Over the past several weeks now we have been focussing our interest quite specifically on snxiety and depression. I hope you might agree that recently posted blogs have provided a detailed and fairly comprehensive coverage of both subject matters. At this point and over the next few weeks, I intend to take a closer look at stress; and what its implications are for human interest and activity in a wider and contextual sense. It was not until the 17th century that the word “stress” (French “stringere”, i.e. to draw tight) entered the English language. At that time it was employed to describe hardship, oppression and psychologically painful circumstances and events: later on (especially during the days of the “Industrial Revolution” in Great Britain) it was used to denote pressure or force acting upon a physical object or being.
Usage of the word in this context soon passed into the physical sciences and thereafter was even quantitatively expressed as part of a formula. It has traditionally been attributed to Sir William Ostler, the “father” of modern medicine, to first equate the terms “stress” and “strain” with “hard work” and “worry”. Certainly it was he who implicated it with the onset of heart disease in colleague physicians. However, and as we have already and will continue to see, human beings entail far more complex and less predicable potential for response to environmental conditions and circumstances.We shall attest again and again throughout this series if blogs to this complexity, as well as to a key role played by individual uniqueness. We shall acknowledge our continuing links with the past through inheritance, as well as the continuing input from life-experience and learning. And it will become lucidly clear how over aeons, we have been the recipients of a rich potential for coping with almost any contingency.
It is truly an incredible story of how both that uniqueness and continuity can be encapsulated in the “mind matter” of simple belief (which includes the whole sum and substance of held views, opinions, prejudices, stereotypes and convictions about anything and everything).Furthermore, it is such beliefs etc. that determine to the greater extent how we respond in any given situation or circumstance. It is belief that underpins knowledge and that is at the root of all our learned skills and self-confidence. When confidence is impaired or (as sometimes appears to be the case) deserts us altogether, doubt and uncertainty soar. What is more, our inbuilt sense of mastery over ‘our’ world, our behaviour and our ability to communicate – with ourselves as well as with others – is adversely affected.
As we have already witnessed over the course of these writings, it is the history and present perception of serious afflictions, or that of cancer or indeed any form of life-threatening illnes that has conditioned such understandable fear and foreboding in so many. This is why it is so necessary (always of course, on the basis of reliable research data) to challenge and hopefully change it, where reliable grounds exist for so doing.