Monday, August 25, 2008

Stress Is Good For You

I just saw an interesting fact: Traffic accidents almost never happen on curvy roads or hairpin turns.

You’d think they would. If a place is dangerous, then that would be where the danger is, right? But if we give it just a little bit of thought (especially if we examine our own driving habits), we would realize that it isn’t true. Because when we realize that we are in a dangerous situation, that’s when we pay more attention to our driving. We become hyper-alert and focus on every detail. In reality, the most dangerous roads are the most boring ones. That’s when we start playing with our electronic gadgets. That’s when we focus more on the conversations we are having rather than the road or other cars.

The most dangerous times are when we are the least alert. And we are most alert when we are in the midst of a situation that we understand to be hazardous.

This is why I think that marriage is so important.

Okay, not just marriage, but anything that creates conflict in our lives. Honestly, as human beings, boredom effects us much more than we know. Our ancestors in millennia past had to face life and death situations constantly. Crops weren’t just a pastime for them, it was life and death. If they did it wrong, they and their family couldn’t eat. So they would be perpetually working at things they needed just in order to survive—from hunting, to various kinds of shelter to various kinds of food storage. Life was stressful, and the human body became accustomed to that stress, giving us ways to deal with it.

If we don’t have real stress to deal with, then we will create stress. We will become irritated at the people around us. We will find the temperature to be unpleasing. We will be irritated because our computers don’t work fast enough. We will be dissatisfied because “there’s nothing good on TV”. Without real stress, real issues to deal with, the most petty things become our stresses and anxieties. And then we become petty people. And lonely, because who wants to hear someone complain that the barista just can’t make a latte right?

Marriage really prevents this syndrome from occurring, because it is an instant conflict producer. And the conflicts, while they may seem petty on the surface, have to do with real life-and-death issues such as receiving respect, communicating well and dealing with an alien life form. And, just when you think you’ve got living with the Creature down, then come children. And if that isn’t enough conflict for you, you could always throw in a baby pet as well.

But what I really wanted to talk about here is chemical addiction.

Chemical addiction has one main purpose—to cover up pain. Heroin and other opiates do so blatantly. That is their main purpose, to help one no longer feel pain. But all of the chemical addictions really do the same thing. Alcohol helps one no longer feel conflict, and it takes away the difficulties of making decisions for oneself (after a few hours it turns on the user and puts one into depression). Meth simulates adrenalin to give one a burst of energy, helping one overcompensate for being overwhelmed by life. Marijuana (while not physically addictive) wraps most people in a sheet of apathy, so that nothing actually effects them. This is the same as other tranquilizers, anti-depressants, and prescription pain relievers. And, frankly, an overuse of the entertainment industry.

Short term use of these won’t lead to being emotionally disabled, but long term use destroys our ability to see life in balance, to understand what is really a problem and what is not. To get sucked up into a life without pain, where conflict can be avoided or ignored, also strips us from the ability to deal with issues. We can no longer make decisions or be around other people because it’s just too confusing. The long term addict needs someone else to help them make wise decisions because they can no longer prioritize what is important. And when a real conflict occurs, the issue isn’t any more significant than the neighbor whose stereo is a bit too loud.

I’m not writing this to condemn the addict. He or she is no worse than those of us who retire and then just sit watching TV all day, knowing that we should be doing something productive. Few of us really realize the danger of a life that avoids conflict.

So, for those of you married with children, next time you pass by your “problem” child, give her or him a hug and say, “Thanks for keeping me emotionally healthy.” They’ll probably just shrug it off as another one of your eccentric acts.

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