So many people don’t know how to manage stress, and yet we each choose what to stress about. Stress isn’t something that is caused by external factors; stress isn’t caused by other people (although their actions and choices may contribute if we let them), stress is something that we inflict on ourselves.
With every situation that we encounter, we have a choice to make. We can react through fear (stress) or we can react through acceptance. The problem seems to be that fear is much more seductive, much more addictive than acceptance. (Think succumbing to the power of the dark side in Star Wars.)
Fear causes our adrenaline to rush, while our hearts beat faster. Our senses heighten, and we’ll tell ourselves that this makes us feel alive. However, for all that this makes us “feel alive”, it also shortens our lives. But, we’re not thinking long-term when we’re in the midst of a crises situation. No, we’re simply reacting, and for most of us, it’s easier to walk with the fear we recognize than to let it go.
You see, we each have a major fear that we have accepted into our lives, and every day it colors our reactions to situations in ways that we may not even recognize. My fear is impatience, or the fear of missing out. Now, I’ve become fairly adept at recognizing its ugly face, and I can often tell when it’s trying to seduce me into reacting in a way that I will regret later. But impatience, like all of the major 7, is tricky. Before you know it, you find yourself reacting through fear rather than acceptance, and wondering just how you got fooled.
Each of us has chosen one of these seven major fears as part of our “character”. It is our little challenge to ourselves to see whether we succumb to the fear, or whether we can see it for what is and so choose the path of acceptance. The seven major fears are:
Impatience, the fear of missing out, causes time-related stresses in people if they let it. If someone who is impatient has two meetings scheduled at the same time and they want to be in both, they will stress over what they might be missing if they go to one meeting over another. An impatient person who is told they only have an hour to get somewhere can become so stressed that, of course, they end up late. If someone tells an impatient person that they’ll meet at a specific time and place and then that person is 10 or 15 minutes late, the impatient person steams up and gets all stressed because time means more to them than the person they’re meeting with does.
Stubbornness is the fear of change. If a person’s trigger is stubbornness, then they’ll stress about what changes might be happening in the office because they fear it will cause them to have to change their routine. If they encounter a road block or construction while driving, they might let it stress them out because they’ll have to change their route. Stubborn people stress about proposed changes, actual changes, and possible changes because stubborn people adore routine.
While we all love some routine to our lives, most of us can be flexible about that routine if we have to, but not someone who is stubborn. Stubborn people will fight to maintain their routine at all costs. Routine means they have control; change means they don’t have control.
Arrogance makes people afraid that someone will see a weakness or a flaw in them. This causes them to be constantly stressed whenever they have to interact with others. It doesn’t matter whether these others are business associates, co-workers, friends, or even family, the arrogant person is going to be constantly wary and on edge. They feel as if they always have to keep people at arm’s length for fear that someone might get too close and see something in them that they don’t want that person to see. This fear creates a lot of stress.
Self-destructiveness is a very subtle thing. It can show up as a lust for life; however, this usually masks their fear of living. Someone with this stress trigger is always challenging life, but not necessarily in a safe or sane way. They are the people who take the extra gamble with life, the job, the marriage, with whatever is important to them. They’ll put their job on the line by trying to cut corners (not because they need to, but because of the challenge of it). They’ll deliberately place themselves, their job, or their relationships in harm’s way; they will drive crazy fast on a busy road, weaving in and out of traffic, just because—not because they’re late or even really trying to get to any place in particular, but just because they feel like it.
They may seem to be enjoying this devilish, who-care’s existence, but they know they’re risking it all every time they do something and that’s a big stress.
Greed is the fear of never having enough. Usually the person will fixate on one particular thing that they can’t get enough of, but occasionally someone will simply be unable to get enough of everything. Someone may have a pantry and freezer full of food, but because of their greed, that may not seem like enough food for them. They will stress and fret and try to accumulate more and more, but they’ll always feel as if it isn’t enough.
Someone with greed as their trigger can feel the need for more objects (food, sex, clothes, books, money) or more intangibles (power, love, knowledge). The problem with this fear is that it can never be fulfilled, so it is a constant source of stress.
Self-efficacy makes people afraid that they will disappoint someone else. Most people with an over abundance of self-efficacy are afraid to say no because they think that others will then be disappointed. So, they take on the task or obligation knowing that they probably won’t be able to complete it unless they drop some other task. No matter what, they’re going to have to disappoint someone.
This makes a self-effacing person afraid to say no and afraid to say yes, because no matter what they do they might create disharmony, they may find that someone is unhappy with them. They create their own stress just worrying about whether someone will ask them to do something more, whether they can actually do that something more, and whether they will end up disappointing everyone including themselves.
Martyrdom causes someone to fear that they won’t be noticed or remembered. People with this stress trigger are always trying to make others feel sorry for them, so they become stressed if people aren’t noticing them, aren’t sympathizing with them. They’re the type of mothers who keep their children in line by constantly complaining about their health, when, in fact, their health may be fine.
Once you can figure out which of these 7 is your major stress inducer, it makes it easier to see what situations might fuel it; what situations might trigger it. If you can identify the situations, you can begin to see how and where the fear seduces you. Once you recognize the seduction, it’s easier for you to choose to ignore the fear. Also, once you start focusing on this larger stress inducer, it makes the small stuff so much easier to ignore.
For instance, as I said, I struggle with time-related situations, situations that trigger my impatience. So, when other possible stress points appear in my life, I try to ignore them. If, for example, I paint the bedroom but the job isn’t perfect, I could stress over it, maybe even buy more paint and try to make it perfect. However, I can also just choose to let it go after acknowledging that the world won’t end if the edge isn’t straight, and the walls are a bit streaked. After all, perfection isn’t everything.
You see, I know that I have enough of a struggle with myself when it comes to traffic (and the fear of being late or missing out on something because I’m in traffic rather than somewhere else), or standing in line (I could be doing something else, anywhere else rather than standing here and waiting). So, I don’t bother with stressing about whether something I did is perfect, or whether someone I just met likes me or not. Hey, I am what I am, and if they don’t like me, it’s they’re loss 😉
I have enough to cope with in my life, and I would prefer spending my time enjoying life rather than stressing over things. How ‘bout you?