Post # 384    CUSTOMIZING STRESS (Redux)

Stress may permissibly be described, as a disturbing feeling of emotional and/or physical tension, which suddenly is elicited from any event, or thought, that leads to feelings of frustration, anger or fear. It is a reflexive bodily (chemical and muscular) reaction to a perceived challenge. It is to be noted, that, in this essay, we refer to episodic, and commonplace stress, as opposed to long-term or chronic stress; the latter is best left to those who have been professionally trained in that discipline. In any category, however, constantly recurring, or persistent stress, can lead to physiological problems, and unquestioningly, has a deleterious effect on the enjoyment and appreciation of life.

An apology may be appropriate, for this revisit to the subject, (“Redux”). However, the eternal aptness and importance of the subject of stress reaction, is repeatedly signaled to us by our everyday perception, and it appeared useful to write once more on that compelling subject. Lest our observations and recommendations appear to be presumptuous, we would quite willingly and comfortably confess, that they are based solely upon our personal understanding as derived from long-term empirical observation.

While the occasions of stress reaction are apparently varied and innumerable, we would unhesitatingly prescribe, the salubrious, ubiquitous and magic elixir (panacea) of “Proportionality,” as the universal analgesic.

We have (justly) been accused of traditionally delighting in the use of analogy, similes and comparisons, for the purpose of the elucidation of our points of view; to this serious charge, we plead, “Guilty.” If the reader will kindly permit a repeat transgression, we would refer to the satirical Opera, by Gilbert and Sullivan, entitled, “The Mikado.” A memorable parody, sung by the great Mikado himself, includes the following refrain:

My object all sublime, I shall achieve in time

To let the punishment fit the crime,

The punishment fit the crime.

In addition to our profuse apologies to Messrs. Gilbert and Sullivan, and a servile thank you, to the august Mikado, himself, we would at this point, choose to pour out an instructive portion of the above referenced, ubiquitous, magic elixir, the very panacea, itself, “Proportionality.”

Considering the many variations to personality, with reference to the characteristic of “sensitivity,” the usefulness of our recommendation may vary somewhat, but our magic elixir is, without fail, universally ameliorative, for those for whom it is applicable.

Just as the fictional Mikado, declared in Royal song, “Let the punishment fit the crime,” one ought to train himself, emotionally (by means of his firm resolve), that sudden and emotional responses should, appropriately, suit the nature of the disturbing stimuli; whether the stimulus be an event, occurrence or merely, a thought. There is a large universe of potential disturbing stimuli, and a limited, but definitely controllable, continuum respecting the phenomenon of immediate emotional reaction.

There are existing personalities who will, immediately and automatically, react with identically extreme panic, to whatever variety of stimulus is presented, within the wide experiential spectrum, ranging from the barely significant, to the truly tragic. These emotionally undisciplined individuals, manifest extreme and unhealthy reactions to any and all such unsatisfactory stimuli, ranging from a broken fingernail, to the grim advice of a terminal medical diagnosis of a loved one. This, of course, is unnecessary, unhealthy and can be, at times, even ludicrous. The natural capacity for negative emotional reaction, or stress, is a painful franchise, and the well-adjusted person should train himself to apply only that degree of stress as is appropriate, to the objective materiality of the event (stimulus); this is the ultimate message of our small essay.

It is, necessary, preliminarily, for the individual to be truly cognizant of the true source of his stress reaction.  Conceivably, an individual, already under the emotional weight of stress from an unrelated, past stimulus, might react in an extremely inappropriate, fashion, [by over-reacting] to a presenting unimportant stimulus, by reason of the combination of stressors. An individual, already straining under 90 pounds of stone, will, predictably, overreact to the addition of one more pound, to his already heavy load.

In sum, we recommend that in an individual’s “reaction,” to any perceived, alarming “stimulus,” amounts to, initially, considering its source, its practical (objective) significance, and then, to customize, or tailor, a measured and specifically appropriate response. The customizing requires but a brief moment of reflection.


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Retired from the practice of law'; former Editor in Chief of Law Review; Phi Beta Kappa; Poet. Essayist Literature Student and enthusiast.

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