Monday 28 November 2016

The Ballast of Fear

A person's capacity for stress is a finite space.

A person will take whatever volume of stress they have and fill that capacity to the brim.

People are able to deal with extraordinary levels of distress. When we see people live through illness, through bereavement, through war, through famine, we celebrate their ability to compress and contain those horrors within the confines of that space reserved for stress.

People are capable of accommodating extremes of experience, of normalising and processing what previously must be unimaginable, with staggering dignity. At the other end of this spectrum, a life lead around comparatively minuscule problems will see those issues inflated and distorted to fill that very same space.

I see this behaviour in myself, and it is difficult to control, difficult to maintain the necessary perspective. Some examples close to my memory include such tedium as an insurance company renewing a policy without consent, a quarrel with a school about absence, a forced and yet pathetically minor change in lifestyle. All blown out to fill the stress place. At times where I have absolutely no discernible problems I can always rely on my own mortality to fill the ballast of fear.

Yet, relative to these I have dealt with larger issues, as do we all, and the space remains equally as full.

I guess the trick is to occupy the space with issues worthy of the drain.


  1. This is something that I have also noticed. There are times when I have no idea how I dealt with the stress looking back, but at the time I, sort of, dealt with it.

    "I guess the trick is to occupy the space with issues worthy of the drain."

    Or engage is extreme stress inducing activities that keep everything else in perspective. Like keeping older Japanese two strokes running or something.

  2. I'm scared enough about the need to start my older Japanese four stroke tomorrow morning, in this freeze.

    Perhaps there is a stress overdraft which catches the excess, and you pay it back later. Perhaps that's why little things get inflated.

  3. Nah. That smacks of determinism. I think that it is more linked to non-appropriate responses to situations, based out of learned behaviour as children.

    You can see a similar event handled both appropriately and not appropriately by two people, both may have a similar level of background stress. Just that one sees it for what it is, the other sees it for what it represents to him.

    I think. Eric Berne has some interesting things to say on this.

  4. Eric Berne hey? I don't know that chap. I shall check him out.