“The millstone of this life is such …
We trudge along on path of dreams …
The man machine will strive as much …
To get to it, or so it seems …”
“We are in this world – Busy chasing dreams …”
The essence of human existence is based on the understanding that we are not just a physical and psychological being but also social. In other words, our existence is defined by our interactions with others; be they significant or otherwise. Our environment guides our psychologies, our aspirations and our reasons to be.
It is our psychological self which constantly interacts with our environment and is capable of catering to our physical existence or our “Biological self”. All in all, we are a complex interplay of our body, our mind and our environment.
In other words, we are a “Biological-Psychological-Social” amalgamation, which makes us a “Superior Creature.” The Superior Creature is constantly striving to find a meaning in his/her life, and is working towards fulfilling this meaning.
With this understanding, of the “Existential Reality”, let’s move on to look inwards, to understand the path of discovering oneself …
Causes of Existential Distress
There are two causes of existential distress –
First, a lack of meaning in one’s life;
and, second, an inability to fulfil the means required to attain the meaning of one’s life.
Unraveling the two causes
The answer to the first question on human existence is spiritual; and, it is this understanding of our spirit or our soul, that drives the realisation of our existence. In other words it answers the question, “Who am I out here?” or, “What is the purpose for which I am here?” It can be likened to the “mission statement of the self”
With this realisation, we have achieved the first level of personal achievement.
Understanding and working towards the second part of our existential dilemma would be easier if, we have attained the first part. In charting out the ways to achieve the means of attaining the purpose of our existence (our mission), one has to be alive to one’s world. In other words we have to become “Worldly”.
The Tripod of Worldly Existence, “Emotion – Physical/Digital Environment – Money as a means”
We are in this worldly environment, busy interacting with others. There is a constant exchange of emotion that goes on, in this complex web of relationships; and we have to deal with it for a desired outcome. This is the precept of “Emotional Intelligence”.
We are somewhat well adept in dealing with our physical environment, but the new essence of existence has thrown us, into the realm of Cyberspace. In other words we are also a part of the Digital Milieu. This ‘virtual’ is becoming more and more ‘real’ in terms of our existence. Hence the precept of “Digital Intelligence”.
Lastly, the means to the various fulfillments of life is “Money”. It is a necessity which is “the Good, the Bad and the Ugly”. How does one deal with this necessary evil? This perhaps will be the basis of “Financial Intelligence”.
All in all, human existence is precariously perched upon this Tripod!
In the worldly mire, the human machinery is constantly striving to attain the means of its existence, due to which there is a resultant “Wear and Tear”.
This is the idea of Stress and in the world of today, it is proposed that it has to be managed well for the desired result.
Is Stress ‘Distressing’?
It is a common misconception that Stress is understood as a distressing experience.
At times, Stress causes us to stay all charged up. The neurons of our sympathetic nervous system are firing from all barrels; adrenalin is flowing within our chemical self. This can excite us, can make us enjoy the enthrall of the experience, with hearts beating fast, breath bated or rapid, tremors in our limbs… But we are enjoying it …!
Imagine when you were on a roller-coaster ride or a giant wheel; or when you were a spectator of the nail biting finish of a football or a cricket match. This is “Eustress”, a stress we enjoy!!
On the other hand, the contrary element of “Eustress” is “Distress”, a sort of stress we dislike.
While there is a great deal of similarity between the two in terms of the physiological process, the psychological process however is much different. It defines our perception or cognition, defining the flip side of the same physiological process.
Our physical self, reacts to stress in either an acute, (sudden) fashion or a chronic (sustained) fashion.
The Process of Stress
Let’s understand the process of stress through a simplified flow diagram:
THE HUMAN MACHINERY IN HIS ENVIRONMENT -> PROCESS OF WEAR AND TEAR -> PHYSICAL EXPERIENCE -> PSYCHOLOGICAL EXPERIENCE (Brought about by the firing of the ‘SYMPATHETIC NERVOUS SYSTEM”)
Finally the Amygdala and the Neocortex of the brain, perceives it as enjoyable or noxious, based on the experiences of the past, the mundaneness or the excitement of the present and the anticipations of the future.
To simplify it, the experience of stress is – hearts beating fast, tremulousness, sweating, rapid breathing plus ‘an enjoyable feeling’/or a ‘feeling which is not enjoyable’
Hence in psychological terms it is a matter of perception too, apart from the usual wear and tear.
The usual percepts of Stress Management –
Managing Stress becomes imperative to bring about the efficiency of the human machinery. The four ways of managing stress, to get a wholesome impact, are –
- A healthy body – Good Nutrition, good exercise and good lifestyle.
- Managing the “wear and tear” – adequate rest and sleep, good hydration, correct posture etcetera.
- Managing perceptions – “Perception of Distress” to “Perception of Eustress”
- Rejuvenators – Hobbies, Vacations, responsible socialisation etc.
To summarise, we need to delve into this understanding of human existence, seek meaning in it, be aware of our human machinery and carve out ways that will make this machinery efficient.
Finally, what matters is how smooth is our worldly journey … How efficient is our machinery … And how happy are we and the world we live in.
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