Are you adding stress to your stress?

13 Oct 2009, by michelle in Stress

We all create an illusionary world in our minds.   The illusion is not based on fact, but rather assumptions gathered from information we picked up here and there.  It is how our brain processes information to a degree in order to make sense of our world easier and faster.  Although this may support us not to get overwhelmed with facts, there is a cost.  We end up adding stress to our stress.

On a smaller scale, most of you will get caught in some illusion daily.  The most common I know of (based off my personal and professional experience) is the illusion of stress.  This isn’t to say life isn’t really getting busier or more challenging at those times.  I am sure they are.  Yet, you are also giving your stress meaning based on illusion.

For instance, maybe your workload has increased.  You may be saying to yourself “How am I ever going to fit more work in?  I can barely make it through the day as it is. “ Believe it or not, the stress isn’t about the increased work.  The increased work has further implications to you in your mind.  Maybe it is about your unwillingness to make yourself a priority.  Maybe the increased work sets off alarms about your inability to succeed.  Whatever those implications are, they are not necessarily real.  They are not a truth.  Yet, you act as if they are.  This is when you give the illusion power to become your reality.

Another version to the above scenario is the underlying illusion that as work increases, so does the notion that you’ll ever take time to care for you.  You have bought into the illusion that you have no time for self-care.  The truth is there will never be time for self-care, unless you create the time.

illusion night pic

On a larger scale, the illusion can cause you to lose your sense of self.  Not too long ago, I met Ryan, a guy, who on the outside, seemed to have it all together.  Ryan was always goofing around and joking.  In fact, he seemed to be living life fully and happily (which is exactly what he wanted you to think). He appeared to have an amazing job that allowed him to take the summers off while still being able to afford a nice home etc…  Ryan seemed happy with his family and kids.  Plus, he was in good shape. What more from life could he want?  It turned out to be a lot more.

A year later, when I saw Ryan, a lot had changed.  He still tried to present himself as the chipper, happy-go-lucky guy of his image yet, you could sense his pain.  Ryan and his wife divorced.  The truth about his job was uncovered, which was that he was really unemployed and only surviving off an inheritance.  He could no longer uphold the image of “having it all.”

When I found out the truth about Ryan, I saw how easily we can fall victim to the illusion.  You see, it was easier for him to buy into the illusionary world he had created.  The illusionary version of his life was so much better, in his mind, than his real life.  His real life involved pain, pain that he did not want to have to address.  Yet, his pain became elongated by Ryan trying to hold up an image of himself that wasn’t true.

As a psychotherapist and life coach, people admit to me all the time how untrue the image that they project out into the world actually is.  The reason they project the image in the first place is because they believe that their lives should be better or different than it currently is.  Due to this belief, life feels painful because it is based off the illusion.  In other words, instead of truly living, they are living to protect the image they have created.

The pain comes from either trying to measure up to that standard or putting yourself down for not meeting the standard.  The truth is that in being human, you ebb and flow.  You will not always feel happy, rich, successful, loveable or in good health.  When you define yourself based off only the highs, you guarantee internal struggle.  When you accept your reality wherever you are at on the continuum of life, you feel good because you will feel empowered.

To relieve some of your stress, begin by letting go of what stress is supposed to be.  You don’t need to make assumptions about how your stress will impact you.  There is an opportunity that despite the stress for you to choose differently.  Do so by being awake instead of being the sheep following the herd.

To live a life in which you feel lighter, let go of the illusion of what a fulfilled life looks like.  Do so by holding the dichotic feelings of having a sense of fulfillment while also having a sense of yearning within you.  You will find the freedom of not being weighted down by pretending.  Plus, you will be one of the few who are truly open to having all your dreams come true.

Have you overcome an illusion?  Have comments about this blog?  Please share your ideas and opinions.  I would love to hear from you!

  • Mary Sue Grimm

    Your article is so real, so true and I think we all need to a good look at ourselves with that in mind. I believe we would be a better place if we are honest about our “illusions”!

    • You are right. It definately takes courage and a willingness to honestly see our illusions – something most people will choose against. It is a warrior of the heart that chooses to see the truth! Thanks so much for sharing and your honesty!!