Dr. Terry A. Gordon

the wounded healer

Stress Is a Choice

Well, first of all, I would ask you to consider . . . what is stress? If I gave you an empty bucket and told you to go outside and fill that bucket full of stress and bring it back to me…..could you do that?

The answer is no. Stress isn’t tangible; you can’t feel it or touch it. You can’t see it. It’s a creation in our mind, purely illusory.

I think it was Marshall McLuhan who once said, “Our mind is like a magazine with a new edition every four seconds.” It has been suggested that each day, we have over 100,000 thoughts cross our mind. Most of them are recurrent, a constant flurry of negative, repetitive, and worrying thoughts which are our own creation. They get us nowhere. We can’t blame them on anyone else; no one forces us to think the way we do or puts those thought in our mind. We have simply trained ourselves to think the way we do.

Most of us create our own hell. Our unhappiness is generally a reaction to some outside force. In other words, we allow ourselves to become a victim of a circumstance. Our response is to fret and worry. What we don’t appreciate though, is that worrying is a total waste of time. If you have control over a situation, you shouldn’t have to worry about it. And if you don’t have control over a situation, worrying about it isn’t going to get you that control.

What generally happens is that we tend to worry ourselves sick. . . literally! Chronic stress has been tied to almost every major illness known to man. If not as the inciting cause, at the very least an exacerbating factor in the progression of heart disease, strokes, ulcers and even cancer. The saddest thing is that it is self-inflicted and can result in some form of mental illness. In fact, 13% of Americans have some form of mental illness. Dr. Mark Olfson of Columbia University found that 20% of young Americans have been diagnosed with a personality disorder that interferes with their everyday life.

There are prescribed pharmaceuticals millions of people take to treat stress and anxiety disorders, but the danger is that by taking drugs to “cure” our problem, we end up not going through the experience, instead we go around it.

So the key is that we must free ourselves from the enslavement of the mind. We must learn to liberate our consciousness from destructive thoughts. The incessant mental chaos that percolates through our minds prevents us from discovering our own inner peace. Mark Twain once said: “I’ve had thousands of problems in my life, most of them never actually happened.”

Several years ago, I was sharing an afternoon with my daughter, Laila. Working at a café was a young lady with Down’s syndrome. As she bused tables, she approached us, introducing herself as Suzie and asked if we needed anything. I was very impressed by her sweet disposition. Despite what many would consider a somewhat tragic life, this young woman appeared to be happy and at peace, having found her niche.

It was then that Laila made one of the most profound statements I think I have ever heard. She said: “Daddy, why can’t we all think like Suzie? She probably doesn’t waste any energy fretting about al Qaeda and I am certain she doesn’t worry about the stupid things that clutter my mind. I bet she doesn’t judge other people and probably doesn’t feel animosity toward anyone.”

Why can’t we all think like Suzie? Why can’t we have the same pure and innocent thoughts of a Down’s syndrome child? Why can’t we express unconditional love to everyone with whom we come in contact? Why can’t we live a stress-free life?

The answer is quite simple . . . we can!