Pain researchers at McGill University noticed that sometimes their mice experienced less pain during experiments. They didn't understand why, until they checked to see whether the researcher was a man or a woman...
Resilience in the physical sciences is the ability of an object to recover its form and bounce back from compression. When we assume that the dynamics of the psychological sciences work the same way, we make a huge mistake.
On August 9th, a female passenger hit JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater in the head with an overhead compartment door, then instead of apologizing, cursed Slater out. Slater used the plane's PA system to curse back at the woman, popped the emergency slide, grabbed a few beers, and walked (actually, slid) off the job. For some people, Slater is a hero for doing what many of us imagine doing but don't act on. For others, he is culpable for exactly the same reason.
People often say that stress is a motivator. What we're referring to when we say this is really better described as stimulation and engagement. Take the example of goal-setting. We set goals because they give us something to aim for and keep us feeling engaged. Stimulation and engagement are good.But that's not stress.
Stress is a motivator. Stress is inevitable. Some stress is good for you. These are just some of the many myths surrounding stress in our society today. Only by recognizing these myths as false can we begin to live truly stress-free lives.
People frequently say that some stress is good for you, that it's a motivator, and that without it we would be bored. This notion of "good stress" was first proposed by stress research pioneer Hans Selye in 1976, and it was an attempt to paint himself out of a corner.
Since the 1960's, social psychologists have tried measuring stress in people's lives by using Stressful Life Events scales. These surveys ask you to check off which events you've experienced: a move, a death in the family, divorce, etc. By adding up your check marks, they calculate how much stress you experience. This is both inaccurate and misleading, and I think it's important to understand why.
We're all familiar with tools like motivation, positive thinking, and analysis. We're less familiar with insight. Insight transforms stressful beliefs into deeper understanding and clearer action. This post describes how and why it works.
Over the course of human evolution, our brains became far more capable of abstract thinking. The positive side of this is that we developed language, story, numbers, and art. All these things require an abstract mind. The negative side is that we developed stress.
Where does stress come from? That's easy. It comes from stressors like traffic jams, angry bosses, and screaming children.But why? Why do stressors provoke stress in us? The answer, which is repeated in practically every article and book on stress (and which is disastrously wrong, as you'll see in a moment) involves human evolution.