How to React to Stress
Two young boys were raised by an alcoholic father. As they grew older, they moved away from that broken home, each going his own way in the world. Several years later, they happened to be interviewed separately by a psychologist who was analyzing the effects of drunkenness on children in broken homes. His research revealed that the two men were strikingly different from each other. One was a clean-living teetotaler; the other, a hopeless drunk like his father. The psychologist asked each of them why he developed the way he did, and each gave an identical answer, “What else would you expect when you have a father like mine?”
That story was revealed by Dr. Hans Selye, internationally renowned Canadian physician and scientist known as the father of stress. A medical pioneer, he devoted the majority of his years to the exploration of biological stress. And he related the story of the two sons of the drunken father in an article for New Realities.
And the story demonstrates a cardinal rule implicit in stress, health, and human behavior. According to R. H. Schuller, “It is not what happens to you in life that makes the difference. It is how you react to each circumstance you encounter that determines the result. Every human being in the same situation has the possibilities of choosing how he will react – either positively or negatively.”
Thus, stress is not necessarily caused by stressor agents; rather, it is caused by the way stressor agents are perceived, interpreted, or appraised in each individual case. Outside events and people upset some more than others, because they are looked upon and dealt with in entirely different ways. The stressors may even be the same in each case, yet the reaction will almost always be different in different people.
Armed with that kind of information, it would seem that we can greatly improve our reactions to stressful situations. What seems to be a cruel world to one person might be filled with challenge and opportunity to another. It is our reaction that makes the difference.