THE BLOG

The Upside of Stress

06/12/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Change is not stressful. Resistance to change creates stress. It creates stress frequently and sometimes continually in millions of individuals -- stress in the form of anger, jealousy, resentment, despair, and many other painful emotions. The global economic downturn/meltdown/implosion/catastrophe has temporarily transformed the myriad diverse experiences of resistance to change in billions of individuals into a global shared experience of resistance to a change that no one wants.

It is, metaphorically speaking, a spiritual laser. A laser transforms light waves, such as those radiating from a light bulb, into a single beam of phase-coherent light. The global economic dysfunction has transformed countless simultaneous experiences of resistance to change in billions of individuals into a single phase-coherent experience of stress. We all feel it and we all attribute it to the same cause -- the economy. This massive shared experience obscures the underlying cause of all stress -- resistance to change.

Foreclosure, job loss, declining investment and home values, disruption of plans to retire, educate children, buy a home, or move are each stressful -- changes that no one wants, painful experiences of stress that, shared simultaneously by billions, generate a painful collective consciousness of resistance to change. As stressful as resistance to these changes is, it is not as stressful as resistance to the ultimate change that no one wants and all will encounter. We are all on a journey toward death regardless of how much we resist it, and most of us spend most of our lives resisting it. That means that most of us spend our lives distracting ourselves from the work of bringing our full potential into being and enjoying ourselves.

The dynamic is the same whether the change appears minor, major, or ultimate -- resistance to change, not change itself, creates stress. Every stressful experience -- whether it is resistance to a divorce, failure of a business, an illness, economic dysfunction, or death -- is an opportunity to heal an interior source of your pain instead of focusing your attention on the external circumstances that appear to be causing it. If you look closely (experience attentively) you will discover that every pain of resistance to change is familiar, an old agony returning yet again, activated by yet another external circumstance. In other words, the sources of your painful experiences, including resistance to change, are internal (not external) and are older than the circumstances that appear to cause them (such as losing your job, or the thought of losing your job).

Healing the interior causes of your pain and cultivating the interior causes of your joy is the creation of authentic power. It begins with directing your attention inward to your interior dynamics instead of outward to exterior circumstances. Every painful experience of stress can help you, if you choose.

That is the upside of stress.