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Stress is a natural part of life. In limited doses it is good for you – for your brain and for your body. When your brain grabs hold of some old unresolved quarrel, though, and it simply won’t let go, you can end up in a chronic state of stress which is not good for you at all.
In my conflict management coaching practice I often work with clients who have been harbouring the pain and stress of long-ago conflicts that remain unresolved. It’s very gratifying to see a client shift in their relationship with that long-ago conflict, how they develop clear intention about the way forward and then go ahead and change things.
Recently, in a webinar on mindfulness, the facilitator used the term ‘adventitious suffering’. I had never heard of ‘adventitious’ yet my intuition, applied in context, suggested to me that that’s the suffering I help my clients with. And so it makes sense to look at it more closely than I have, thus far.
I’m starting you off with the quote below, from the Washington Post article “To Survive Stress, Keep It Brief” by Cecilia Capuzzi Simon. (Dec 13, 2005):
The body makes no distinction between immediate, in-your-face stressors and chronic, in-your-imagination ones, Sapolsky said. Faced with either kind of threat, the body reacts, and when the threat is sustained psychologically, the physically destructive stress response continues.”
To me it is a bit like tinnitus then – it is in your head, and your head keeps it alive by revisiting it. Your brain looks for it; and in looking, creates it. If your brain would stop looking it would stop creating and there would be no tinnitus, or, no adventitious suffering.
It isn’t pleasant to be stuck in a perpetual conversation with yourself about an old conflict.
You’re inclined to do the ‘what if/if only’ thing which does what? Stimulates stress hormones. Long term exposure to stress hormones is not a good thing, the doctors tell us. There’s no reason not to believe them. So what to do about it?
In conflict management coaching we drill into that stressful thinking pattern in your head – figuratively speaking. We expose it and we poke around until we know its full nature and dimension. We see the assumptions that led to things being said or not said. We see the values that were violated when a line was crossed. The client realizes that assumptions by the other person may also have steered things off course. As the picture becomes clearer and the noise in their head simmers down, the client, with the coach’s help, considers their options in getting rid that adventitious suffering.
Sometimes forgiving the other person does the trick; often forgiving yourself works. Sometimes there’s more action – like inviting the other person to a mediation meeting, for some exploration – chances are they’re also in the adventitous suffering bull pen. Having a common goal of getting rid of the pain is a good place to start. Achieving it is always a great cause for celebration – especially when the pain is replaced by mutual respect and agreement to ‘let’s not do that again’.
For Ms. Simon’s full article, click here.
If you recognize yourself in some of this, consider that the timing of this blog is perfect – you can start your process of getting rid of that circular pain saw in your head right now. Who’re you going to call? Me. Call me, of course.