Sohan came in hastily as he always is and asked me to explain to him what ‘stress’ is. He sort of pushed me to tell him something about stress as he is very stressed out with some serious family matters. He had attended several lectures of mine on several topics. Despite knowing several aspects of stress as is known by most, what he really wanted was some counseling in his tight situation. He would never acknowledge that (the desire for counseling?) as he considered himself as a pundit in these matters. He is academically oriented and has been attending many courses in Counseling, Life Skills, Stress and Anger management. He was definite he wanted nothing by nature of counseling, but some straight facts about stress. I started out in a classical academic manner stating rather dryly; “Stress is variously understood as anxiety, hassle, oppression, pressure, burden, anger, apprehension, fear, disquiet, tension, weight, worry, restlessness, sadness, alarm, dread, tautness, trauma, affection, trial and so on” “That’s no big deal! Any decent Thesaurus will give all these, sir” I gulped my discomfiture and said; “That is true. These and many more experiences describe the physical and mental state of a person in stress. Some of the conditions would be very hard to be identified as anything specific. A sense of urgency and trepidation causing senseless reactions are also common in stressed state” “I agree sir” Sohan contributed “But a certain level of stress is necessary to face life effectively and its everunfolding events. It is a well accepted fact that physical measures to face up to stress are essential to make the organism to handle the situation either by tangling with it or evading it. It is also a fact that these physical stress preparations are involuntary such as increased secretion of stress hormones, increased blood supply to the major sets of muscles, decreased blood supply to the internal organs and skin, increased heart rate and breathing, dilation of the pupil and many other changes. As most physical changes are of an involuntary and of speedy nature, the organism does not take much time to react”. “Precisely, the problem with human beings is that they have the facility to prolong the stress experience by their cognitive facility. Their senses after causing the initial stress reaction physically gets the cognition roped in for planned handling of the situation. It is considered necessary for survival through deft moves”. “Stress is conceived by the senses and then it causes the emotions to mobilize hormones and that involves the body to take the needed action. In other words the reaction to stress generating stimuli, at its basic level is an action of the emotions- body combine. But then pretty soon the thinking and the intelligence part of the organisms join in. Even as this happens, ordinarily the physical reaction continues. If the physical reaction continues without the thinking process bringing in some thoughtful actions then we can conclude the reaction is un-thoughtful or irrational making normal stress into distress, further compounded by increased anger/ brooding/ sense of failure/rejection or hostility/violence/ regret/ remorse/self-pity and so on bringing on a pathological dimension to stress. In most cases intelligence will be called upon for guidance to arrive at the right decision regarding further action. How mature the decision will depend on the knowledge, belief system and experience of the organism. Making ordinary stress into a distressed sickening situation is not involuntary. The organism makes willful choices leading to it”. I generally do not talk at this sort of length to counselees. I would rather let them come out with their distress. But this was a different situation. Sohan came specifically seeking for information”. Sir, I understand; then decisions that generate and perpetuate stress are occasioned by the fineness and merits of the ‘knowledge-faith-experience’ trio of the individual. How the organism was able to interpret its earlier experiences in the light of its knowledge and faith has a formidable bearing on its present acts. Therefore in a way whether one should be stressed or not is by and large a choice, a statement not everyone will be comfortable with. Am I with you there?” “Let us take a slight digression here; whether one should do a thing or not do is an eternal quagmire. There would be strong objection to the statement that addiction and unhealthy distress are choices. As addiction is a choice, so is pathological stress or distress”. “Psychiatrists, psychologists and drunks would vehemently maintain that addiction is a disease. Yes, the addicted person is sick as addiction is maintained, but it was a choice or series of choices that brought the addict to the present status. And take it or leave it, only another willful choice can bring the person out of addiction. If he goes on with the fixation that, ‘I am sick and have no control over my sickness’, that only helps the person to continue in the habit. The same is true about pathological stress to a great extent”. “Do you imply then that though I am upset because of external condition and provocation, I can’t get over it because I do not want to?”

“Sohan, there is a simple easy step that can lead to peace of mind in a fraction of a second. That too is a decision, a decision based solidly in your value system; what you believe in, your creed by which you live and the determination to be honest to your values. It is said in so many words, but it is resident within you. You only need to refer to it before responding; as you respond, in love, not reacting in anger. You must know the essential difference between responding in love and reacting in anger. Absorb these words; love and gentleness; then place it facing anger and violence. Are they not easier as better choices?” I said this much because I dealt earlier with Sohan when he had an issue with his elder brother. Despite his knowledge and seeming understanding he has engaged a solicitor and wanted me to give him appropriate points to comfort his brother, who also had once come to me for some professional help.

Can a counselor give advice to escalate a situation?

What exactly is Sohan’s need of the moment?

There are no specifics in Sohan’s rendering.

He wants classical remedies.

What would you do?


© Alex Mathew



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