms, hyperventilating, etc., — what if you viewed them instead as signs that your body was energized, was preparing you to meet this challenge? That is what one group of participants were told in a study conducted at Harvard University. Before they went through the social stress test, they were taught to rethink their stress response as helpful: That pounding heart is preparing you for action. If you’re breathing faster, it’s no problem. It’s getting more oxygen to your brain. And participants who learned to view the stress response as helpful for their performance, well, they were less stressed out, less anxious, more confident, but the most fascinating finding to me was how their physical stress response changed.

Now, in a typical stress response, your heart rate goes up, and your blood vessels constrict. And this is one of the reasons that chronic stress is sometimes associated with cardiovascular disease. It’s not really healthy to be in this state all the time. But in the study, when participants viewed their stress response as helpful, their blood vessels stayed relaxed. Their heart was still pounding, but this is a much healthier cardiovascular profile. It actually looks a lot like what happens in moments of joy and courage. Over a lifetime of stressful experiences, this one biological change could be the difference between a stress-induced heart attack at age 50 and living well into your 90s. And this is really what the new science of stress reveals, that how you think about stress matters.

So the next time your heart is pounding from stress, think to yourself, “this is my body helping me rise to this challenge.” When you view stress in that way, your body believes you, and your stress response becomes healthier.

Now I want to tell you about one of the most under-appreciated aspects of the stress response, and the idea is this: Stress makes you social.

To understand this side of stress, we need to talk about a hormone, oxytocin.

Oxytocin is a neuro-hormone. It fine-tunes your brain’s social instincts. It primes you to do things that strengthen close relationships. Oxytocin makes you crave physical contact with your friends and family. It enhances your empathy. It even makes you more willing to help and support the people you care about. But here’s what most people don’t understand about oxytocin. It’s a stress hormone. Your pituitary gland pumps this stuff out as part of the stress response. It’s as much a part of your stress response as the adrenaline that makes your heart pound. When oxytocin is released in the stress response, it motivates you to seek support. Your biological stress response is nudging you to tell someone how you feel instead of bottling it up. Your stress response wants to make sure you notice when someone else in your life is struggling so that you can support each other. When life is difficult, your stress response wants you to be surrounded by people who care about you.

Because of this hormone’s social component, your stress response becomes healthier, and you actually recover faster from stress. I find this amazing, that your stress response has a built-in mechanism for stress resilience, and that mechanism is human connection.

For every major stressful life experience, like financial difficulties or family crisis, that increased the risk of dying by 30 percent. But that wasn’t true for everyone. People who spent time caring for others showed absolutely no stress-related increase in dying. Zero.

And the harmful effects of stress on your health are not inevitable. How you think and how you act can transform your experience of stress. When you choose to view your stress response as helpful, you create the biology of courage. And when you choose to connect with others under stress, you can create resilience.

Read more at:

https://www.ted.com/talks/kelly_mcgonigal_how_to_make_stress_your_friend

Life Is Like a Book. 



Recognizing and Changing an Abusive Relationship

Worth reading from off the web!

womanInDespairPXfreeThere are three essential elements to an abusive relationship:

1.  Consistent occurrences of power and control over another

2.  Chronic feelings and displays of disrespect

3.  Unhealthy attachment mistaken for love

Abusers are highly deceptive and the victim, as well as others, have no idea that he is being abusive at all.  He purposefully undermines his victim’s individuality and confidence by dominating conversations and suppressing her identity, making her into a mere object for his purposes. He minimizes anything about her, including her opinions, accomplishments, concerns, feelings, or desires.  This causes her to do the same and she learns to minimize herself as well.

Abuse and respect are polar opposites

He has a chronic attitude of disrespect towards his partner.  A respectful relationship is not abusive and an abusive relationship does not contain respect. An abuser views his partner as his property, which allows him to feel powerful and in charge.

It is essential for an abuser to feel this way because he has a fragile ego and delicate sense of self. Without feeling more powerful than his partner he feels weak and vulnerable. Feeling any sense of vulnerability taps into his sense of powerlessness which he is unwilling to experience for any reason. As long as he sees himself in the “one up” position his fragile ego is kept at bay.

Abuse is caused by the belief system of the abuser. The abuser has developed a deeply ingrained sense of superiority and entitlement which does not go away by learning how to manage anger or resolve conflicts. Abusers use anger to control. They engage in conflicts to abuse their partner; show their superiority; and keep intimacy away. Since intimacy requires vulnerability, a feeling abusers avoid at all costs, they have no interest in developing such closeness.

Abuse is not the same as conflict. A conflict involves a difference of opinion. Abuse involves the need for the abuser to stifle the feelings, thoughts, opinions, and values of the abused. An abuser refuses to accept any accountability or responsibility for any of the problems in the relationship. His hallmark attitude is one of superiority and blame. It is not the conflict that is the problem. The abuser caused the conflict in the first place. There can be no resolution.

There is no way to “approach their partner appropriately,” or “pick the right time to address something.”

Abusers can choose any reason to blame his victim for an abusive incident. Abusers abuse because they choose to. It is the abusive mindset that allows them to abuse for a number of reasons:

(1) They are unhappy and they don’t know what to do with their emotions.

(2) They dump their rage and shame on others.

(3) They may have a narcissistic or anti-social personality disorders.

(4) They feel in control, powerful, strong, and superior, which helps them keep all weak, needy, and vulnerable emotions hidden.

(5) Some people abuse because they were taught this as children and operate out of this inner working relationship dynamic.

Whether abuse is physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, financial, spiritual, or some rendition of all of these, there are some basic components of abuse; these are: blame, criticism, neglect, oppression, minimization, rigidity, ridicule, lies, invalidation, lack of accountability, no remorse, no apologies, repeated name calling, double standards, violence, and a consistent lack of empathy.

Realize that abuse, like addiction, is a chronic “disease” that progresses with time, meaning it only gets worse.

Can an abuser be cured?

Of course anything is possible.

Here are the signs that an abuser is changing:

  • he is willing to be accountable to his spouse and others;
  •  he is willing to never have a sense of entitlement in any relationship, for any reason,
  •  he shows self-reflection and insight;
  • he stops blaming others or minimizing, justifying, or rationalizing his own attitudes and behaviors;
  • he listens to and validates others, including his spouse;
  • while he is never going to be perfect, when he messes up, he apologizes, shows insight into what he did wrong, shows remorse, and changes.

 

Abusers in recovery are just like alcoholics in recovery

Alcoholics can never even have one drink ever again in order to maintain sobriety. Abusers can’t be like “normal” people who may be rude or disrespectful at times. Recovery for an abuser needs to be different from what comes natural for the partner. Coddling an abuser and showing him empathy only exacerbates his entitlement. Recovery for an abuser requires that he does not allow himself to ever be rude, disrespectful, entitled, or invalidating ever again. Instead, he is humble and compassionate at all times. No excuses.

About Sharie Stines, Psy.D

Sharie Stines, Psy.D. is a recovery expert specializing in personality disorders, complex trauma and helping people overcome damage caused to their lives by addictions, abuse, trauma and dysfunctional relationships. Sharie is a counselor at LIfeline Counseling & Education Inc., in Whittier, California (www.lifelinecounseling.org).

Edited for readability   Source: Recognizing and Changing an Abusive Relationship | The Recovery Expert

How The Work Works – the work of Byron katie

UNSHAKEABLE INNER PEACE

Worth reading! From Off the web!



Many people in many traditions have spoken about a state of continuous and unshakable inner peace, in which the mind delights in everything that happens. Byron Katie calls this “loving what is.” It is the mind’s natural state. Through the self-inquiry of The Work, people can return to it as often as they wish, and eventually it becomes constant. Suffering is optional.

THE CAUSE OF ALL SUFFERING

The initial insight, as in cognitive psychology, is that all human suffering is caused by believing our stressful thoughts. As the philosopher Epictetus said, “We are disturbed not by what happens to us, but by our thoughts about what happens.” Byron Katie puts it this way: “The only time we suffer is when we believe a thought that argues with what is. When the mind is perfectly clear, what is is what we want.”

ENDING SUFFERING

It’s not possible to end stress or suffering by substituting positive thoughts for negative thoughts. This may work to some extent, but eventually the mind will outsmart you. There is a whole underworld of unexamined thoughts that will override the positive thoughts that you’re trying to believe. Ultimately it’s not possible to let go of our negative thoughts, because we can’t control the mind. When we look deeply into the mind, we see that we aren’t creating thoughts in the first place. We aren’t thinking; we are being thought.

Suffering can be alleviated and ultimately ended by questioning our stressful thoughts. The Work provides a simple and powerful method for doing this. Byron Katie says, “I didn’t let go of my stressful thoughts. I questioned them, and then they let go of me.”

THE JUDGE-YOUR-NEIGHBOR WORKSHEET

One of the brilliant innovations of Byron Katie is the Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet. This allows people to identify the thoughts and stories that cause their suffering. The first step in doing The Work is to fill out a Worksheet. “Though the mind can justify itself faster than the speed of light, it can be stopped through the act of writing. Once the mind is stopped on paper, thoughts remain stable, and inquiry can easily be applied.”

The stressful thoughts to be identified on a Worksheet are about someone else, not about yourself; hence the term “Judge-Your-Neighbor.” This is sometimes difficult for people, since we have been taught not to judge, though we do it all the time. When you do The Work, you see who you are in a stressful situation by seeing who you think other people are. Byron Katie explains this in the following way: “Since the beginning of time, people have been trying to change the world so that they can be happy. This hasn’t ever worked, because it approaches the problem backward. What The Work gives us is a way to change the projector—mind—rather than the projected. It’s like when there’s a piece of lint on a projector’s lens. We think there’s a flaw on the screen, and we try to change this person and that person, whomever the flaw appears to be on next. But it’s futile to try to change the projected images. Once we realize where the lint is, we can clear the lens itself. This is the end of suffering, and the beginning of a little joy in paradise.”

THE FOUR QUESTIONS

1. Is it true? People are encouraged to meditate on this question and go deeper than answers that seem obvious but that bring them stress or suffering. “My husband (or my wife) should listen to me—is it true?” Most people’s automatic response is “Yes,” indignantly or sadly. After someone truly contemplates the question, the answer may still be yes but there may be a slight weakening of the ego’s position. Or maybe the person sees clearly and shockingly that the statement isn’t true. It may be something they have believed for years and decades.

2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true? If their answer to the first question is yes, this second question gives people another chance to examine the stressful thought and to go deeper into the open mind, which in Zen is called the “don’t-know mind.” Yes is still a valid answer.

3. How do you react—what happens—when you believe that thought? This question allows people to see the cause-and-effect of believing their stressful thoughts—to witness what happened, what they felt, said, and did, when they believed the thought in that They are encouraged to inhabit the situation they were remembering in the first statement on their Worksheet and trace, in detail, the physical sensations and the emotions caused when they believe “My husband (or my wife) should listen to me.” Someone might say, for example, “I feel anger in my belly. My face flushes. I start to talk louder. I see my husband as neglectful. I become antagonistic. I try to convince him. I see him as the enemy,” and so on. These specific reactions are clear evidence of how unuseful, even damaging, this belief is to the person believing it. Whether they answered “yes” or “no” to the first two questions, they get to see how the thought leads them away from connection with the other person.

4. Who would you be without the thought? This is a question outside the realm of cognitive psychology. It allows people to see reality without the superimposition of their own belief. It gives them a vivid glimpse into what life is like without a problem. They become the seer, the listener, egoless, receiving the other person without blame, demands, expectations, or anything but an open mind. This question has resulted in very powerfully transformative experiences, even for people whose response to questions one and two were “Yes.”

THE TURNAROUNDS

After the mind has educated itself about a particular stressful thought through the four questions of The Work, people are invited to turn the thought around. The turnaround is a way of experiencing the opposite of what you believed was true. Sometimes there may be just one turnaround; sometimes there are two or three turnarounds to one of the statements on the Worksheet (turnarounds to the opposite, to the self, and to the other). For example, the statement in that situation, “my husband should listen to me” can be turned around to “My husband shouldn’t listen to me,” and also to “I should listen to me,” and finally to “I should listen to my husband.”

Once people find a turnaround, they are invited to contemplate specific examples of how the turnaround is true in their lives, how it is as true as or truer than their original statement. This grounds the turnaround in actual experience and further weakens the power of the stressful thought over the mind. For some people, just one deep session of inquiry is enough to completely unravel a belief, so that it doesn’t occur again, or if it does, the response is amusement rather than stress.

Often, after fully contemplating the turnarounds, people who have answered “Yes” to questions one and two, if they are asked the questions again, will answer “No,” often with a smile or a laugh.

When we are suffering in any given moment, we are in a trance, hypnotized.

 The Work wakes us up.