Dabar [theme]

He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou find refuge: His truth is a shield and buckler
Psalms 91:4

Be it ours,when we cannot see the face of God, to trust under the shadow of His wings. C.H. Spugeon

Monday, December 21, 2009

Storm & Stress

To begin with, life has storms and storms create stress. Stress is the body's way of responding to a perceived threat. It's not a cause but an effect. It isn't an action but a reaction. When our body senses danger it prepares us to engage or escape. The problem is, we often experience stress when there is no real threat to our safety. Our heart rate and blood pressure elevate and our muscles increase their tension.

Stress as a term means to subject (someone) to "force or compulsion," "hardship, adversity, force, pressure," "narrowness, oppression," to "draw tight". There is present a tense or tension in each of these definitions. I prefer the sense of narrowness which stress invokes, the restrictive idea of the confining aspects of a tunnel, or windowless corridor without recourse for turning or backtracking, the oppressiveness of claustrophobic restraint. There is a strong reality check imposed when we face the difficulties of situations, the storms, which involve among other circumstances hopeless love, suicide, lies, cheating, love, torment, villains, victims, crime and injustice and reactions to these situations which are less than stellar.

Stress is cumulative in nature and needs to be resolved either through coping mechanisms or adaptive mannerisms allowing the individual the opportunity to change their behaviour. Without a physical outlet for the stress, our bodies find other avenues for release. Stress may produce headaches, frayed nerves or back pain. Working faster doesn't solve the problem it only intensifies it. We become irritable and impatient. We can became so impatient with circumstances and situations that we feel dismayed at others apparent lack of concern. Impatience can cause us to challenge not only friends and family, but even God. Ironically, impatience is one sin we often tolerate in ourselves but despise in others.

"Storm and stress, known as Sturm und Drang, is a term first coined by German writer Friedrich Maximilian Klinger as a title to a play. The protagonist in a typical Sturm und Drang stage work, poem, or novel is driven to action - often violent action - not by pursuit of noble means nor by true motives, but by revenge and greed." Generalizations are never fully accurate representations of truth, however, for the purposes of this conversation let me say that Sturm und Drang exhibit the more basic human reactions and motivations to life's trials. "Sturm und Drang seek to elevate all things humble, natural, or intensely real placing specific emphasis especially on whatever is painful, tormenting, or frightening. It is a move away from overt sentimentalism and the need to project an objective, anti-personal reaction or front to life's stressors." It assumes that irrational outbursts are as much a valid reaction as is a stoic reserve when faced with the storms of life. "Storm and stress narratives exemplify the common ambiguity provided by juxtaposing humanistic platitudes with outbursts of irrationality." The concept is to place what is ethical (from a human viewpoint of the value, need, interest, ability, dignity and freedom) against what is a predominant reaction when people are faced with extenuating circumstances as a result of injustice, betrayal etc.. As I look at life's storms I see the inherent belief that life is unjust and that people feel they have been betrayed. People feel violated, wronged and harmed and they are angered by that. When storms occur people fly at invisible powers and principalities, "beating the air", wasting energies in an onslaught against an unknown opponent, which is expressed by anger and rage vented in a forum of personal vindictiveness against the world around them. They fight against what they do not know, their anger and rage are misplaced. Stress has becomea personal private battle. Stress has become mental strain, personal and internal. Without the necessary understanding of the frustration and subsequent stress related reactions created by the storm a battle that cannot be won is waged in the arena of public exposition. A tantrum or conniption fit is thrown, a skirmish, and the victor and the victim are the one and the same person.
To believe that the imposition of trials and trouble in this life is a form of betrayal, insinuates the acceptance of some higher power affecting life's outcomes. To be enraged against that power is an indicator from which we may conclude that anger expressed as an outlet of stress created by storms is a result of an immature and ignorant knowledge of life. Yes, I understand that anger is a coping mechanism, however, it is not the appropriate nor healthy avenue of stress relief. Anger as an expression of stress relief reveals and embodies the fear of loss of control and seeks through this behaviour to regain that control. It is more an outward form of coping with the fear and anxiety the storm has created than a proper handling of the stress or of dealing with the life circumstance forthright.

"Tragedy is a tool for the living to gain wisdom, not a guide by which to live." Robert Kennedy

Storm and stress conceptually represent a state of violent disturbance and disorder which allows for the expression of individuality to a radical degree, a degree at the root of human emotion, which has no need to appeal to any outside force other than the self, and in that the selfish nature as it sees itself oppressed and victimized, nor can it be tempered by any sense of rational self-control. It is the rage against the machine, the anger at life's plot.

The hard facts of life do not require this aggressive a response to trials and tribulations, but, they do exist to  large degree.

Personally I have struggled with anger and control issues, one being the proponent of the other. Having dealt with these issues (I treat anger like a co-depencency, I will always have a temper problem - I now have an anger-management system) I am now an observer of storm and stress in others and recognize the control and anger problems associated with an inability to deal with life's circumstances. Storm begets stress which begets a storm which begets stress ...cycling from one to other. The creation of stress in others as a result of the minutest of interruptions and inconsistencies in daily life are appalling to me and I usually reflect on my own reactions both past and present. It is in this reflection that the shame of past indiscretions is brought to mind. We would all prefer to blame life, parents, teachers, monsters, dragons or God, for our ills, however we only have ourselves to hold accountable for where we are, who we are, and how we handle life.

"Don't forget that I cannot see myself -- that my role is limited to being the one who looks in the mirror." Jacques Rigaut

"Fairy tales do not tell children that dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children that dragons can be killed." G.K. Chesterton

Dragons although fictitious contain the key to understanding the monster within. Yes, it exists. Yes, it can be slain. The monster rises when excited, when called from its lair to exert its influence and defend its property. Recogntion of the boundaries of the dragon's lair are important in controlling the appearance of the dragon.

Aggressively hostile and violent actions are a means to show that a force is at hand which is able to gain power or overpower, this creates stress in the victims of rage which usually results in a flight reaction by those being oppressed. The perpetrator has not in any way expunged the situation or the recourse of the storm, only alleviated any conflict which would further create stress. The perpetrator has also alienated those in the social unit by creating stress in others by the storm of anger. In confined social units this is disastrous. The social unit is not responsible for an individuals reactions to storm, that is the individual's responsibility.

The social unit or members of it are now forced to react to the storm created. When faced with anger and resultant fear, stress requires others to choose fight or flight as a reaction to the storm. I personally have always quit on situations where I am faced with anger in others. The almost instantaneous fear of violence and a passive anticipation of an ill-fated consequence almost describes how I feel when faced with anger expressed as a result of stress.

Storms happen, personal tragedies happen, interruptions happen, the uncontrolled happen,
and there is absolutely nothing that can be done to anticipate, prevent or mitigate those events, resultant stress will present itself. The opportunity will be fight or flight. Anger at the uncontrolled events is an obvious stress related reaction. It is an attempt by manipulation and intimidation to gain control by exerting influences which cause people to fear and sucumb to the combative will of the agressor.

 "There is no lasting hope in violence, only temporary relief from hopelessness." Kingman Brewster, Jr.

Nothing can satisfy a need other than that which created the need. The want and need for control over life is natural, but, it is impossible for an individual to have that control, that need can never be satisfied because the unpredictable, arbitrary crises will occur. It must be recognized that the need that is created, and often not realized, is the desire and ability to gain and master control over will, mind and emotion.

"He who controls others may be powerful but he who has mastered himself is mightier still." Philosopher Lao Tzu

My ability to affect change in the world surrounding is by holding in control my response to the crisis of life as it happens. The moments of life need to be redeemed from the natural instincts and motivations of life, my natural tendencies to seek power and control, to a state which enables me to react in a manner empowering others to feel peace, the shalom and well-being of life experienced. This is part of God's redemption, being able to surmount my life predicament as an act of the redemptive work of God.

The past is our definition. we may strive, with good reason, to escape it, or to escape what is bad in it, but we will escape it only by adding something better to it.” Wendell Berry
It is the infusion of soundness, the instilling of a tranquil attitude and it is only when one is steeped in life's challenges and has endured and embraced the task that conflict plays in attaining maturity that one can begin to navigate safely through one's character flaws. The goading, proding, impetus of life requires growth to maturity and redemption or it will try to redeem itself through emotional turmoil guided by rash and impetuous reactions. The need that was created by God through the processes and things belonging to my life were the direction arrows pointing to the hope that faith in His power and authority over my life would bring as He provides and proves the existence of His redemption. The essential reality of His redemption is that it constantly creates.

Life is constituted on the basis of the redemptive work of God and in that, the existence and creation of that need (redemption) is available for the asking. However in the same way in which the people of Jesus' time misunderstood the meaning of what the Messiah would bring (it was not a military revolution) so people misunderstand the redemptive and subsequent conquering of life's aggravations attained with the acceptance that God is in control of life. We cannot be, nor are we, absent from life, we are part and parcel of every event. This requires active acceptance, compliance and submissiveness without any digression from faith nor any attempt to usurp and undermine God as having autonomous governance. Accepting and believing that God is God, satisfies. We should not need control and any sense of need which is awakened by a lack of control and is aggressive by nature will assault the peace and complacency of passively dealing with life's incidents.

Storm and Stress; Sturm und Drang; Cause and Effect; Action and Reaction; everyday an event happens, a storm appears on the horizon, "It will become fine dust over all the land of Egypt and it will become boils breaking out with sores on man and beast through all the land of Egypt." Exodus 9:9. Do I stand and prepare for the storm or do I turn and run from it? There is more than one way to fight and more than one way to take flight. The passiveness I feel when confronted with the storm of another's anger is an effect of a childhood conditioned response because of years being an vanquished observer of irrational anger and outrage. The dragon lived and thrived and I did not believe he could be slain. I survived.

"He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you." Friedrich Nietzsche
"The healthy man does not torture others. Generally it is the tortured who turn into torturers." Carl Jung

1 comment:

Under the Eagle's Wing said...

This was a difficult blog to write. To allow people personal insight coupled with generalized principles applicable to all. Sorry