October 5, 2015
We frequently feel stressed, overwhelmed, and scattered, with too much to do, and an ever-increasing pressure to get things done. When asked why people are stressed, common answers are:
“My job is crazy busy right now.”
“My kids have so much going on, I can’t keep up.”
“Finances are really tight.”
All of these reasons live outside the person answering the question. All those answers are saying that the root of the person’s problems lays outside of themselves, and if they went away, then so would their stress.
But what if that weren’t the case? What if our sense of stress and overwhelm were not determined by the length of our to-do list?
When we look outside of ourselves to determine either the cause of, or solution to, our problems, this is our Ego at work. Our Ego is essentially the sum total of our protection and coping mechanisms.
The unending mind chatter is the voice of the Ego. Regardless of the actual words of the chatter, the intent is ultimately the same – protect the system at all costs. The Ego wants to maintain status quo. It does not want to look at any underlying pain or vulnerability. It just wants to protect and preserve.
Stress is the result of the Ego working to keep you safe, and seeing threats all over the place. It works overtime to prevent feeling hurt, embarrassed, unseen, uncared for, lonely, angry, fearful, or any of the myriad pains it has already experienced.
This means we can take control of our own stress levels! Instead of bowing to the endless torrent of mind chatter, we can stop and ask ourselves, “Where is the threat right now? What am I trying to protect?” The answer may not be immediately available – the Ego does not necessarily want to be looked at objectively – but the answer is there. If you approach your own defense system with a sense of openness and curiosity, you will open the door to bypassing the defenses altogether. Some examples of underlying vulnerabilities are:
“I don’t want people to think I’m a terrible parent.”
“I need to feel connected to those around me.”
“It’s better if I do it his way instead of mine – his happiness is more important.”
This means that your stress level has nothing to do with the actual items on your to-do list, but rather how you approach these items.
Our minds are the voice of the Ego. The constant mental chatter is simply the Ego trying to protect us.
So the way out of the onslaught of thought is not to fight it, or to argue back. Instead, if we take the time to pause and examine what we are currently fearing, we can take mindful, present steps to address what is actually important, and let the overactive defense system take its much-needed rest.
If you’d like to explore what this means for yourself, please email Dave.