Many books have been written about stress and also many eminent people have given guidance on the subject. However, in my belief they have all been addressing the symptoms and not the fundamental disease. In my experience the guidance offered to individuals is so general that most have difficulty relating it to their own situation. This gives the impression that organisations and government are doing something but at the same time, in reality, the individual is getting no direct support and guidance at all.
Sadly this leads to an interpretation that stress is exponentially a growth problem. It also gives well-meaning individuals a reason to start a new initiative. The whole cycle is repeated and again the individual is left unaided.
Imagine you are back some 80 years ago and looking to make something. This could be baking, or repairing a door. You know relatively little about what is required or what you need to complete the task. But no matter, you feel really confident that you will get help from someone who knows. Along you go to the local grocer or the hardware shop for your help and purchases. The chances are not only would you get the necessary ingredients or tools to do the job, but you would also get some instruction on what to do, and also pass the time of day with the shopkeeper. By today's' standards the advice may not have been 'perfect' but it would have suited the locality and you would have no doubt modified the advice to suit what you needed - also benefiting from a little specific knowledge on your immediate task. And more important with the repair job, it would have been something you could have done yourself.
Now imagine that today you are going into your Supermarket or Multiple DIY Store with a similar task in mind. As you approach an assistant and explain the task ahead you would probably be met with a number of varying responses such as:
"I don't know just purchase what you need and I'll put it through the till" or "there are some leaflets over there"
or even "Huh!!"
The end result will be the same; that it is up to you to read and research the topic, perhaps across a wide range of things that do not really interest you, or that you don't really have time for. Eventually after much reading, asking people (who have unwittingly taken a risk with present day litigation!) you manage to get the things that you need or you have to employ somebody to do the job for you!
The point of this isolated illustration is that today there is a greater demand for our time than ever before due to some fairly straightforward tasks taking longer to do, or becoming impossible to do. Most of this will be due to some rule, regulation or the potential advisors fear (justified in today's judicial culture) of litigation. During this time we also indulge in the politics of our workplace and home life to maintain our position on this treadmill, to maintain our financial position. No wonder we sometimes feel like a hamster on a wheel.
Ever since I can remember I have had an interest in human behaviour and interaction. The last decade or so working within the Civil Service, as a Staff Development Manager, enabled me to experience more clearly these aspects at policy and practical levels before succumbing to high levels of adverse stress and 'retiring' early. Notice that here I make a very clear important distinction between adverse and what would be considered normal levels of stress that enable an individual to work at peak effectiveness. During my career within part of the Civil Service I was able to understand the reality of an individuals, or groups, actions and aims as opposed to what they would publicly reveal. Sometimes these would be totally opposite. It was also quite clear that when an individual was pursuing their own career path their stated aims would sometimes not match their actions. To complicate the matter these would very often not be in their employers interest either. So this colourful diversity in human behaviour was quite apparent to me.
Over many thousands of years philosophers have studied human behaviour and analysed the positive and negative aspects. They have also studied the interaction of the human species within nature and concluded the results. Hence philosophy has evolved, some religiously, to guide many of us into how we perhaps should behave to ensure that our effect on nature and each other is not, in any way, adverse. I believe that in attempting to turn a 'blind eye' to these natural behavioural patterns, and our own genealogical make up, we can explain why in our society the tension and individual stress levels are increasing. A simple example is that of the role of women and men in society and how in various aspects of Human Resource management and occupations men and women are considered to be the same. This is not so, and a fundamental aspect of how we think differently is very often chosen to be ignored rather than taken into account. More controversially are the genetic differences between certain races and tribal groups and how these differences affect performance. Increasingly the enclosed 'cabin environment' of our over populated little planet is affecting our behaviour as we travel up our own population curve towards whatever!
I believe that the reason there is so little effort in trying to address the real problem is due to the potential unpopularity of any necessary steps. We have lived in a comfortable society, 'the good life', for so long that to face anything that seems difficult and unsavoury is not politically correct and therefore it is always easier to say yes and add something than to say no and appear to be the 'negative' one. In that respect more individuals would be happy to 'go with the flow' than be seen to be obstructive. This tendency to take the initial easy way out has led to an amazing increase in the complexity of rules and regulation that govern our lives and along with it an increase in the adverse stress levels. The HSE (Health and Safety Executive) talks about 'the problem' but adverse stress on individuals today comes in a package of many complex problems and pressures culminating in acute anxiety.
If only we could peel-back some of these rules etc, enabling us to make our own decisions, and more importantly, our own mistakes, our lives could be made more straightforward, less stressful and by making mistakes we would learn something.
The 'what if', 'do-gooder' people will always say, very strongly, that we must take care of those who do make mistakes. The net result of allowing these characters the power that they now have, adding to our regulations, is that the vast majority of us are so restricted in what we are now allowed to do professionally, and as individuals, that our societies are becoming increasingly paralysed - except those who will always ignore those regulations.
To release us from regulations and their related bodies will mean that those who make mistakes will sometimes suffer and occasionally mortally so, but this will always be the case. However, at least the dangers we daily face will be easier to identify and cope with. To expect the individual to resist these adverse pressures to reduce their individual stress level is too presumptuous, and our societies need to peel-back regulation severely across a range of activities to enable us to survive. This means creating structural changes within our societies to ensure our survival and voluntary evolutionary changes in a necessary direction will not be achieved without their own inherent stress, unless governments create the frameworks in which this can be facilitated. However, in our materialistic democracies most ministers are chasing votes by pandering to the 'what's in it for me' vote that they are at present extremely unlikely to take the necessary actions that are needed for our own survival. Failure to do anything will result in our own extinction as Nature decides that we have become too selfish and remote from the very order of which we are inextricably attached. Also we will find that whether or not we begin to take more control over our own lives, the natural pressures due to population growth mean that other countries will be seeking to expand into our own in order to alleviate their own internal pressures. Here I try to explore, and offer some insight, on how we can attempt to survive our future.
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Material Copyright © 2009 Alan Harmer.
Last Updated November 2009