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Man-Made And Person-Specific

January 9, 2013 Leave a comment

George Pransky taught (err, finally convinced) BD00 that all stress is man-made and person-specific. One person’s stress is another’s exhilaration. Nevertheless, environmental and situational factors probably do influence stress levels to some extent, no?

One would think that as one ascends the ladder in a hierarchical institution, his/her stress levels increase with rank, stature, and responsibility. This may be true in general, but there is some research evidence to the contrary:

No Sweat: Less Stress in Higher Ranks. “..this study suggests that those who manage others actually experience less stress — as measured through both biological and psychological assessments — than non-leaders. In fact, the stress level seems to go down as executives climb up the corporate ladder. Leaders with more authority, and more freedom to delegate day-to-day oversight, do better on this front than managers below them.”

The Whitehall Study. “The Whitehall cohort studies found a strong association between grade levels of civil servant employment and mortality rates from a range of causes. Men in the lowest grade (messengers, doorkeepers, etc.) had a mortality rate three times higher than that of men in the highest grade (administrators).”

It all comes down to “control“. If you believe (like BD00 does) in William T. Powers’ Perceptual Control Theory (that every living being is an aggregation of thousands of little control systems interconnected for the purpose of achieving prosperous survival), then the results make sense. It’s simply that people in the higher ranks have more “control” over their environment than those below them.

Stress Curves

Of course, take this post (along with all other BD00 posts) with a carafe of salt. He likes to make up stuff that confirms his UCB by carefully stitching together corroborating evidence while filtering out all disconfirmatory evidence. But wait! You do that too, no?

Every man, wherever he goes, is encompassed by a cloud of comforting convictions, which move with him like flies on a summer day. – Bertrand Russell

Stress Particles

September 18, 2011 3 comments

In a terrific duo of videos, George Pransky makes the observation that most people believe unequivocally that stress is objectively “out there“. He makes an analogy with fictional “stress particles“. Ya gotta stay away from places and events that are infested with stress particles, lest your physical health, mental health, and quality of life deteriorate as a result of becoming contaminated.

The fact of the matter is that all stress is man-made. To be more specific, all stress is self-made. Granted, it’s hard to argue that events such as job loss, divorce, moving, and the death of a loved one aren’t stressful, but the intensity of suffering one experiences is person-specific, no?

I think the amount of stress one manufactures for oneself is a function of one’s perceived control over situations and the degree with which one expects to have control. Control freaks who are in environments where they can’t or aren’t allowed to exercise control create more stress for themselves than non-control freaks. Control freak or not, environments where an individual can control his/her activities and influence the environment are perceived as less stressful.

As can be inferred from the diagram, there are at least two ways to increase one’s “unstressful” region while decreasing one’s “stressful” region. Reduce expectations or increase perceived controllability. A better way is to realize the truth of the matter – there is no controllability, there’s only the ability to influence.

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