Have you ever said words, "This job/my life is so stressful!" Or something else along those lines?
Most people believe that stress is something that happens in their lives. They believe it is result of outside circumstances beyond their control. We are stressed if our work is too difficult. We get stressed when people in our lives arenít doing what we want them to do. We are stressed when itís been too long since a vacation. We get stress over deaths, weddings, major purchases and a host of other things. We talk as if stress is something outside ourselves---a condition of things in our external environment. It's not.
Health professionals will tell us that stress is a contributing factor in many physical ailments---heart attacks, asthma, high blood pressure, stroke and many others. There are several diagnoses in Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV, diagnostic tool of therapists and psychiatrists that describe many stress-related disorders. Stress is a killer.
Have you ever wondered why some people seem to handle stress better than others do? One individual may have all life circumstances purported to cause stress in oneís life but seem to be just breezing through his or her day, seemingly without a care, while another person gets a flat tire on way to work and has a total melt down. How can this be explained?
I intend to look at stress from a different perspective---a choice theory perspective.
According to Choice Theory, all behavior is purposeful. This means that no matter what we do it is a purposeful attempt to get something we want. We are never simply responding to outside stimuli.
You may ask, ďWhat about when I flinch when I hear a loud noise?Ē The flinching is not a response to noise, but rather your proactive way of staying safe. This may seem like Iím splitting hairs, but it is an important distinction to understand in this discussion of stress.
Let me give you another example. You may think you get mad at your child for not cleaning his or her room after you asked several times. It sure feels as if anger is in direct response to your childís behavior. However, your anger is actually your best attempt to get your child to do what you want. By displaying angry behavior, it is your belief that your child will go ahead and clean up his or her room. Any behavior or emotion we employ is a proactive, sometimes conscious sometimes not, attempt to get something we want, not a response to external stimuli.
The same is true for stress. We are choosing stress as a proactive attempt to get something we want. This choice is almost never conscious, but I want it to become conscious for you. Once it is conscious, then you have power to choose to do it differently if you so desire.
Since all behavior is purposeful, it helps to understand what possible benefits or purposes one could achieve by stressing. Who would ever choose that behavior for any benefit?