In the early part of my undergraduate years, I owned and rode a motorcycle, which both suited my pocket and (in good weather at least) provided a healthy and pleasurable mode of travel. One summer, I took a short break from vacation employment in a local canning factory’, to join friends who were holidaying on the Suffolk coast. Allowing ample time for the 120-mile trip, I decided to travel on a succession of back roads, relying almost entirely on road signs and my own innate sense of direction. Inevitably I suppose (having inadvertently left all maps at home) I lost my way.
Stopping at a tiny hamlet situated on the Norfolk/Suffolk border, I enquired of a local ‘worthy’, the way to my eventual destination. (This I knew to be roughly twenty-five miles away). The man paused, removed his cap to scratch his head and drawled, “A-hah…well now…if I were you…I don’t think I’d be starting from ‘ere”. By way of response, I good naturedly (I hope) pointed out that I nevertheless was “’ere” and was therefore stuck with it. There was a further pause and another scratch. “A-ah…I should say you are”, he continued in his good natured and laconic way. “Then in that case…I reckon you’d best take – let’s see now – ah…that track over there…..Ah that’s the one…and when you come to the next village….just ask”.
The point that I am seeking to make is surely simplicity itself. Presumably the vast majority of people in the ‘throws’ of a stressful experience right now, would wish – and understandably so – that they could start from some other, less stressful and less threatening place/situation, in their need to move on through life. However – and sadly – their troubles will not just fade and disappear and no amount of wishing or applied relaxation or meditation and the like, will change that indisputable fact. Please believe me, there is no intended insensitivity in the making of this point. But it is vital and crucial to recognize first and foremost that any negative impact which stress may have on health, has much more do with a point already made in an earlier blog. This – as you may recall – was about the mismatch between perceived demands on the one hand and perceived resources to adapt and cope, on the other. Moreover, the greater the discrepancy between where one truly perceives oneself to be in life (“actual self”) and one’s preferred place/status (“ideal self”; the greater the anxiety and tension that such a credibility gap is likely to generate•.
“Well now” I hear you say; “if such a self-perceived mismatch exists” (as commonly it does for most patients when receiving bad news about their health) “what can be done, both in the short and long run, to as it were, at least begin to redress the imbalance?” This is of course, the million-dollar question on issues of personal coping and in many ways, is the crux of the entire matter. Indeed, this is what each blog to date, has been leading up to; and it is the question which every blog to-date and every similar item yet to follow, will attempt to address.