Our response to stressors is essentially individualistic. However society does tend to influence and condition our responses.
For example, if someone speaks to you aggressively then the common response is to return aggression with aggression. If a motorist cuts you off the common response is to yell abuse accompanied by rude finger signs. These are common responses but not the only ones available to you.
If a motorist cuts you off then you can (a) ignore them and do nothing; (b) feel pity for them, or; (c) use your vehicle as a battering ram. You have quite a few options to apply to that situation. The choice is yours to make.
It is usually not the external event that causes stress but the way we choose to react to that event. This truth has been known for centuries and has been expressed by many philosophers and writers. The Stoic Philosopher Epictetus who was born in AD50 wrote:
“Men are disturbed not by things but by the view which they take of them”.
If we can control our attitude towards stressors then we have a realistic basis for controlling our reactions.
I like to use the word PERMISSION to describe my responses to psychological stress. I use the word in various contexts such as:
Will I give this rude person permission to disrupt my peace of mind?
Will I give this aggressive impatient driver permission to spoil the pleasure of this journey?
Will I give this stubborn mower permission to send me into a rage?
Will I give this stressful experience permission to keep me awake long into the night?
Sometimes it is appropriate to be angry and to kick things and to feel peeved. Always remember though that you are not forced to feel that way if you choose not to. A dirty spark plug on a mower cannot physically generate anger in you unless you give it permission. The choice is yours!
Too often we are careless with the permissions we give to others. Don’t give people permission to walk their dirty feet through your head.
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