Alternatives at the Threshold of Tolerance
Closer Look at the Five Alternatives at the Threshold of Tolerance
matter how resilient and strong you may be, you can experience
stress when faced with a challenge that exceeds your past experience
and current capacity to cope. The challenge is to break through
when possible and retreat when necessary.
Life had never been
better. Yesterday, Katherine had been bombarded with unexpected
good news. She had finally been accepted into a master's program
at the Rhode Island School of Design, and the love of her life
had declared in Central Park that he wanted to marry her.
But this morning, she didn't feel like moving. Her body ached,
she felt an unusual tightness in her chest, and her eyelids felt
as if someone was sitting on them. There is nothing physically
wrong with Katherine. She is simply stressed.
When individuals like Katherine are faced with new or difficult
challenges, the mind faces five basic alternatives:
might experience escalating stress symptoms such as anxiety, anger,
physical symptoms (such as chest pains and inability to sleep),
depression and psychosis as challenges she faces go unresolved.
2. Breakthrough :
Katherine might break through the barriers
of defense, overcoming the challenges she faces and achieving
a higher level of adjustment. Free of distressful symptoms she
could successfully resist retreat, alcohol, drugs or suicide/homicide.
3. Retreat : Katherine
can withdraw or retreat from the immediate source of stress by
cooling things off with her fiance or asking for a deferral from
her master's program. She will face the consequences of such retreat
and may face the same challenge later.
4. Drug Abuse : Katherine might opt for a
stopgap measure or symptomatic relief (such as alcohol or drugs)
to calm her nerves or temporarily escape reality.
5. Suicide/Homicide : If Katherine becomes
convinced that she can neither retreat nor break through, and
she cannot stand the mounting stress anymore, she might choose
suicide or homicide in desperation to escape painful symptoms
of distress. Given Katherine's example, the decision to take her
life may seem absurd. However, stress is not triggered purely
by objective external events. It is Katherine's internal subjective
response that counts.
To learn more about the choices we have at our threshold of individual
stress tolerance, see my eManual Breakthrough Intimacy - Sad to Happy through Closeness.
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