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COPING WITH STRESS: Raising Awareness and Expressing Emotions

Posted Nov 18 2008 12:17am

3.1: The four best ways of coping with stress are: raising awareness; expressing emotions; canceling-out emotions and solving life-problems.

[Coping with stress simply means getting rid of painful emotions from the mind, or “shrinking the balloon.” This causes brain chemicals to go back to their normal state; stress symptoms to disappear and calm and tranquility to return to the mind. Grieving over the death of a loved one is a classic example of getting rid of painful emotions from the mind and achieving healing. Therefore, mindless activities such as jogging, exercising, weightlifting, hot tub baths, etc. are useless in coping with stress as they do not deal with painful emotions and/or the events and problems that bring them on.]

3.2: Awareness evaporates painful emotions.

[Becoming aware of painful emotions in the mind is fundamental to coping with stress. All stressed-out are “unaware” people. They suffer from various stress symptoms but they are not aware of being upset about anything. Putting painful emotions out of awareness is how they had coped. A young woman who has severe anxiety attacks since she got married three months ago says, “I am happily married! My anxiety attacks have nothing to do with my husband.” On further inquiry, she reveals that her husband of three month has not had any physical relationship with her and he rarely comes home at night! She neither acknowledges her painful emotions (hurt, anger, fear, etc.), nor her serious marital problems. By avoiding awareness one is saying, “I don’t want to know. It hurts too much!” It is self-deception, pure and simple.]

3.3: Specific painful emotions related to specific issues must be acknowledged.

[To benefit from raising awareness, one must be as specific as possible about his emotions and the cause of them. “I am angry about this;” “I am sad about that.” A thirty five year old married woman says she has been very anxious and depressed for two weeks. When asked directly if anything happened two weeks ago she said, “Absolutely not! That is the problem. I don’t know why I feel this way!” She said she had a wonderful two week vacation on the southern coast of America. She has been miserable ever since she returned home from vacation two weeks ago.
The therapist reasoned that something must have happened on the way home from vacation. He asked her, “Did you stopover somewhere on your way back?” She said, “I visited my father in Oxford, Mississippi.” The therapist asked her, “How is he doing?” At this she broke down and sobbed uncontrollably. She revealed that her father told her he had terminal cancer and he had only three months to live. As you can see, she had completely put this information out of awareness till the therapist doggedly probed her mind. Once she became aware of her emotional pain related to her father, she grieved over the impending loss (shrank her balloon) and got well.
Likewise, a person trapped in a bad life-problem must acknowledge it exists. A woman married to an abusive alcoholic sees numerous doctors for a variety of stress symptoms. Every time her doctor asks her if she is bothered by anything she replies that she has a “picture perfect life!” When the doctor comes to know that she is married to an abusive alcoholic, she defends him saying he is really a very nice guy when he is not drinking (which is rare), and that she loves him. She denies she has any problem with her living situation. She denies his beatings bother her. This woman has no hope of getting better till she acknowledges she has serious life-problem.]

3.4: Awareness facilitates expression of painful emotion and solving life-problems.

[The moment one becomes aware of his inner pain, he begins to express it by talking, crying, sobbing, sighing, etc. The moment one acknowledges his current life-problem, he begins to think about solving it.]

3.5: The ability to express emotions evolved over thousands of years as an essential communication tool for survival in the society.

[As humans evolved into social beings they developed ability to communicate with their fellow beings. Expressing emotions became the most important part of that ability. Facial muscles developed to facilitate expression of emotions. The blood supply to face and brain increased tremendously. That is why our face becomes red whenever we are afraid, bashful, embarrassed, jealous, hurt or angry. Nature gave us a way to reduce the localized increase in blood pressure: shedding tears. Tears consist of salt water. Profuse outpouring of salt water reduces the localized pressure in the face and brain. People who resist crying when hurt pay dearly later by serious headache attacks or pain somewhere else in the body.
If we go against nature and refuse to express emotions, they get buried in the hidden mind/soda bottle. This ultimately leads to serious stress-related disorders.]

3.6: Expressing painful emotions regarding specific issues by means of talking, sighing, crying, sobbing, gesticulating, recording and writing causes stress symptoms to disappear.

[Almost all stressed-out people have great deal of difficulty expressing their emotions. We can safely say they are emotionally constipated. They seem to have the erroneous belief that expressing one’s emotion is a sign of weakness or sign of self-pity.
Saying “I am upset; I am sad; I am angry; I feel helpless; I feel hurt; I feel guilty,” etc. with reference to specific issues are some simple ways by which one could express his painful emotions.]

3.7: Inability to speak-out painful emotions often leads to acting-out resulting in serious consequences.

[Children often act out their emotions as they are unable to express them verbally. Acting-out by adults is a sign of emotional immaturity. Acting out could result in destruction of property, violence, extramarital affairs, abandonment of family and other detrimental behavior. Acting-out stops once the person starts speaking out.]

3.8: Some redirect their painful emotions in the service of causes and crusades; others cash in their misery by writing memoirs or filing lawsuits.

[Some people sublimate their emotional energy into various crusades and causes. Princes Diana channeled her anger at her husband and the Queen of England by getting involved in causes related to the downtrodden. T. E. Lawrence of Lawrence of Arabia fame redirected his shame of illegitimate birth by leading Arabs against Turks. History is full of such stories.
Again, look around you and you will find many causes which began with someone’s heartbreak. Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) is but one example. Then there are thousands of inspiring books written about someone’s misery or misfortune, and how they overcame their misfortune. On any given day hundreds of lawsuits are being filed in the U. S. courts over some injustice or another suffered by self-appointed “victims.”]

3.9: Some painful emotions block expression of others.

[Some emotions often block expression of other emotions. One must dislodge the blocking emotions first to be able to express other emotions. Shame could block expression of horror of sexual abuse. Fear of reprisal could block off expression of shame of incest. Anger toward the dead person could block expression of sadness. Guilt over letting one down could hinder expression of anger. Unfinished grief is due to anger blocking expression of sadness.
The importance of understanding this phenomenon lies in the fact that unless the blocking emotions are first identified and flushed out, the balloon can not be shrunk.]

3.10: Expression of painful emotions is facilitated by empathic listener.

[Any listener, be it a friend, pastor, counselor, doctor or relative, who relates to the stressed-out person in an empathic manner, could break down the barrier of denial. Empathic statements such as, “You seem to be in lot of pain;” “You are hurting really bad, aren’t you?” “You seem like you are going through some rough times,” motivate people to open up and talk. Unfortunately, these days empathy is a lost art in psychiatry as well as medical profession. Greed for money has extinguished empathy and compassion in most medical professionals.]


This is the next chapter from Dr Kamath's excellent book, Kamath Sutra !

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