Five Alternatives at the Threshold of Stress Tolerance
No matter how resilient or smart you may be, there may come a time when you have reached your threshold for Stress.
Your threshold can be triggered by both positive and negative events in life.
Hate Life ? Are you at your threshold of stress?
There is nothing wrong about reaching one’s threshold of stress tolerance — even when such a limit is triggered by positive events (new job, fiance, promotion, newly wed). If you are highly resilient and determined, you are likely to push yourself to your psychological limits faster.
Anyone reaching a threshold of stress tolerance faces five basic alternatives.
These Five Alternatives are: (1) experience more defensive reactions (2) breakthrough (3) retreat/withdrawal (4) suicide/homicide (5) ‘escape’ through addiction or stop-gap measures.
Five Alternatives at the Threshold of Stress Tolerance
Reaching one’s threshold may occur regardless of how resilient or strong one may be.
We might experience escalating stress symptoms (anxiety, anger, physical symptoms, depression, and psychosis) warning us that our past experience and current capacity to cope is being exceeded.
Stress is there to warn us that our present capacities are being exceeded. However, stress may also appear whenever one deviates from a well beaten path, even for the better. When this happens, stress may cause the individual to resist the very action that is necessary for better long-term adjustment. This may include becoming far closer to one’s fiance, spouse or partner; achieving what we desire most in life, or becoming at peace with our self. (See Stress, Stress Types, and Stress Techniques, as well as Life Purpose when facing resistance).
Breakthrough involves using a crisis or setback as an opportunity to grow. When we breakthrough and attain a higher level of adjustment in the three spheres (self definition,love definition, work definition), we often free ourselves from distressful symptoms. When we can not breakthrough on our own, we should reach out for help from others.
We might withdraw or retreat from the immediate source of Stress. In the context of a close relationship, withdrawal can take the form of de-escalating closeness with one’s partner, separating or divorcing. In work, in can take the form of changing schools or jobs, asking for an extension, staying home from work.
(4) Alcohol or Drugs:
We might turn to alcohol or drugs in an attempt to numb our stress symptoms and temporarily escape the pressures of reality. The problem with this ‘solution’ is that after escaping one returns to the same reality, and often with a hangover or addiction to boot.
Addiction to alcohol or drugs is serious. Not because it may be illegal, but because it reduces or often eliminates the chances that a person can become and remain sufficiently close to another human being. Since our happiness is dependent on such a close one on one relationship, those who value his or her own happiness and worth need to think twice about this dangerous form of escape. Drugs consume individuals – destroying the very self it is meant to relieve. Drugs and alcohol addiction can also destroy those who attempt to love us.
Convinced that we are unable to (1) experience more stress (2) breakthrough (3) withdraw, (4) drugs or alcohol no longer provide enough relief, some turn to (5) suicide, homicide, or other violent and destructive action in desperation.
In the mind of someone contemplating suicide the ‘logic’ behind the decision is compelling. This explains why some individuals go to extremes to make sure the attempt will be successful. While it is true that the dead and those under the influence of mind altering symptoms may not suffer, they lose the opportunity to breakthrough and grow beyond the limits of their previous experiences.
Both we and our environment changes rapidly; every year, month, week, day, hour, or even second. Even if outside circumstances do not change, our ‘subjective’ realities can change. They can do so in such a way that what may have appeared to be a hopeless or intolerable situation may become acceptable.
Suicide is said to be a permanent ‘solution’ to a temporary problem. That is one reason why it is so tragic.
The crisis or problem that causes one to lose perspective, is always a temporary one. Circumstances do change, and if they do not, our perceptions of them can.
Many of those who failed to commit suicide are living proof that the circumstances that once were seen as insurmountable, could be overcome. Over the past decades ever since the famed Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco was built, some 900 people have jumped from the scenic bridge to their death. To do so they have climbed over fences and barbed wire in the hope of making sure that their leap will end in certain death.
Miraculously, however, one out of fifty survived. The survivors accidentally entered the water vertically as they struck its surface. The survivors suffered multiple fractures and injuries, but did not die. A study followed the survivors over two decades and found that not a single one of them tried to kill himself or herself again.
Despite compelling reasoning that lead to the conviction that life was not worth living, when a new perspective opened up, the same lives became worth living.
In retrospect, one has to wonder what would have happened to the rest of the forty-nine, if they lived to develop a new perspective on their lives.
Retreat When Necessary and Breakthrough When Possible
For all of us, the goal is to breakthrough when possible and retreat when necessary. To do this successfully, we must accurately assess external realties, inner capabilities and limitations, and the consequences of our decisions and actions in the three primary spheres of life.
The process of an individual going through maximum distress to reach optimal wellbeing provides a rare opportunity to understand the structure of personality and its functioning. In the experience of Dr. Ishizuka, the greater the distress, the greater the opportunity for a profound and life changing breakthrough. In Lifetrack therapy, breakthrough is accomplished through breakthrough intimacy, the process of becoming far closer than ever before to another human being. If you are single or alone, then you will be helped or encouraged to find someone with whom you can work.
For those seeking more help to overcome stress, see Stress, Overcoming Fear, Stress Types, and Stress Techniques (four key steps to health). For those overwhelmed, reach out to others and do not hesitate to seek professional help. In the United States, one can call 911 if one has suicidal thoughts or go to your nearest emergency room. In both cases, you will talk to a mental health professional. A friend or loved one can accompany you. As a health care consumer, you are entitled to ask as many questions as you need, ask for reasons behind any decisions, ask for a second opinion, and be involved in all decisions regarding your care.
While it is true, that most states do have laws requiring that individuals who are in imminent danger of harming themselves be hospitalized for a period of time in order to provide psychiatric treatment (even if they do not want to be hospitalized), in most states this hold period is 72 hours. This period can be re-assuring when filled with panic or depressive thoughts. It may be a turning point, one that assists you in the relief of suffering, and opens a door for building a new life of meaning.
One should not take a chance with the beauty and fragility of one’s life. Taking action by asking for help can lead to new insights and relieve suffering.
There is only one of you here in this world. You are here for a reason; a beautiful one. Reach out and get help.
Copyright © 2010 Lifetrack Corporation
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Read more about stress symptoms of stress and anxiety, overcoming fear, five stress symptoms (stress types), stress techniques, health and happiness, and insights fromLifetrack therapy or life purpose.
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