Stress: Where Do We Look For Answers

Life circumstances can be difficult – partnership, divorce, money, illness – can all be stressful. Anxiety, fear, anger, frustration and sadness often result. When such stressors arise where do we look for relief?

Unless we have learned otherwise or had unusually skillful parenting when we grew up, it seems our “default” search, the door on which most of us knock to look for relief, is outside ourselves. This looking outward can take many forms; however, it is only the infrequent occasion where such outward searching provides more than temporary relief. Most often, it turns out to be unsatisfactory.

So, where do we look? In a word, INWARD, with a fundamental attitudinal shift about what is our true address and our best and ultimately only home.

To underscore the satisfactoriness of an inward looking direction, several dramatic examples serve to highlight the power of this way of proceeding in life.

You may recall the man who was imprisoned in solitary confinement for over 20 years because he had dedicated his life’s work to racial equality in his country. It certainly may have been a “natural” reaction while imprisoned to rail against his accusers and his unjust treatment, as well as to seek revenge when he was released. Yet, when this man, Nelson Mandela, left his prison cell to external freedom, his heart was already free and at peace. He embraced his accusers as well as his followers in becoming President of South Africa. That is the power of knocking at the right address and looking inside for our answers – taking self-responsibility.

And there was the man, who at an earlier time in history during World War Two, was imprisoned in one of the most notorious death camps the world has known; the Nazi’s house of evil known called Auschwitz. Death and deprivation were a constant experience for Viktor Frankl, and his every move was controlled by the prison guards. So, Frankl, like Mandela, looked to the only place available to him that could not be touched and uncontrolled by his jailers – his attitude. After he left Auschwitz alive, Viktor Frankl went on to become a renowned psychiatrist and founded a ground-breaking form of therapy called Logotherapy. He understood through his own profound experience in Auschwitz that one does not (and in his case could not) look outside oneself to find what is ultimately satisfactory.

So where do these inspiriting stories lead us in the everyday comings and goings of our own lives? Just here: to resist the temptation to look outside ourselves for what will have our life work; and to look inward for what will allow us to be ok in our lives.

© Copyright - Peter D Axelrod