Bryan is a best selling author, child behavior expert and consultant, internationally recognized speaker on challenging behaviors and attachment issues, and founder of The Post Institute for Family Centered Therapy.
By the end of the day Samuel had angered everyone of significance in his life. It started misinterpretation of his wife’s request that he make time for the family during the weekend and carried over into a venomous, curse word laden, tirade toward his secretary for a missed call. It continued right up to a near contract ending argument with a very important client. By the time Samuel made it back home he was exhausted, frazzled, and wanted nothing more than a whiskey on the rocks and the silence of his fountain falling gently into the pool. Even then he couldn’t fully enjoy because of the algae floating on the top.
We are all biologically engineered to be in relationship. Humans are hard-wired to not only enjoy but to need to be close to other humans. Scientists think this is because, in the brains of highly social mammals – including monkeys, wolves, many birds and humans -- the social centers are highly sensitive to both oxytocin and dopamine, the chemical of reward-seeking and pleasure. This combination makes socializing very pleasurable and calming. When we're close to people we trust, the interaction of oxytocin and dopamine leads to us feeling happy and secure.
However there is one critical variable that makes relationship near impossible. Its presence is not only unpredictable but oftentimes difficult to control. That variable is stress.
In 1995, the Atlanta Center for the Study of Disease Control estimated that stress is responsible for 80% of diseases and disorders. Nearly seventeen years later that same statistic has increased in some research circles to as high as 98%. Stress is the internal reaction to any perceived threat within the body. It can be as subtle as the body’s reaction to chlorine from the shower or as great as ulcers, migraines, high blood pressure, fibromyalgia, or domestic violence.
In children stress is most clearly seen in their behaviors. An acting out child is a stressed out child. What is commonly diagnosed as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or oppositional defiant disorder is in most instances a missed diagnosis of chronically conditioned stress response.
We are oftentimes not aware of the level of stress that we are experiencing because it is experienced outside of our conscious awareness. It occurs at an unconscious emotional level. Neuroscience indicates that our emotional right-hemisphere dictates to our left-hemisphere. Joseph LeDoux, author of the seminal text The Emotional Brain states, “In times of stress our thinking becomes confused and distorted and our short-term memory is suppressed”. When we are experiencing stress it manifest itself through a thinking process that is neither rational nor logical therefore leading us to believe that what is causing us to be upset is the demand from the boss, the missed deadline, being cut off in traffic, when in fact it is none of these things. It is our internal reaction to them that causes the upset.
Education is the first step in becoming more mindful of one’s stress. Once we have achieved a generalist understanding of how stress works in our brains and bodies then we can begin a concerted effort towards being more mindful of it when it shows up in our moment to moment experiences and relationships.
Samuel learned to breathe and pay attention to his body’s responses throughout the day. He shared with his wife his guilt about working so much and the fear of losing the big contract. He spoke with his secretary about his stress and how it had led him to communicate poorly. He began to repair his most important relationships and in return his other relationships began to improve.
Relationship is not easy but learning how to be mindful of one’s stress levels plays a very important role in sustaining them. Over the coming months we will explore ways to use this information to help us be better parents, spouses, workers, leaders, athletes and how to literally change the world - starting with your family. So breathe, love will enter, peace will follow.
Bryan Post is a best-selling author, internationally renowned speaker, and psychotherapist specializing in attachment, adoption and trauma. To learn more about Parenting Challenging Children, Oxytocin the Love Hormone, Mindfulness, and How to Thrive instead of just survive as an adoptive or foster parent, visit www.postinstitute.com, www.oxytocincentral.com, and www.reactiveattachmentdisorderparenting.com. To find out more about Bryan Post’s ground breaking parenting program Parenting Attachment Challenged Children “Hands-On” Home Study Course visit www.postinstitute.com/AttachmentDisorder. Join our Facebook page for daily parenting help and inspiration, videos, articles and contests along with other parents and professionals just like yourself. Also visit our Blog at www.bryanpost.com.
This article is courtesy of the Top 1% Club and the Top 1% Club Mentor Gail Kasper. For additional information on Gail Kasper, her television appearances and speaking engagements, please visit gailkasper.com.