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Beyond µStress Management¶
This presentation challenges the idea that µstress¶ and consequences for the health of individuals and organisations is a thing that can be managed or a µproblem¶ that can be µsolved¶ without taking any basic ethical decision. It argues instead that stress is not a thing but a relation - a relation to time in which people sacrifice time and dignity to haste and overwork in the face of economic, commercial and corporate pressures. One reason for this is a failure to distinguish between the quantity of time we have for something or someone, and the inner quality of the time we make for them. Time being money, this lead to the false belief that dignity in human relations is µunaffordable¶.
80% of employees suffer from work-related stress 60% of all absenteeism is stress-related 270,000 are off work for stress-related illness each day British business pays over £12 million each year for
stress, including the costs of accidents, sick pay, missed deadlines poor performance and lowered productivity, Stress is known to be a major cause of ill-health: from mental-emotional disorders such as anxiety and depression through to psychosomatic disorders and even major illness.
they don¶t. The myth consists in believing that just because we have a word for something (in this case ³stress´) it actually exists as some thing Stress. In fact. for whilst there are countless studies of stress and countless methods of µstress management¶ there is no agreed definition of what µstress¶ is.The Myth The facts seem to speak for themselves. anxiety. . depression and sickness are all treated (and medically treated) as separate things which can be studied in themselves and whose relationship can then be causally explained.
.in this case µstress¶ can only reach as far as our understanding of what it is we are seeking to explain. Our explanation of something .It is believed to be both a cause of certain things (sickness and absenteeism for example) and a consequence of other things ± conveniently labelled µstressors¶ or µstress factors¶. Applying this type of causal model of explanation to the understanding and management of stress fails to answer the fundamental question of what stress actually is in the first place.The Unasked Question Stress is regarded as a thing in itself with its own causes and effects.
Research into what? ³After 35 years no one has formulated a definition of stress that satisfies even a majority of stress researchers´ (Elliott and Eisdorfer. Stress and Human Health) .
. worry) despite lack of external threat. Continued activation of the sympathetic nervous system through internal triggers (eg. external or internal. resulting in the release of glucose and adrenalin into the bloodstream. Excess stimulation or pressure. An instinctual fight/flight response to threat through activation sympathetic nervous system. Failure of the parasympathetic nervous system to take over and produce states of relaxation rather than arousal. Modern definitions of stress include: ± ± ± ± ± Anything that stimulates or arouses us. increased heart rate and muscle tension and.Definitions of Stress The original meaning of µstress¶ was simply hardship of any kind.
µstress¶ and µstrain¶ are essentially verbal metaphors taken from mechanics.Words and Things We cannot give a deeper to answer the question µwhat is stress?¶ without recognising that it is first and foremost a word and not a any thing at all. The myth behind supposedly µscientific¶ approaches to stress lies in taking verbal metaphors literally ± treating them empirical facts. . Merely talking of µstress¶ involves taking a model drawn from mechanical relation between things and applying it to relations between human beings. Words such as µpressure¶.
The psychosocial model of stress treats it as an effect of current business practices such as performance. or bullying and harrassment. long hours or overwork. job insecurity or redundancy. The biopsychosocial model of stress treats it as an effect of the individual social and working environment on their mental state and bodily functions.Models of Stress The biomedical model of stress reduces it to a function of the sympathetic nervous system and the over-production of certain µstress hormones¶. excess pressure on employees. .related pay.
We can never adequately explain µstress¶ as a µthing¶ that causes or is caused by others things µin¶ time if what stress itself is. . µanxiety¶. µpressure¶. is essentially a specific human relation to time. We know however that pressure and stress are themselves intimately related to time ± or rather to a real or experienced lack of time. is the question of what sort of relation to time it is that these words point to. The question of what µstress¶.µCauses¶ of Stress All models of stress attempt to show how it causes or is caused by other things in time. µdepression¶ etc. actually are.
accomplishment. growth and expansion µin¶ time. development. understood as progress.What is Time? Working life is characterised by a specific relation to time which infects even our personal lives. advancement. . In this relation time is also seen as a µthing¶: ± something to be used ± something that can be bought and sold ± something than can be measured and divided ± something than can be µmanaged¶ and µcontrolled¶ ± something that allows movement in only one direction only.
Physical time is time as we measure it quantitatively: divisible into seconds. Psychological time is time as we experience it subjectively. months and years. days and weeks. . Psychological time is time that has subjective qualitative dimensions of depth and richness as well as objective quantitative dimensions of duration and divisiblity. minutes and hours.Physical and Psychological Time Our entire relation to time is governed by our relation to objective physical time and ignores subjective or psychological time.
and µmetabolise¶ our experience in physical time. . Physiological time is the bridge between psychological and physical time. If we deprive ourselves of psychological time our body¶s own physiological time rhythms and metabolism are affected ± leading to a felt bodily experience of µstress¶. expressed in the bodily time rhythms or cycles of respiration.Physiological Time We need physical time to act in the world. metabolism. We need psychological time to come back to ourselves ± to absorb. brain activity and general µenergy¶. digest.
Stress is the sacrifice or subordination of subjective time quality and depth (psychological time) to measurable time quantities and periods (physical time). physiological and psychological time allows us to understand stress as a specific relation to time.Time and Stress The distinction between physical. The more people¶s activity and experience in physical time lacks psychological time depth and quality the more µstressed¶ they feel. leading to the disruption of physiological time rhythms. .
Psychological time is the inner time-space within the sphere. Our experience of physical space-time can be compared to movement from from one point to another the surface of this sphere.Space-time and Time-space Time has been thought of as a straight line or as a circle but the shape of the moment itself needs to be understood as sphere of time within its own insideness. like physical movements on the surface of the planet.the self. into its inner depths and towards or away from its centre . Movement in psychological time-space takes us beneath the surface of time. .
Events radiate outwards from the self in psychological time or time-space to manifest as physical events in space-time. The self is our main locus or centre of awareness in psychological time or µtime-space¶. Events that we experience in physical time can never merely causes or effects of one another but manifestations of psychological events occurring within the time-space of the moment. . We create our reality in time from within time.Ego and Self The ego is our main locus or centre of awareness in physical time or µspace-time¶.
The only movements that seem available to us are towards or away from the stressful event (fight or flight. avoidance or confrontation). We forget the third alternative ± the movement into ourselves that comes about by taking time to feel our inner response to events and find an inner bearing towards them.Responding to Stress We experience situations as µstressful¶ because we feel impelled to react to them instantly. our self-awareness in the moment loses psychological depth and richness. from our own surface awareness. In doing so. .
It means learning to stay within ourselves and within the depths of the moment as we go about the surface of our world in space-time: to preserve a sense of the psychological inwardness of time even as we respond to outer events in time.µAvoiding¶ Stress Avoiding stress does not necessarily mean avoiding or trying to alter situations that are stressful. . In this way we prevent ourselves from sacrificing the inner depth and quality of psychological time to the µpressure¶ of outer events in physical time.
It is not measured or valued qualitatively ± according to the subjective depth and quality of the time people give to their work. . This affects the individual¶s general relation to time. but no amount of physical time will suffice for full physiological recuperation without sufficient depth and quality of psychological time.Stress and Working Time Working time is measured and valued only quantitatively ± by the number of hours people put in to their jobs. We all need time to µrecharge our batteries¶ physiologically. which becomes dominated by physical. clock time.
.Sleeping Time Sleeping and dreaming are not just part of a physiological rhythm occurring in physical time. When we wake up it is as if only a moment had passed since we went to sleep. This is not because we are µunconscious¶ during sleep but because. When we are asleep we are not aware of physical time passing. going to sleep is a process of leaving physical time and enter fully into psychological time. We experience an inward expansion of the psychological time-space within the moment.
That is why we need periods of rest as well as sleep ± to restore depth and quality to our being in time. the less psychological depth we experience in the moment. The more µawake¶. The process of waking up begins in our dreams. outwardly oriented and alert we have to be in waking life.Waking Time Waking up is a process of leaving psychological time and entering physical time. where we convert events in psychological time into dream experiences that appear to succeed one another in the way they do in physical time. .
. It is essentially an inward expansion of the timespace within the moment. The psychological events that occur in this time space are projected outwards in the form of dream events we experience in a pseudo-physical space. Creativity in waking life is also a type of dreaming ± an inward expansion of psychological time which releases our intuition and imagination. actual and possible events. a time-space that embraces both past and future.Dreaming Time A dream can be experienced as going on for hours or days in psychological time even though it seems to last only minutes in physical or physiological time.
Being in Time Being in time is not the same thing as doing in time ± going from one thing to another ± one situation or state to another. one task or one thought to another. Physical time is the objective time it takes us to do something. Really being in time means being or dwelling in psychological time ± enjoying the withinness of the moment ± not losing ourselves in what we do. . Psychological time is the real time in which we µdwell¶ as human beings. measured by a machine . The root meaning of the verb µto be¶ is µto dwell¶.the clock.
Most people¶s idea of meditation is of people squatting cross-legged for hours at a time. .Time and Meditation Meditation is often proposed as a remedy for stress. Meditation means entering psychological time more deeply and experiencing an inward expansion of the qualitative subjective inwardness of the moment. But the essence of meditation has nothing to do with Yoga positions or the chanting of mantras. doing nothing. Entering psychological time means no longer experiencing the moment as a finite point on a physical time-line going from past to future but as a sphere within its own infinite interior time-space ± embracing both past and future events.
to be in time whilst doing in time. the greater the depth and quality of the work they do in physical time. Overcoming stress means learning to remain in psychological time whilst acting in physical time.Being and Doing People find it difficult and µstressful¶ to have to constantly meet deadlines and do things in time because they find it difficult to be in time. The greater the psychological depth and quality of a person¶s subjective experience of time. So-called µstress signals¶ such as headaches or anxiety are a physiological expressions of lack of experienced psychological time depth and quality .
No amount of methods for stress and time management will help the individual in stress unless they help them to differentiate between physical. physiological and psychological time and affirm the importance of the latter.Stress and Time µManagement¶ No amount of research into the causes and effects of stress in time can help us understand the nature of stress as a relation to time. Neither µstress¶ nor µtime¶ are essentially µthings¶ to be µmanaged¶. Stress is not a thing but a specific human relation to time ± a relation in which Doing in Time becomes subordinate to Being in Time. .
Stress as Time Differential Jetlag is an example of the relation between stress and time differentials between countries. physiological and psychologicial time ± we run our bodies down physiologically because in our physical actions we run ahead of ourselves in psychological time. More important is the differential between physical. Stress is a time a discrepancy between physical. physiological and psychological time. .
before coming to decisions. Poor decision are also made when we are physiologically µstressed¶ .in physical time.running ahead of ourselves. . This means letting our minds rest and allowing our psyche its own time to digest and process ± not just information and ideas. but desires and feelings too. The phrase µsleep on it¶ expresses a more fundamental truth ± namely that good decisions are not µmade¶ in physical time but µincubated¶ in psychological time. digest and process information.Time and Decision-taking It takes time to absorb. But what sort of time? Poor decisions can be µmade¶ quickly and impulsively or slowly and with much head-scratching .
Stress and Human Relations Stress is not a thing but relation to time. and to decisions on matters that affect people.. we can spend minutes with ourselves and others ± minutes which grants them a depth and inward spaciousness that transcends physical time. . Conversely. Whether we truly grant time to ourselves and others is not a question of how much or how little physical time we give to them. and as such it has a basic bearing on human relations . without genuinely granting them psychological time.the type of time we grant to people. We can spend hours with a person or on a matter.
But dignity has no great value in a culture devoted to progress.Time and Dignity Another way of understanding what stress is. ³There is no dignity in the frenetic activity of people in a large city who have no time to spend. In robbing us of time. The opposite of feeling stressed is not µcalm¶ or µcool¶ but dignity. is to ask what is its opposite. power and productivity. today¶s culture also robs us of dignity. Alexander Lowen . There is no dignity in the restless pursuit of pleasure that characterizes the new hedonism.
A dignified bearing commands respect for our worth because it embodies a sense of our own self-worth and the weight and depth of the matters we deal with. issues and decisions their true weight and depth by granting them depth and quality of psychological time.A Dignified Relation to Time Stress is one relation to time. granting people. Dignity is another. Dignity is a comportment or bearing ± a way of carrying or bearing oneself. A dignified bearing is a bearing characterised by taking our time in all that we do. The word µdignity¶ comes the Latin dignitas. meaning µworthiness¶. .
It is an ethical question demanding an ethical decision. commercial and competitive pressures or to assert our dignity in the face of them. corporate. . The decision is simple ± to surrender our human dignity to economic.´ Alexander Lowen Stress is not just a problem demanding a solution.The Ethics of Stress ³Since time is money in modern culture. It is a technological delusion to believe that we can find ways to µmanage¶ stress in the modern world through knowledge alone .without having to take this basic ethical decision. few of us can afford dignity.
Basic Beliefs If there is a real µcause¶ of stress it does not lie in stressful events per se. nor in automatic physiological responses but in a set of basic beliefs that trigger or exacerbate these responses: Such beliefs include the following: Faster is better Dignity is unaffordable Self-sacrifice is noble Time is a finite commodity .
Psychological time can expand without limits. .Basic Truths In contrast to these beliefs we need to take on board some basic truths: ± Slower is faster ± Loss of dignity and self-worth is always too high a price to pay ± Those who sacrifice self µfor¶ others end up with no self left to give to others from. ± Only physical time is finite.
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