Dealing With Stress

by Ross Bishop

People report stress as being the most vexing problem they face. First of all, stress feels like it is an external thing, but really it is an inside job. Stress is an internal reaction to an external threat, combined with the feeling that you will not be able to cope with the situation. And thus, you fear the outcome. And it is difficult to resolve what drives stress because most of it originates deep inside with our beliefs about ourselves.

We all have problems, but the feeling that a situation is beyond your control is what creates stress. If you run into a tiger in the jungle, you will experience stress. There isn’t much you can do about the situation, the only consolation is that you probably won’t be stressed for too long. However, put the tiger In a cage and your stress will be reduced dramatically. So the critical element is a threat that you are unable to control or think you are unable to manage.

Now, the tiger is strictly an external threat, but having to give a public talk stresses most people out because of the fear of how the audience might react. But if you have given even a few talks, you will have a measure of audience reaction, and your stress decreases dramatically. What changes are the assumptions your anxiety is built on. But your fear isn’t about the talk anyway, it’s about being exposed and judged. This originates in a lack of self-confidence, i.e. a lack of self-love. Your other life experiences contribute too.

Our everyday stresses may be more mundane than meeting tigers, but they follow the same pattern. Other than our reaction to legitimate threats – things like muggers or rapists, our reactions are largely self-created. In the jungle the tiger has all the power and there isn’t much you can do about that. That’s not true in purely social situations, but we still give the power to determine our worthiness over to other people. What others say or feel can have a devastating impact on our sense of self-worth.

And, we fear that we won’t “measure up,” whether it is a job interview, being a good parent, making a good impression or screwing up a work presentation. Setting aside “legitimate” stressors for the moment, and looking at our social conditioning, you need to ask yourself, “What are the fears that cause me to react as I do?” 

Consider also, that the vast majority of the things you worry about rarely, if ever, happen. And your fear blows situations out of all proportion. What is the logic in that? Other people are far kinder and more understanding than we give them credit for, but if you accepted that, it would ruin the game that your ego is running (more about that in a minute). 

Pretend for a moment that there is a gizmo inside you connected to your ego called the “Threat-O-Meter.” The Threat-O-Meter is constantly monitoring the external world for threats to your safety. It spends most of it’s time trolling the landscape for – insults, slights, “challenges you won’t measure up to,” embarrassments, criticisms, judgments, ridicule, mockery, jeering, taunts, hurtful teasing, scorn, derision, sneering, etc., etc. And the critical determinant here is how sensitive your Threat-O-Meter is. Since this is your mechanism, you set the parameters (sensitivity) it operates on.

Something that bothers you enormously may roll off someone else’s back, and vice versa. Now, you can block out the external world or go into denial, but those defenses don’t work for long and they have devastating side effects. So, assuming the other person is not in denial or not reacting defensively, what’s the difference between your reaction and their’s? 

The difference is that whatever was said was not a threat to them, but it was to you. Why? What’s the difference? Your internalization (note that word) of the threat is what determines your reaction. A good sign of how secure you are is what it takes to “offend” you. The more secure you are, the less offended you will be. (Think about that for a minute.)

How sensitive are you to criticism? What about people talking behind your back? How jealous do you get? Do you have the freedom to speak your mind or express how you really feel, i.e. how powerful is your fear of rejection? Can you say, “No!”? How afraid are you to be wrong or make a mistake? What about taking a risk or breaking the rules? 

Put simply, the other person doesn’t give the offender the power to determine their worthiness. They know that on a 5 point scale they are a 4.0, and so when someone contradicts that, it doesn’t matter. In other words, they don’t give the other person power over their lives. They don’t give other people the devastating power of the tiger. They know the truth, where you are not so sure. 

Consider: what if someone says to you, “Your hair is blue.” Now unless you are 25 and have a nose ring, the odds are that your hair is not blue and you know it. So what the other person said doesn’t even register on your Threat-O-Meter. 

But, what if they say, “You are not worthy,” or “You are a scum bag.” Different story isn’t it? Why? You know your hair is not blue, but when it comes to your “worthiness,” you’re not so sure. (for a further discussion of blue hair see: 

Consider that the offending party’s words are literally just vibrations in the air and they dissipate as soon as they are spoken. But we fear that what they say will somehow be emblazoned in stone for all eternity. The reason this is important is that their words resonate with what we already believe about ourselves. The issue is now “the truth about you” is out.

There is another thing, too. The stuff we mostly fuss about are events – things we do. Behaviors that are usually driven by fear or ignorance. But there is a great difference between who you are and what you do! How you behave does not always reflect who you are! It is just what you sometimes do – and we are all capable of screwing things up! remember, you didn’t come here to be perfect. You came here to learn to be perfect. And they way we learn to do that is by screwing up (and then learning from it)! But we confuse doing and being. Are you beginning to see the origins of your stress?

No one likes being criticized, but in that moment you do not have access to a measurement that you can point to and say, “Phooey! I know I’m a 4.0 out of 5 on the personality scale, and you are wrong.” Now, that scale does exist, but you are not able to access it in the moment, and we need to ask “Why not?” That leads us to a very important consideration.

The reason you don’t have access to the scale is related to what determines the sensitivity on your Threat-O-Meter. Put simply, you don’t love yourself. And because you don’t love yourself, you don’t have the internal anchor that grounds you to the truth and allows you to say, “I’m sorry you feel that way, I may have made a mistake, but that is not who I am.” As I said before, stress is an internal process. The other person just opens the door to your personal chamber of horrors.

I’m going say again, there are things in you that are not finished. That is why you have come to earth! Yes, you make mistakes and yes, you have things to learn, but those things do not speak to who you are, only where you are in the process of your evolution. Those things are not flaws of character, they are just lessons that you have not yet learned. So pick yourself up off the floor, learn from your experiences and get on with your life!

These things we are talking about are all related to the fact that you do not love yourself. And, the process that you are engaged in, what we call life, is how you are going to learn to get out of your self-created prison and learn (don’t miss that word) to love yourself.

We don’t think much about this, but the reason the situation occurred in the first place is that The Universe is asking you to look at your self-doubts, your self-judgments, your self-criticisms. It wants you to find that internal anchor that says, “I am not my fear. This is who I am!” 

And, although you won’t like it, the most powerful way to open the door to your negative self-beliefs is through the pain of having someone else take a shot at you. Otherwise, you might never even open that door. 

And if you were able to hold yourself in love, you would then have the freedom to investigate the other’s complaint, free from the fear of criticism or judgment, because they would no longer pose a threat to your sense of self-worth.

So what to do? The first thing is to recognize that what you are feeling is only remotely connected to the event in question. Of course, you don’t want to flub that speech, but your anxiety and resulting stress, has everything to do with how you see yourself – that you believe you are not worthy – irrespective of what’s going on in the external world. The externals just highlight your self-doubts and bring them to the surface. 

The villain in this play is your ego, which is connected to the fears held by your wounded inner child. That’s where your self-doubts and self image stuff resides. The ego is doing it’s job (it thinks) by trying to  keep her safe, by keeping her out of potentially threatening situations. So from the ego’s perspective, the worst thing you could do is to go out and test those waters, because it fears confirming what she already believes about herself. And the ego probably also further believes that you can’t handle the situation, anyway. It lives in the past and it can find in your life experiences enough examples that there was something about you that needed to be fixed, that didn’t quite measure up. So it has plenty of ammunition.

And remember, the ego’s  job is to protect her. And your always negative self-critic can be incredibly severe about these things. This is not an accident. Your ego structure serves as a safety valve to keep you from getting in over your head – which you would likely do if you simply accepted the truth about yourself all at once. Because if you did, you would go into shock. 

So the ego slows things down, it only lets in a little light at a time (what it thinks she can handle). And when you and she are really ready, it’s objections will simply evaporate. Then you will move with her to another way of being. To repeat, this is why you have come to earth. And your struggle with your beliefs and her fears is the core part of that process.

So, how do you get out of the trap? The ultimate solution is to change what you believe about yourself. That’s a tall order, because we are talking about healing your inner woundedness. The best solution would be to work 1:1 with a trained and competent shaman. Shamanism offers a unique and very effective approach to these kinds of wounding issues. We refer to it as “soul loss.”

I have tried to offer explanations and outline the healing process for the inner child in my books, Healing The Shadow, Journey To Enlightenment and About Life and my video series, A Shaman’s Path To Inner Peace. I think these provide a good understanding of what you need to do and how to get there.

I am also going to offer you something you might try. It’s a band-aid and it doesn’t work for everyone nor does it work in all cases. But, it may provide some help.

Find a mirror. Look her straight in the eye and talk to her (don’t look away!). Tell her the truth – you are not the person she fears that you are. You know she’s been hurt, but that hurt came from other people’s issues, not because she was defective. (Note: have you ever met a “defective” child? I haven’t. But I have met plenty of troubled ones.)

Tell her that you know that she gets scared and makes you sometimes do or say things you regret. Tell her also that you know that she is doing the best that she can under the circumstances, and that if she will work with you, things will get better. What you are doing here is giving her the love and support she didn’t receive as a child.

Listen carefully for her response. If she will talk with you, she will speak to her fears and anxieties. (If she won’t talk, get some help.) Perhaps she will tell you why she is afraid. Even though it may seen irrational to you, her fears are real, so take them seriously. 

Don’t discount what she says, her reactions have the power to control your life. Reassure her, promise her that you’ll keep her safe – no matter what happens – (if you mean it). Remember you weren’t there “before.” She was alone. Be there for her now.

Be fearless. Other people’s words can’t hurt you. And remember, you can love her no matter what happens in the outside world. Ask her to help you as you both confront this fear that you are facing. 

Now, this doesn’t work for everyone and it doesn’t work in every situation, but it’s definitely worth trying. And as I say, if you feel that this is too tough to do alone – it certainly was for me – get a good shaman.

When Christ urged us to “Love your enemy,” we all assume he was speaking of loving another person, and that is true. But the more I work with this issue, the more convinced I am that there was another meaning to His words. The “enemy” Christ was speaking of is also inside you.

“Life is too short to wake up in the morning with regrets. So, love the people who treat you right, forget about the ones who didn’t & believe that everything happens for a reason. If you get a chance, take it. If it changes your life, let it. Nobody said it would be easy, they just promised it would be worth it.” Harvey Mackay

copyright©Blue Lotus Press 2018

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