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"Pay Attention To The Tension"

Date: 04/01/04

Thoughts For A Thursday
by Nancy Gerber
April 1, 2004

It's our nature as human beings to seek out pleasure and avoid pain. Imbedded in our culture are reinforcements of these instinctive reactions and constant reminders that discomfort is a terrible thing to be eliminated at all costs. We have an incredible variety of easily available items specifically designed, adapted or framed as anecdotes for stress. (According to a recent news report, 11 million CHILDREN in the Untied States are taking anti-anxiety drugs such as Prozac!) We've been conditioned to believe that any kind of tension is a fearful enemy.

The truth is that tension is an essential part of growth. Those who have no more stress in their lives are no longer living! Discomfort can be a great friend if we learn to distinguish the different messages it brings. Of course, there is the anxiety that warns us of danger. It's vital to act on these feelings and insure our physical and psychological safety. What's curious, though, is that we often respond to other types of tension and discomfort as if they, too, were life-threatening.

When we're trying to learn something new, change self-defeating behavior, or take a risk by stepping into new territory, the comfortable, habitual part of our brain sets off alarms -- kind of like the robot on the old "Lost In Space" television show that waved its arms, shouting "Warning, warning, danger, danger!" The tension becomes almost unbearable, and we unconsciously react by seeking a quick fix to reduce it. We eat, grab the TV remote, check our e-mail for the 30th time today, go shopping, or do any of the other million things available to immediately anesthetize our anxiety. By reverting to familiar patterns, we eliminate our tension and feel immediate relief, even though in the process we've given up our goal or broken another one of the countless promises we keep making to ourselves.

We do have another choice. We can embrace tension. We can see it as a signpost to let us know we're on the productive path of shaking things up. We can use it's energy to propel us forward. We can accept it as a welcome companion on the path of development. We can be grateful that it's tapping us on the shoulder, and recognize that it's a mischievous little devil who has the power distract us when we allow it. We can make up our minds that we are ready, willing and able to tolerate discomfort temporarily in order to reach a bigger and more satisfying permanent result.

Where are you trying to grow? How do you react when you experience tension? How else could you respond?

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Copyright 2004 by Nancy Birnbaum-Gerber. All rights reserved. Re-transmission, printing or distribution of part or all of this publication permitted as long as authorship, copyright notice, subscription instructions and complete contact information are included.

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