Re: [The-Burnsville-Socrates-Cafe] 5/15/12 questions and discussion

From: Amr B.
Sent on: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 8:26 PM
I've read Jim Baker's e-mail with interest and the usual puzzlement. It's not different from so many approaches to stress management, anxiety management, and coping with negative emotions. The approach is the same: on the one hand people say that the best strategy is to be accepting of the stress or the emotions, but then they proceed to give elaborate instructions on how to control and eliminate them. To me that sounds confusing and very ineffective. I hear it in Jim's e-mail. On the one hand it's good to be "accepting" but then it's good to "release, release, release". Why does one want to release something that is acceptable? Or, conversely, why does want to accept something that one is working on releasing. This contradiction can be very confusing to people who suffer from unmanageavle stress, anxiety, or depression. I'd much rather accept anxiety or depression because it IS acceptable, not because by accepting it I will bring it under control or eliminate it.
 
I see four reasons why it's hopeless to try to control or eliminate stress or negative thoughts and emotions: 1. It cannot be done. It seems futile to try to control something that happens naturally and autonomously. 2. There's no need to control them. Emotions are harmless; it's how we manage them that can create problems. Many psychologists know this, but still advocate some kind of eliminative process, such as distraction, thought-stopping, and the like. Relaxation training and  stress management have become industries that train people to use eliminative strategies. 3. Whatever we do to control stress and negative emotions takes us away from appreciating their positive functions. Negative emotions are vital to our well-being; they are purveyors of meaning and they guide us in ways that are vital to our well-being and survival. 4. Controling negative emotions simply reinforces them; the research on this is very robust: controlling emotions has a rebound effect. One becomes more troubled by them and they eventually occur in ways that cause a great deal of dysfunction.
Amr Barrada


-----Original Message-----
From: Jim <[address removed]>
To: The-Burnsville-Socrates-Cafe-list <[address removed]>
Sent: Wed, May 23,[masked]:43 pm
Subject: Re: [The-Burnsville-Socrates-Cafe] 5/15/12 questions and discussion

This is why I said I both agree and disagree with Amr. Life events can be overwhelming, which I know b/c I've lived in that state for several decades, trying various methods to reduce my anxiety and stay chipper. In psychological theory, the construct that bedevils us is perceived control. Note the adjective perceived. What we believe is true is true. There, we run into problems with the ego, which wants things the way it wants them! It's way or the highway, sort of speak.

It's human nature to want to control our environment and as many aspects of our life experience as we can. Extremely controlling people, like certain supervisors, are quite content with their power over others. The hapless others who are on the receiving end feel lack of control and that can and does affect physical health and work performance.  In my own family, my mother and sister both died out of long, miserable relationships that eventually consumed them. You can research by googling "control orientation health". In plain language feeling (i.e., believing we are stuck between a rock and hard place with no way out can truly be devastating. Of course, there are always choices. The big hurdle is relaxing the internal fight, which ultimately all healthy spiritual programs foster through their various contexts. How we translate what we experience by wishing it were different—and the intensity of our desire or effort to change others to make it different—is what pushes up the stress.

This is subtle stuff that the ego hates. Many have written about it. But to the extent we can diminish the ego, become more accepting of what is, and just let go, release, release, release. Watching Tiger Woods melt down reminds of us of how hard this is, but it can set us on an interesting life path.

I'm not claiming to be a 5th degree master of this either,but I think I "get it". And I know I could be doing more to improve my life experience far more, but I want to continue playing in the world in ways that are stressful and stay reasonably healthy in the process. There's a ratio of wellness practices to stress; for me it should  stay in the neighborhood of 1.0 at the end of the day (with no help from booze or drugs). When stress rises too far above the (perceived) feeling of wellness, I take action and bring it back. That's a choice. Knowing what I'm dealing with and believing I have options allows me to feel more in control. That's the thinking that affects the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems and stress hormones that themselves can cause disease by knocking down the immune system and other effects. That's another one to Google.

Here's one more link you might find interesting.

Wishing you good health,

Jim Baker



On May 23, 2012, at 4:10 AM, Andrusela wrote:

I'm finding this discussion on stress more interesting than the
original question. I have practiced meditation, etc. to reduce stress,
but it works best in a "retreat" environment. Back in the real world
where I work in tech support and customer service I am abused by both
the customers and my supervisors and the tortuous boredom of the job
iself. No matter how much I try to not let it bother me and "go to my
happy place," I still have high blood pressure and other stress
related illnesses, like Jon's wife does. So though I see the value in
trying to reduce stress by positive thinking and whatever other method
you can name I must say I agree more with Amr that only a bigger
lifestyle overhaul would yield any significant or lasting results.

On 5/21/12, Jim <[address removed]> wrote:
I both agree and disagree. I'm a testament to what I've asserted. And
in fact there are numerous studies that contradict Amr's pessimistic
views. Sad for you that you are stuck in that belief.
Jim Baker


On May 21, 2012, at 1:06 AM, Amr Barrada wrote:

Actually the idea of controlling stress is very popular and widely
practiced throughout the country and elsewhere. That's why there
are so many stress management groups. It has become a virtual
industry.

There's so much research out there that, contrary to what Jim is
saying, shows very robustly that stress, and other processes such
as thoughts and feelings, are not at all amenable to control. In
fact a very robust finding is that trying to control or "eliminate"
these processes only results in what one psychologist calls a
"rebound effect". In this case the more you try to control stress
the more stressful you get, and you end up getting chronically
stressed.

We live in a culture that finds natural negative processes
repulsive. The idea that Jim suggests that we "train" children
early in their lives how to control stress, or even "manage" it, is
part of this persistent obsession with being positive and free of
natural thoughts and emotions. It's such a hideous suggestion. We
would do a lot better if we were able to model a lifestyle, not
only to children but to adults as well, that is not conducive to
the fast-paced frenetic lives people seem to prefer.
Amr
-----Original Message-----
From: Jim <[address removed]>
To: The-Burnsville-Socrates-Cafe-list <The-Burnsville-Socrates-Cafe-
Sent: Sun, May 20,[masked]:55 am
Subject: Re: [The-Burnsville-Socrates-Cafe] 5/15/12 questions and
discussion

I'm glad to see that someone finally included the impacts of stress
in the discussion. This is a favorite topic in my field of study b/
c it cuts across all aspects of human experience in inverse
relationship to quality of life—which, in turn, translates to
effects on others quality of life. It's all related.

I see the big problem here, not as how many resources to spend on
the sick, but as the relative paucity of resources spent on
prevention—the most cost effective  intervention being stress
management training. Stress is a mental phenomenon — i.e., a
consequence of "thoughts we choose" in response to events. The
untrained mind easily runs negative thinking, which increases
stress hormones. In the worst case situations, where people feel
unjustly treated, trapped in unemployment, abused by another, etc.,
the negative thinking reaches "toxic" levels and hangs there,
wreaking havoc on the body, mind and often anyone who is around the
person suffering in toxic stress. Our health care system mainly
treats the symptoms of toxic stress. Some progressive health
centers, such as Boston's Mind Body Miedical Clinic (originally at
Harvard Med School), still led by Herbert Benson, famous for his
book, The Relaxation Response.

In Benson's introduction, he recalls being branded somewhat of a
heretic and I recall the original report that he was threatened
with banishment from HMS if continued researching how people could
manipulate their autonomic nervous systems, which was then (in the
1960's) still believed impossible in Western medicine. His book is
an interesting read, but sadly its message is still largely absent
from primary care, or as a key component of disease treatment.

Stress mgt training is not a panacea that fix everything that is
wrong, but if everyone were trained as children about stress and
how to manage it, then prompted to do so as part of their daily
schooling and primary health care, there would be far less disease,
far less social dysfunction, far higher quality of life in general
for the vast majority. Effects on brain function that directly
impact learning, would also be reduced, making a significant
contribution to reducing the achievement gap, a scientifically
defensible assertion that I am building into a model to put on line.

So, what's the real problem here? And why is there so much
resistance to directly intervening on it?

Jim Baker



On May 20, 2012, at 9:12 AM, Jon Anderson wrote:

5/15/12 questions and discussion

assuming success trumps happiness, what purpose(s) does happiness
have?

=======================

if we continue to care for the sick, will our species survive?

Phillip: allowing some to die for lack of investment in health
care for all may mean losing  descendants who could save us from
future problems. Would it mean losing minds like Stephen
Hawking's? One wonders when people with genetic ills produce more
kids with the same genetic ills. We don't wanna be like Hitler
was, deciding who will live, who will die.

Jon: the inverse being something like the Terry Schievo (sp?) case.

Lynn: didn't someone come out of an 18 year coma . . .?

Jm; exactly. So what are the preconditions for a successful
species? We can't just look at intelligence. If we had a
subspecies with Hawking's intelligence, and wanted to isolate/
magnify that, would that be a net benefit? But that way we can not
meet the genetic variability demanded for future survival. Yet how
much does variability cost? If we were smart enough to engineer a
perfect human that human would be too vulnerable because the
future is unpredictable. We're not that smart.

Lynn: we wouldn't agree on what an ideal genetic package is!

Phillip: don't allow anyone who is sick to die.

Jim: is that a moral idea? A practical one? If it's moral, we end
up with lots of sick people taking up more of our resources,
affecting the rest of our society.

Lynn: we presently overtly control the populations of other
species: deer, for example (wolves too?). We also do controlled
forest fires to maintain the health of forests.

Jon: how much do political conservatives care about the suffering
of others?

Jim; the real dichotomy is the implications of government
assistance. What's clear to me is as government scope expands the
human sense helplessness/neediness becomes a self-fuliflling
prophecy. We conservatives want to help. We don't want to help our
government take care of us.

Jon: how might conservatives be selective in their compassion?

Jim: I have an anecdote! I was once in jail in Texas for jumping a
freight train to Mexico. I defied a cop who intended to arrest us.
He cuffed us, manhandled me. I spun free, got on top of him, ready
to hit hi,m then stopped myself. Then he kicked the crap out of
me. They had me in jail for aggravated assault. My mother knew a
judge and got me out if I pled guilty. My son got into trouble
too. He did a dumb thing but I said to myself "this'll be a good
lesson for him. But do I trust the system?" We conservatives have
a conflict; there are 7 billion people, at some point we have to
ask how much is too much? Freedom is at risk as that number grows.
Productivity can solve it. But are we willing to make the
sacrifices necessary for that level of productivity?

Jon: as the result of 2008's economics my wife's department was
reduced from 3 to one person. She is now doing the work of 3 people.

Jim: both her employer and she have figured out how to be more
productive.

Jon: but she's made miserable by the added stress of doing 3
people's jobs. She has stress related illnesses.

Jim: if someone said the role of  government is to help someone
find a job I would have no beef. But I see too much focus on
housing and health care.







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